National Geographic Best Photos of the Year

Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa” is believed to depict Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a Florentine silk merchant. Every year, millions of visitors jostle for a view at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The painting, protected by a thick layer of glass that must be cleaned regularly, has never been restored.

 

Petronella Chigumbura, a member of the Akashinga—a nonprofit, all-female anti-poaching unit—practices reconnaissance techniques in the Zimbabwean bush.

 

A male elephant grabs an evening snack in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Most of the park’s elephants were killed for their ivory, used to buy weapons during the nation’s 15-year civil war, which ended in 1992. With poaching controlled, the population is recovering.

 

Marines have to be able to carry one another if necessary. USMC Cpl. Gabrielle Green hefts a fellow marine as they ready for deployment on a Navy ship at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Of the 38,000 recruits who enter the corps each year, about 3,500 are women—or, in USMC phrasing, “female marines.”

 

Canadian soldiers climb on the wreckage of a plane, roughly a thousand miles south of the North Pole, to scout the area during an Arctic survival course on Cornwallis Island. As the Arctic warms and tensions over its future rise, the Canadian and U.S. militaries have stepped up operations in the region.

 

Some 400 U.S. soldiers practice parachute jumps near Alaska’s Fort Greely. The multinational exercise, which includes Canadian forces, prepares troops for the rigors of large, coordinated operations in extreme cold conditions.

 

In Agadez, Niger, an Izala school educates about 1,300 students. Izala is a back-to-basics Islamic reformist movement that adheres to conservative practices, such as women covering their faces, but also prizes education.

 

Children nap at a kindergarten in Mongolia’s Bayanzurkh District. Each room is equipped with an air purifier, in an attempt to lower the level of indoor air pollution. Children are especially vulnerable to poor air quality.

 

Sal Thegal dressed like a hot dog at the Minnesota State Fair on Friday, August 23, 2019.

 

A Temminck’s ground pangolin named Tamuda searches for a meal of ants or termites at a rehabilitation center in Zimbabwe. He was rescued from illegal wildlife traders, who likely would have smuggled his scales to Asia for use in traditional remedies.

 

A crocodile rests in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, where wildlife’s future depends on humans’ livelihoods.

 

Two rats at India’s Karni Mata Temple box to determine which is dominant. Rats are social animals that take good care of their offspring. Studies show they will free a fellow rat from a small cage—even if it means giving up a treat. This suggests to some researchers that rats feel empathy.

 

Behind netting, a polar bear dances at the Circus on Ice in Kazan, Russia. Performing polar bears are extremely rare. The show’s four bears wear metal muzzles, and their trainer, Yulia Denisenko, carries a metal rod. Between tricks, the bears lie down and rub themselves on the ice.

 

Clay, Daniel, and Enzo, three of 39 tigers rescued from an animal park in Oklahoma, gather at a pool at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado. These cats will live out their lives here, with proper nutrition and vet care.

 

Lions that were released and collared in a remote region of the 4,500-square-kilometer Zambeze Delta area of Mozambique lounge in the early morning mist.

 

Incahuasi, “House of the Inca” in Quechua, was an island when Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flat was a lake in prehistoric times. A remnant of a volcano, it’s covered in cacti, some towering 40 feet, and fossilized algae. Extracting lithium from under the salt flat is certain to alter the spectacular landscape.

 

Fourteen-year-old Danila holds a baby alpaca near Huaylillas in the highlands of northern Peru.

 

This book is a romance novel, but National Liberation Front (ELN) Comandante Yesenia also reads aloud to her river outpost compatriots from works of ideology and ELN history. At 36, she has spent more than half her life as a guerrilla fighter in Colombia; her two children live with civilian relatives.

 

The majority of residents in Uganda’s Bidibidi refugee camp are children, many of whom also work to help their families. In a small shop near his home in Zone 5, 13-year-old Steven Ladu sells candy.

