Thursday, 26 April 2012

The 5 Most Badass Man vs. Nature Showdowns Ever Photographed

It's easy to forget how ludicrously terrifying the natural world can be, and how very small we are in the face of it. When confronted with the grand, humbling, massive and occasionally deadly power of our planet, what can one measly little human being do? Run? Cry? Not these people. These people saw all the might and majesty of Mother Nature laid out before them and said: "Eh. Pretty sure I can take the bitch."

5. The Eternal Lightning Fields

Eternal Lightning FieldsGreek Sky

In Venezuela, just above the mouth of the Catatumbo River, a lightning storm has been raging for at least two centuries. I know that sounds like science fiction, or some hackneyed fantasy villain's lair -- but it's real. For 160 nights out of the year, the Catatumbo lightning strikes for 10 straight hours, at a rate of nearly 300 strikes per hour. Short of trees growing in the shape of a human skull or a good ol' screaming bog, that is the single best way Nature knows to tell you a place is cursed.

And it's fucking populated!

Thousands and thousands of people swung by the Earth's only eternal storm, plunked down their packs and said, "Welp: Looks like as good a place as any to settle down and raise some kids." But simply living beneath an electric sky wasn't nearly hardcore enough for the owner of this shack:

Eternal Lightning Fields 01Thechemicalengineer

He didn't just buy property in the Lightning District; he moved out into the water, constructed a tiny hovel in the middle of that giant bathtub with God's old toaster perched permanently above it and then built himself a metal roof.

George Kourounis, StormchaserGeorge Kourounis, Stormchaser

I don't know who the owner of the world's least insurable home is, but I know where you can find him: standing on his front porch with thimbles on both of his middle fingers, drunkenly flipping off the gods.

4. The Storm of the Century

The Storm of the CenturyBBC

It seems like we, as a global culture, only recently came to understand just how terrifying and destructive the ocean could be. Sure, we were aware of how serious ocean-based disasters were objectively -- but subjectively, a lot of us didn't really take it to heart. We failed to grasp that the ocean is like the Earth's Wite-Out: a tide that occasionally, almost casually, washes whole countries away. I think that's because we didn't have the right visuals, but that all changed with the recent tsunamis and their extensive video coverage. Now we finally understand the ocean, and the horrible destruction of which it is capable.

Well, some of us do, anyway. Others see the unleashed potential of countless billions of tons of surging water and think, "Man, wouldn't it be funny if I rode that?"

126915_v1BBC

In late 2004, Cornwall, England, suffered through several record-breaking storms: 70 mile an hour winds, flooding, waves so large they crashed over the promenade -- but the vast and bottomless rage of Nature is nothing when compared with human boredom. So here's some dudes surfing it:

126908_v1Daily Mail

Look at the size of that breaking wave in relation to the surfers. They're so insignificant that the ocean didn't even mean to kill them; that's just how Poseidon steps on ants. To think you could possibly survive (much less ride) something like that takes not only a complete misunderstanding of physics, but a total failure to grasp the basic concept of scale itself. That's the biggest storm the world could throw at you, and you tragically mistook it for a vehicle. But holy shit, you're doing it! You're reall-

126909_v1Daily Mail

Oh. Yeah, I guess that's about how you'd expect things to turn o-

126910_v1Daily Mail

Jesus, dude. That looks like a frog getting hit by a truck. It looks like it actually went worse than I initially thought, and I initially thought you'd wipe out so hard that you'd literally cease to exist in the annals of human history.

I never imagined your leg would bend like that, though; that's messed up.

3. The Nyiragongo Volcano

The Nyiragongo VolcanoPhotoVolcanica

Volcanoes are pop culture shorthand for evil. Need to signify somebody's an evil badass? Volcano lair. Need to smelt up some corrupting rings? Volcano forge. Got too many virgins lying around and Waste Management Services refuses to do curbside pickup? Volcano sacrifice. It's perhaps the single most terrifying landmark on the planet. Here's a guy casually strolling across one.

126914_v1National Geographic

"H-hello? I'm trying to get to the Jamba Juice on Hawthorne, is this ...? Shit. I am literally as lost as anybody could ever be."

That's an expedition member walking on freshly cooled lava in the Nyiragongo volcano. But don't worry, the ground isn't actually glowing like hellfire itself -- that's just an optical illusion. The ambient red light is merely the reflection of the giant lake of still-molten lava just out of frame. The photographer described being inside the volcano as "a constant, low frequency rumble -- like being inside a giant subwoofer."

