Top 10 Paintings Rediscovered in 2011

June 09, 2012 Naster Rawal 3 Comments

10. Norman Rockwell – The Little Model

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was a 20th-century American painter and illustrator.  For many years Rockwell created cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post.  He is noted for using a visual reflection of America and has become one of the most popular artists of the 20th century.  In 1963, Rockwell published his last painting for the Post.  It marked the end of a publishing relationship that included 321 cover works.  During his career, Rockwell was commissioned to paint the portraits for U.S. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.  He produced over 4,000 original artworks in his lifetime.  Most of his paintings are either in public collections, or have been destroyed in fire or other misfortunes.
The Discovery
On June 4, 2011, the popular television program Antiques Roadshow was in Eugene, Oregon when they discovered a genuine Norman Rockwell painting.  After researching the artwork, the show confirmed that it was an original oil-on-canvas painting by Norman Rockwell titled The Little Model.  In 1919, the painting was used for the cover of a Collier’s Weekly magazine.  The artwork depicts a girl with a dog, posing in front of a fashion poster.  The owner of the painting told the show that it had been in his family for at least 90 years after Rockwell gave it to his great-grandmother.
At the end of the program, appraisers determined that the Rockwell painting was worth an estimated $500,000, which made it one of the most valuable treasures in Antique Roadshow (US) history.

9.  Jules Breton – A Fisherman’s Daughter

Jules Breton (1827-1906) was a 19th-century French Realist painter.  During his lifetime, Breton was one of the most popular artists in France, England, and the United States.  He is famous for painting female figures, usually portrayed in a beautiful landscape and posed against the setting sun.  Breton often produced copies of his artwork and exhibited them in salons

During the First World War, German troops stormed the Douai Beaux Art Museum in Northern France and stole a large number of paintings.  One of the artworks was a Jules Breton painting titled A Fisherman’s Daughter.  The story of the lost painting has intrigued the art world for nearly a century.  In 2010, French officials and Interpol were alerted that the painting, valued today at about $150,000, had been imported by an art dealer in New York.  The police recovered the painting, but it was heavily restored and needed to be authenticated by art officials.
Art experts from France and the United States were called in to research the painting and investigate its history.  After a close examination, the true story of A Fisherman’s Daughter emerged; it was indeed the same painting stolen from the Douai museum in 1918.  In 1919, the Belgian government organized the return of the French stolen art.  However, the Breton painting was missing.  No one knows for sure what happened to it after that, except for the fact that the painting was professionally restored and turned up in New York.  In October of 2011, U.S. officials returned the masterpiece to France at a ceremony in Washington attended by the French ambassador, officially ending the nearly century-long art mystery.

8.  Otto Dix – Four New Artworks

Otto Dix (1891-1969) was a German painter who created realistic depictions of the German society and the brutality of war.  When the First World War erupted, Dix enthusiastically volunteered for the German Army and served in battle until 1918.  Just like many World War I soldiers, Dix was profoundly affected by war, and would later describe a recurring nightmare in which he crawled through destroyed houses.  When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they regarded Dix as a degenerate artist and had him fired from his job as an art teacher at the Dresden Academy.
Many of his paintings were taken by the Third Reich, displayed in a degenerate art show, and destroyed.  During World War II, Dix lived in Germany and in 1944 he was placed into the Volkssturm.  The Volkssturm was a German national militia created by Adolf Hitler on October 18, 1944.  It was made up of males between the ages of 16 to 60 years who were not already serving in some military.  The men were put into the German Home Guard.  Dix was captured by French troops at the end of the war and released in February 1946.
The Discovery
In 2011, it was announced that four works by German expressionist Otto Dix were discovered by accident in Bavaria among the belongings of the painter’s wife.  They were found in an old portfolio by Peter Barth and Herbert Remmert, the owners of Remmert Gallery in Dusseldorf, who were searching the estate of Hans and Martha Koch.  Martha Koch was married to Otto Dix in 1923.  The paintings date from 1922-1925.  The artworks include two watercolors, a painting study of a portrait of art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, and a large scale work depicting “a street scene with prostitutes.”  The four lost paintings are valued at $287,960 each.  Remmert is planning to show the newly discovered work along with other paintings in an exhibition to mark Dix’s 120th birthday later this year.

7.  Jasper Francis Cropsey – Autumn in America and Prospect Point Niagara Falls in Winter

Jasper Cropsey (1823-1900) was an American landscape artist of the Hudson River School, a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters.  The paintings for which the movement is named depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains.  In 1900, Jasper Cropsey died in anonymity, but his artwork was rediscovered by galleries and collectors in the 1960s.  Today, Cropsey’s paintings are found in most major American museums.
The Discovery
In March of 2011, a Cortlandt Manor couple brought two paintings signed by Jasper F. Cropsey to an Antiques Appraisal Day event sponsored by the Larchmont Historical Society (LHS) and Clarke Auction Gallery in New York.  After an initial investigation of the artwork, it was quickly recommended that the gallery contact the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, a Hastings-on-Hudson-based organization that is the foremost authority on the work of Cropsey to further authenticate the pieces.  It was hard to get the foundation to look at the art, but after three weeks of deliberation, the organization confirmed that the two paintings were done by Jasper Francis Cropsey.
The rediscovered paintings were given the titles Autumn in America and Prospect Point Niagara Falls in Winter.  The Clarke Gallery originally estimated they would sell for between $40,000 and $60,000 each.  However, in May 2011, the paintings sold for a combined total of $840,000.  The winter hunting scene at Niagara Falls sold for $552,000 and a circa-1860 autumn view of Mount Washington in New Hampshire sold for $288,000.

