7 Natural wonders of the world

One look into the chasm and you’ll understand why it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is one of the most remarkable landscapes on earth and one of the few natural landmarks visible from space.

There are a total of seven wonders of the world. They are split up into two categories: natural and man-made. However, I have chosen to research the natural wonders and they are as follows:

  • Grand Canyon
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Harbour of Rio De Janeiro
  • Mount Everest
  • Aurora
  • Paricutin volcano
  • Victoria falls

Grand Canyon

Introduction and History

One look into the chasm and you’ll understand why it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is one of the most remarkable landscapes on earth and one of the few natural landmarks visible from space. The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the state of Arizona in the United States. Over 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep (as tall as three Empire State buildings). The canyon is known throughout the world for its overwhelming size and its aesthetically beautiful and colourful landscape. The history stretches back 10,500 years when the first signs of human presence were found. The ones who inhabited the Grand Canyon were the Native Americans but for the last 400 years, the area has been covered by the Grand Canyon National Park. In 1540, under the instruction of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas led a group of Spanish soldiers to the Grand Canyon. It was no less than 200 years before two Spanish priests became the second party of non-Native Americans to see the canyon. In the late 19th century the promise of mineral sources (which were mainly copper and asbestos) renewed interest in the region. It was not long before the early residents realized that tourism would be much more profitable than mining. By the start of the 20th century, the Grand Canyon was a well-known tourist destination. Most of the visitors at that time were from nearby towns and used to travel by stagecoach.

Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon

In 1901, the Grand Canyon Railway opened from Arizona to the South Rim. Since then, it has enchanted millions of people from all over the world. The train (whose fate seemed sealed when it was shut down in 1968 due to the popularity of cars) is now responsible for keeping about 50,000 cars outside of a national treasure. Initially, the main line west was built from Chicago to Los Angeles. The railroad was mainly built to transport ore in the Wild West from Anita mines. Grand Canyon Railway made its first journey from the Grand Canyon on September 17th, 1901.

The National Park

Located in Arizona, the Grand Canyon National park is the United States’ 15th oldest national park. The Grand Canyon attained national park status in 1919; three years after congress established the National Park service. When it first opened, the park welcomed approximately 45,000 visitors annually. Today that number has grown to around 5 million, making the Grand Canyon America’s second most visited national park. It is home to 355 bird species, 89 types of mammals and 56 amphibians and reptile species.

The Grand Canyon today

Today there are three major rims of the Grand Canyon to which tourists and vacationers are attracted to. The south rim of the Grand Canyon is the most accessible and popular.

About 90% of the tourists that travel to the Great Canyon visit the South Rim which is 60 miles from Arizona. Today, a Grand Canyon holiday involves more than peeking over the Canyon’s rim. Tours, river rafting expeditions, mule rides, hiking and camping are just a few examples of the various activities that you can do and take part in there.

Larger than life and older than mankind itself, the Grand Canyon has earned its distinction as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system. It comprises over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,500 kilometres over an area of about 344,500 square kilometres. This amazing reef is located off the coast of Queensland in Northeast Australia. The sprawling reef can be seen from space and is not only the world’s largest coral reef system but also the largest structure on Earth made by living organisms.

The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef

More than 1,500 species of fish live on the reef, including the clownfish, red bass, red-throat emperor and several other species of snapper and coral trout. Likewise, 17 other species of sea snake live in the Great Barrier. Reef in the warm waters up to 160 feet deep are more common in the south than in the northern section. The reef is also home to 215 species of birds (these include 32 species of shorebirds and 22 species of seabirds) that visit the reef or make their nests on the islands.

How the reef formed

The Great Barrier Reef is more or less 500,000 years old, but it hasn’t always looked as it does today. According to the Australian Institute of Marine Science and other scientific research from different companies, the current reef began to form during the last Glacial Maximum. The land that forms the base of the reef is the remains of the sediments of the Great Dividing Range, Australia’s largest mountain range.

More about the reef

The Great Barrier Reef is a breeding area for humpback whales, migrating from the Antarctic and is also the habitat of a few endangered species including the Dugong (Sea Cow) and the large Green Sea Turtle. UNESCO listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981.

The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is divided into 30 bioregions that consist of different types of reefs. Among them, there are the Flat reefs (known as planar reefs) which are found in the southern and northern parts, near the Cape York Peninsula.

