Friday, 19 May 2017 17:10

Places on Earth we still haven't explored

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Adventurous people out there have the resources to explore the farthest reaches of the Earth. But while it seems every last spot will get explored, researched, and photographed, there do remain some places that have barely been touched—or haven't been seen at all. From the deepest depths to the highest peaks, these virgin territories are still out there to spark your imagination and wanderlust.

Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan

This impressive peak on the border of Tibet and Bhutan is the 40th-highest-mountain in the world and has yet to be summited.

According to history records, aspiring climbers of days past had trouble even locating the 24,280-foot mountain. Maps were pretty inaccurate for quite a long time, and even after people knew where it was, it still proved nigh-impossible to conquer. It's very cold and windy, and there's a ridge before the top that's really really steep. In 1985, a team from Britain attempted the climb, but crew members got sick and had to turn back. In 1986, a monsoon stopped an Austrian climbing team.

In 1987, the government in Bhutan banned climbing Gangkhar Puensum totally. This is because it is said that powerful spirits inhabit the mountain's peak. Those inclined to believe in the supernatural devour stories of strange lights, ghostly figures, magnetic anomalies and even Yeti on the way up the allowed 6,000 meters from the top.

Undeterred by the rumors, a Japanese group of climbers got permission from the Chinese Mountaineering Association to climb the unclimbable mountain from the Tibetan approach. The Bhutanese side disputed this permission, and the group settled for climbing the peak just north of Gangkhar Puensum, known as Gangkhar Puensum North. Even though that peak was also previously unclimbed, the group leader, Tamostsu Nakamura, expressed regret that they could not climb Gangkhar Puensum. No one has gotten as close as they did, and it's possible that no one ever will.

The Mariana Trench

The Mariana Trench is located in the Pacific Ocean, off of Japan and is the deepest place on the entire planet. Just to give some perspective, the Arctic Ocean is 3.407 feet deep, with the Eurasian Basin Trench at 17.881 feet. The Indian Ocean is 12,740 feet deep, with the Java Trench at 25,344 feet deep. The Atlantic Ocean is 12,254 feet deep with the Puerto Rican Trench at 28,374 feet deep. The Pacific Ocean is 12,740 feet deep, and the Mariana Trench is a staggering 36,201 feet deep. Mount Everest, which is the tallest mountain in the world, if placed at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, would still have 7,176 feet of water above it.

The trench was created when one tectonic plate topped with oceanic crust subducted (it slid under) another. It was first discovered in 1951 by the HMS Challenger II, which is why the deepest point is called Challenger Deep.

In 1960, Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lt Colonel Donald Walsh traveled to the bottom of Challenger Deep in a submarine designed by Piccard's father. It was called the Trieste, and the design was pretty genius. They used gasoline in the submarine's floats, because gasoline is lighter than water. They reached the bottom with 16.000 pounds of pressure per square inch then headed back to the top. More recently, film titan James Cameron launched an expedition to the floor of the Mariana Trench called DeepSea Challenge. Cameron himself traveled to the bottom in a custom submersible that he helped design, and he went with cameras, unlike the 1960s expedition. He filmed lots of squishy creatures, and the discovery of a new species of sea cucumber may have come of his efforts. But since the Trench is still almost entirely unexplored, there are plenty of things we still don't know there, and some discoveries could give us a glimpse as to how our whole world started.

Oodaaq Island, Greenland

There are six total "visited" islands north of Kaffeklubben, Greenland. "Visited" means that someone, at some point, set foot on them, but whether they still exist is up for debate. Confused? Read on.

Take, for instance, Oodaaq Island. It was discovered in 1978 by Uffe Petersen, a Danish geodesist mapping north Greenland with his team. They were hanging out on Kaffeklubben, thought to be the northernmost of the Greenland islands, when they saw a speck out yonder. North! They flew over, and sure enough, there was an "island" there. Well, really a gravel bar, but it counted. Petersen named it after an Eskimo sledge driver who'd been part of Robert Peary's North Pole expedition in 1909. While some sources say it hasn't been seen since it was discovered, that's not technically true.

