Log in to Frontiers
Discover natural wonders, architectural marvels and eye-opening events that prove our world really is a cabinet of curiosities
September 20, 2016 :: 9:30 AM
“It’s the kind of book that makes you want to pack in your workaday life and head out to places you’d never have dreamed of going, to see things you could not even have imagined,” says author Neil Gaiman, praising the latest print work by Atlas Obscura, a collaborative project that aims to discover our planet’s most amazing hidden spots and document them for posterity’s sake. The book, available later this month, catalogs the entirety of the people, places and things that inspire wonder in the most seasoned and worldly of travelers. The result is a compendium of more than 600 natural wonders, architectural marvels and eye-opening events—alongside brilliant photography, maps and charts—that prove our world is a cabinet of curiosities. Herein we’ve chosen to highlight seven of the globe’s most intriguing destinations.
THE EVERLASTING LIGHTNING STORM
Congo Mirador, Zulia | Venezuela
There’s something strange in the air where the Catatumbo River flows into Lake Maracaibo. For 260 nights out of the year, often for up to 10 hours at a time, the sky above the river is pierced by almost constant lightning, producing as many as 280 strikes per hour. Known as the relampago del Catatumbo (“ the Catatumbo lightning” ), this everlasting lightning storm has been raging for as long as people can remember. In 1595, Sir Francis Drake’s attempt to take the city of Maracaibo by night was foiled when the lightning storm’s flashes gave away his position to the city’s defenders. This happened again during the Venezuelan War of Independence in 1823, when Spanish ships were revealed by the lightning and fell to Simón Bolívar’s upstart navy. In fact, the lightning, visible from 25 miles away, is so regular that it’s been used as a navigation aid by ships and is known among sailors as the Maracaibo Beacon. Interestingly, little to no sound accompanies this fantastic light show, as the lightning moves from cloud to cloud, far above the ground. It’s still unknown exactly why this area—and this area alone—should produce such regular lightning. One theory holds that ionized methane gas rising from the Catatumbo bogs meets cold air pouring down from the Andes, helping to create the perfect conditions for a lightning storm. The best place to see the storm is from Congo Mirador, a village built on stilts on Lake Maracaibo. Head to Encontrados to make arrangements. N 9.563214 W 71.382437