10 Natural Landmarks That No Longer Exist

Jeffrey Joseph, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Jeffrey Joseph, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Whether it's due to natural causes, drunken vandals, or former Boy Scout leaders who think they're saving lives, many of our ancient natural landmarks have taken a hit in the last century. Here are 10 of Mother Nature's best tourist attractions that are now lost to the ages.

1. OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN // WHITE MOUNTAINS, NEW HAMPSHIRE

This famous face-shaped outcropping of rock (pictured above) and the way it was positioned on the side of the mountain once prompted Daniel Webster to write, "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

The New Hampshire landmark is so iconic that it’s featured on the state quarter. Unfortunately, that’s the only place you’ll find it these days—the outcropping slid down the side of the mountain in 2003.

2. WASHINGTON SEQUOIA TREE // SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA

At 254.7 feet tall, the Washington Tree in Sequoia National Park was once one of the largest single-stem trees in the world, second only to the sequoia known as General Sherman (274.9 feet). In 2003, the tree caught fire, reducing its height to about 229 feet and burning out much of the dead wood in the center. Two years later, the weakened tree collapsed under the weight of a snowstorm. Though it's still clinging to life, at a mere 115 feet, the Washington Tree is a shadow of its former self.

3. THE JEFFREY PINE // YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA

Volleyball Jim, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

This tree is probably most famous from the photography of Ansel Adams and Carleton Watkins. We're lucky that they saw fit to record the gnarled pine for posterity, because the centuries-old tree fell to the ground in 2003. It's a wonder the tree stayed erect that long—it actually died during a drought in 1977, despite heroic efforts by Yosemite park rangers to save it by carrying buckets of water out to the remote location. After the tree fell over in 2003, the dead trunk was left there.

4. DUCKBILL // CAPE KIWANDA STATE NATURAL AREA, OREGON

Thomas Shanan, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

When this 7-foot-tall rock formation bit the dust earlier this year, people first thought Mother Nature was responsible—and then a video surfaced. Shot by a park visitor who wanted to catch the act on video, the footage showed a group of vandals going into a roped-off area and purposely pushing the formation until it crashed to the ground. When confronted, the vandals said they were doing the world a favor—a friend of theirs had broken his leg on it.

5. JUMP-OFF JOE // NEWPORT, OREGON

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This large rock formation, called a sea stack (a pillar of stacked stones caused by wave erosion), once dominated Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. For most of the 1800s, it was impossible to get around the 100-foot-tall stack without jumping off the steep siding, which is why early settlers named it Jump-Off Joe. By the 1890s, erosion had created a small gap between the cliffs and the rock, and without the support of the cliffs, the arch collapsed in a severe storm in 1916. Today, there's barely anything left to photograph, let alone jump off.

6. WALL ARCH // ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Some time during the night of August 4, 2008, Wall Arch, a more than 30-foot-tall and 70-foot-wide formation in Arches National Park, collapsed. A survey of the site showed obvious stress fractures in the remaining part of the structure, so no foul play was suspected.

The National Park Service issued a statement that said, "All arches are but temporary features and all will eventually succumb to the forces of gravity and erosion. While the geologic forces that created the arches are still very much underway, in human terms it’s rare to observe such dramatic changes."

7. EL DEDO DE DIOS — "GOD'S FINGER" // CANARY ISLANDS, SPAIN

This basalt sea stack is located near Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands—and while the base is still there, it once included a spindly stone that vaguely resembled a finger sticking up from a closed fist. At least, it did until November 2005, when Tropical Storm Delta broke the finger off like a vengeful mobster.

8. TWELVE APOSTLES // PORT CAMPBELL NATIONAL PARK, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA

Seems like 2005 was a rough year for ocean-based landmarks. That July, one of Australia's "Twelve Apostles," nine limestone monoliths off the southwest coast of Victoria, took a tumble into the ocean. The rock pillar, which took 20 million years to form, crumbled away into the water right before the very eyes of some tourists photographing the formation. (The one that collapsed is the one in the foreground of the picture above.)

