Australia (and more pics)



Like petals on a flower, wells fan out from a central point in Chad's Zakouma National Park.
The wells hold water from the life-giving heavy rains that start every year in May, ending months of drought in central Africa.

The rock basin known as Wilpena Pound was carved from ancient mountains by erosion.
The high walls of rock are made of weather-resistant quartzite.

"Lacy breakers lap the coral reef that rings Bora-Bora, an ancient sunken volcano 165 miles [266 kilometers] northwest of Tahiti.
With sugar white beaches edging its electric blue-lagoon, the island fits everyone's image of a South Seas paradise
--but not everyone's pocketbook: Waterfront thatch huts go for up to [U.S.] $700 a night."

Stark circle of rock measuring about 60 feet [18 meters] in diameter lies in the Ténéré desert in Niger.
Roughly a mile away in each of the four cardinal directions, similarly crafted arrows point away from the circle, whose origin, purpose, and age remain a puzzle.

An aerial photograph of a Gabonese delta highlights the rich wilderness of the Loango coastal area.
Just a century ago, this land was the northern outpost of the Loango Kingdom, whose throne was near the Congo River some 250 miles (402 kilometers) to the south.

Lake Mývatn is the fourth largest lake in Iceland.
Although it is shallow and 909 feet (277 meters) above sea level, it supports a rich ecosystem.
The southern part of the lake rests on a lava flow that was emitted from the crater row Prengslaborgir 2,000 years ago.
The land around the lake is marked with "pseudo craters," continually formed when water trapped beneath the earth's surface turns to steam and explodes through the layer above.

As the morning mist rises, the Australian rain forest appears never-ending.
On Cape York Peninsula, there are 379 rare or endangered plant species and 85 rare or endangered vertebrates.

Famous for its pearl-filled waters, Broome anchors the Dampier Peninsula,
part of the famous Kimberley region in northwest Australian.
This region was one of the earliest settled areas of the continent, receiving settlers from Indonesian islands some tens of thousands of years ago.

A paraglider casts a shadow over the dunes of Niger's Ténéré desert.
A south-central tract of the Sahara, the 150,000-square-mile (400,000-square-kilometer) Ténéré is one of Africa's most forbidding regions.
Hot, dusty harmattan winds blow across the bone-dry desert, which receives an annual rainfall of about 1 inch (25 millimeters).

When I first stood on the beach in Gabon, I took off my clothes and contemplated writing home to say: 'Don't worry, Ma, I'm OK.
 Just don't come looking for me--you'll never see me again, ever.'
Christmas morning a decade later, and here I was back on that same beach, where hippos surf and buffalo sunbathe.

With the towers of the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière in the far distance the city of Lyon sprawls around the Saône River.

Frost-flecked tundra pools dot the landscape of Canada's North Yukon National Park.
Treeless regions found in and around the Arctic, tundras are among Earth's coldest, harshest biomes.
Permafrost, cold, wind, and scant rainfall make it difficult for most plants and animals to survive here.



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