After two years of vote-casting by millions of people from across the globe, a new list of the "New 7 Wonders of Nature" has been revealed. Reducing a planet full of incredible, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring sites to a mere handfull was no easy task -- but while it is arguably inappropriate to pit nature's most beautiful places in such a competition, the organization behind the list hopes it will help the top spots "in becoming part of global memory for humankind forever." In the end, however, the list is a bit more remarkable for the countless wonders it lacks than the ones it contains.
The campaign was launched by the group's founder Bernard Weber who hoped to revive the listing convention originated by Ancient Greeks in naming the 7 Wonders of the World more than two thousand years ago. "So many breathtakingly beautiful, natural places are still quite unknown to many. From waterfalls to fjords, rainforests to mountain peaks, freshwater lakes to volcanoes, we are discovering together the incredible beauty and variety of our planet," says Webber.
According to New7Wonders, the group that organized the international competition, from an original list composed of around 440 nominated locales, seven 'provisional' top wonders have been selected with the input of over a million international voters. An official announcement of the winning sites is expected some time early next year. But in lieu of any changes, the list of the final seven is as follows (in alphabetical order):
"The Amazon Rainforest, also known as Amazonia, the Amazon jungle or the Amazon Basin, encompasses seven million square kilometers (1.7 billion acres), though the forest itself occupies some 5.5 million square kilometers (1.4 billion acres), located within nine nations. The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world. The Amazon River is the largest river in the world by volume, with a total flow greater than the top ten rivers worldwide combined. It accounts for approximately one-fifth of the total world river flow and has the biggest drainage basin on the planet. Not a single bridge crosses the Amazon."
Halong Bay, Vietnam
"Halong Bay is located in Quáng Ninh province, Vietnam. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. The bay has a 120 kilometre long coastline and is approximately 1,553 square kilometres in size with 1969 islets. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves, other support floating villages of fishermen, who ply the shallow waters for 200 species of fish and 450 different kinds of mollusks. Another specific feature of Halong Bay is the abundance of lakes inside the limestone islands, for example, Dau Be island has six enclosed lakes. All these island lakes occupy drowned dolines within fengcong karst."
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
"Iguazu Falls, in Iguazu River, are one of the world's largest waterfalls. They extend over 2,700 m (nearly 2 miles) in a semi-circular shape. Of the 275 falls that collectively make up Iguassu Falls, "Devil's Throat" is the tallest at 80 m in height. Iguazu Falls are on the border between the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones, and are surrounded by two National Parks (BR/ARG). Both are subtropical rainforests that are host to hundreds of rare and endangered species of flora and fauna."
Jeju Island, South Korea
"Jejudo is a volcanic island, 130 km from the southern coast of Korea. The largest island and smallest province in Korea, the island has a surface area of 1,846 sqkm. A central feature of Jeju is Hallasan, the tallest mountain in South Korea and a dormant volcano, which rises 1,950 m above sea level. 360 satellite volcanoes are around the main volcano."
"Indonesia’s Komodo National Park includes the three larger islands Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as numerous smaller ones, for a total area of 1,817 square kilometers (603 square kilometers of it land). The national park was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon. Later, it was also dedicated to protecting other species, including marine animals. The islands of the national park are of volcanic origin."
Puerto Princesa Underground River, Philippines
"The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is located about 50 km north of the city of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines. It features a limestone karst mountain landscape with an 8.2 km. navigable underground river. A distinguishing feature of the river is that it winds through a cave before flowing directly into the South China Sea. It includes major formations of stalactites and stalagmites, and several large chambers. The lower portion of the river is subject to tidal influences. The underground river is reputed to be the world's longest. At the mouth of the cave, a clear lagoon is framed by ancient trees growing right to the water's edge. Monkeys, large monitor lizards, and squirrels find their niche on the beach near the cave."
Table Mountain, South Africa
"Table Mountain is a South African icon and the only natural site on the planet to have a constellation of stars named after it - Mensa, meaning “the table.” The flat-topped mountain has withstood six million years of erosion and hosts the richest, yet smallest floral kingdom on earth with over 1,470 floral species. Table Mountain boasts numerous rare and endangered species. It is the most recognized site in Cape Town, the gateway to Africa, owing to its unique flat-topped peaks which reach 1,086 m above sea level."
I know what you're thinking: "Where's the Great Barrier Reef? The Everglades? The Black Forest?" Ultimately, the list inadvertently makes a point greater than the sum of its parts -- that the natural world is so full of incredible places worthy of our profound appreciation, attempting to rank them in some satisfying way is an exercise in futility.
After all, the real wonder is nature itself.