Nowadays, people travel, explore, and discover more about the world than in any other century, reaching things that were once considered totally impossible and inaccessible. And if years ago, few people would have had access to these astonishing artifacts, the internet has made it possible for all of us to witness what can only be described as nature's best-kept secrets. Check them out below, and prepare to be amazed.
We'll Never Look at the Beach the Same Way Again
We can barely believe it, but these beautiful, unique shapes are, in fact, grains of sand, enlarged by the high-definition microscope invented by Dr. Gary Greenberg. Formerly a photographer and filmmaker, Greenberg became interested in developmental biology in the 1980s and went on to invent HD, 3D microscopes, for which he currently has 19 patents to his name! It was his interest in filmmaking that gave him the idea of looking more closely at nature's secrets and 'to reveal the beauty of the microscopic landscape that makes up our everyday world.'
The path from artist to scientist and vice versa is well-trodden. Among other scientific pioneers who pursued the arts are the botanist Anna Atkins, Samuel More - inventor of the morse code - and of course, Leonardo da Vinci, the epitome of scientist-artist-inventor.
Blondes Have More Fun
Talk about captivating - who can tear their eyes away from this golden-only honeybee? This blonde bee exists due to a genetic mutation in the honeybee genus, which inhibits the color black. Cordovan bees, as they are known, are just gold or yellow, without any 'stripes' at all. Honeybee scientists - apiologists - call this type of bee the Italian honeybee, as they are thought to have originated in Cordova, Italy.
Honeybees are super social insects, living together in nests or hives, and are also polyandrous (meaning the queen bee mates with multiple drone bees) to produce a genetically diverse colony. Nature is awesome.
Meet Bubble Snail
This is one snail with a rather snazzy home. We had to consult with our local malacologist on this one - an expert in the study of snails and slugs - and apparently, new snail shell growth is often transparent until it hardens. They also confirmed that a transparent snail shell does exist! A new species of snail was discovered and confirmed in Croatia in 2013, the Zospeum Tholossum - or Domed Land Snail.
Snails come out of their shells when the environment is nice and warm and moist; they tend to hide out when it's cold. We don't recommend the study of snails; it's a slow-moving business.
No, This Is Not an Illusion
Nicknamed the 'Galapagos of Russia,' Lake Baikal is an incredible, natural phenomenon - a crystal blue lake with ice formations and a fascinating ecosystem. Plus, it has rocks balancing on top of its frozen water! Estimated to be at least 25 million years old, Lake Baikal in Siberia has captivated visitors for decades. It experiences intense weather with freezing winds and cycles of melting and refreezing - which is exactly what creates these 'rocks balancing on water,' Instagram-worthy shots.
The lake is surrounded by ice caves, ice stalactites, frozen pebbles, and snow-covered trees, with stones and chunks of ice just frozen on the lake's surface, like something out of a Disney movie.
The Evil Eye Will Find You
Ever bumped into a cat displaying the eye of Sauron? For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, Sauron is the villian at the heart of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He's the embodiment of evil, a dark abyss with no form and an insane lust for power. He appears in the movies like a giant eye - a fiery orange, evil eye. So, all in all, not really someone to cozy up to.
Still happy for this cat to sleep in the bed? To be honest, we probably still wouldn't be able to resist this furball.
Ageing in Style
If we ever dreaded the idea of moving into a dreary 'nursing home' in our old age, Doverwood Village has set us straight! There's a pub, movie theater, restaurant, beauty salon, chapel, shops, and more on Doverwood's 'Main Street', and that's just the beginning of this incredible facility. Doverwood Village is an assisted living facility in Ohio, USA, which also serves those looking for short-term rehab, memory care, and long-term nursing.
Making a move to independent senior living can be an emotional upheaval for relatives, regardless of the type of facility they are moving to. If only every facility cared about their seniors in the same way this one seems to!
Modern Musical Scoring
Now a rare collector's item, this incredible round typewriter was patented back in 1936. Robert H. Keaton from California, USA, was interested in finding a more modern way to score music other than by hand. At first, it had 14 keys; a later patent had 33 keys, all for the purpose of more efficiently getting musical notes onto the page. The machine included a Scale Shift handle, keys for notes, sharps and flats, and scales.
It turns out, that composers still preferred to scribble notes down by hand as they went along rather than use a typewriter. Go figure.
