Even if it seems like we’ve explored every end of the earth, the world remains an incredible mystery. Earlier this month scientists from Sweden, Estonia, France, and the United States showed that even our perception of how many lakes exist around the globe may have been skewed. Previous estimates had put the number at around 300 million. But these recent findings showed that there are less than half of that (around 117 million). The good news is that’s still a lot of lakes. While most lakes are visually breathtaking, there are some bodies of water around the world (including in Canada) that are just plain strange, and sometimes even unexplained.
Pitch Lake, Trinidad
This lake beside La Brea in Southwest Trinidad is the largest of the world's three natural asphalt lakes. Pitch itself is defined as a dark viscous substance that's a residue of mixing organic materials and tars, and this lake holds about 10 million tonnes of it. Pitch Lake is the largest commercial producer of asphalt in the world, but it is also a tourist destination because of the apparent healing properties of the thick sulphurous mixture. Lakes like this one are natural phenomenon that show the Earth's history in relation to the formation of crude oil and natural gas.
Green Lake, Austria
Known as Gruner See in Austria (which translates to Green Lake), this lake is a forest lover's and diver's dream perfectly intertwined. The lake literally transforms from a lush, forested park into a lake. In the winter, the park is a hiker's paradise, complete with trails, bridges, and a relatively small lake (1 to 2 metres deep). But as spring approaches and the surrounding mountains begin to melt, Green Lake begins its transition into a 10-metre-deep underwater wonderland. As the water rises, forest trails, park benches, and foliage become completely immersed, which creates the green hue of the lake and an unbelievable experience for divers and photographers.
While lakes that are pink in colour exist around the world (namely in Canada, Spain, and Australia), this Western Australian is definitely one of the most striking. Often photographed from a bird's eye view, Lake Hillier is surrounded by lush vegetation, and stands out because it looks like a puddle of Pepto Bismol in the middle of a coastal forest. Lake Hillier has more saline than sea salt water, and that, combined with a hot climate and the right lighting conditions, tends to result in algae accumulating beta carotene, a red pigment. All that red algae translates into a very pink lake, and a very cool sight to see.
Jellyfish Lake, Palau
Whether sea creatures are your passion or not, this wildlife phenomena in Palau is beyond cool. Palau is an island country in the Western Pacific Ocean that has an abundance of rock islands, beautiful beaches, and historical intrigue, but it's also known for Jellyfish Lake. Jellyfish Lake is exactly what it sounds like—a lake packed with millions of jellyfish. The only difference is that these tentacled sea creatures are safe to swim beside, unlike those that inhabit the world's oceans and saltwater lakes, which are sure to sting. The jellyfish that call this lake home have been away from predators for so long that they no longer have to defend themselves, and have naturally diminished their harsh stinging properties. Jellyfish lake is completely isolated from other bodies of water and its estimated that the jellies residing here have been secluded since the ice age.
Lake Natron, Tanzania
You may have heard of this lake before, or at least seen the eerie frozen-in-time pictures of it. As one of the world's strangest phenomenas, this non-draining lake literally calcifies the wildlife that inhabits the area, preserving their bodies in life-like stances until they wash onto the shore. The phenomena is created by the mineral and alkaline levels in the water, which flow into the lake from surrounding hills. This African lake reaches temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius and has a pH of 10.5 and burns the skin and eyes of animals who are not adapted to it. Despite initial media reports that suggested all animals met the same unfortunate fate at Lake Natron, the region supports a huge ecosystem of salt marshes and the animals attracted to them, including flamingos and tilapia.
Spotted Lake, Canada
High concentrations of minerals cause the polka-dotted appearance of this lake near Osoyoos, British Columbia, home to Canada's hottest climate. Named one of the great mysteries of the world, the multi-coloured spots generally form and harden in the summer months when water evaporates and deposits of calcium, magnesium, and sodium form little pods. The pods are concentrated deposits of minerals and have sometimes been so hard and buoyant that visitors have been able to walk across them or the pathways that they form above the water. This lake is not open to the public but can be seen from nearby highways.
Lake Baikal, Russia
At 25 million-years-old and 1,700 metres deep, Lake Baikal in Southeast Siberian Russia is the oldest and deepest lake in the world, but that alone isn't what makes it one of the most interesting. It's also one of the greatest producers of flora and fauna due to it's secluded location and sheer size, making it extremely valuable to evolutionary science and garnering its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The variety of wildlife can be explained by the variety of landscapes surrounding it: deciduous forests, coniferous forests, pine forests, mountains, and ancient geological features all line the massive lake. While all of these facts make the Russian lake undeniably cool, the truly strange and amazing phenomena occurs at Northern Lake Baikal in winter, where frozen, smooth-as-glass turquoise ice cubes appear across the top of the lake.