I assume he then added, "... made out of liquid fire."

I assume he then added a little bit of pee.

2. Truck-Hurling Tornado

126911_v1

I sincerely hope "Don't fuck with tornadoes" is not new and helpful information to any of you readers. We've all seen Twister, and though we know that they were exaggerating a little bit with the special effects -- whole, intact houses and boats don't really whirl about cartoonishly thousands of feet in the air -- it's still a pretty scary phenomenon. As it turns out, however, Twister was actually a tastefully understated flick. Here's an actual tornado in Dallas, Texas, whipping full-size big rigs thousands of feet in the air like a giant invisible toddler throwing a tantrum.

That just doesn't look real. It looks like a physics glitch in a video game. It's like the cosmos turned on Hacks; like somebody forgot to CGI in Godzilla.

But this is an article about people braving the fury of the natural world -- tiny little Davids spitting in the eye of Mother Nature's Goliath. So where's the human element here? Well, you have to look closely at that video again, at about 1:25, on the lower right:

126912_v1

And you'll see a little white car cruising by -- not even speeding, mind you -- just moseying along Main Street. Now turn your gaze a few inches up and to the left, and observe a fucking semi hurtling through the air. Sure, there are other cars later in the clip, but they're much farther out and might not be aware that traffic conditions are currently "in the sky." Really look at the angles of that screencap with the white car again; this isn't somebody caught unaware. They can clearly see the 18-wheeler that just took these broken wings and learned to fly again ... and they do not care. They do not give one lonely shit that somebody just up and reversed gravity on them. They're going to goddamn Blockbuster, come hell or high trailer.

Holy shit, did they just ... did they just signal?

1. A Fall from Space

A Fall from Space

For anybody who's ever stopped to really consider it, the mere existence of space -- with its fathomless depths and incomprehensible scale -- is enough to trigger a fire hose of existential fear vomit. I once saw a diagram of the actual distance between Earth and the moon and spent an hour hiding beneath my bed. In contrast, here's Joseph Kittinger, gleefully jumping the bitch:

126916Source.

Kittinger was part of Project Excelsior, an experiment to study extreme high altitude bailouts. The project involved an open gondola suspended by helium balloons that brought Kittinger up over 100,000 (not a typo; one hundred thousand) feet in the air. That's 19 miles, straight up. In a previous, lower altitude jump, his limbs generated G-forces more than 20 times that of Earth's gravity. Once he left the gondola, it took him nearly 15 minutes to hit the ground. He broke the speed of sound ... with his torso. That image of the distant curve of the Earth up there at the start of this entry? That's not taken from the space station. That was Joseph Kittinger's helmet cam.

126900Source.

"Haha, I'ma git you, Earth!"

I went skydiving once. They had me crawl out onto the wing of a shaky little prop plane, wind howling and ripping at my clothes, and when I was far enough out, the instructor said: "Now, let go." To which I answered: "Fuck you." Joseph Kittinger went up in a tiny balloon, and when he reached space, somebody said, "Now, step out there and try to aim for the planet." And he said, "Sure thing!"

126907_v1

I've actually pinpointed it: The bravest nanosecond in human history. Those are his white boots up top, just leaving the platform.

It takes enormous balls to even get on that vehicle -- what is, essentially, a rickety little basket with no handrails, tied to a bunch of balloons. It takes even bigger balls to voluntarily ride that son of a bitch higher than air goes. It takes balls of incomprehensible proportions -- balls whose non-Euclidean geometry simply cannot exist on our earthly plane -- to look down at a planet so far below you that you can actually make out the shape of continents, then step outside for a stroll.

Those kinds of balls do exist, but only in an alternate dimension, parallel to ours but wholly separate, of which we mere mortals can comprehend only the smallest piece. The avatar of that vast dimension comprised entirely of great and majestic testicles has a name, but it cannot be pronounced by the human tongue. So you can just call him "Joe."

source

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

I Want to Break Free: The Amazing Moment a Butterfly Bursts from its Chrysalis

These amazing pictures document the birth of a butterfly as it tries to break free of its chrysalis.

The breathtaking images were taken by snapper Jimmy Hoffman who took the shots in Girona, Spain.

