Earth’s Haunting Craters
1. Meteor Crater, Arizona — Photographer Stan Gaz was in Arizona when he came across a postcard of the Meteor Crater.
“The postcard intrigued me, so I went to see it,” he said. “My father was a geologist. He would take me on these expeditional trips to go rock hunting when he was alive, when I was a kid. When I saw the crater it made me think of him, what he would have thought, what his reaction would have been. Immediately I thought, ‘I’m going to look into this more.’”
In 2003, Gaz launched into a six-year-long global project of tracking down and photographing the planet’s cosmic scars, beginning with Meteor Crater. The results speak for themselves: haunting, otherworldly images of craters that are familiar, and yet utterly strange.
2. Gosses Bluff, Northern Territory, Australia — Gaz’s riveting, stark images make you wonder if you’re actually looking at Earth. In the image above, he turned the sky into a black, alien thing by using a red filter (in front of black and white film) when he shot the 14 mile-wide Gosses Bluff, which formed 142.5 million years ago.
3. Upheaval Dome, Utah — It’s not surprising that the origins of some craters are the subject of decades-long controversy. The terrific heat and energy of an impact often vaporize large asteroids made of nearly solid iron and nickel.
Such is the case at Upheaval Dome, shown above. Scientists have gone back and forth over whether the pummeled, uplifted rocks were abused by a salt dome that rose from below, or cosmic artillery from above. In 2008, researchers discovered the presence of shocked quartz (stishovite, or its close cousin coesite) in the dome, confirming its extraterrestrial origins.
4. New Quebec (aka Pingualuit) Crater, Quebec, Canada — As a child, Gaz used to follow his father around, rock hounding in the hills of Southern California, in search of illusive pink crystals of rose quartz.
1. Tissue slurry — Ontario, Canada This man-made lake in Terrace Bay, Ontario, Canada, is more than 500 metres long. It’s an aeration pond, part of the waste-treatment system at a factory that produces pulp for Kimberly-Clark tissues. “The treated water is returned to its source — often a river,” says Fair. Each yellow cone is an “agitator” that aerates and churns the liquid, assisting its breakdown. According to Worldwatch Institute figures, if recycled paper was used instead, 64 per cent less energy would be needed.and churns the liquid, assisting its breakdown. According to Worldwatch Institute figures, if recycled paper was used instead, 64 per cent less energy would be needed.
2. Fertiliser — Louisiana, US This emerald-tinted lake near Geismar, Louisiana, includes gypsum, uranium and radium. These chemicals result from manufacturing phosphorous fertiliser and are dumped into this impoundment to solidify. The world’s supplies of phosphates are dwindling and most are located in the US, China and Morocco. Unlike oil, however, there is no known renewable alternative for making fertiliser. “You think the resource crisis is in oil?” says Fair. “Think again.”
3. Spilled oil — Gulf of Mexico, US Fair captured this shot over the BP Deepwater Horizon spill at the Macondo well in June 2010, when 750m litres of oil leaked into the Gulf. “The stuff that was coming out of that well was all different colours,” says Fair. “We think of crude oil as being black — it’s all kinds of different colours and consistencies.” The bright red is the crude on the surface, reflecting light. The less viscous oil below the surface is purple-brown.
4. Liquid sulphur — Alberta, Canada At Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, a blood-red vein of liquid sulphur is pumped on to a bed of solidified yellow sulphur. The element is one of the major by-products of tar-sand upgrading and there is now an abundance of stocks globally. With prices low, producer Syncrude isn’t selling — it’s storing it in giant pyramids. Liquid sulphur, at around 200°C (its melting point is 115°C), is pumped into fenced-off compounds and left to harden.
5. Aluminium sludge — Louisiana, US This slurry pit is where the solid and liquid by-products of aluminium manufacture are separated. The process involves refining bauxite ore, which produces alumina. The waste includes bauxite impurities, heavy metals and sodium hydroxide (one of the chemicals used during processing). Fair estimates that the red-brown sludge has a pH of about 13, “meaning if you touch it, it burns the skin off”.
6. Fertiliser slurry — Louisiana, US This wintry-looking scene is a mix of lead, ammonia, mercury and ethanol — by-products of phosphate fertiliser production. “It’s a giant lake of waste,” says Fair, who shot the image 80km west of New Orleans in 2005. Owned by Mosaic Fertilizers, the plant, called Uncle Sam, has violated the US Clean Water Act nine times. The slurry pit is less than 3km from the banks of the Mississippi.
Ayers Rock in Uluru National Park
Photograph by Mark Laricchia/Corbis
Lightning flashes over Ayers Rock, a landmark red sandstone monolith that draws tourists to Australia’s center. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park houses the rock, called Uluru by Aborigines, the continent’s original inhabitants.
Photo and caption by Andrey Narchuk
Patterns of sea stars as exquisite mosaics, attractive, and each time is differen
Specimen: Giant liposomes of pulmonary surfactant (40x)
University of Southern Denmark - Odense, Denmark, Technique: Confocal
Life in color: Green
Engines of Destruction
Hurricanes are giant, spiraling tropical storms that can pack wind speeds of over 160 miles (257 kilometers) an hour and unleash more than 2.4 trillion gallons (9 trillion liters) of rain a day. These same tropical storms are known as cyclones in the northern Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and as typhoons in the western Pacific Ocean.
The Atlantic Ocean’s hurricane season peaks from mid-August to late October and averages five to six hurricanes per year.
Hurricanes begin as tropical disturbances in warm ocean waters with surface temperatures of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.5 degrees Celsius). These low pressure systems are fed by energy from the warm seas. If a storm achieves wind speeds of 38 miles (61 kilometers) an hour, it becomes known as a tropical depression. A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm, and is given a name, when its sustained wind speeds top 39 miles (63 kilometers) an hour. When a storm’s sustained wind speeds reach 74 miles (119 kilometers) an hour it becomes a hurricane and earns a category rating of 1 to 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Hurricanes are enormous heat engines that generate energy on a staggering scale. They draw heat from warm, moist ocean air and release it through condensation of water vapor in thunderstorms.
Hurricanes spin around a low-pressure center known as the “eye.” Sinking air makes this 20- to 30-mile-wide (32- to 48-kilometer-wide) area notoriously calm. But the eye is surrounded by a circular “eye wall” that hosts the storm’s strongest winds and rain.
These storms bring destruction ashore in many different ways. When a hurricane makes landfall it often produces a devastating storm surge that can reach 20 feet (6 meters) high and extend nearly 100 miles (161 kilometers). Ninety percent of all hurricane deaths result from storm surges.
A hurricane’s high winds are also destructive and may spawn tornadoes. Torrential rains cause further damage by spawning floods and landslides, which may occur many miles inland.
The best defense against a hurricane is an accurate forecast that gives people time to get out of its way. The National Hurricane Center issues hurricane watches for storms that may endanger communities, and hurricane warnings for storms that will make landfall within 24 hours.
Extraordinary Environmental Art
Young quaking aspen leaf (Populus tremuloides) (4x)
University of Arizona - Tucson, Arizona, USA, Brightfield