6.  Claude Monet – Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil

Claude Monet (1840-1926) was a French artist and founder of the French impressionist painting movement.  The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise.  From December 1871 to 1878, Monet lived at Argenteuil, a village on the right bank of the Seine River near Paris.  Monet painted some of his best known works during this time of his life.  In 1926, Monet died of lung cancer at the age of 86.  He is buried in the Giverny church cemetery in north-western France.  The highest price ever paid for a Monet painting was for Le bassin aux nymphéas (from the water lilies series), which sold in 2008 at Christie’s in London for £36,500,000 pounds.
The Discovery
A lurking question in the world of art is, at what point does a painting become internationally recognized as authentic?  For example, in 2011, a respected Italian conservator named Antonio Forcellino published a book titled The Lost Michelangelos which speculated that two separate paintings by the famous artist were rediscovered in 2010 and 2011.  The paintings are named Pieta bread and Crucifixion with the Madonna, St John and Two Mourning Angels.  However, few art historians have accepted the paintings as true Michelangelos, which has diminished their value.
Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil (Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil) is an oil painting by Claude Monet.  The painting was purchased by Englishman David Joel in 1992 for £40,000 and depicts the River Seine at Argenteuil in France.  Since Joel purchased the artwork, he has been on a mission to establish its authenticity.  In 2011, The Art Access Research Centre scanned the picture using high resolution, infrared, and X-Ray photography.  The resulting image was examined by Iris Schaefer, the head of Conservation at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, who had previously uncovered a fake Monet and she declared Joel’s painting genuine.
In 2011, the chemical analysis of the paint and its signature were studied by Dr Nicholas Eastaugh (Courtauld Institute of Art) and were found to conform precisely to Monet’s palette and the mediums he used in the early 1880s.  Since the new evidence has emerged, dozens of experts have written to confirm that without a doubt the painting is by Claude Monet.  However, the Wildenstein Institute continues to ignore the research and regards the painting as a fake.  The provenance of the work has been tracked to 1881 when it was given by Monet to Dr Charles Porak in lieu of medical fees.  With the new evidence and support of the art community, David Joel should have no problem selling the painting as a genuine Monet.  The artwork has been appraised at £1.5 million.

5.  Francisco Goya -The Hidden General

Francisco Goya (1746-1828) was a Spanish romantic painter who is highly regarded as one of the last Old Masters.  In 1786, Goya was given a salaried position as painter to Charles III.  After the death of Charles III in 1788 and revolution in France in 1789, Goya reached his peak of popularity with the Spanish royalty.  He was a court painter to the Spanish Crown during the Peninsular War and France’s invasion of Spain.  French forces invaded Spain in 1808 and Goya’s involvement with the court of the “Intruder king,” Joseph I, the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, is not known.  Goya did paint works for French patrons and sympathizers, but kept neutral during the fighting.  After the restoration of the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, in 1813, Goya denied any involvement with the French. 
The Discovery
In 2009, a technique was invented that allows people to X-ray paintings.  The process involves a device that emits a ray and causes atoms to produce a “fluorescent” X-ray and a color map of anything hidden under the paint.  In 2009, the technique was successfully used on a Van Gogh painting to reveal a portrait of a peasant woman behind the work Patch of Grass.  Since that time, a mobile version of the X-ray “scanner” has been developed, allowing museums to examine paintings that are too delicate to be moved or touched.
In 2011, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam used the X-ray device to test their most famous artworks, and discovered an unfinished painting behind Francisco Goya’s Portrait of Don Ramon Satue (1823).  The unfinished artwork is thought to depict a French general, and may even portray Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Joseph.  The Rijksmuseum says the Spanish master may have covered up the portrait for political reasons.  Joseph Bonaparte was briefly King of Spain from 1808-1813.
In 1813, when the Napoleonic army was driven out and Ferdinand VII restored to the throne, it has been suggested that Goya would have wanted to distance himself from the French regime and possibly paint over portraits of French command.  According to the Rijksmuseum, the Goya painting is a “formal portrait of a man wearing a uniform.”  The detail on his face was never completed, but “the decorations on the uniform are those of the highest ranks of a chivalric order instituted by Joseph Bonaparte when his brother, the emperor Napoleon, anointed him King of Spain.”  Only 15 generals, plus Joseph, were entitled to wear the uniform and medal.

4.  Diego Velázquez – Portrait of a Gentleman

Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660) was a Spanish painter and artist in the court of King Philip IV of Spain.  He is best known for his portraits of the Spanish royal family, notable European figures, and commoners, including his masterpiece, Las Meninas.  Velázquez is often named as a key influence in the art of Édouard Manet, which is important because Manet is cited as the bridge between realism and impressionism.  In 1957, Pablo Picasso recreated Las Meninas in 58 variations.  The Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon found Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X to be one of the greatest paintings ever made.
The Discovery
In 2010, descendants of 19th century British artist Matthew Shepperson decided to sell some of his art at Bonhams auction house in London.  In the process of pricing the paintings, it was noticed that one of the pieces was similar to the work of Diego Velázquez.  Following more than a year of tests, X-rays, and research, the portrait was confirmed to be done by Velázquez.  The appraisal instantly boosted the paintings value to 10,000 times that of a Shepperson work.  The portrait shows an unidentified man in his fifties or sixties, who could possibly be Juan Mateos, the Master of the Hunt for Velázquez’s patron, King Philip IV of Spain.  It measures 47 x 39 cm (18.5 x 15.4 in) and represents one of only 110 to 120 known Velázquez canvases.
In 2011, Andrew Mckenzie, director of the old master paintings at Bonhams, said the portrait was of “outstanding quality” and had “extraordinary presence.”  In December, the newly discovered Diego Velázquez was sold at Bonhams to an American dealer for £3 million, or $4.7 million.

