Sometimes nature creates displays so incredible--heavy stones that seem to drag themselves across a dry lakebed, fish that literally rain down from storm clouds and stunning colored lights that dance silently in the crisp night skies of the polar regions--that we can hardly believe our eyes, let alone come up with a plausible explanation for them. Perhaps that's why, for thousands of years, humans have created stories and myths to help explain even the simplest of Earth's natural phenomena: Ancient Greeks had Zeus in charge of lightning; the Egyptians attributed the sun's transit across the sky to the efforts of their god Ra.
Over time, science has helped explain most these natural occurrences, from volcanic eruptions to shooting stars, but that doesn't make it any less awe-inspiring--or, at the very least, surprising--when you're suddenly confronted by, say, a herd of goats that's somehow managed to climb a tree (yes, it happens). What's more, some of these incredible events--such as ball lighting--still puzzle scientists today. Not even Google has all the answers.
And that's the beauty of it. Explained or not, the mystery and majesty of these rare sights remind us of how big the Earth is. You haven't seen it all until, well, you've seen it all. This list serves as a humble beginning, a short bucket list of Mother Nature's spectacles that may just help you choose your next big travel adventure.
While creating our list, we made sure each event occurs at regular intervals at a given destination. With a little inspiration and a good deal of advance planning, you'll have a shot at experiencing 15 of the most interesting and unbelievable sights, sounds and events nature has to offer.
-Megan Taylor Morrison, The Active Times
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Where: Areas in high southern and northern latitudes Aurora light displays are caused by the collision of energetic charged particular with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere, also known as the thermosphere. They can glow numerous colors, including green and red, and often appear as curtain-like waves in the sky. Auroras can be seen in both the northern and southern hemisphere. In the north, the lights are called aurora borealis. In the south, they are known as aurora australis. The two phenomena have almost identical features. Photo Credit: Shutterstock Click here to see more of Mother Nature’s Most Amazing Sights and Sounds
Where: Great Smoky Mountains National Park For two weeks in the summer, thousands of fireflies congregate in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and blink in perfect unison to attract mates. Each species of firefly has a unique flash pattern that leads males and females to one other. Although there are 19 species of fireflies that live within the national park, only synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) can coordinate their glow. They are also the only fireflies in the United States with this ability. The dates of the mating seasons vary, however firefly shuttles from the national park’s Sugarlands Visitor Center will operate from June 6-13 this year. Photo Credit: Shutterstock Click here to see more of Mother Nature’s Most Amazing Sights and Sounds
Where: Burketown, Australia (from September to November) The southern region the Gulf of Carpentaria is the only place Morning Glory clouds can be predicted and observed on a regular basis. Many glider pilots travel to this area to ride the currents that create these incredible formations. Up to 620 miles long and 1.2 miles high, these clouds sit low to the ground and can move up to 37 miles per hours. There may be up to eight consecutive roll clouds, depending on weather conditions. Photo Credit: NASA Click here to see more of Mother Nature’s Most Amazing Sights and Sounds
Where: San Juan Island or the Hood Canal in Washington state While bioluminescence occurs at many places throughout the world, the waters around Washington State are some of the most incredible places to see this phenomenon. Strong currents bring a plethora of nutrients to the area, attracting an abundance of bioluminescent plankton. As you kayak the Hood Canal or the waters around the San Juan Islands, watch the water turn to a glowing silvery-blue as your paddle and boat agitate the tiny organisms. If you’re feeling adventurous, jump in the water and watch as the plankton glow brightly around you as you swim. Photo Credit: Shutterstock Click here to see more of Mother Nature’s Most Amazing Sights and Sounds
Where: Yoro, Honduras While fish raining from the sky may sound like a fairy tale, it's a fact of life for locals in Yoro, Honduras. The phenomenon occurs each summer, and no one is sure how it happens. A popular myth describes how Father Jose Manuel Subiranaa—a Spanish Catholic missionary considered by many to be a saint—prayed for three days and three nights after seeing the extreme poverty in the area. The rain of fish, many believe, was a miracle from God that continues to this day. The phenomenon has not been investigated by scientists; however, there are a couple of theories around the event. The fish may come from the Atlantic Ocean, where they are sucked up by water spouts and then dropped on the town. Another theory suggests the fish are from subterranean rivers, and are washed into the meadows through spouts after sudden downpours. Each year, locals hold a festival in June or July to celebrate. The date varies depending on the first major rainfall. Photo Credit: Shutterstock Click here to see more of Mother Nature’s Most Amazing Sights and Sounds
Where: Catatumbo River, Venezuela In this northwest corner of Venezuela, the rate of lightning strikes is higher than anywhere else on Earth. The jaw-dropping light show occurs up to 300 nights a year at the mouth of the Catatumbo River where the water empties into Lake Maracaibo. Although this event occurred continually for centuries, it stopped suddenly in April 2010 due to El Niño. Although many worried the lightning would not return, the phenomenon reappeared after several months. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons Click here to see more of Mother Nature’s Most Amazing Sights and Sounds
Where: Taos, New Mexico The Taos hum is a mysterious, low-frequency humming noise that can only be heard by a small portion of the populationabout two to 11 percent. No one is sure where the hum comes from, but those who can hear it often describe the sound as similar to a distant diesel engine idling. The Taos Hum was featured on the television show Unsolved Mysteries, as well as in the XFiles, when agent Mulder speculates that extremely low frequency radio waves are the source of the noise. Click here to see more of Mother Nature’s Most Amazing Sights and Sounds Photo Credit: © Flickr / Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton
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