Rocks that Rock: 8 Stone Giant Sites


Nature carves wonderful sculptures all over the earth. We saw some in a previous post; now let's take a little trip and see a few more of the many awesome giant rock formations suggested by mental_floss readers.

1. The Old Man of Hoy

The Old Man of Hoy is a 449-foot sea stack on the Orkney Island of Hoy off the coast of Scotland. The red sandstone formation was created by natural erosion in fast-forward, as maps of the area from as recently as 400 years ago have no indication of its existence. The relatively rapid action of wind and water might mean that the stack will not exist 400 years from now. The Old Man is a popular challenge for rock climbers, and was the site of a spectacular BASE jump in 2008. Image by Wikimedia user Finavon.

2. The Devils Marbles

The Devils Marbles are found 393 kilometers north of Alice Springs in Australia's Northern territory, or as the description reads, "in the middle of nowhere". Although most postcards show the two most photogenic, there are many rounded rocks of all sizes strewn about the area. They were formed when a layer of volcanic rock was pushed up to the surface. The layer formed cracks and split into rectangular shapes, which were worn away by erosion until some of the rocks look rather round, while others retain their earlier shape. Aboriginal legend says the rocks, called Karlu Karlu, have supernatural powers and have a sacred place in stories they do not tell to outsiders. The rocks are not to be removed from their natural site. Image by Wikpedia user Iain Whyte.

3. Turnip Rock

Turnip Rock is a formation you'll find on the shore of Lake Huron in Michigan, at the "tip of the thumb" (which makes sense when you look at a map of the state). The rock is on private property, but is seen and photographed by many who travel the Tip of the Thumb Heritage Water Trail by raft, kayak, or other boat. Turnip Rock is just as spectacular surrounded by ice in winter. Image by Dan Depner.

4. Taikhar Chuluu

A large rock stands out in the middle of a plain in Mongolia. The Taikhar chuluu is covered with inscriptions dating back as far as Turkic rule in Mongolia. Those inscriptions were followed by more in the Mongol language, then Tibetan, and even more modern graffiti. Local legend says that a hero encountered a snake at the spot, and after killing it, plugged the hole it came from with this huge rock. Image from mong?ol bi?ig & manju bithe.

5. The Sphinx

In the Bucegi Mountains, a part of the southern Carpathian range in Romania, there's a cliff that resembles a human face, which earned it the name of The Sphinx. Although the Sphinx is a popular tourist attraction, hiking to the site on foot is not recommended because of bears.

6. The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles are sea stacks at Port Campbell National Park, on the Victoria coast in Australia. Despite the name, there are only eight stacks in the group (there were nine before one collapsed in 2005). While the limestone in Port Campbell is 15-20 million years old, the sea stacks date back only about 6,000 years, and the stone on the bottom layer is softer than the upper layers. Like the Old Man of Hoy, the existing stacks may only last a few hundred more years -a blink of the eye in geological time. However, erosion will continue to carve new stacks. Image by Wikipedia user Richard Mikalsen.

7. Garni Gorge

The Garni Gorge at the Khosrov Nature Reserve in Armenia is framed by columnar basalt cliffs like those of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. The rocks lining the gorge are sometimes called the Symphony of Stone because they resemble organ pipes. Image by Wikipedia user Mediacrat.

8. Cappadocia

Göreme is a town in the Cappadocia region of Turkey that is the center of many amazing rock formations. Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia together make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two volcanoes, Erciyes and Hasan left a layer of rock millions of years ago that were later transformed by erosion into several kinds of monoliths. Fairy chimneys are columns with rock caps balanced on top. Natural caves formed in the cliff walls and underneath the ground. Image by Flickr user Nick Leonard.

But humans have also contributed to the site, as they turned the caves into homes and churches in antiquity, which are now protected as cultural as well as natural landmarks. The underground cities of Kaymakl?, Özkonak, and Derinkuyu in Cappadocia were formed from this volcanic rock and were used as homes and shelters from war and religious persecution. Image by Flickr user

See also: Nature's Stone Giants