9. EYE OF THE NEEDLE // NEAR FORT BENTON, MONTANA

When park rangers investigated the collapse of this arch formation over Memorial Day 1997, they discovered beer bottles, footprints and trash. And while that's definitely a littering citation, it doesn't necessarily mean that vandals purposely trashed the arch. When damage to several other nearby sandstone structures was discovered, however, officials concluded that someone had purposely destroyed the 10,000+ year-old monument. Yet the perpetrators have never been caught, leading some to believe that the collapse was simply due to natural erosion.

10. A "GOBLIN" SANDSTONE FORMATION // GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK, UTAH

In 2013, two former Boy Scout leaders pushed over a rock formation that had been there since the Jurassic Period. The men believed the rock, known as a "Goblin," posed a threat to park visitors. "One gust of wind and a family's dead," one of the men later said. They were both charged with third-degree felonies and later reached plea deals that required them to pay $925 in court costs, $1500 for the investigation, and an undisclosed amount to erect signs around the park warning visitors not to vandalize anything.

A version of this post originally ran in 2009.

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Poike/iStock via Getty Images Plus
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7 Pieces of Reading Advice From History’s Greatest Minds

When it came to books, Albert Einstein subscribed to the "oldie but goodie" mentality. He wasn't the only one.
When it came to books, Albert Einstein subscribed to the "oldie but goodie" mentality. He wasn't the only one.
Lucien Aigner/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If there’s one thing that unites philosophers, writers, politicians, and scientists across time and distance, it’s the belief that reading can broaden your worldview and strengthen your intellect better than just about any other activity. When it comes to choosing what to read and how to go about it, however, opinions start to diverge. From Virginia Woolf’s affinity for wandering secondhand bookstores to Theodore Roosevelt’s rejection of a definitive “best books” list, here are seven pieces of reading advice to help you build an impressive to-be-read (TBR) pile.

1. Read books from eras past // Albert Einstein

albert einstein at home circa 1925
Albert Einstein poses at home in 1925 with a mix of old and new books.
General Photographic Agency/Getty Images

Keeping up with current events and the latest buzz-worthy book from the bestseller list is no small feat, but Albert Einstein thought it was vital to leave some room for older works, too. Otherwise, you’d be “completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of [your] times,” he wrote in a 1952 journal article [PDF].

“Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses,” he wrote.

2. Don’t jump too quickly from book to book // Seneca

seneca the younger
Seneca the Younger, ready to turn that unwavering gaze on a new book.
The Print Collector via Getty Images

Seneca the Younger, a first-century Roman Stoic philosopher and trusted advisor of Emperor Nero, believed that reading too wide a variety in too short a time would keep the teachings from leaving a lasting impression on you. “You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind,” he wrote in a letter to Roman writer Lucilius.

If you’re wishing there were a good metaphor to illustrate this concept, take your pick from these gems, courtesy of Seneca himself:

“Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong. There is nothing so efficacious that it can be helpful while it is being shifted about. And in reading of many books is distraction.”

3. Shop at secondhand bookstores // Virginia Woolf

virginia woolf
Virginia Woolf wishing she were in a bookstore.
Culture Club/Getty Images

In her essay “Street Haunting,” Virginia Woolf described the merits of shopping in secondhand bookstores, where the works “have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”

According to Woolf, browsing through used books gives you the chance to stumble upon something that wouldn’t have risen to the attention of librarians and booksellers, who are often much more selective in curating their collections than secondhand bookstore owners. To give us an example, she imagined coming across the shabby, self-published account of “a man who set out on horseback over a hundred years ago to explore the woollen market in the Midlands and Wales; an unknown traveller, who stayed at inns, drank his pint, noted pretty girls and serious customs, wrote it all down stiffly, laboriously for sheer love of it.”

“In this random miscellaneous company,” she wrote, “we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.”

4. You can skip outdated scientific works, but not old literature // Edward Bulwer-Lytton

edward bulwer-lytton
An 1831 portrait of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, smug at the thought of people reading his novels for centuries to come.
The Print Collector/Getty Images

Though his novels were immensely popular during his lifetime, 19th-century British novelist and Parliamentarian Edward Bulwer-Lytton is now mainly known for coining the phrase It was a dark and stormy night, the opening line of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. It’s a little ironic that Bulwer-Lytton’s books aren’t very widely read today, because he himself was a firm believer in the value of reading old literature.

