The Hand of Punta del Este

The Hand of Punta del Este, or Mano de Punta del Este, is a sculpture of a hand partially emerging from sand and located at Brava Beach in the popular resort town of Punta del Este, in Uruguay. The sculpture was made by the Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal and unveiled during the summer of 1982, while he was attending the first annual International Meeting of Modern Sculpture in the Open Air in Punta del Este. The sculpture has since become a symbol for Punta del Este and is one of Uruguay's most recognizable landmarks. Over the years the sculpture came to be called by different names such as Emergiendo a la Vida (Man Emerging into Life), Monumento los Dedos (Monument of the Fingers), and Monumento al Ahogado (Monument to the Drowned), although the creator prefers it to be called simply “the Hand”.

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Catching Salmons With Fish Wheels

A fish wheel is a water-powered device used for catching fish, particularly adult salmon, and consist of a revolving wheel with baskets and paddles attached to its rim. When the wheel is floated on the river, the river current turns the wheel causing the baskets to scoop down upon the salmon traveling upstream and lift them out of the water. Once out of the water, the basket's tilted bottom channels the fish out of an opening and into a hopper on board the floating dock. The ingenious device can catch large amounts of fish and the best part is that the fishermen doesn’t even have to be there. One fish wheel operating in Columbia River in the early 20th century reportedly pulled out half a ton of salmon daily. Indeed, fish wheels were so effective as a fish catching device that they were banned in the United States because they threatened the salmon population. Fish wheels for commercial fishing is only allowed in Alaska along the Copper River and the Yukon River.

An undated photograph of two men standing on the deck of a stationary fish wheel on the Columbia river. Photo credit

Potash Evaporation Ponds in Utah

These electric blue shapes in the brown desert are potash evaporation ponds managed by Intrepid Potash, Inc., the United States’ largest producer of potassium chloride, and are located along the Colorado River, about 30 km west of Moab, Utah. These ponds measure 1.5 square kilometers, and are lined with rubber to keep the salts in. Unlike other salt evaporation ponds that get a naturally reddish tinge due to the presence of certain algae, the bright blue color of these potash evaporation ponds come from an artificially added dye that aids the absorption of sunlight and evaporation. Once the potassium and salts are left behind, they are gathered and sent off for processing.

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Nilometer: Ancient Structures Used to Measure the Level of River Nile

Every year the river Nile begins to rise in the summer, the water overflows its banks and deposits slit on the surrounding floodplain. It is this annual flood that makes the land fertile allowing it to be cultivated and civilization to exist. Since the ancient times, the Egyptians depended on the Nile’s flood and its regular return for their sustenance. But the flood was unpredictable. While a moderate inundation was a vital part of the agricultural cycle, too much flood water was disastrous as it washed away crops and much of the infrastructure built on the flood plain. If the river failed to rise, it caused drought and famine. The flood also played an important political and administrative role, since the quality of the year's harvest was used to determine the amount of tax to be paid. The Egyptians therefore began measuring the Nile’s water level in order to predict the harvest.

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Nilometer on Elephantine Island. The steps lead down to the Nile, while the short horizontal marks on the walls (to the left of the steps) recorded the heights of previous inundations. Photo credit

The Cardrona Bra Fence

The Cardrona Bra Fence of Central Otago, New Zealand, began in 1999 some time between Christmas and New Year, when four women's bras were found attached to the wire fence alongside the road. It's not known who did it and why, but rumor is that a group of women were celebrating the new year at the Cardrona Hotel, and after leaving the pub late at night, they decided to take off their bras and hang them on the fence. The sight of female lingerie fluttering in the wind inspired more women to leave their undergarments, and by the end of February 2000, the original four were joined by sixty more. As news about the fence spread, even more bras started appearing. In the following years the bra population multiplied to thousands and the fence became a unique tourist attraction gaining worldwide attention.

