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196. Underneath the Lake

Witley Park lies in the county of Surrey, England. In 1889 it was founded by Whitaker Wright, a man who had made a fortune in the oil business. For himself he constructed a grand house with a theatre, ballroom and artificial lakes. In 1904 he took his own life and the estate changed hands.

In its current state some parts have been modernised and other left to disintegrate but certain fantastical parts of the park have stood the test of time.

There were two additional rooms on the estate, but they were less noticeable than one might expect. In one tree on the estate there is a door. Go through the door and navigate the sinking subterranean stairs. Next you commandeer a small boat and take a rowing trip. Then a large pair of doors appear, open them and see the majesty of a whole room, underground.

The glass a vivid yellow fills in the dome above. Covering it is a layer of algae obscuring the magnificent view of the artificial lake. It is ballroom and exists to this day. In fact the second room does as well. If one continues on through the ballroom you will reach a second room enshrined in glass, a conservatory. A place where guests could relax and watch fish swim by. Now that, too, is garnished in a fine layer of green grime.

Those lonely, lost, lake-laden rooms languish once more in obscurity. Witley Park used to be a place for courses and conferences, astounding many visitors but now it is now private property. This iconic and ethereal sight shall remain one man’s pleasure for a while longer. At least we have the photographs.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Articles, Trivia

 

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127. Can You Drown In The Dead Sea?

‘It is impossible to drown in the Dead Sea’, ‘No-one has ever drowned in the Dead Sea’ These are the words spoken by tens of thousands of people. Even ABC News, a fairly large news network in American, has published an article talking about the salty bowl of water. How cool, the perfect bathing spot. Well it would be, were it not for that they are all wrong. At best they not thinking about every type of drowning. Although that still makes them wrong.

This misconception arises from the fact that the Dead Sea is one of the most bizarre lakes (yes, LAKE) in the world. It is also the deepest hypersaline (salty) lake in the world. 420m below sea level. As well as being low, lying on the Jordan-Israel border it is also salty to a near excessive degree. Around 9 times as salty as the oceans of the world. The whole lake is 33.7% salt. This does of course, have side-effect.

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61. Blood Falls

FACT: Over 2 million years ago the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica covered over a small body of water. This body of water contained an ancient colony of microbes and other small organism. After a few years the water was totally sealed over by the glacier, removing all light from it.

Then they evolved independently from the rest of the world. Here in this sealed off body in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, there was no light, oxygen, very little heat and a ridiculous level of salinity. Formidable circumstances which almost no creature could survive. Yet these did.

A fissure in the glacier one day allowed this primordial mixture to escape and cascade slowly out of the Taylor glacier, forming a five-story stream of red liquid resembling blood from an open wound. This fissure allows the water out without letting any contamination in, meaning that underneath the glacier the bacteria and microbes are still evolving.

When it was discovered in 1911 researchers believed the red to be caused by algae, but no. It is a mixture of the microbes and the sheer level of iron in the glacial lake makes the water blood red. It is still pumping out the blood red water at this moment.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Trivia

 

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50. Pando the Trembling Giant

MISCONCEPTION: The Blue whale is the largest organism in existence.

TRUTH: Many would say that Ant colonies count as one organism, but they are also just too small. What we are talking about now is a super-organism, and in the world of super-organisms, ant colonies are small fry.

The largest(known)¬† super-organism is called Pando, Latin for ‘I spread’. Pando is a tree, or not. It varies depending on your definition of a tree. Pando (a.k.a. the Trembling Giant) is a clonal colony of a single male, Quaking Aspen(Populus Tremuloides). It is located in Utah in the United States of America.

The way it works is this; when the Quaking Aspen wants to reproduce, it both flowers and produces a clone of itself. The cloning just means extending its network of roots and forcing them up through the ground, thus starting a new tree. This new tree has the same genetic makeup and even has genetic markers to say that it actually belongs to the first tree.

The new tree grows with the old one and together they establish a large root network which produces more and more Quaking Aspen, essentially causing the single tree to expand into a clonal colony with a vast root network.

Just how vast is it?Part of a larger Aspen Colony, note the people in the bottom left for a scale reference.

Normally clonal colonies are 0.1 hectares in size, Pando is 43 hectares in size, and weighs 6,000 tons. Now wait, there is more.

The trees on the surface die, the root network is the real Trembling Giant, and it does not die. It constantly sends up new shoots, renews dieing trees and stops supplying nutrients to those which are dead. The reason it cannot die is because the heart of Pando lies too far beneath the ground to be reached by the frequent forest fires. These forest fires are in fact a boon for Pando as it kills off the pesky invading conifers and frees up space for many more extensions of Pando to be sent up.

Due to this invulnerability and protection from competition the heart of Pando is considered the oldest known organism in existence. Experts pin it down to being approximately 80,00 years old. This impressive longevity makes it the oldest known living organism on our fair planet.

Quaking Aspen clones 80,000 years ago the Trembling Giant was but a lone tree living in the perfect environment for it to spread, grow, flower and produce clones. However the environment has changed so much over time that it is much less hospitable towards Quaking Aspens. Experts believe that the changes in the environment have been so pronounced that  Pando has not successfully flowered in the last 10,000 years, meaning its survival is dependent upon producing more clones and hoping for forest fires to wipe out the pesky conifers.

This is impressive but there are many more super-organisms out there, many under-analysed or even unknown. So while this is good, it is almost certain that there are other things even more impressive than this.

It’s an interesting world out there.

 
 

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