20 Most Mysterious Earth Photographs

Travelling to Europe, USA, Asia and other continents is top on most people’s vacation list. However, outside of the natural elegant places to visit, there are a number of mysterious places, fact or legend, which intrigues scientists to this day. This collection is taken from Patterns in Nature: Mysterious Earth from National Geographic.

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Salt Piles on Shoreline, Senegal

Photograph by Robert Haas

Salt piles line the shoreline of Lake Retba, Senegal. The high salinity content of the lake provides a livelihood for salt collectors.

Biplane Over Monomoy Shoals, Massachusetts

Photograph by Michael Melford

A biplane flies above Monomoy Island, Massachusetts.

Sand Dunes, Rub al Khali

Photograph by George Steinmetz

The borders of four nations—Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates—blur beneath the shifting sands of the Rub al Khali, or Empty Quarter, desert.

Drying Fronds, Kenya

Photograph by Robert Haas

Fronds dry in neat lines around a tree in Kenya.

Cave Dwellings, Turkey

Photograph by Klaus Nigge

Cavelike dwellings built into soft rock dot the Cappadocia region of Turkey.

Fairy Circles, Namib Desert

Photograph by Michael Fay

Fairy circles, or grassless patches, spot the Namib Desert in Namibia, seen here from an airplane.

Bacteria, New Zealand

Photograph by Peter Essick

Photosynthesizing bacteria in a New Zealand thermal pool absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Sunflower Florets

Photograph by Jozsef Szentpeteri

Beads of dew cling to the florets that spiral inside a sunflower head.


Lichens grow on a granite gravestone in Lake Champlain, New York.

Banksia Flower

Photograph by Jonathan Blair

The characteristic spikes of a banksia flower are common across Australia. This one was photographed on a farm in Mount Barker.

Water Reflection, Utah

Photograph by Jonathan Blair

Reflecting off water, light paints peacock-feather patterns onto a rock wall in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.

Giant Clam Mantle

Photograph by Frans Lanting

Iridescent spots surround the mantle of a giant clam in Palau, Micronesia. The mantle is a fleshy outer layer that secretes the clam’s shell.

Cactus, Manzanillo, Mexico

Photograph by Raul Touzon

Bursts of yellow punctuate a cactus in Manzanillo, Mexico.

Curled Millipede

Photograph by George Grall

Exhibiting its main defense mechanism, a millipede curls into a tight spiral. In this fashion it protects its legs—on average between 100 and 300, not the thousand its name suggests—inside its body.

Salmon Scales

Photograph by Paul Nicklen

The scales of an Atlantic salmon, such as these on a fish in Quebec, Canada, can help biologists determine the fish’s age.


Photograph by Darlyne A. Murawski

Seen here 400 times their true size, diatoms are a type of algae found in oceans, fresh water, and soil.

Basket Sea Star, Cuba

Photograph by Brian J. Skerry

The complexly branched arms of the basket sea star, or starfish, catch plankton for the echinoderm.

Cenote, Mexico

Sunlight radiates through the Xpacay cenote in the Mexican Yucatán. Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes usually found on the Yucatán peninsula.

Snapping Turtle Shell

Photograph by Darlyne A. Murawski

The bony plates of a snapping turtle’s carapace protect it from predators. Snappers are freshwater turtles found in much of North America.

Mammatus Clouds

Photograph by Carsten Peter

Mammatus clouds roil in the Nebraska sky, identifiable by their sagging, pouch-like shape. The name comes from the Latin word for “breast.”

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  1. TheMaingo says:

    Great pictures! Things always look so different when it’s close up.

  2. Sophie says:

    The Empty Quarter looks (and sounds) so wonderfully desolate and oddly appealing.

  3. Oh i love the diatoms. its a work of art. Algae are amazing creature.

  4. paul acoin says:

    Lovely posts… enjoyed the pics

  5. Goutham says:

    Very Cool pictures of the earth which didnt seen before.. 🙂