Wildlife enthusiast Jimmy, who is a professional artist, raised the Charaxes jasius or Foxy Emperor from a caterpillar and waited until they formed a chrysalis.

This Charaxes jasius or Foxy Emperor was raised from a caterpillar and the photographer waited until it formed a chrysalis before photographing itThis Charaxes jasius or Foxy Emperor was raised from a caterpillar and the photographer waited until it formed a chrysalis before photographing it

When the moment came for the stunning butterfly to emerge he was ready to take this incredible sequence.

He said: 'It's always a special and wonderful moment to see a butterfly emerging from its pupa.

'Especially when you have raised it yourself. It's something you very rarely witness in nature and I was very lucky to be able to take a sequence of pictures of the whole process.'

The butterfly has a two-inch wing span and is found across Africa and the Mediterranean.

The caterpillar's host is generally the strawberry tree.

article-2133541-12B8036F000005DC-952_634x333The first stage: When the caterpillar is fully grown, it makes a button of silk which it uses to fasten its body to a leaf or a twig. The caterpillar's skin comes off and under this old skin is a hard skin called a chrysalis

The second stageThe pupa seam tears after 12 hours. It is a metallic gold-coloration in many butterfliesThe second stage: The pupa seam tears after 12 hours. It is a metallic gold-coloration in many butterflies

article-2133541-12B802E1000005DC-888_634x372The third stage: The butterfly slowly begins to emerge - but not quite - after 23-and-a-half hours in the chrysalis

The fourth stage The beautiful butterfly is almost free and is all but out of its shell. It has a wing span of two inchesThe fourth stage: The beautiful butterfly is almost free and is all but out of its shell. It has a wing span of two inches

source

Sunday, 22 April 2012

What Would You do if a Bear Charged You?

A group of tourists in Alaska had to find an answer to that question rather urgently when a hungry grizzly ran at their camp.

Grizzly-bear-charges-tour-001

A group of a sightseers in Katmai national park in Alaska were out watching the park's bears when one male grizzly turned on them and charged.

Grizzly-bear-charges-tour-002

The video footage of the charge, filmed by Larry Griffith, shows the bear galloping angrily through the water towards the group ...

... before stopping within feet of them ...

... before stopping within feet of them ...

... reportedly circling them several times, and sniffing at their clothing.

... reportedly circling them several times, and sniffing at their clothing.

Grizzly-bear-charges-tour-007

The group was told to stay perfectly still, advised that the bear had made a 'bluff charge', to provoke a reaction, rather than a direct attack.

And the strategy appears to have worked. Eventually, the bear lost interest in the group ...

And the strategy appears to have worked. Eventually, the bear lost interest in the group ...

... and left them to return to its fishing.

... and left them to return to its fishing.

source

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Odd 'Ride-sharing' Birds Pay Homage To Space Shuttle

6a00d8341bf67c53ef0168ea6a7776970c-400wiThe space shuttle Discovery made its spectacular historic final voyage this week,  which included a tour over the Washington, D.C. area. The awe-inspiring aerial tour pulled Washingtonians out of their offices as the space shuttle rode piggy-back on a 747, and flew slowly over the Capitol, White House, the Mall and much of the Potomac River.

The historical moment brought nostalgic tears to many on-lookers as the Discovery, flew to its new retirement home, the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly.

Even some birds were inspired by the moment and borrowed a page from the space shuttle's piggy back mode of transpo!  Check out these crazy daredevil birds ride-sharing Piggy-back - it's the only way to fly!?

6a00d8341bf67c53ef0168ea6a7f9a970c-800wisource

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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Zoo Keepers Hand Rear Baby Gibbon

Zookeepers at the private Zoo Gartencenter Vida in Germany are giving a baby gibbon a better chance at life. The three-month-old lar gibbon (hylobates lar, also known as white-handed gibbon) named ‘Knuppy’ is being hand-reared after his mother rejected him, a common occurrence with primates born in captivity.

Zoo Keepers Hand Rear Baby GibbonImage: source

Doesn’t he look cute in his sweater vest?