“In science, read, by preference, the newest works; in literature, the oldest,” he wrote in his 1863 essay collection, Caxtoniana. “The classic literature is always modern. New books revive and redecorate old ideas; old books suggest and invigorate new ideas.”

To Bulwer-Lytton, fiction couldn't ever be obsolete, because it contained timeless themes about human nature and society that came back around in contemporary works; in other words, you can’t disprove fiction. You can, however, disprove scientific theories, so Bulwer-Lytton thought it best to stick to the latest works in that field. (That said, since scientists use previous studies to inform their work, you can still learn a ton about certain schools of thought by delving into debunked ideas—plus, it’s often really entertaining to see what people used to believe.) 

5. Check out authors’ reading lists for book recommendations // Mortimer J. Adler

mortimer j. adler in 1983
Mortimer J. Adler in 1983, happy to read the favorite works of his favorite authors.
George Rose/Getty Images

In his 1940 guide How to Read a Book, American philosopher Mortimer J. Adler talked about the importance of choosing books that other authors consider worth reading. “The great authors were great readers,” he explained, “and one way to understand them is to read the books they read.”

Adler went on to clarify that this would probably matter most in the philosophy field, “because philosophers are great readers of each other,” and it’s easier to grasp a concept if you also know what inspired it. While you don’t necessarily have to read everything a novelist has read in order to fully understand their own work, it’s still a good way to get quality book recommendations from a trusted source. If your favorite author mentions a certain novel that really made an impression on them, there’s a pretty good chance you’d enjoy it, too.

6. Reading so-called guilty pleasures is better than reading nothing // Mary Wollstonecraft

mary wollstonecraft in 1797
Mary Wollstonecraft in 1797, apparently demonstrating that a book with blank pages is worth even less than a novel.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

To the 18th-century writer, philosopher, and early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, just about all novels fell into the category of “guilty pleasures” (though she didn’t call them that). In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she disparaged the “stupid novelists, who, knowing little of human nature, work up stale tales, and describe meretricious scenes, all retailed in a sentimental jargon, which equally tend to corrupt the taste and draw the heart aside from its daily duties.”

If her judgment seems unnecessarily harsh, it’s probably because it’s taken out of its historical context. Wollstonecraft definitely wasn’t the only one who considered novels to be low-quality reading material compared to works of history and philosophy, and she was also indirectly criticizing society for preventing women from seeking more intellectual pursuits. If 21st-century women were confined to watching unrealistic, highly edited dating shows and frowned upon for trying to see 2019’s Parasite or the latest Ken Burns documentary, we might sound a little bitter, too.

Regardless, Wollstonecraft still admitted that even guilty pleasures can help expand your worldview. “Any kind of reading I think better than leaving a blank still a blank, because the mind must receive a degree of enlargement, and obtain a little strength by a slight exertion of its thinking powers,” she wrote. In other words, go forth and enjoy your beach read.

7. You get to make the final decision on how, what, and when to read // Theodore Roosevelt

theodore roosevelt in office in 1905
Theodore Roosevelt pauses for a quick photo before getting back to his book in 1905.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Theodore Roosevelt might have lived his own life in an exceptionally regimented fashion, but his outlook on reading was surprisingly free-spirited. Apart from being a staunch proponent of finding at least a few minutes to read every single day—and starting young—he thought that most of the details should be left up to the individual.

“The reader, the booklover, must meet his own needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say those needs should be,” he wrote in his autobiography, and rejected the idea that there’s a definitive “best books” list that everyone should abide by. Instead, Roosevelt recommended choosing books on subjects that interest you and letting your mood guide you to your next great read. He also wasn’t one to roll his eyes at a happy ending, explaining that “there are enough horror and grimness and sordid squalor in real life with which an active man has to grapple.”

In short, Roosevelt would probably advise you to see what Seneca, Albert Einstein, Mary Wollstonecraft, and other great minds had to say about reading, and then make your own decisions in the end.