She's Just So... Transparent
This super rare butterfly with transparent wings is native to central and South America and is known as a Glasswing. Being transparent makes it hard to be hunted and eaten, and even as larvae, they are reflective, making them invisible to potential predators! As caterpillars, they feed off a poisonous plant, and the toxins from that plant are stored in their tissue as butterflies - making them a really bad choice of snack for birds.
In Spanish-speaking countries, the glass wings have been nicknamed "little mirrors" (espejitos) because of their mirror-like wings. We hope to see a 'little mirror' in person one day, but as they only live 6-12 weeks in the tropical rainforest, chances seem small!
A Different Lens
Our first thought? This must be a hand-drawn illustration of planet Earth from olden times. But no! This is a rare and astonishing photo of the sun - that big old star in the sky, the star closest to our planet, the one that provides us with heat, light, and all that good stuff. But it sure doesn't look like the sun as we imagine it! Taken with an extreme UV telescope by SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, the photo is truly incredible to dissect.
This incredible photo gives a whole new meaning to the idea of seeing things through a different lens!
The Bluest Eye
This cutie is no doubt on the list because of its incredible, captivating eye color. The gorgeous blue-green color is probably because this cat is blind. Blindness in cats is often caused by untreated eye infections like conjunctivitis, which is common among newborn kittens. Cats, like humans, can also experience retinal degeneration and sudden onset blindness - and they come to rely heavily on their hearing, touch, and smell to navigate the world.
Unlike with blindness, there is a type of cat that is genetically predisposed to deafness: white cats. According to a statistic in the US, 65%–85% of the population of white cats with two blue eyes are deaf.
There are gorgeous colored insects and animals in nature, but blue is definitely one of the rarest to show up. This blue Carpenter bee is native to India, China, and Southeast Asia, and they are huge! Unlike other species of honeybees, it's the female Carpenter bees that are blue, and only the females have a stinger. The females can also live for several years, while the males only live for one. In other words, the females are most definitely in charge in the blue bee world.
Once they've mated, they're done with the male - the female blue bees prefer to go about life alone. Strong female role models, if we ever saw one!
Such a pretty sight! But whoever heard of flowers blooming during a snowfall? Tulips, apparently, just march to their own flowery beat. According to botanists, the beautiful tulip is the one flower that only blooms when it's ready - not just because it's Springtime. They don't even like direct sunlight! Tulips actually thrive in colder conditions, and florists will often keep tulip bulbs in refrigeration to preserve them.
Although heavy snowfall could squash and break the actual flower, this rare photo shows tulips that decided they were ready to pop, come rain, or shine.
We Promise Those Aren't Leaves
Is It a leaf? Is It a snail? Neither, it's a solar-powered sea slug! This incredible creature was discovered on the Japanese island of Kuroshima but has since been found in other locales. This little guy is breaking all of nature's rules - it's a chimera, a combination of two organisms, so it's both a moving, breathing slug but also capable of performing photosynthesis. Yes, exactly like a plant!
When the sun comes out, it unravels itself and indulges in a little sunbathing, giving it its gorgeous green hue.
No, This Horse Didn't Get a Perm
Yes, curly-haired horses exist and are the next hottest thing. Often called Curlies or Bashkir Curlies, they come in all different colors and body types and are known for being gentle, even-tempered horses. They are also hypoallergenic, so along with their sweet natures, they have actually become known as excellent horses for therapy with children and those with special needs. Their curls range in texture from proper ringlets to waves to a velvet-like texture, and some even have curly eyelashes!
Fun fact - they shed their manes and coats in summer, growing them back before winter. Why? Smart horses - they know curly hair is a nightmare in summer! Who needs all that frizz?
Frozen - But Make It Real Life
The owners of properties facing the shore of Lake Erie had no idea what they were in for during a storm in early 2020! The residents endured eighteen hours of waves and spray from the lake battering their homes, carried by gale-force winds of 50mph. They woke up to find their houses wrapped in thick layers of frost and ice, unable to open their front doors and to have to chisel their way out of windows and back doors.
While it looks magical from afar, like frosted gingerbread houses or ice palaces from the movie Frozen, the people who live there were hugely concerned about the weight of the layers of ice and potential damage to their roofs and structures.
Senior Care With Style
At this unique senior care home, the smells, sounds, and even the paint colors are therapeutic! That's because this care home specifically caters to those who are living with dementia. Reminiscent of the 1940s, the 'homes' were built with porches and an entrance to a main 'street.' At The Lantern of Chagrin Valley, Ohio, the floors are carpeted to resemble sidewalks and grass - all of this to bring comfort and familiarity to those living there.