Mount Thor Steep Galore

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Mount Thor, officially gazetted as Thor Peak, is a mountain with an elevation of 1,675 metres (5,495 ft) located in Auyuittuq National Park, on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada. The mountain is located 46 km (29 mi) northeast of Pangnirtung and features Earth’s greatest vertical drop of 1,250 m (4,101 ft), with the cliff overhanging at an average angle of 15 degrees from vertical. Despite its remoteness, this feature makes the mountain a popular rock climbing site. Camping is allowed, with the only official site being at the entrance to the Akshayuk Valley near Overlord Peak.

 

I don’t know about climbing it, maybe a parachute jump from the top.

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Mount Thor is part of the Baffin Mountains which in turn form part of the Arctic Cordillera mountain range. The mountain is made of granite and is the most famous of Canada’s mountains named “Thor”. Despite the fact the mountain is in a remote area, it’s a popular destination for avid mountain climbers. Mount Thor was first climbed in 1965 during the Alpine Club of Canada by an expedition led by Pat Baird. In July 2006, the first successful longest rappel was set on Mount Thor by an American team.

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Australia’s Best Rated Beach, one small problem, it is located on an Island 2,100 miles off the Australian Mainland

This is an A-1 Gold Star Paradise located in the Indian Ocean, roughly midway between Australia and Sri Lanka. The Territory of the Cocos (KeelingIslands, also called Cocos Islands and Keeling Islands, is a territory of Australia. The beaches are spectacular.

 

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Daily Mail Online

Did your favourite make the cut? Incredible beach that you’ve probably never heard of is named Australia’s best – as Bondi fails to make the top 20

  • Beach expert Brad Farmer released his book, 101 Best Beaches 2017, with Cossies Beach taking the top spot
  • It is a remote beach in the Indian Ocean, 3,000 km north-west of Perth, and can be reached by a 4.5hr flight
  • Cossies was named after Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands  

Natural beauty has landed a remote beach in the Indian Ocean the prestigious title of Australia’s best beach.

Tourism Australia’s beach ambassador Brad Farmer released his book on Saturday, 101 Best Beaches 2017, crowning Cossies Beach – named after Governor-General Peter Cosgrove – in the Cocos Islands as the country’s top sandy shore.

‘It’s as near to perfect as a beach can be,’ Farmer said, comparing it to the Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays.

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Farmer has been writing about beaches for the past 30 years and has seen about 4,000 Australian beaches in his lifetime.

With his colleague Professor Andy Short, a coastal geomorphologist, Farmer spent almost half a year trekking around Australia’s coastline to assess the nation’s top beaches.

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Territory of Australia
• Annexed by the
British Empire
1857
• Transferred to
Australian control
1955
Area
• Total
14 km2 (5 sq mi)
• Water (%)
0
Population
• July 2014 estimate
596
• Density
43/km2 (111.4/sq mi))

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The Surreal Landscape of Deadvlei, Namibia

The picture below is not that of a painting. It was taken inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia, in a strange and alien landscape called Dead Vlei. Although sounds similar to “dead valley”, Dead Vlei is not an actually valley. The term means “dead marsh” (from English dead, and Afrikaans vlei, a lake or marsh in a valley between the dunes).

Deadvlei is a white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, scattered with hundreds of dead Acacia trees that once thrived when water from the Tsauchab River soaked this piece of land. Some 900 years ago the river diverted its course, leaving Dead Vlei literally high and dry. Dead Vlei has been claimed to be surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world, the highest reaching 300-400 meters which rest on a sandstone terrace.

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Abgestorbene Akazien im Dead vlei, Namibia

Icebergs, Whales and a Football Pitch

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Disko Island is just off the west coast of Greenland. It has a population of approximately 1,200. It has an area of 8,578 km2 (3,312.0 sq mi), making it the second largest island of Greenland (after the main island of Greenland) and one of the 100 largest islands in the world. The vast majority of the landmass is rock. But the soccer hungry people of the island built a top quality football pitch on a beach.