Zoo Keepers Hand Rear Baby Gibbon 01Image: source

Germany-baby-gibbon-KnuppyImage: source

235437_02-joerg-sarbach-ap_origImage: source

235438_03-joerg-sarbach-ap_orig Image: source

235436_01-joerg-sarbach-ap_orighImage: source

235442_4459360102_origImage: source

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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

5 Largest Reptiles on Earth

saltwater-croc.img_assist_custom-600x450Photo: Faye Pini

Reptiles have been around some 300 million years, and our planet has seen its fair share of gigantic scaled beasts during its history. That said, only a few behemoths from the golden age of reptiles still exist today.

Great_Barrier_Reef_Cairns_Australia.img_assist_custom-600x400Photo: The Lightworks

Here we present the five largest reptiles on Earth; the biggest in the four commonly recognized reptilian orders.

1. Saltwater Crocodile (Order: Crocodilians)

saltwater-crocodile.img_assist_custom-600x385Photo: thinboyfatter

The saltwater crocodile is the largest living reptile in the world, growing to a length of over 6 meters (20 ft). These mean-toothed giants are able to crush the skulls of cows between their jaws and, should the mood take them, can easily eat a human. The areas of largest croc populations in Australia are clearly marked, so people know where not to stray and so avoid ending up as a croc's lunch.

saltwater-crocodile_0.img_assist_custom-600x414Photo: thinboyfatter

Saltwater crocodiles range from the tip of Southeast Asia to Australia. As their name implies, they are even known to take to the sea, and have reached locations as remote as the Sea of Japan. Crocodilians belong to an order even more ancient than dinosaurs, so the saltwater crocodile gives us a glimpse into the halcyon days of its gigantic prehistoric ancestors.

2. Leatherback Sea Turtle (Order: Testudines)

Leatherback-sea-turtle.img_assist_custom-600x400Photo: Steve Garvie

Leatherback sea turtles can measure over 2 meters (7 ft) in length, with a flipper span of almost 3 meters (8 ft), and are unique among turtles thanks to their lack of a hard, bony shell. Instead, their ridged, leathery carapace is built for speed, making them the fastest reptiles on Earth — as well as among the most humungous. Speed capacity and lots of fatty tissue keeps them warm for long sea voyages and deep dives of up to 1,200 meters (4,000 ft).

A leatherback's diet consists mostly of jellyfish — so much so that their populations keep jellyfish numbers in check. Sadly, they often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, and many have died from ingesting plastic bags.

close-up-of-dermochelys-coriacea-leatherback-turtle_w725_h544.img_assist_custom-600x450Photo: Rabon David, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The eggs of leatherbacks are eaten in Malaysia, Thailand and parts of the Caribbean. This has also had a devastating effect on turtle populations. The Leatherback Trust is an organization dedicated to the preservation and survival of these giant yet vulnerable creatures.

3. Reticulated Python (Order: Squamata)

Reticulated-python.img_assist_custom-600x450Photo: Mohammed Alnaser

Did you know that pythons are expert swimmers, and that their sea voyages have distributed them among a variety of islands in the Indo-Australian Archipelago? Yet, as well as being at home in water, reticulated pythons are aggressive constrictors that suffocate their prey and ingest it whole. They have been reliably recorded at 6.95 meters (22.8 ft) — slightly longer than saltwater crocodiles, albeit nowhere near as heavy.

Honorable Mention: Green Anaconda

Anaconda.img_assist_custom-600x450Photo: Eduardo Mendes

The world-beating length of the reticulated python has been disputed by claims of even larger green anacondas. Legends and movies about the snake certainly make it seem a fearsome predator. Anacondas have been found to reach 6.6 meters (22 ft), only slightly shorter than the reticulated python. Still, although anacondas chill and thrill us in stories, the reticulated python may be the more fearsome of these two serpentine heavyweights, being on record as having killed and eaten human beings.

4. Komodo Dragon (Order: Squamata)

Komodo-dragon-closeupPhoto: Scott Ellis

Technically, lizards and snakes belong to the same order, but most lizards have legs, while snakes don’t, so we're representing the four-legged Squamata too! This king of lizards is a deadly hunter reaching lengths up to 3 meters (10 ft). Enter the komodo dragon. These bad boys hunt in the afternoon, ambushing their prey using their arsenal of powerful sharp claws, a strong tail, and a poisonous mouthful of deadly bacteria. The term ‘dragon’ certainly seems appropriate when sizing up these ferocious monsters.