For those suffering from dementia, the design of a person's physical environment has proven to be really important when it comes to their care.
And That's Just Its Thigh Bone
It's enormous! In 2019, scientists unearthed this huge dinosaur bone in southern France. The 6.5 foot (!) femur bone is thought to have belonged to a sauropod - a herbivore from the Jurassic period. The site it was discovered has been coming up trumps for paleontologists, with around 7000 fossils found there during the last few years. In 2010, another dinosaur femur bone was found there, weighing a whopping 500 kilos!
We can't get over how gigantic this femur bone looks in comparison to the man next to it! And to think, it's only a thigh bone!
Remodelling the Shower
Luxurious bathroom and shower designs created from sustainable technology and natural materials are currently all the rage in our eco-conscious world. Clay bathtubs overlooking mountains, upcycled wooden sauna rooms designed to feel like rainforests, and gorgeous outdoor tiled showers are all perfect after days at the beach or cleaning up muddy kids. This natural shower, however, really wipes out all the competition. Who can beat a beautiful waterfall formed naturally inside a cave?
This stunning waterfall shower was captured in a rare photo, and in perfect light, by visitors to the Racer Caves in Sarawak, Malaysia.
A Wing in Both Worlds
There's more here than meets the eye! This butterfly is what is termed a bilateral gynandromorph - biologically half male, half female, split perfectly down the middle, and incredibly rare. The phenomenon is caused during mitosis when the sex cells are not split in the usual way. Scientists have also found gynandromorphy in locusts, lobsters, bees, and spiders! On the butterfly pictured, the yellow side is likely male, the dark side female.
The term gynandromorph combines the Greek 'gyn', female, and 'andro,' or male. Don't go confusing your gynandromorphy with your hermaphroditism - that's where an organism has both male and female reproductive organs but the external characteristics of only one gender. Got it?
Pluto, Time for Your Close-Up
Pluto's moment to shine! The closest and clearest photographs ever taken of the dwarf planet Pluto were snapped in super-high-resolution by NASA's New Horizon spacecraft, dazzling astronomy enthusiasts the world over! The photos were taken 15 minutes before New Horizon's closest approach yet to Pluto - at a distance of 10,000 miles! - and the captivating pictures really pull Pluto into focus. Astronomers can spot icy plains, craters, erosion, and even some 'mountainous' areas.
In 2006, Pluto experienced the sad humiliation of being downgraded to a dwarf planet, but we bet none of the other planets photographs as beautifully as Pluto does.
Message in a Bottle
Inside this unusual bottle, the finder discovered a laminated message that told the story of Mel, just 54 years old when he died. The message explains that he loved the ocean, and he'd asked to be laid at rest in the ocean. Mel asks that if someone finds the message, they post it on social media where they found it and then send it back on its way, hopefully on a journey around the world.
The tradition of messages in bottles is thought to have begun around the 1840s! However, today we know so much more about ocean pollution, and the practice is definitely discouraged by conservationists.
Winnie the Pooh's Home
While out riding' in Massachusetts, USA, this poster came across a tiny door in a tree - a replica of one of the doors featured in the stories of Winnie the Pooh! Maybe they stumbled into the One Hundred Acre Wood? As diehard Winnie fans all know, the little red door should say Mr. Sanders on it, as the house belonged to a previous owner before Winnie, as stated in Chapter I of the book.
“My favorite thing is me coming to visit you, and then you ask, ‘How about a small smackerel of honey?'” - Winnie the Pooh.
What a useful, curious find. This treasure was thankfully retrieved from a UK recycling bin! The Schoolboy's Diary 1941 was published by Letts of London, a printing house known for the creation of the first commercial dairy. This pocket diary was still intact when discovered, including diary entries, stamps, and tickets, almost a scrapbook or time capsule from 1941. It even includes and holds onto the original lead pencil!
In 1941, England was already at war. The diary samples shown describe rationing while living away at school, being unwell but not having much to eat, remembering to put up the blackouts at night, and listening to the news first thing in the morning. The diary really is an incredible piece to have come across by accident!
A Planet Made of Glass
Is it a tiny planet?! This mesmerizing glass ball was found while taking a stroll on a beach in Hawaii. It looks like it has become a home for all kinds of tiny sea creatures, a mini-ecosystem created in the sand. A perfectly round glass ball seems very unlike the usual trash or pollution found in the ocean, but we believe it is a Japanese fishing net buoy.
