There are natural mysteries all over the world. In the past, our ancestors attributed them to the workings of gods and goddesses. Today, science has provided an explanation for most of them, yet questions remain about many natural phenomenon that we just don’t know the answers to. Here are 10 examples of nature’s greatest mysteries that continue to stump scientists.
10. Metal rods
A rock collector in China came across this phenomenon—a hard black rock with metal rods embedded within it. Since this discovery, other rocks containing metal rods have turned up in Russia too. The rods, of unknown origin and unknown purpose, have screw-like threads. This makes them appear like they have been manufactured, however the fact that hard rock has formed around them means that they have been in the ground for millions of years. One explanation is that they are meteorites that have dropped to Earth from space, but no one knows for sure.
9. Ball Lightning
Normally lightning comes in zigzag bolts that strike down from the sky, but ball lightning is different. And rare. It surfaces during thunderstorms, resembling a circle of light that hovers close to the ground, drifting across the sky at just a few miles per hour. It lasts only for about a minute and its infrequent and random nature has made it almost impossible to study, with the first actual footage of it only being published in 2014. This means that the nature of this rare type of lightning remains unclear.
8. Whistling Sand
Many sand dunes throughout the world, from the USA to Africa, to China to Qatar, produce noises, each making different sounds. Some produce a hum like the sound of bees, or music like a Gregorian chant with more than one note—a puzzle to scientists for years. The noises are probably due to wind passing over the dunes, another possibility being that they are made when sand grains move down the slopes of the dunes. The notes produced by sand depends on the size of the grains and the speed at which they flow, but why they make a sound like music is still unknown.
7. Bermuda Triangle
Possibly the most well-known mystery of nature is the legendary Bermuda Triangle, an expanse of ocean between the points of Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Miami. In this area, instruments have been reported to go haywire and planes and ships have been lost forever, the most famous being the USS Cyclops in 1918 and the passenger plane NC16002 in 1948. Some people suggest that it is a strange magnetic anomaly that affects compass readings, or that methane eruptions from the ocean floor may turn the sea to a froth that cannot support the weight of a ship. However, it is an extremely busy area and with such a high level of activity in such a small region, the large number of accidents may not be such a mystery after all.
6. Devil’s Kettle Falls
The Brule River in Minnesota, USA drops 800ft in elevation over its course, forming waterfalls along the way. At one point, the river splits into two to flow around a huge rock. One side continues downstream, but the other falls into a hole known as the Devil’s Kettle. Here, it disappears underground, but no one has yet discovered where it emerges. Researchers have tried everything to find out where the water goes, including putting dye in the river and using ping-pong balls to track its course, but without success. There remains no geological explanation for the water’s disappearance.
5. Hessdalen Lights
Above the Hessdalen valley in central Norway, strange balls of light float in the air. They appear in a variety of colours, such as blue, red and yellow, and in a variety of formations—sometimes flashing, sometimes moving about with great speed, and sometimes staying still in mid-air for up to an hour. They were particularly active during the 1980s, with up to 20 eyewitness reports made every week. The lights are of unknown origin, and there has been no explanation as to what they are, why they are there or where they come from. Project Hessdalen, a research effort launched in 1983, identified six different types of energy. But the source of the energy remains a mystery.
4. Fairy Circles
These circular patterns of bare land, surrounded by a ring of stimulated plant growth, range in size from around 2 to 15 metres in diameter. They are found in southern Africa, particularly Namibia, but have also been discovered in Western Australia. They have long been a puzzle to scientists, with many explanations given for their cause. These include the actions of sand termites engineering the circles to create water troughs, radioactive soil, plant toxins, fungi, ostrich dust baths and sleeping spots of oryx. They may be caused by competition between the plants themselves, with the circles of stronger, more vibrant grasses around the edge sucking nutrients and moisture from the poor soil in the centre, but no one has yet to settle on a satisfactory explanation.
3. Crooked Forest
Around 400 strange-looking pines grow in a forest in West Pomerania, Poland. They grow with an up to 90 degree bend right at their base. The reason why is not known and, what makes this phenomenon even stranger, is that the crooked trees are found within a bigger forest of normal, unbending pines. It is believed that they were planted in the 1930s and whatever it was that made them bend occurred when they were seven to ten years old. But to this day, no one has figured out what that was.
2. Catatumbo Lightning
Unlike rare ball lightning, Catatumbo lightning is exceptionally prevalent, although only in Venezuela and Colombia over the mouth of the Catatumbo River. It occurs almost every evening, with around 40,000 colourful lightning strikes in one night. Every minute there is an average of 28 strikes, and this lasts for up to ten hours at a time, but some nights there is one lightning strike every second sparking up to 3,600 bolts per hour. Mysteriously, thunder is never produced, and the lightning can disappear for weeks at a time. The cause of this unique lightning can only be described vaguely as the combination of topography and wind, but no more definitive explanations can be given.
1. Patomskiy Crater
Located deep in the Siberia forests, the Patomskiy Crater is a giant—the size of a 25 storey building. It looks like the mouth of a volcano, but there has been no volcanic activity in the area for millions of years. In fact, studies of nearby tree growth confirm that it is relatively recent. Theories as to what it is includes the possibility that it is the site of a meteorite hit, but it doesn’t resemble any other known meteorite site. Local people believe it to be an evil place, confirmed, at least in their minds, when the leader of a 2005 expedition to find out more about the crater died of a heart attack just kilometres from it.