Earth, Constantly Creating

Jasica Twardus, Feature Reporter

Tourists who travel to Michigan City usually hold the intentions of visiting the mountainous dunes. This unique landform molded straight from Mother Nature’s creativity, tends to catch one’s eye. However, for those that are used to the sandy hills there are endless avenues yet to be strolled down. Earth has an abundance of adventures simply waiting to be discovered.
One phenomena found in the U.S. is located in the driest place in North America. Despite the valley already being known as a land of extremes, a particular oddity sets it apart from other deserts. This barren land is home to the sailing stones at Racetrack Playa. This strange occurrence consists of stones weighing over 600 pounds moving across the desert ground. What makes this situation even more peculiar is that it may be decades before the stones move. However, when they do, their movement is parallel, making the same turns at the same angles. In order for such a phenomenon to take place several conditions must work together. The playa, which is a dried out lake, fills with water during the winter. There must be enough water to form ice during the frigid nights but the ice cannot cover the rocks. This ice, called windowpane ice, must be strong but not too thick so as to be too heavy to move. When the ice melts during the day it breaks into panels. These panels then are pushed along by wind currents and move the rocks along the way. This explains the rocks’ movement and the trails they leave behind as they drag through the soft mud.
Another unique area is Lake Retba in Senegal. This body of water appears to be pink. In fact, those who live in the surrounding area call it ‘Lac Rose.’ The cause to this oddity is it’s high levels of salt. Being separated from the ocean by only a few dunes there is no question that the lake’s salt content is high. Due to its abundance the salt attracts Dunaliella salina bacteria. These microorganisms release a red pigment when they absorb sunlight. The pigment thus gives the lake it’s pink tint.
One region that seems to be straight from a movie is located in China. In fact, several people think it to mirror the land in Avatar. In reality, this area is home to the Tianzi Mountains. The rock formations found here are a result of the rising of earth’s crust. Over time water has eroded the mountains to the their present day structures. Current peaks range of up to 1262.5 meters above sea level. Many tourists are drawn to this land which grows even more mystical when the rocky pillars are flooded with fog.
Yet another enchanting location is that found in the Naica Mine of Chihuahua, Mexico. Originally this cave was meant for extracting minerals from the earth. However, the mine which is rich in lead, zinc, and silver, proved to hold even more treasures. Miners accidentally discovered crystals of selenite that in places were 4 feet in diameter and 50 feet long. Despite this beauty the crystals are found at extreme conditions. One must wear a helmet and other safety equipment to travel down a drop of 1,000 feet. When descending deeper into the earth the heat can get so intense it threatens brain functions of visitors.
From moving inanimate objects to crystals the length of a semi the earth is constantly shocking its inhabitants. Visitors to an area as well as natives should appreciate nature. Because no matter the extreme, earth is always catering to create a new natural wonder.

Senegal's fishermen tug their boats through Lake Retba's pink waters.
Senegal’s fishermen tug their boats through Lake Retba’s pink waters.
A sunny morning is picture amongst the Tianzi Mountains in China.
A sunny morning is picture amongst the Tianzi Mountains in China.
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