You will also find Crescentic reefs (shaped like crescents) which are the most common shape of a reef in the middle of the system. These reefs are found surrounding Lizard Island as well.

Tourism and Environmental Concerns

Climate change is the biggest threat to the reef’s future. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Outlook Report for the Great Barrier Reef in 2014 stated: “Climate change remains the most serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef. It is already affecting the reef and is likely to have far-reaching consequences in the decades to come.” The reef is also under threat from the most widespread and damaging set of industrial developments in Queensland’s history. The Queensland Government is fast-tracking the dumping of millions of tonnes of seabed and rock and encouraging increased shipping through the narrow straits between reefs.

Tourism, which was almost non – existent in 1950, has grown in such a way that it has become the primary industry in the Great Barrier Reef. There are not many figures available from the early days but some indications of the growing awareness of the region as a holiday destination. It is estimated that in 2013 2.09 million people visited the reef. 40% of these people were from overseas. During the winter months, thousands of visitors take the opportunity of visiting the sunny north to escape the rigours of the southern winter.

Because of its natural beauty, the reef has become one of the world’s best tourist destinations. A visitor can enjoy many experiences including scuba diving, snorkelling, aircraft or helicopter tours and many more.

Harbour of Rio De Janeiro

Top view of the coast of Rio de Janeiro
Top view of the coast of Rio de Janeiro

One of the other natural wonders of the world, the Harbour of Rio de Janeiro is located in the east of Brazil, South America in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is famous for being the world’s largest bay, having mountains that come down almost to the water’s edge. The harbour is also called Guanabara Bay and was formed by the Atlantic Ocean which wore out the soil and rocks along the coast. The Harbour is surrounded by amazing Monolith Mountains that include the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain.

The lopsided mountain called Pao de Acucar evoked the sugarloaves fashioned on the island of Madeira, guarding the entrance to the bay. There is also a 130 feet high statue built which is of Christ the Redeemer.

History

Portuguese explorers named the Harbour of Rio de Janeiro “the River of the First of January” because they were convinced that they had reached the mouth of a great river when they glided towards a narrow opening in the coastline on New Year’s Day in 1502. They found beyond this entrance lay a body of water stretching 20 miles inland. The French established a colony in 1555 but were expelled, hence the population increased and the city grew larger. In 1960, the capital was changed to Brasilia. The city remained the capital when Brazil became an independent kingdom in 1816 and a republic in 1889. However, in 1960 the capital was moved to a more central location. Rio de Janeiro, however, remains the country’s largest capital with a population of over 6 million.

Things to do

With its white sandy beaches and soaring mountains, the landscape is just one of the reasons that visitors flock to Rio. The harbour is well known for its scenic beauty. E.g. from the summit of the Sugarloaf, visitors can get a 360-degree view of the famous harbour. Visitors can also take a cable car ride to and from the Sugarloaf Mountain. There are a number of spectacular beaches including the famous Copacabana and Ipanema.

Mount Everest

Just as it is known as the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest is also known as Sagarmatha (which means goddess of the sky) and in Tibet as Chomolungma. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas in Nepal. Its peak is 8,848 meters (29,029 ft.) above sea level. In 1847, Sir George Everest first recorded the location of Everest. It was subsequently named “Peak XV”. Soon after in 1865, it was named Mt. Everest to honour Sir George.

Mount Everest attracts many highly experienced mountaineers as well as capable climbers willing to hire professional guides. There are two main climbing routes: one approaching the summit from the southeast in Nepal (known as the standard route) and the other from the north in Tibet. The first recorded efforts to reach Everest’s summit were made by British mountaineers. Since the first ascent in 1953 by Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, reaching the summit of Everest has been considered one of the greatest achievements in mountaineering. The first woman to climb Mount Everest was Junko Tabei of Japan on 16th May 1975.

Mount Everest
Mount Everest

Blowing with the strength of a hurricane at 118+ miles per hour, the jet stream blasts the icy and rocky summit of the mountain nearly all year round. As the altitude increases, the oxygen content of the air decreases dramatically. Some climbers don’t like to go down, however, the climbers mustn’t stay down for too long.

Despite some people succeeding to climb the mountain, some people have also died trying. On April 18 2014 an avalanche occurred off the West Shoulder of Mount Everest, knocking down between 20 and 25 people down as it swept through. This accident killed 16 climbers, and this date is remembered to be the worst one in the mountain’s history.