3.  Gustav Klimt – Lakeshore with Birches

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was an Austrian painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement.  He was a reserved man.  “I have never painted a self-portrait.  I am less interested in myself as a subject than I am in other people, above all women.  There is nothing special about me.  I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night, whoever wants to know something about me ought to look carefully at my pictures.”  His painting method was deliberate and painstaking, which usually required lengthy sittings by his subjects.
The Discovery
In 2011, Sotheby’s London announced the sale of a recently rediscovered masterpiece by Gustav Klimt named Lakeshore with Birches.  The painting was labeled rediscovered because it was in the same family for over 100 years.  When the descendants of Lakeshore with Birches sought authentication in 2011, it became clear that it was a Klimt painting unknown to scholars.  The artwork was not included in his catalogue of existing paintings.  In addition, an infrared scan uncovered a preparatory sketch on the canvas, which is characteristic of the artist.
It has been determined that a photograph taken in 1902 shows the painting hanging alongside other works by Gustav Klimt.  Before Lakeshore with Birches was put up for sale in 2012 it was given an estimate and reserve price of £6 million to £8 million ($9.5 to $13 million dollars).  Despite the marvelous scene, the painting did not meet the reserve.  Art critics responded: “The price was conceivable had the landscape been one of the lake views painted by Klimt from 1905 until World War I.”  After the painting didn’t sell at auction, it was quickly purchased privately for £5.6 million pounds.

2.  Caravaggio – St Augustine

Caravaggio (1571-1610) was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610.  His work had a strong influence on the Baroque school of painting.  Caravaggio was notorious for brawling and led a tumultuous life.  The transcripts of his police records and trial proceedings fill several pages.  After his death, Caravaggio was forgotten by history.  It wasn’t until the 20th century that the importance of his work was identified.  Only about 80 paintings by Caravaggio survive, though lost artwork is discovered from time to time.
The Discovery
In June 2011 it was announced that a previously unknown Caravaggio painting of Saint Augustine, dating to about 1600, had been discovered in a private collection in Britain.  The painting was originally thought to be the work of an anonymous hand.  However, documentary evidence quickly attributed the painting to Caravaggio.  The painting fits Caravaggio’s oeuvre around 1600, when his style was sculptural and monumental, with powerful movement and emotional expression.
The painting was covered in old varnishes and repaints when discovered.  However, the potential of the artwork was spotted by Clovis Whitfield, a British art historian and dealer.  The painting had never been published throughout history and is thought to have been commissioned by Vincenzo Giustiniani, a patron of Caravaggio that lived in Rome.  In 2012, The Caravaggio of St Augustine was displayed for the first time in Ottawa, Canada, at the exhibit Caravaggio & His Followers in Rome.  Unfortunately, I could not find a monetary estimate for the recently discovered St. Augustine.

1.  Leonardo da Vinci – Salvator Mundi

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, and scientist.  He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.  Among his works, the Mona Lisa is the most famous and The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time.  According to art historians, 16 confirmed Leonardo da Vinci paintings exist, with one being authenticated in 2011.  The last Leonardo da Vinci painting to have been rediscovered was the Benois Madonna, which was found by architect Leon Benois in 1909.
Salvator Mundi is a painting of Jesus Christ as Salvator Mundi, which has recently been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci.  Salvator Mundi, or Savior of the World, is a famous image that depicts Christ with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left hand holding an orb, known as a globus cruciger.  The orb symbolizes the Earth.  The pictorial theme has been attributed to a large number of artists, including the Italian painter Titian.
The Discovery
In 2011, a New York art dealer took Salvator Mundi to Robert Simon, who is a Leonardo da Vinci expert, in hopes of having it examined.  Simon was initially resistant, but became intrigued when he noticed that the painting had been hidden under a layer of crude over-paint.
The truth slowly revealed itself as researcher Dianne Dwyer Modestini painstakingly removed the layers of varnish and over-paint on the artwork.  It was discovered that the painting had a “pentimento” or alteration that showed signs of a previous work.  It was found that the creation of Christ’s curls in the art is unmistakably similar to other Leonardo da Vinci paintings.  This evidence, along with the comparative art history of the piece, allowed it to be authenticated by historians.
Salvator Mundi is an oil-painting that measures 66 x 45 centimeters (26 x 17.7 in).  Leonardo da Vinci painted the subject in France for Louis XII between 1506 and 1513. The recently authenticated work was once owned by King Charles I and recorded in his art collection in 1649 before being auctioned in 1763.  In 1900, the painting was purchased by Sir Frederick Cook.  Cook’s descendants sold it at auction in 1958 for £45.  The painting was then acquired by a U.S. consortium of art dealers in 2005 and authenticated in 2011.  Salvator Mundi was displayed in the London’s National Gallery from November 9, 2011 to February 5, 2012 as part of a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit.  After looking at the eyes of the painting, it becomes clear that Leonarado da Vinci was at hand.