Komodo-Dragon.img_assist_custom-600x400Photo: Adhi Rachdian

While komodo dragons obviously can’t breathe fire, their saliva contains virulent strains of bacteria that grow with uncanny rapidity. These bacteria ensure that bites usually result in sepsis and fatal infection. And, like their mythological counterparts, which were immune to their own fire, komodo dragons are immune to their own poisonous secretions. Scientists have yet to discover how this is possible. We’ll leave the field research to them!

5. Tuatara (Order: Sphenodontia)

Tuatara.img_assist_custom-600x451Photo: Michael Hamilton

This guy may be a squirt in comparison to the other giants in the winners’ circle, but as the only surviving member of its order, the northern tuatara is the largest living, well… tuatara! While its closest living relatives are reptiles and snakes, the tuatara’s order can be traced back to the Mesozoic Era, from where it derives its distinctly unusual attributes.

While they may look like reptiles, tuataras actually have legs and brains that closely resemble those of amphibians. They possess three eyelids on each eye and a third ‘parietal’ eye on the top of their heads, possibly used to detect day and night cycles. Their backbone vertebrae resemble fish, and their rib features are more typical of birds. Meanwhile, their spiny tails and back plates are more crocodilian than lizard-like. The creature is an anomaly in the modern world of reptiles, and lives exclusively on the offshore islands of New Zealand.

While saltwater crocodile populations are currently well represented in Australia, many other reptiles are in need of protection from habitat loss or hunting. For information about the conservation and populations of reptiles big and small, search the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Sources: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Monday, 16 April 2012

Two-headed Bearded Dragon: One Head Eats, The Other Drinks

Meet Jeckyl and Hyde.

article-2130325-129CFB6F000005DC-844_306x463The six-legged bearded dragon is the latest addition to a family of two-headed animals owned by Grammy award-winner Todd Ray.

The former music producer to heavyweights like Mick Jagger and the Beastie Boys is now owner of the world's largest collection of double-headed animals.

As the Huffington Post reports, Ray's exotic collection already includes a two-headed bearded dragon named Pancho and Lefty that will turn two in May.

But Ray, who features his animals in the Venice Beach Freakshow on the famous California boardwalk, couldn't pass up the chance to add to his collection.

Jeckyl and Hyde, named after characters in Robert Louis Stevenson's novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, were born in San Diego about five months ago, he said.

And despite appearances, the two heads do not appear to be like-minded.

'Hyde is actually a parasitic twin. He comes out of Jeckyl's side and his movement is restricted from the chest up,' Ray said, adding that Jeckyl does the eating, while Hyde seems to only drink water.

Ray has 22 living two-headed animals in his collection, many with names as unique as their looks.

There is Laverne and Shirley, the two-headed kingsnake, Lenny and Squiggy the albino hognosed snake and Cheech and Chong, the tortoise.

He also owns a two-headed goat, a two-headed terrapin and the world’s only living three-headed creature: a turtle named Myrtle, Squirtle, and Thirdle.

slide_28761_289461_largeNew additions: Jeckyl and Hyde, named after characters in Robert Louis Stevenson's novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, are about five months old

The Guinness Book of World Records named Ray owner of the largest collection of two-headed, or dicephalic, animals in January 2010.

According to the organisation's website, he has spent over $157,000 on his acquisitions.

Ray also owns a number of preserved two-headed specimens.

But he didn't put Jeckyl and Hyde on display at the Freakshow until recently.

article-2130325-129D8304000005DC-959_634x377Creature double feature: Todd Ray owns the largest collection of living two-headed animals in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records - including these two turtles

article-2130325-129D82E4000005DC-976_634x429Split personalities? Laverne and Shirley is the name of Ray's two-headed kingsnake

article-2130325-129D82ED000005DC-94_634x411At home: Todd Ray's son Phoenix shows off his two-headed goat in 2010

article-2130325-129D82DA000005DC-804_634x420Spectacle: Ray also owns a number of preserved two-headed specimens, including this kitten with two faces

article-2130325-129D82AF000005DC-838_634x422On display: Ray shows of a two-headed calf skull that is part of his vast collection

'I had to acclimate them to the Freakshow,' he told the Huffington Post.

'Hyde had sand in his eye from being dragged around by Jeckyl. Bearded dragons belong in sand, but this is unusual so the previous owner was only doing what he knew from dealing with one-headed reptiles.'

Both are responding well to treatment, he said.

source, source1

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