A few years ago, there was an international contest to name the New 7 Wonders of the World. It was completely subjective and not based on any kind of qualified judgment, but was still a fascinating exercise in crowd sourcing. Ultimately, the 7 Wonders, as decided by popular vote, were decided upon and has actually led to a renewed interest in certain areas of the world.
The effort wasn’t without controversy though and I personally don’t agree with all of the named Wonders. (Sorry Rio, but Christ the Redeemer is not a Wonder, it’s a large statue) On the heels of the success of the Wonders competition, the same organization has launched another appeal, this time in search of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
The effort is ongoing and there are 28 finalists from around the world. Some, like the Galapagos and Uluru, are totally expected, others are a little more circumspect. (Looking at you Mt. Vesuvius) My misgivings about the project aside, there are a lot of positive aspects.
As with the New 7 Wonders contest, this project is stimulating interest in areas of the world that are not only amazing, but important to conserve. Not every nation has the ability to conserve all that is unique or precious, and this international recognition helps spur some reluctant nations into new levels of conservation, with the hopes of also generating tourism dollars.
I’ve been to a few of the 28 finalists, but there are many more which I haven’t seen. Given that, it’s hard for me to say which ones should and shouldn’t make it to the final seven, but I can offer my support for the Dead Sea.
I’ve been to the Dead Sea twice, on each side of the salty water body in Israel and Jordan and was amazed each time.
At 1,385 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on dry land on the planet but that’s not why everyone visits, for most people it’s all about the salt.
The Dead Sea is unique because it is eight times saltier than the ocean, thanks to the unique geography of the area. This high salt content means that life is absent from the sea, but it also means people can float without any effort.
In addition to the water, the Dead Sea is known for the health benefits of its famous mud. Millions of people around the world spend big bucks for cosmetics made with this supposed miracle mud. This same mud, while curative when applied to the face, made it impossible to walk around. The mud has the consistency of tar and within a few feet I was actually stuck in the mud, the water barely up to my shins. As I tried to free one leg at a time I fell in, butt first. Luckily I didn’t get any water in my eyes or take out an innocent Russian tourist in my mad thrashing around the waters. After a few minutes, I freed myself and managed to stagger my way into the deeper part of the swimming area.
The first thing I noticed was how hard it was to actually stand up. The water made me so buoyant that it took more effort to stand in the water than to just lay back and float. I knew what to expect going into it, but was not prepared for the total ease the high salt content afforded the floating. It was like floating in space, I could lean back and stretch and never worry about sinking into the water.
I had a very similar experience on the Jordanian side, except that I was able to enjoy the waters from a hotel beach and not a public access area. I had the same experience of bobbing about the oily waters of the Dead Sea, careful not to drift too far away.
The Dead Sea is more than a novelty or tourist attraction, it is a true wonder of nature and deserves to be named among the seven. There are many spectacular examples of nature around the world, but none are quite like the strange and unique Dead Sea.
For the record, my remaining six picks, in no particular order from the list of finalists, are:
- Grand Canyon
- Great Barrier Reef
- Milford Sound, New Zealand
- Uluru (Ayer’s Rock)
What’s your favorite natural wonder? Which one do you want to see in the final list of seven?