Top 10 Asteroid Impacts On Earth

June 09, 2012 Naster Rawal 0 Comments

10. Clearwater Lakes

Clearwater Lake Asteroid
The Clearwater lakes are twin lakes that formed at the same exact time in Northern Canada. The asteroids that made them were huge, at 16 miles and 22 miles respectively. The lakes are named after their clear water; that, and the fact that there are 25 lakes in the area also called “Clearwater lake” really says something about Canadian creativity. No one’s sure how two large asteroids managed to hit the same area at the same time. One expert says it may be because asteroids have their own small moons, or it may be that it used to be one big asteroid and split in two in our atmosphere.
9. Barringer Crater
Barringer Crater
Barringer Crater, also known simply as Meteor crater is a crater in Northern Arizona that was formed something like 50,000 years ago when an iron-metallic asteroid crashed into Earth while texting and driving. Experts estimate that it struck at approximately 45,000 miles per hour and produced an explosion of 10 megatons. Rest assured there weren’t many humans around at this time, but the woolly mammoth sure had a rough time.
8. Lonar Crater Lake
Lonar Crater
Lonar Crater Lake is the site of meteorite impact in Maharashtra, India. Experts estimate the crater formed sometime in the Pleistocene Epoch. No one is certain how large the asteroid was, or how fast it was coming- but the geological effects on the surrounding area are astounding. While the lake is primarily salt water, there are sweet water pools that form around some its corners.
7. Lake Bosumtwi Crater
Bosumtwi Crater
Around a million years ago, an 11 kilometer wide asteroid decided it hated lush rainforests and hit Ghana, forming a rather large hole in the ground. Over time, the hole filled with rainwater and became the lake it is today. Local legend says that it is the home of a God, which is why it is forbidden to fish unless you use a wooden plank. Also, there is a massive resort there for rich white people.
6. The Cricket Match One
Cricket Match Asteroid
Alas, no good article is complete without the mention of cricket. In July 2010, a perfectly good cricket game was interrupted when a 4.5 billion year old meteorite decided to sneak into the stadium. Unfortunately, it broke in two when it hit the ground. The piece that broke off hit a guy, Jan Marszel, in the chest. In retaliation, he decided to keep the asteroid for “posterity” or as we like to call it “bragging to anyone that’ll listen”. Experts say it’s the first meteorite to hit the UK since 1992.
5. Tunguska, Siberia
Tunguska Asteroid
The Tunguska Event occurred in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in as early as 1908. It is one of the most famous modern asteroid impacts, mostly because it caused a poop-load of destruction and scarred the area for a while… basically nature’s way of saying “asteroids are supposed to suck.”
Anyway, at exactly 7:14 on June 30th, the shrapnel of an asteroid that broke up in the atmosphere made its way to Earth. The size of this meteorite is disputed, but scientists agree that it had to be dozens of feet in diameter. Fortunately for humanity, the meteorite also blew up right before impact. Unfortunately for plants, its explosion was equivalent to the force of the bomb that wiped out Hiroshima. Around 80,000 trees were destroyed by the blast.
4. Chiling-Yang
Chiling Yang
Although the Tunguska event is one of the most powerful impacts in modern history, Chiling-Yang was probably the scariest humans ever faced. In 1490, an asteroid making its way over to Earth burst open in the atmosphere. Rather than burn up and give us a nice show, it decided to keep going in the form of hundreds of new meteorites. The people in Chiling-Yang, China understandably began to panic. Its unknown how many people died, but Ming Dynasty records put it at 10,000. Damn.
3. The Moon Formation
Moon Formation Asteroid
Ever wonder how the moon came about? There’s no way it was always just there, right? There are a number of theories, ranging from a massive earthquake that split the Earth in half (yeah, okay hippie) or that the moon has just always been around. But the most agreed upon theory is that when Earth was still forming, an asteroid the size of freaking Mars hit us square and center. The resulting explosion was enough for Earth to give birth to what we call the Moon today. That’s probably why lunar samples show that the moon has the same composition that proto-Earth had.
2. The Dinosaur One
Dinosaur Asteroid
We’ve all heard of this one. One of the most famous theories about the extinction of all dinosaurs is that they were wiped out by an asteroid. Actually, recently, an international panel of 41 experts in the field unanimously agreed that an asteroid  wiped them out. The asteroid, which was 15 kilometers in diameter, hit the Earth at- get this- one billion times the force of the atom bomb. Read that again, we’ll wait. The resulting messresulted in a hundreds-of-years-long global winter, which in turn killed the dinosaurs.
1. Hermes
Hermes Asteroid
None of the above really matter… they were all so long ago, and we weren’t around then. Just wait for this next one and you’ll see why we should be afraid. Why we should be very afraid. Back in 1937, very few people cared about space. Unfortunately, that’s when we very much should have been. At that time the asteroid Hermes was passing by and came extremely close to hitting the Earth. Although it was relatively small at only 1 kilometer in diameter, given its speed, experts predict that the asteroid could have caused… Well, we’ll put it this way. When an asteroid that size hit Jupiter, the impact zone was  “many time the size of Earth”. You make up your mind.


Top 10 Unusual Landscapes

June 05, 2012 Naster Rawal 2 Comments

10. Chocolate Hills, Philippines

Chocolate Hills
More than 1,770 perfectly cone-shaped hills can be found in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, more exactly in Bohol. Unfortunately, these amazing hills aren’t really made of chocolate, but they do look curious.  The hills look like a sea of chocolate kisses during the dry season. The unusual geological formation has baffled geologists for decades. There are different theories on how the conical hills formed.
Spread over an area of 50 square kilometers, the amazing hills are Philippines’s 3rd National Geological Monument together with Hundred Islands National Park and Taal Volcano, the world’s smallest active volcano.

9. Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

Moeraki Boulders 1
Scattered along the beautiful Koekohe beach in New Zealand, these unusually large boulders attract tourists from all over the world. According to the Society for Sedimentary Geology, “the Moeraki boulders are large calcite concretions with septarian veins of calcite and rare late-stage quartz and ferrous dolomite”. What’s so special about the Moeraki Boulders is the fact that they formed on the sea bed approximately 65 million years ago, a period that coincides with the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, now called the Cretaceous–Paleogene (or K–Pg) extinction event, a period of massive extinction of species, including dinosaurs.

8. Gates to Hell, Turkmenistan

Gates of Hell
It is estimated that Turkmenistan owns the world’s fifth largest reserves of natural gas. In May 2011, this was discovered in Turkmenistan – the second largest gas deposit, the South Yoloten gas field. It covers 1,500 square miles and is preceded by Iran’s South Pars gas field, the world’s largest.
The Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as Gates to Hell, is burning without interruption since 1971. It’s the year when some geologists who were digging in Darvaza for gas deposits, discovered a huge crater filled with poisonous gas and decided to light it on fire to burn off the excess and prevent local poisoning. Unfortunately, the deposit continues to burn to this day. Nobody knows for sure how much gas has been wasted and for how long it will continue to burn. Doesn’t this story remind you of the Centralia PA mine fire?

7. Pinnacles Desert, Australia

Pinnacle Desert
The enigmatic Pinnacles Desert is located in Australia’s Nambung National Park. Thousands of limestone pillars rise from the sands of the desert. The strange-looking limestone formations reach up to four meters in height.
Australia is famous for its unusual rock formations. Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), Ayers Rock – also known as Uluru, the world’s largest monolith – Devil’s Marbles, the Wilpena Pound in Flinders Ranges, Murphy’s Haystacks, the Twelve Apostles  and the incredible Wave Rock are some of the world’s most fascinating rock formations.

6. Stone Forests, China

Stone Forest
The South China Karst region extends over 500.000 square kilometers. The spectacular karst topography comprises three provinces: Guangxi, Yunnan and Guizhou.
The Naigu Stone Forest and and the Suogeyi Village are protected UNESCO Sites since 2007. According to, the stone forests of Shilin, Yunnan Province “represent one of the world’s most spectacular examples of humid tropical to subtropical karst landscapes. The stone forests of Shilin are considered superlative natural phenomena and a world reference with a wider range of pinnacle shapes than other karst landscapes with pinnacles, and a higher diversity of shapes and changing colors.”

5. Göreme National Park, Turkey

Goreme Turkey 1
The main attraction of Turkey’s Cappadocia region is the Göreme National Park located in the Göreme Valley. Entirely sculpted by erosion, this spectacular landscape hides a wonderful historical heritage. Part of the national park includes rock-hewn sanctuaries that contain unique evidence of Byzantine art from the post-Iconoclastic era, ancient underground cave dwellings and troglodyte villages. There have been discovered the remains of a human habitat estimated to date back to the 4th century.
According to geologists, the eroded plateau of the Turkish valley is an extraordinary example “of the effects of differential erosion of the volcanic tuff sediments by wind and water.”

4. Rio Tinto, Spain

Rio Tinto
The 58-mile-long Spanish river flows from the mountains of Sierra Morena to the Gulf of Cadiz through one of the earth’s largest deposits of pyrite. The rather otherworldly landscape is the result of at least 5,000 years of mining activity. With a low pH and full of heavy metals, scientists claim that the Rio Tinto fluvial-estuarine system is one of the planet’s most polluted.
Rio Tinto played a key role in history. It is the birthplace of the Bronze Age and Copper Age.

3. Ethiopia’s Dallol Volcano

Dallol volcano
The number three spot goes to the hottest inhabited place on earth. If the average year-round temperature in Ethiopia is 94 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature regularly exceeds 115 degrees in the Danakil Depression, where the Dallol volcano is located.
At approximately 157 feet /48 m below sea level, Dallol is the planet’s lowest land volcano.
The bizarre landscape with hues of red, green, yellow and white consists of salt ponds, hot mineral springs and geysers. The diverse colors come from potassium salts colored by sulphur and various chlorides & oxides.

2. Antelope Canyon, USA

Antelope Canyon
I envy all of you who had the chance to visit this corner of paradise. Blessed with unusual but splendid rock formations, Arizona seems to be the home of natural wonders. The Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Wave are some of the world’s most visited and photographed places.
The Antelope Canyon is split into the Upper Antelope Canyon (Tse’ bighanilini) & the Lower Antelope Canyon (Hasdestwazi). The meaning of their Navajo names translates into “the place where water runs through rocks, respectively “spiral rock arches”. The lower section is deeper, longer and more challenging than the upper one.
1. Socotra Island, Yemen
You have not been transported to another planet. It’s the number one of list, the most unusual landscape I’ve ever seen.
There is a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean that has been described as the world’s most alien-looking place. The Socotra Archipelago consists of four islands and two rocky islets of universal importance. claims that “37% of Socotra’s 825 plant species, 90% of its reptile species and 95% of its land snail species do not occur anywhere else in the world. As one of the most biodiversity rich and distinct islands in the world, has been termed the “Galápagos of the Indian Ocean”.
The Yemeni island is home to some fascinating species of flora, such as the Dragon’s Blood Tree (Dracaena Cinnabari), the Desert Rose (Adenium Obesium), Cucumber Tree (Dendrosicyos Socotranum), Dorstenia Gigas and many more. Aren’t these some of the weirdest looking plants you’ve ever laid eyes on?