The buoys were used by Japanese fishermen for floating their nets and are still today sometimes found floating in the Pacific Ocean and have since become collector's items.
A Special Kind of Rabbit
Imagine coming across this little bunch of newborn bunnies while mowing the lawn! These baby rabbits are most likely a breed known as Cottontails, thanks to their fluffy whitetails - and the only variety of rabbits that breed and live above ground. The mother will dig a shallow nest when she's ready to give birth, usually on the edge of a field, farm, or other large open space, or sometimes - in the middle of a suburban lawn!
Cottontails do not form partnerships or mate for life; they're actually better known for being a little promiscuous. Scandalous!
Grow Your Own Luck
Lucky little bottle! How did clovers come to be associated with luck? In the Celtic tradition, the Druids of Ireland believed that if they carried shamrocks or three-leaf clovers with them, they could ward off evil spirits. Also, children believed that if they found a four-leaf clover, they'd be able to see fairies! Later, people came to think that the shamrock's leaves signified health, wealth, and love, which made them lucky, while St. Patrick used them to teach the 'heathens' of Ireland about the Holy Trinity.
How can we tell if it's clover or wood sorrel in there? Pro tip: the leaves of wood sorrel are heart-shaped, whereas clovers are round.
The Swedish Excalibur
Finders keepers? During the summer of 2018, a little girl named Saga, age eight, went swimming in Lake Vidosten, Sweden, when she came across the most unexpected find. Holding it aloft above her head, she shouted, 'Daddy; I found a sword!' - had she ever! The sword turned out to be the genuine article, with archaeologists estimating it as over a thousand years old, likely from the Iron Age.
When the archaeologist came the very next day to check if the sword - still in its sheath - was genuine, they placed it back in the water to see if it would decompose after the sudden exposure following such a long rest under the lake. Luckily for Saga, it didn't.
Not Your Usual Backyard Find
This little abandoned guinea pig has a happy new home! Get a load of that tiny nose. We thought we'd offer some helpful information that his new 'human' might find useful. For example, guinea pigs are active and awake for twenty hours straight, and they demand constant access to hay or grass! Also, they're super sociable and super chatty with their own kind, and they communicate using eleven different noises for each activity. Too cute!
Guinea pigs also really don't like to live alone, so it's better to head straight to the pet shop! We wonder if this rescuer knew what he was getting into when he found this cutie.
The Alien Invasion Has Begun
Nope, not an alien invasion - squid eggs! This astonishing photo is of a seashell with squid eggs inside! A female squid plants her cluster of eggs on the seafloor, with each capsule holding around 200 eggs. Male squid becomes especially aggressive when predators, or humans, approach the cluster of eggs. In a strange twist of nature, after planting her eggs, the female squid's health degenerates rapidly, and she dies.
These are hardy sea creatures. With squid evolution dating back to the Jurassic period, we don't think they're going anywhere.
Shades of Blue
This wacky little crustacean's color is out of this world! There are two types of blue crayfish in the USA. One is a freshwater crayfish found in Florida, and one is a burrowing crayfish native to Virginia, capable of digging 6 feet down! While some keep them in aquariums for occasional snacking, crawfish serve an important purpose - turnover of soil and recycling nutrients among the soil layers - all important things for our ecosystem.
Crayfish grow to be about 3 inches long and look just like lobsters but smaller - and can be found in lakes, rivers, and swamps all over the world. Not all of them will look like this beauty, though.
Perfection in Nature
We can't stop staring at this perfectly round stone found by the original poster during a walk on the beach. In nature, radial symmetry is common, like in sunflowers, as well as gorgeous fractal symmetry in vegetables such as romanesco broccoli. There's also accidental symmetry, like in the geometrical patterns of honeycomb. What is it about perfectly symmetrical things that are so satisfying? Scientists say our human brains are so drawn to balanced images we find them soothing - the same goes for symmetrical faces and bodies.
It might be that we seek order and control over our wild, untameable universe, so looking at symmetrical things can actually also be therapeutic!
Arkansas, USA, is pretty well known for its quartz - apparently, it's everywhere! But in 2016, the Ron Coleman mine struck, well, quartz when they dug out this massive crystal structure estimated to be worth around three million dollars. Why is quartz so valuable? Its' unique electrical properties are what makes quartz so valuable as it's then used in electronics - everything from watches, clocks, timers, radios, and microphones contain quartz. Who knew.
