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This is a land without water.

Image from Arian Zwegers/Flickr.


Lines of old fishing boats sit abandoned.

Image from Arian Zwegers/Wikimedia Commons.

Decaying like ruins from a Percy Bysshe Shelly poem.

The water they once depended on is nowhere in sight.

Image from Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images.

Now there is just sand. And scrub. And the slow decay of time.

Image from Gilad Rom/Flickr.

This is the former Aral Sea.

Image by Russians in Central Asia/Wikimedia Commons.

The Aral Sea, which lies between Southern Kazakhstan and Northern Uzbekistan, was once one of the world's largest saltwater lakes. Tens of thousands of people fished in its waters, producing one-sixth of the Soviet Union's fish intake.

But decades of mismanagement have destroyed it.

Beginning in the 1960s, Soviet engineers diverted the rivers that fed the Aral Sea, using their water to irrigate vast agricultural projects. And, without water, the Aral slowly began to dry out and disappear.

GIF from NordNordWest/Wikimedia Commons.

Leaving behind nothing.

Image from Staecker/Wikimedia Commons.

This was once a harbor.

Nothing but ruins...

Image from AFP/Victor Vasenin/Getty Images.

... and dust ...

Image from Martijn.Munneke/Flickr.

...and poison.

Image from Sebastian Kluger/Wikimedia Commons.

As the waters receded, they left behind vast plains covered in salt and toxic chemicals. And without plant life to hold it in place, winds spread the noxious mix of pesticides, industrial runoff, and other chemicals into the air.

Cancer and illness are sadly common here.

The land has a new name now: the Aralkum Desert.

Image from upyernoz/Flickr.

But, among all this, there is a glimmer of good news.

Starting in the 1990s, the nations around the Aral Sea began working on restoration projects. And while many of these projects have ended in failure, a few have succeeded.

In Kazakhstan, the government built a massive dam, called Dike Kokaral, around one of the remnants of the original Aral Sea.

Image by Antoine Lambroschini/AFP/Getty Images.

The dam holds back water from one of the major rivers, sacrificing the larger basin's water supply in order to replenish a smaller area known as the North Aral Sea.

Because of Dike Kokaral, the North Aral Sea is rising again.

The black outline shows the original coastline. GIF from Sibom/Wikimedia Commons.

Fish stocks have returned as well, helping to revive the fishing industry.

Image by Antoine Lambroschini/AFP/Getty Images.

The water's return even affected the local climate, returning rain to the area. This is just a tiny modicum of healing in a gravely ill region. But it's something.

Water is a precious resource and it's easy to forget how much we depend on clean, accessible water. These images show what can happen when we disregard it.

The next time someone claims there's no way humans can affect the environment, show them the desert that was once a sea.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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