The Top 10 Events That Will Happen in 2012

June 05, 2012 Naster Rawal 3 Comments

10.  Natural Disasters

Ok, this may sound like a given.  After all, what year doesn’t come with a slew of natural disasters?  From earthquakes to erupting volcanoes, we can certainly expect Mother Nature to rear her head in 2012.  The question, really, is how bad of a disaster season will the world experience?  If 2011 was an indication, we can expect some serious carnage.
While one shouldn’t expect apocalyptic level disasters, we still better brace ourselves. Major earthquakes (those that register 6.0 or higher on the Richter scale) are on the rise. There were 205 major quakes last year- up from 2010 and 2009 that registered 173 and 161 quakes, respectively.  It’s not improbable that a major quake will be seaborne, which in turn, could trigger another massive tsunami like the one that devastated the coast of Japan last year.  Remember the volcanic eruption in Iceland last year that shut down air traffic on both sides of the Atlantic?  Well dear readers, there are a number of simmering hot spots around the world that are primed to blow.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, sink holes, mud slides, and the like are all on tap for 2012.
Scientists pretty much agree that the earth is warming up, though they can’t come to a consensus on why.  What has been evidenced, however, are definite changes in weather patterns around the world. 2012, unfortunately, is primed to bear the brunt of these changes. So batten down the hatches, make sure your insurance is paid up, and good luck.

9.  Middle East Conflict: Target – Iran

The Middle East will continue to be a hotbed of international attention and intrigue.  In particular, the confrontation with Iran will come to a head.  Expect to see military action of some kind carried out against the Iranian regime.  The pressure is already being amped up.  Several world leaders have already publicly proclaimed that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon, with the implication that if they do, military action will be imminent.
In this, increasingly heavy economic sanctions have been levied against Iran. To further exacerbate the growing tensions, a top Iranian nuclear scientist was apparently killed recently under questionable circumstances.  Iran is crying foul play and pointing fingers at the various nations that are lining up against them.  With stronger economic sanctions in the pipeline, Iran is also threatening to close down the strategic Strait of Hormuz (where 20% of the world’s oil transits through).  The US, for its part, has stated that it will not allow this to happen, and has moved more military assets into the area as a response.
While America is making an effort to withdraw itself from military conflicts around the world, it will find itself drawn into another one. In fact, with the tension between Iran and Israel being equally as tense, an independent action by Israeli forces could also be the trip wire that ignites a conflict involving US military forces.  One thing is for certain, with the constant threat of nuclear proliferation and oil flow disruption, Iran is a major problem that is not only not going to go away peacefully, but one that will have to be dealt with in 2012.

8. Sports, Sports and More Sports

Professional sports are a $70 trillion+ industry worldwide.  That’s a lot of money folks.  It’s also a sure indicator of the passion and love that we all share for our sport of choice.  We feel good when our teams march, run, and jump to victory and we feel the weight of despair when they come up short.  We follow the every move of every player – on and off the field of play.  So it’s no surprise that we are interested in what can be expected (and hoped for) in the world of sports in 2012.  Obviously, we can’t cover the entire spectrum of sporting events – but we can touch on a couple that a lot of us follow.
First up is our main man and golfer supreme Tiger Woods.  Yeah, ol’ Tiger has had a bad stretch the last couple of years.  But the drama of his extra-marital flings and subsequent divorce are finally behind him.  We’ve seen a reemergence of sorts at the close of 2011 when Tiger finally was able to place himself back in the win column with a victory at the Chevron Invitational.  Expect Tiger’s mojo to remain intact in 2012 and for him to launch a major challenge at breaking the Jack Nicholas record for number of wins at a major. Tiger only needs 4 wins to tie and he will get 2 of them in 2012.  Look for Tiger to make a victorious showing in the Masters and the U.S. Open.  Without a doubt the world will be watching.
Speaking of the world watching, there’s the UEFA Champions League championship game.  Drawing a record audience of 178 million in 2011, this number is expected to be just as large when the final pairing is decided in 2012.  Soccer (or football for the international crowd) is, without doubt, the most popular sport in the world, and the European professional leagues feature some of the world’s best players.  The UEFA Champions League, which features at least 4 of the best clubs from each of the top European football leagues, pits the best against the best.  With a fervor that is difficult to quantify, fans follow the pitch of their teams with a passion that is akin to reverence.  2012 is no different, with national prestige hanging in the balance.  Expect perennial favorite Manchester United to make another run at the gold, along with Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid.  While it’s easy to go with the depth and talent of Man U you can expect the English to be upset (again) by the Spaniards.  Real Madrid has a bit to prove after rival Spanish club Barcelona’s magical run last year and will take home the coveted cup in 2012.