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Clootie Wells: The Celtic Wishing Trees

The tradition of making offerings at wishing trees and wells dates back hundreds of years, and can be found all over the world in different forms. In Scotland, Ireland and England, where old Celtic tradition persists, they are known as Clootie wells. A clootie well is a well or spring, almost always with a tree growing beside it, where strips of cloth or rags are tied to the branches, usually in the hope of having an illness cured.

"Clootie" is a Scottish word that means cloth. To make an offering, pieces of cloth or cloot are generally dipped in the water of the holy well and then tied to a branch while a prayer of supplication is said to the spirit of the well. At some wells, the affected part of the body is washed with the wet rag before tying it to the tree. As the rag disintegrates over time, the ailment is supposed to fade away as well. Over the centuries strips of cloths gave way to complete garments. Today, you can find socks, dresses, t-shirts and even pants along with pieces of rotten cloths.

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The clootie well in Munlochy, Black Isle. Photo credit

The Beautiful Uummannaq Island, Greenland

Uummannaq is a picturesque island and town in the Qaasuitsup municipality, in northwestern Greenland, located 590 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, and home to the most prominent mountain on the Arctic coast of western Greenland. The entire landscape of the island is dominated by the twin peaks of the 1,170-meters high granite mountain, also named Uummannaq, that occupies almost the entire northern half of the island. The word Uummannaq means “hear-shaped” in Greenlandic, and refers to the twin-peaked mountain that is shaped like a heart. The mountain is a landmark of Greenland and a tourist magnet.

Uummannaq Island is home to one of the most northerly towns in Greenland. The sun never drops below the horizon for nearly three months in summer, and winter brings months of darkness. The town of 1,200 people lies on the southern tip of the island and consist mostly of fishermen and hunters. There is also a canning factory and a marble quarry. The town is also home to a few researchers and scientists that use Uummannaq as a base to conduct field research on nearby outlet glaciers that drain the Greenland Ice Sheet.

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A Glue-less Paper Bridge That You Can Walk Over

British artist Steve Messam has installed a bright red, weight-bearing arch bridge across a stream in the rural Lake District National Park of Cumbria, in UK, using nothing but 22,000 sheets of paper. Messam used no glue and no steel reinforcement. The only thing holding up the bridge is sheer compression. The crazy part is you can actually walk over the bridge without it collapsing.

The bridge may seem surreal, but is actually using the same basic principles of engineering that have been used to build short footbridges for thousands of years. “It relies on vernacular architectural principles as used in the drystone walls and the original pack-horse bridges, which have stood, in many cases, for more than a century," explains Messam.

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Monte Testaccio: The 2,000-year-old Garbage Dump in Rome

On the outskirts of Rome, near the Horrea Galbae, a short distance away from the east bank of the River Tiber, lies an enormous mound overgrown will grass and small trees. It might seem just like an ordinary hill, but is in fact, an ancient landfill from the Roman era and one of the largest landfill of the ancient world. It has a circumference of nearly a kilometer at its base covering an area of 20,000 square meters, and it stands 35 meters tall, though it was probably a lot higher in ancient times. The hill is made entirely out of discarded Roman amphorae, a type of ceramic jar used to store olive oil. It has been estimated that the hill contains the remains of as many as 53 million olive oil amphorae, in which some 6 billion liters of oil were imported.

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The hill in the background is the largest and best preserved ancient landfill. Photo credit

Mill Ends Park: World’s Smallest Park

Mill Ends Park in Portland, the United States, is only two feet in diameter and is really just a flower pot, but don’t say that aloud, especially in front of Portlandians. Since the last 40-odd years, the locals have been celebrating this tiny hole of earth as the world’s smallest park, and they have a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records to prove.

The site that would become the Mill Ends Park was originally scheduled for a light pole. When the pole failed to appear and weeds sprouted in the opening, Dick Fagan, a columnist for the Oregon Journal, decided to take matters into his own hands and planted flowers in the hole. Fagan's office in the Journal building overlooked the median in the middle of the busy thoroughfare that ran in front of the building.

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