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Welcome To Kamchatka: Far Eastern Russia’s Wild, Volcanic Peninsula

Kamchatka Russia Koryaksky Volcano

The Koryaksky Volcano rises through the clouds above the Kamchatka Peninsula in far eastern Russia. Source:

Unless you spent long nights in your college dorm room hovering over plastic armies in the board game Risk, you have probably never heard of Kamchatka. About the size of Italy in terms of land area, this peninsula in far eastern Russia has less people living in it than Florence — but it is attracting more and more tourists every year. They come to see the region’s 160 volcanoes and the populations of brown bears, eagles, foxes, and coastal birds that thrive in this immense wilderness.

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Looks Like A Desert, Isn’t A Desert: The Story Of Lençóis Maranhenses Park

At the northeastern tip of Brazil lies a sandy oasis that transforms with the seasons: Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.

In the winter, the stark white-sanded park — which when translated from Portuguese literally means “bedsheets of Maranhão,” the state where the park resides — resembles more of a harsh desert than a tropical wellspring. Once the rainy season takes over in the summer months, the 600-square-mile expanse becomes a seemingly endless range of sand punctuated by turquoise-blue pools. Like Canada’s Spotted Lake, it’s hard to believe that this isn’t the product of some Photoshop alchemy.

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Photo Of The Day: An Animal Rescue Activist Saves An Orangutan From Deforestation In Indonesia

Orangutan populations are quickly diminishing in Indonesia and Malaysia.

This endangered species’ habitats on tropical islands like Borneo and Sumatra are threatened by commercial logging, mining, and deforestation for pulp and paper. Furthermore, according to Michelle Desilets, executive director of the Orangutan Land Trust, “the conversion of forest for oil palm is the single greatest threat to [their] survival in the wild.”

Palm oil–which is found in cookies, soap, doughnuts, and even cosmetics like lipstick–is in incredibly high demand as the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, igniting many palm oil companies to exploit areas where the oil is found at any cost. Indonesia and Malaysia are not only home to the large red apes, but they account for 85% of the world’s palm oil production. The global demand for the oil has resulted in massive forest destruction throughout the two countries, especially in Indonesia where palm oil is the country’s third largest export and the most valuable agricultural product.

Many palm oil plantations face criticism from environmentalists who work endlessly to increase public pressure on the palm oil industry. Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, and his team rescue orangutans displaced by palm oil plantations, or orphaned orangutans whose families were killed so they could be illegally kept as pets by humans. Singleton’s program releases most of the apes back into the wild in much safer forests.

Adi Irawan of International Animal Rescue Indonesia (IAR)–another organization concerned with saving orangutans–explains, “There are more orangutans in the tiny remaining patches of forest in the plantation, along with other protected species such as proboscis monkeys. All of the animals on the plantation are threatened. The company must stop clearing the forest immediately.”

With fewer than 7,000 orangutans believed to be living in the Sumatran wilds, environmentalists hasten their pace in rescuing the endangered apes.

“The definition of a refugee is someone whose homeland is no longer available to them, and that’s exactly the case with these orangutans,” says Singleton.”These are the survivors of this annihilation of the forest, and everything that lives in it.”

America’s Five Best Road Trips

Monument Valley Best Road Trips

Monument Valley, Utah. Image Source: 2 Wheels 1 Cause

There is something poetically American about heading down the open road. With nearly 4 million miles of American road to navigate, you can weave in and out of awe-inspiring natural wonders, pass through small towns and bustling cities, taste different cuisines, and discover rich histories. While you’re at it, you can experience the romance–or, if you’re anything like the family from Vacation, the headaches–of the Great American Road Trip.

However, as most anyone who has spent more than two hours in a car will know, the United States is also home to many miles of highway that feel like purgatory (Ohio). Avoid those soul-sucking routes and give in to profound wanderlust with these five amazing road trips.

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