While the soccer game is on spectators can enjoy the beautiful scenery, especially the icebergs just offshore. And every so often whales can be seen breaching the surface and blowing water out of their blowholes.

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The Unique Mountain that is Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania has a very unique appearance in relation to other giant mountains of the world.  First of all the upper reaches of the mountain are not covered in ice and snow, and the sparse vegetation at the top give the mountain a dark chocolate colour.  Second is the volcanic crater in the middle of the flat top.  It reminds me of a big mound of chocolate sprinkled lightly with whip cream.

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Kilimanjaro, with its three volcanic cones, KiboMawenzi, and Shira, is a dormant volcanic mountain in Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 metres or 19,341 feet above sea level (the Uhuru Peak/Kibo Peak).

Kilimanjaro is composed of three distinct volcanic cones: Kibo 5,895 m (19,341 ft); Mawenzi 5,149 m (16,893 ft); and Shira 3,962 m (13,000 ft). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim.

Kilimanjaro is a large stratovolcano. Two of its three peaks, Mawenzi and Shira, are extinct while Kibo (the highest peak) is dormant and could erupt again. The last major eruption has been dated to between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago.

Although it is dormant, Kibo has fumaroles that emit gas in the crater. Several collapses and landslides have occurred on Kibo in the past, one creating the area known as the Western Breach.

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The Sand Dunes of Rub al Khali

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Rubʿ al-Khali, (literally “Empty Quarter” in Arabic), also spelled Al-Rabʿ al-Khali, is a vast desert in the southern Arabian Peninsula, covering about 250,000 square miles (650,000 square km) in a structural basin that takes in substantial portions of Saudi Arabia, as well as parts of Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest area of continuous sand in the world. It holds roughly half as much sand as the Sahara, which is 15 times the Empty Quarter’s size but composed mostly of graveled plains and rocky outcrops.

The desert is 1,000 kilometres long, and about 500 kilometres wide, and its topography is varied. In the west the elevation is as high as 2,000 feet (610 metres) and the sand is fine and soft, while in the east the elevation drops to 600 feet (183 metres) with sand dunes, salt flats, and sand sheets. The terrain is covered with sand dunes with heights up to 250 metres (820 ft), interspersed with gravel and gypsum plains.

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Aerial image of the sand dunes of Rub’ al Khali.

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The image above was taken on May 16, 2011, by the crew of the International Space Station. Parallel rows of salmon-pink and white alternate to create a rippling pattern. White salt flats, known as sebkhas or sabkhas, separate the dunes. These salt-encrusted plains vary in hardness, in some places creating a surface strong enough to drive a vehicle over, in other places disappearing into sand.

The orientation of the linear dunes lies at a right angle to northwesterly trade winds that originate in Iraq, known as the Shamal winds. Secondary barchan (crescent-shaped) dunes and star dunes—with crests originating from a single point and stretching in several directions—can form atop the linear dunes when southwesterly winds blow during the monsoon season (Kharif winds). The long, linear dunes begin to break up into isolated large star dunes to the northeast and east (image right). This is likely the result of wind pattern interactions and of changes in the sand supply.

The Empty Quarter was so named because the hyper arid climate and difficulty of travel through the dunes has long discouraged permanent settlement within the region. The first documented journeys made by Westerners were those of Bertram Thomas in 1931 and St. John Philby in 1932. With daytime temperatures reaching 55 degrees Celsius, and dunes taller than 330 meters, the desert may be one of the most forbidding places on Earth.

There is however, evidence of human activity at Rub’ al Khali dating from 3,000 to 2,000 years ago, including chipped flint tools, but no actual human remains have been found. Several fossil remains of animals such as hippopotamus, water buffalo, and long-horned cattle also indicates the presence of water once in the distant past.

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Photo credit: NASA

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