Fast-forward to the early 2000s, when Dr. Peter Skaffe, a Danish anthropologist, was filming and studying the northern islands. Even though an expedition in the sea north of Kaffeklubben saw no trace of Oodaaq, Skaffe found that only eight days later, his camera had caught a glimpse of the small island. Will Oodaaq be visible more often with the melting arctic regions, or will it disappear completely? Probably best to hang on Kaffeklubben instead and check out the crazy arctic flowers.

Machapuchare, Nepal

In the Annapurna Himalayas, there's a sacred mountain that the Nepalese have made off limits to climbers. It's called Machapurchare, or "Fish Tail Mountain."

In 1957, Wilfrid Noyce and A.D.M. Cox climbed Machapuchare, but they didn't go to the top. Not that they couldn't have, physically. Noyce was, after all the first to climb Everest. But the mountain is sacred because Lord Shiva lives on the top, and that's pretty serious. Nepal's king asked Noyce and his partner not to go all the way up, and they agreed. That was, of course, the only gentlemanly thing to do.

Climbers say Bill Denz, a rogue climber from New Zealand, didn't give a hoot about what the Hindus held sacred and went all the way to the top in the early 1980s. Denz died on Mansaw, another Himalayan mountain, in 1983, so we'll never really know for sure. We have a written account, however, of Noyce's experience, as he wrote a book called Climbing the Fish's Tail.

While you can't climb this sacred mountain to its summit, you can do plenty in the base camp. The mountain is in the Annapurna Conservation Area. That, combined with the peak's religious significance, makes Machapuchare perhaps the last pristine mountain in the Himalayas. Since humans ruin everything, if we could get up there, we'd probably wreck it. Look at Mt Everest, after all. It's estimated that climbers have left behind 12 tons of human poo, 50 tons of garbage and quite a few frozen corpses on that famous mountain. We suck.

Northern Mountain Forest Complex, Myanmar

High in the mountains of Myanmar, the Hkakabo Razi National Park and Hponkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary make up the Northern Mountain Forest Complex, and the World Heritage Convention proposes to expand the area to include a southern extension of the national park, to create an area of over 7,000 square miles.

A study out of Cambridge found that less than 1.4 percent of the existing forest area in this region of Myanmar is affected by humans, which is pretty extraordinary, though this does not include hunters. So, when we say this area is unexplored, it means that the flora and fauna and wildlife have not been studied, and the area has not been explored by scientific or climbing communities. That doesn't mean that poachers out for tiger parts and other animal products to sell in China haven't set foot in these lush and vibrant forests.

Even though almost half of Myanmar is still covered in forest area, deforestation is a real problem, as is the destruction of wildlife population. Scientists have recently uncovered video footage, of red pandas, and it was apparent that their habitat is declining, even though there are parts of Myanmar that are virtually unexplored.

Antarctica's subglacial lakes

First discovered in 1973, massive subglacial lakes in Antarctica have fascinated scientists for years. While there are now 400 known subglacial lakes in the 5 million square miles of frozen area, plenty are not known. Also unknown are the ins and outs of the complex ecosystem that thrives under so many thousands of feet of ice.

It was very important to Russian scientists to be the first to get a sample from a subglacial lake, and they started digging into Lake Vostok in 1953. The drilling was suspended in the late 1990s, but it seems that they're making good headway now.

Another successful experiment was conducted on Lake Whillans by a microbial ecologist from Montana State University, John Priscu. He got a sample from almost a half mile under the ice and reported that the ecosystem was, indeed, absolutely thriving. While there's so much unexplored and unknown about these ancient, frozen lakes, they're on scientific radars across disciplines and countries, and it's expected that easier access will exist by 2035. So, that's one upside to the whole world melting.

Source: This article was published on grunge.com

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