The natural world is truly majestic, but also fragile. In fact, some of the most beautiful sites on Earth are already gone, never to be seen again in their full splendor. Can you imagine if the Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls suddenly collapsed due to some freak event? It seems impossible, though that's exactly what happened to these natural wonders. At least we have photographs to help us appreciate them now — even if it's too late.
1. Hillary Step, Nepal
The “Hillary Step” was a rocky ledge jutting out from Mount Everest’s southeast ridge, and it was always seen as the last challenging part of the climb before reaching the summit. It was named after Edmund Hillary, the first person to successfully negotiate it in 1953.
In recent years, though, the step seems to have disappeared, with many climbers believing it must have broken off the mountain during an earthquake in 2015. Ironically, while this has actually made the climb simpler, most climbers still seem disappointed that it’s gone.
2. Valley of Geysers, Russia
Despite what you might think if you heard its name aloud, the Valley of Geysers isn’t an area of land filled with grizzled old men! Terrible jokes aside, though, the plight of Russia’s beautiful valley in the Kamchatka Peninsula is no laughing matter. In 2000 a landslide struck the area, burying everything under water, rock, and snow.
This flooded the river, which caused a natural dam, and many of the area’s geysers, waterfalls, boiling springs and thermal fields were sunk beneath the waters. The new lake’s levels fell back slightly over a period of months, but the landscape had already been forever changed.
3. Amazon rainforest, Brazil
In the words of Vox environmental journalist Benji Jones, “The Amazon forest is dying. Decades of deforestation, wildfires, and rising temperatures are pushing the forest toward a critical threshold of destruction beyond which large parts of the rainforest will dry out and turn into a savanna, releasing massive quantities of carbon in the process.”
This eventuality would be disastrous for the Earth, as it would quicken the pace of climate change even more. Scientists believe our ecosystem is heading for a tipping point very soon, if nothing is done to correct the mistakes being made.
4. Elephant Rock, New Zealand
When earthquakes hit New Zealand in 2016 they disfigured Elephant Rock, a famous formation at Tongaporutu which, as you can probably guess, looks like the magnificent beast! Mike Brown, a local resident, lamented to the NZ Herald, “The trunk has fallen off, so it’s lost its elephant look.”
He added, “I have seen it on Facebook: you get these ‘Wonders of the World’ and I have seen it in magazine articles as well… I think this one has become quite well-known globally, probably more so than local people even realise.” He labeled it a tragic loss for the area.