This huge crystal structure pictured took four days for employees at the mine to dig out and weighed around 2000 pounds.
That's Not What We're Having for Dinner
Imagine opening up your grill come springtime, only to find this! It's well-known that barbecues, vents, and chimneys are spaces beloved by the bird community for building nests during wintertime and a place to keep their eggs safe from predators. Sparrows and other small birds somehow manage to squeeze themselves through the tiniest of gaps in gas grills, bringing a twig or stick at a time to determinedly build their nests.
To avoid opening up your grill and finding a similar scene, we suggest bird netting! Alternatively, just give up and let the grill, patio, and deck become a nature reserve.
We See Right Through You
How does this even happen? The original poster is holding up a transparent leaf by its stem, and it is totally captivating. We know that leaves contain water - hello, photosynthesis! - and then that water freezes when temperatures drop, making the leaf expand. But how does a plain old leaf become this beautiful transparent treasure?! We think in the case of the leaf pictured, it may have already partially decomposed.
Plant biology aside, there is something magical about a transparent leaf - how often do we get to look at nature like this, and how often does it present itself so beautifully. Imagine if the poster had been looking down at their phone and missed finding this treasure!
The Magic Brain Calculator can fit in your pocket! Magic Brain was one of a few popular, pocket-size 'adding machines' on the scene before the arrival of the electronic calculator in the 1970s. This Japanese-made device included columns of numbers for adding, subtracting, and multiplying and was known as a 'slide' adder, with fasteners holding the edges together. The Magic Brain is now considered a collectible item.
From the abacus to handheld, clockwork calculators to smartphones, it's truly incredible to think about the development of technology in our modern age.
Another walk on the beach, another rarely-seen treasure! No, it's not an ancient avocado. This cool find appears to be a rock within a rock, known as concretion, and geologists are thrilled about it. Concretion actually comes from Latin - 'con' meaning together, and 'Cresco' - to grow. The formation of a concretion would begin around a fossil or a shell. Then over many, many years and is a complex process involving mineral matter, ions, and sediment deposit, a protective layer is built.
When the embedded concretion starts to appear, as it has in this photo, it's because the rock around it is eroding. Geology! You're welcome.
Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
That's wild! In the movie adaptation of the bestselling memoir 'Wild,' the actress Reese Witherspoon plays author Cheryl Strayed, who decided to hike the entirety of the PCT - the Pacific Crest Trail. Early on in the book, Strayed loses one of her boots, which are too small for her and are causing her toenails to fall off (!) - in the movie, Witherspoon chucks one of the boots down a mountain in frustration. Violating the 'leave no trace' policy on the PCT, the crew did not retrieve the lost boot.
But now it has been found! After recognizing her location in the movie, Chris Kesting, mechanical engineer and hiker, purposely went up to Mt. Hood - to see if he could find the boot. And he did!
A Torture Device for Eggs
At first glance, this photo is less captivating and more terrifying. Or maybe for some, exciting? No judgment. This truly is an object rarely seen in person. Could it be some kind of gothic torture device used for punishing criminals? Or perhaps a more modern invention for those looking to punish themselves? An old-fashioned lemon squeezer? Alas, it is none of the above! The answer is both disappointingly and hilariously dull - boiled eggs.
The plastic version is less intimidating and far less spiky but probably does a better job of cracking the shell of a boiled egg. Yes, it's an eggshell cracker!
Seven Years of Good Luck
Seven-leaf clovers, a rarely found quirk of nature, are so completely rare that they sell for a small fortune - as the chances of finding one are 1 in 250,000,000! According to tradition, the first leaf is for hope, the second is for faith, the third is for love, and the fourth is for luck. And if you're lucky enough to come across anything above a four-leaf clover, then the fifth leaf is supposed to be for wealth.
Very few people in the world have had the good luck to find a seven-leafer, although the biggest clover on record is - wait for it - 21 leaves. Now that's a lot of luck.
All Hail the Mobile Phone
A construction worker somewhere is still wondering where their phone got to. This might not be as captivating as some of the wondrous things out there in nature, but this definitely gave us a laugh! For those too young to remember, the mobile phones that existed pre-smartphones were famous for their battery life, weight and toughness. Sure, they didn't have Siri or even, um, the internet, but those bricks sure were sturdy.
The real question we should be asking here is not how it got there but how much battery is left?