7.  The Occupy Wall Street Will Fade To a Footnote In History

The Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t start out as such (which, I suppose, is usually the case for such things).  It began as a protest, and a fairly simple one at that.  The idea was to show support against the perceived corruption of multinational corporations and major banks that were seen as the cause of the economic problems challenging America.  Apparently the idea struck a chord.  What began as a demonstration in Liberty Square, located in Manhattan’s financial district, spawned into a grass roots movement that no one saw coming.
Six months in, the calls for economic reform and the occupy Wall Street protest were encamped in over 100 major American cities.  Even more telling, a number of countries globally (at least 80, according to reports) took up the cause as well.  The problem, however, is that any movement- regardless of the validity of the cause- needs leadership and structure to survive and prosper.  This doesn’t seem to be the case with the Occupiers.  There is a very real desire for economic reform, but without a plan, the only thing they have is a bunch of kids standing outside in the rain with signs.
As cities get tired of dealing with them, as the protesters realize that they have to eventually go to work in order to eat, and the economy improves…well, the air will finally run out of this particular movement.  This is too bad.  America needs to rethink the manner in which business is conducted.  There is a very real disparity between the rich and the poor that is endangering the very ideal of the American Dream.  These folks were on the right track; unfortunately good intentions alone will not sustain a reform of the status quo.

6.  Scientific Breakthroughs

The thing about scientific breakthroughs is that outside of scientific community, they don’t seem very noteworthy.  However, these breakthroughs, inventions and discoveries are the basis for every gadget and toy that we enjoy using today.  No one thought much about the development and then introduction of the Internet as a free source application (as opposed to a proprietary one) – and now we probably couldn’t imagine life without the Web.
2012, for its part, will have its share of medical breakthroughs that on the surface may not seem like much at first, but will nevertheless play a pivotal part in what is to come in the near future.  One of the most interesting things that the New Year will bring will be the beginning of a venture called the Human Connectome Project.  This bold endeavor seeks to map the ‘wiring’ or connections of the human brain.  This project holds the promise of not just learning more about the most advanced computer on the planet, but perhaps keys to unlock the remedy to various maladies like Alzheimer’s disease.
Also expected in 2012 are the results from experiments to prove or disprove the existence of the Higgs Particle (also referred to as the God Particle).  For the uninitiated, the Higgs Particle theory attempts to explain why particles (like photons for example) have mass. The theory surmises that there is an otherwise undetectable field that occupies all space that causes particles that move through it to experience drag and therefore induces mass.  If you’re like me, you might say, “so what?”  Yeah, I don’t really know either.  But it’s a REALLY big deal for scientists (so much so, that this stuff has been featured on CNN and other media outlets).  The basic point is that the results – either yea or nay – will have an impact on the manner in which physics is understood and approached.
One last breakthrough in 2012 that is a little easier to wrap our brains around is pretty cool. If you watch sci-fi flicks, you probably have seen characters use flexible screen computers, newspapers and the like.  Imagine, for example, of being able to take your iPad or other tablet and roll it up like a magazine and stick it in your pocket.   Well, we’re not quite there yet, but this year Samsung and Nokia plan on rolling out the first mobile phones with flexible displays.  In 2012, the future is now!

5.  The Arab Spring Continues and Spreads

Like most movements, it began “simply” enough.  Namely, a guy by the name of Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in a public square in Tunisia in response to the social injustices taking place there.  Henceforth referred to as the “burning man”, this one moment of self-immolation sparked a cry for freedom and action that spread across the region.  Protests erupted, folks planned and organized, and governments fell.
This was and is the real thing.  Look at the results so far: Tunisian president Ben Ali was ousted as a result and the government overthrown.  Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his government suffered the same as their Tunisian counterparts.  Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was eventually killed after the people rose up.  The spark of freedom that exists in the hearts of everyone only needed to be kindled.  Now a blaze, a wave of revolution is spreading across the Middle East, carried on a current of discontent borne of suffering and oppression.
But the job is far from done. Syria, the next likely scene of revolution, is awash in civil unrest.  The Syrian regime is holding, but just barely.  With the eyes of the world witnessing every atrocity committed by government forces and with the Syrian people continuing to press for an end to the manacles of injustice they have been shackled with, it’s only a matter of time before justice prevails.
Even more telling is that oppressive regimes in other parts of the world are beginning to get a little nervous.  The thought that what is happening across the Middle East could happen at home has a many a dictator a little apprehensive, and with good reason.  In China, the government has seen fit to attempt to limit the amount of information regarding the Arab Spring reaches its people by censoring as much as it can.  In Russia, protests are popping up against the Putin regime and questionable election practices/results.
While it remains to be seen how successful the revolutionary spark will be outside the Middle East, the dye has nevertheless been cast.  The People realize that they in fact have a voice and a means of self-determination that has been dormant too long.  They are now being heard, loud and clear.  Expect Syria president, Bashar al-Assad, to be ousted in 2012 and significant policy changes in the majority of nations in the region (especially with the rights of women).

4.  U.S. Economy improves

Depending on the source one chooses to delve into, the US economy is either improving, stable, or getting worse.  The American populace, for its part, is becoming very restless and discontent with any news other than the economy is getting better.  Who can blame them? The recent recession has hit folks hard.  Add in the various financial scandals and disasters, and the confidence of the American consumer is at an all-time low.
The good news is that all the signs are pointing toward a modest (meaning slow) recovery in 2012. Stocks are rallying, the longest surge in fact, since July of 2011 -a good sign for business in general and public confidence in investing specifically.  The housing market is seeing signs of recovery as well.  Home sales are expected to be up 2-5% in 2012 based on the facts that interest rates on home loans are ridiculously low. As a result, applications for home loans have seen an increase in recent months and 80% of surveyed consumers believe that now is the best time to purchase a home.  And more people have jobs to pay a mortgage as unemployment is down to 8.5% nationally (after flirting with 10% in 2011), with 200,000 jobs added to the private sector in December.  And folks were spending their cash in healthy numbers during the past holiday season, infusing businesses with much needed revenue.
All told, if the trends continue (and we believe they will), the U.S. will see noticeable improvement with the economy in 2012. Economist forecast that the US needs at least 2.5% real GDP growth in order to add enough jobs to the economy to stabilize unemployment.  The current numbers indicate a real GDP growth in the neighborhood of 3% (or higher).  While a lot of things could obviously go wrong and derail everything mentioned here, there are a lot of government forces in place working to make this prediction a very real reality.  Expect the best with this one, folks!