Aurora

The aurora (also known as the northern lights) is a beautiful, gleaming display of light from the upper atmosphere that is commonly seen during the night in Polar Regions of the Earth.

Aurora on a lake
Aurora Borealis

What causes the aurora?

The sun emits a continuous stream of charged particles called the solar wind. This wind interacts with the magnetic field of the Earth and produces large electrical currents. These currents flow along the magnetic field lines down into the upper atmosphere surrounding the north and south magnetic poles. These currents cause the atmospheric gases to glow like the gas in a fluorescent tube.

Most auroras occur in a band known as the auroral zone. They are occasionally seen in latitudes below the auroral zone when a magnetic storm temporarily enlarges the auroral oval. The aurora appears frequently either as a diffuse glow or a ‘curtains’ that approximately extend in the east-west direction. Auroral displays appear in different ranges of colours however pale green and pink are the most common ones. Because the phenomena occur near the magnetic poles, the northern lights have been spotted as far as New Orleans. Researchers have discovered that these amazing displays happen after every 11 years.

From space, the aurora is a crown of light that circles around each of the Earth’s poles. The image on the right was captured on September 11 2005. The ring of light the solar system generates over Antarctica glows green in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. From the Earth’s surface, the ring would appear as a curtain of light glistening across the sky.

Paricutin Volcano

Paricutin Volcano
Paricutin Volcano

On the 20th February 1943, a man called Dionisio Pulido was with his family and was busy working in his cornfield when he noticed something strange. On top of a small hill on the field a huge crack, over six feet wide and 150 feet long, had appeared. At first, Pulido wasn’t concerned because the crack only looked like it was about a foot deep. As he was lighting the pile of branches, the sound of thunder rumbled across the field the ground began to shake. By the time Pulido turned to look back, it had swelled up over six feet in height and grey ashes were pouring out of the hole. Immediately, more smoke began to rise with a hiss and whistle. There was also the smell of sulphur, Pulido later told witnesses. Starting to get terrified by these events, Pulido tried to find his family but was not able to. Despairing that he would never see them again, Pulido got on a horse and rode to town. There he found his family well and safe. What had appeared in Pulido’s field was actually a volcano, the Paricutin volcano. The incident would be the first time scientists were able to observe a volcano from birth through extinction.

The volcano was very active in its first year, growing to four-fifths of its final 1,353 ft. height. During the peak of its activity year, ashes from the volcano spread as far as 200 miles and fell on Mexico City. After this every year the volcano has become less and less active. The town of Paricutin was located in the heart of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, an area running 600 miles (900 km) east to west across central-southern Mexico. The volcano today is somewhat quiet. Many people visit this extraordinary volcano, which is located about 200 miles west of Mexico. However, the city of Uruapan, which is located 20 miles from the site, is a very good point to take a day trip to see the volcano including the surrounding lava fields. There, you can also hire a guide for the day. The volcano of Paricutin now bears the honour of being listed as one of the world’s seven natural wonders. It holds the distinction of being the only volcano on the planet born in modern times. Eruptions from volcanoes are commonplace occurrences but the birth of an entirely new volcano is genuinely rare.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls

Now for the last wonder of the world, the Victoria Falls. It is located in Southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. It is about twice the size of America’s Niagara Falls. The Zambezi River is more than 1.25 miles wide and plunges as much as 354 feet. The falls generate mists that can be spotted more than 20 kilometres away. The beauty of the falls lies in their natural state, but the area is at risk of runaway tourism-based development. More resorts, hotels and even a possible dam below the falls that could flood several park gorges. Operators in the area offer everything from helicopter flights to bungee jumping. Also, the management of these activities, while preserving quality visitor experience for all, is an ongoing challenge. Most of the visitors visit from either Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) or Maramba (Zambia), where complete tourist facilities exist. Each town is accessible by road, rail and air. The geological history of the falls can be seen in the form of the gorges below the falls. The basalt plateau over which the Upper Zambezi flows has a lot of cracks filled with weak sandstone. Over the period of 100,000 years, the falls have been diminishing upstream through the Batoka Gorges, eroding the sandstone filled cracks to form the gorges.

In conclusion, there is definitely a creator of these seven Wonders. They didn’t just appear out of nowhere or on their own. That is why Allah Almighty has created these magnificent sceneries for us humans.

Disclaimer

This article was originally published in the Annual Printed Edition of Majallatul Jamia

Maaz Ahmad

Maaz Ahmad

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