The world is a fascinating and surprising place. As much as we think we might know about it, there always seems to be more to learn - especially when it comes to geography facts.
For example: Did you know that there is only one country that is located in all four hemispheres? Or that Mount Everest isn't really the tallest mountain in the world? Or that maps of the United States have the borders of Colorado all wrong?
Those are just some of the facts discussed below. Which of these are the most surprising?
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Vulcan Point Is An Island In A Lake In A Volcano In A Lake In An Island
Welcome to Vulcan Point, otherwise known as the island within a lake within a volcano within a lake within an island.
Let's try to break down the specifics of this geographical and geological oddity, starting with the island of Luzon, which is located in the Philippines. On that island is a large body of water called Lake Taal. The lake contains Taal Volcano - or Volcano Island - which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world (33 recorded eruptions).
Located on Volcano Island, 10,000 feet above Lake Taal, is Main Crater Lake. And inside of that lake is Vulcan Point Island. So again, that's an island within a lake within a volcano within a lake within an island. Simple, right?
Except on January 12, 2020, tragedy struck when Taal Volcano erupted, claiming 39 lives. The eruption also led to the Main Crater Lake drying up. So maybe this description no longer quite applies?
Located in the South Pacific areas of Polynesia and Micronesia, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, the tiny nation of Kiribati (pronounced "keer-ruh-bass") consists of Banaba Island and 32 atolls spread across three groups of islands (the Gilbert, Phoenix, and Line Islands). Boasting an estimated population of slightly more than 100,000, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Once under the dominion of the United Kingdom, it gained its independence in 1979.
But what makes Kiribati so unique is that it is the only country in the world that is located in each of the four hemispheres. The Phoenix Islands are located in the Southern Hemisphere while the Gilbert Islands lie in both the Northern Hemipshere and the Southern Hemisphere.
The prime meridian, which separates the Western Hemisphere and the Eastern Hemisphere, cuts through the nation. Kiribati's easternmost point lies in its southern Line Islands, while Banaba Island marks its westernmost point.
- Photo: World Data Center for Geophysics & Marine Geology / National Geophysical Data Center / NOAA / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain31,177 VOTES
94% Of The 'Continent' Of Zealandia Is Underwater
Could the world someday have an eighth continent? In 2017, a group of researchers submitted a study arguing that a mostly submerged landmass located east of Australia and covering approximately 1.9 million square miles should be designated as just that - a continent.
Dubbed "Zealandia," 94% of the landmass is located underwater, with only New Zealand and the island of New Caledonia rising above sea level. In the past, the landmass had been classified as a microcontinent, but the research team arguing that it should be classified as a continent stated that the size of the landmass distinguishes Zealandia from other microcontinents. This research team, led by geologist Nick Mortimer, argued that any landmass that covers at least 386,000 square miles should be defined as a continent.
Another obstacle for Zealandia to be defined as a continent is that a continent is commontly defined as a landmass surrounded by water - not submerged underneath it.
"My judgment is that though Zealandia is continental, it is not a continent," Christopher Scotese, a Northwestern University geologist, stated. "If it were emergent, we would readily identify it with Australia, much like we identify Greenland with North America and Madagascar with Africa."
Mortimer's team argued that being submerged shouldn't keep Zealandia from being defined as a continent, pointing out that if Antarctica weren't covered in ice, much of the western half of that continent would be under water.
No consensus has been reached yet on whether Zealandia should be classified as a continent. But in 2021, it was determined that the landmass is approximately 1 billion years old - or about twice as old as researchers had previously thought it to be.
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Australia is the smallest of the world's seven continents. In fact, its land area is approximately 7.7 million square kilometers - which is about 60% the size of the second-smallest continent, Antarctica.
The moon, meanwhile, has a land area of approximately 38 million square kilometers, or about five times the size of Australia.
So surely this means that the moon must be wider than Australia, right? Wrong. Australia is actually slightly wider. The moon's equatorial diameter - or width - is about 3,476 square kilometers. Meanwhile, it is about 3,600 square kilometers from Brisbane on Australia's eastern coast to Perth on its western coast.
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The Sargasso Sea Is The Only Sea On Earth That Doesn't Border A Coastline
Named for a type of seaweed known as sargassum, the Sargasso Sea is located entirely within the Atlantic Ocean, specifically within the Northern Atlantic Subtropical Gyre (a gyre is a large system of rotating ocean currents).
It is unique in that it is the only sea in the world that isn't bordered by land; instead, its boundaries are established by the Gulf Stream to the west, the Canary Current to the east, the North Atlantic Current to the north, and by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current to the south.
Sometimes described as a "golden floating rainforest," it plays a crucial role as a habitat, spawning and foraging ground, and migratory corridor for many endangered or threatened species, such as the porbeagle shark and the American and European eels.
The continent of Antarctica is the largest solid ice mass on Earth, covering approximately 5.4 million square miles. It makes up approximately 90% of the total volume of ice on Earth as well as about 70% of the planet's total fresh water supply.
That is so much water that if the ice sheet entirely melted, it would raise the global sea level by around 200 feet.