3. The European Economy will Stabilize and NOT screw up America’s Recovery

If you have been paying attention to the news from abroad, they you are aware that the financial situation in Europe is not very pretty.  In fact, it’s very scary.  There has been talk about the dismantling of the European Union, devaluing the Euro and other draconian measures – all of which would result in a very nasty economic disaster that would be felt across the globe.  In many ways, the European problem is similar to the American one in that its origins can be traced to a sluggish global economy, a real estate speculation that burst, risky (and outright bad) lending and borrowing practices, and (of course) banking industry bailouts.
This resulted in a sovereign debt crisis with a number of EU members (namely Greece, Ireland and Portugal- with Italy now on the brink as well).  Essentially, these countries are in a position where they are unable to refinance their national debt and thereby, subject to bankruptcy. And because the EU is…well a union of countries, significant financial trouble by a small number of nations can bring the whole system down.  So, that’s the bad news.
The good news is that the EU is moving swiftly and decisively to shore up the problem.  The financial ministers of the member nations have just announced a $171 billion aid package to assist ailing national economies (as well as allowing Greece to write off 50% of its outstanding debt).  Equally, throughout this mess, the Euro has actually remained stable (dismissing fears of the currency going into a tailspin) and GDP for most of the EU has either remained stable or experienced growth.
Really, the EU has taken a page from their American counterparts in terms of dealing with this latest financial crisis.  Time will tell, but there is every reason to believe that the solutions being put forth should work.  Recovery is a ways off, but the EU should stave off disaster, with the stronger economies within the Union offsetting the weaker ones (in terms of the overall effect to the global economy).

2.  The Olympics

One supposes that this entry could have been included under Sports at our #8 spot.  But in actuality, the Olympics are much more than a sporting event- it’s an Event (with a capital E).  And for two weeks from July 27 until August 12, the eyes of the world will be tuned into the 1,000+ Olympiad.  The city of London has the honor of hosting the 2012 Games and the city (and the entire United Kingdom) is pulling out all the stops to make it a memorable spectacle.  They have their hands full and a hard act to follow after China’s amazing job of hosting the games in 2008.  While everyone expects London to put on a great show – one would be hard pressed to imagine that it will come anywhere close to the opening ceremonies in Beijing.
Nevertheless, the games in London will be significant in its own right.   London will host athletes (a little over 10,500 in number) from 204 countries who will be competing in 302 events.  And if you don’t happen to have tickets and reservations to see the Games in person, don’t worry.  The Games will be televised from opening ceremony to closing, with virtually every event in between.   If you have the time (and the money), you can pay to see any event you want (a happy occurrence for the less popular sports like archery and badminton).  Also, the Olympics are trying out an X-sport this year with BMX racing, as well as golf.
Of course, national pride will be on the line as each contingent of athletes seeks to add to each countries medal count.  Usually, the host country does better than normal, so expect the English to fair very well in these games.  Of course, you can expect a real challenge from the Americans, and new athletic powerhouse China as well.  Regardless of whom one is rooting for, the Olympics offer a brand of athletic competition that is not found in any other forum.   It’s a joy to behold and the 2012 Olympic Games promises to deliver the goods.

1.  U.S. Presidential Election

The U.S. President is quite often referred to as the “leader of the free world”.  While this title can no doubt be argued, it is nevertheless certain that the U.S. Presidency is a very powerful and influential position indeed – one that has both national and international ramifications.  As such, this year’s race is being watched with bated breath.
At stake is the direction that America will undertake for the next four years. For American’s the issues revolve around the economy.  For the world, it’s all about America’s foreign policy agenda.  The contenders are pretty much in line for the final push to the November 6th vote.  In one corner, we have the incumbent president- a democrat- Mr. Barack Obama. In the other corner we have…
NOT Mitt Romney!  Rather we expect a bit of an upset in the Republican primary, with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich winning the nomination.  For any number of reasons, the conservatives of the Republican Party are not very excited about a Romney nomination and will thrust hopes (and votes) behind Newt.  So expect a Newt vs. Barack race for the White House.
But who will win the 57th quadrennial presidential election?  Well, consider that the framework against which the election cycle is being structured around in the economy.  It’s a perspective of the rich getting richer and the poorer becoming poorer.  Add in a sluggish economy, high unemployment, and you have a very discontent electorate.  Normally, a sitting president has a marked advantage over his challenger- unless the economy sucks, which is one quick way to find yourself kicked out of the Whitehouse early.  So the key is the economy. If, as we predict, the American economy is showing signs of a healthy recovery, the odds fall on Barack Obama to be reelected.  If the economy, on the other hand, continues a steep decline – expect the American population to be looking for new ideas to right the sinking ship.
For our part, taking all of this into account as the stark contrast between the two expected contenders on social issues (such as immigration, gay rights, etc. with significant voting blocs representing them), we see Mr. Obama winning reelection handily.  But expect quite a bit of mudslinging and dirty politics (and a god-awful lot of money spent doing it) to be the story of the day until the final votes are cast.