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8 of the most fascinating places on Earth you'll probably never see in person.

There are plenty of beautiful and accessible places where you can go interact with our natural world. These aren't them.

8 of the most fascinating places on Earth you'll probably never see in person.

Technology is making our planet — all 197 million square miles of it — feel smaller every day. We can use digital underwater maps to explore the Great Barrier Reef, drones to fly over pods of Belugas in the Arctic, and high-resolution satellite footage to explore almost every spot on Earth.

It can be hard to imagine there are still places on Earth where most human feet have never stepped, remote wild worlds we've never seen with our own eyes. But they do exist, and they're pretty darn magical. Here are just a few.


1. McMurdo Station, a remote scientific outpost in Antarctica.

Aside from scientists, not a lot of mammals make their home in Antarctica. There are plenty of reasons for this.

Image via Eli Duke/Flickr.

First, it’s located at the South Pole in the middle of a world park where no country is allowed to claim ownership, build settlements, or extract resources. Second, it can get extremely cold. Like, -58 degrees Fahrenheit (-50 degrees Celsius) cold. That's right. 58 degrees BELOW ZERO.

Because sometimes even penguins can't even.

McMurdo Station is accessible via an airstrip in the summertime, and about 1,000 personnel from around the world work and live there. Before winter sets in, almost all of them will leave. At the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, one resident very famously had to self-administer chemotherapy drugs to herself after she discovered she had breast cancer since there was no other doctor on site all winter.

2. Fewer than 10 people on Earth know where to find the world’s oldest tree.

For hundreds of years, a solitary Acacia tree named Ténéré grew in the middle of the Sahara desert. It was the most isolated tree in the world, with roots stretching 118 feet below the surface. That is, until 1973, when a drunk truck driver plowed into it and killed it.

Any of these trees could be the oldest in the world. Image via Dcrjsr/Wikimedia Commons.

That sad story — coupled with the human tendency to want to touch and take selfies with everything cool — means it's not surprising that biologists have decided to keep the location of the world’s oldest remaining tree a closely-guarded secret.

Here’s what we do know: Methuselah is a bristlecone pine tree located somewhere in California’s White Mountains. Scientists have dated it at about 5,000 years, meaning it started growing before the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids. Another tree, Prometheus, was discovered in 1964 and may have been even older than Methuselah. Except that was only discovered after a scientist cut it down.

Humans: We can’t be trusted with anything.

GIF from "Family Matters."

3. Only three people have ever been inside the Mariana Trench, and one of them is James Cameron, because of course it is.

Some hipsters would have you believe the deepest place on Earth is the second-to-last page of a David Foster Wallace novel, but they’d be wrong.

Welcome to Challenger Deep, site of your next nightmare. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

That honor really belongs to Challenger Deep, a crevasse inside the Mariana Trench. This underwater trough 1,500 miles long and about 40 miles wide is located in the deep Pacific ocean at a point east of the Philippines and south of Japan near the island of Guam. And when we say "deep," we really mean it. Challenger Deep is nearly seven miles underwater. As National Geographic pointed out: "If Mount Everest were dropped into the Marianas Trench, its peak would still be more than a mile underwater."

Only three people have been inside Challenger Deep: Navy Lt. Dan Walsh and Jacques Piccard descended into it in 1960, and director James Cameron traveled there in 2012. If you want to repeat their feat, good luck. There’s no natural light inside the depths of the Mariana Trench, the water temperature is barely above freezing, and the water pressure is about 8 tons per square inch, or about 1,000 times what we experience at sea level.


Don't worry deep sea lovers, he'll be back.

4. Tristan da Cunha is 2,000 miles from anywhere.

Tristan da Cunha is the most remote place on the planet where people still live. Not a lot of people, mind you. The current population is about 270 people, and most of those are descendants of the original families who settled there in the 1800s.

Image via Brian Gratwicke/Flickr.

Tristan da Cunha is a tiny archipelago of islands in the south Atlantic with South Africa about 1,700 miles away and South America about 2,000 miles away. It’s so remote that some people think it inspired the mysterious island in "Lost."

There are no smoke monsters on Tristan da Cunha ... that we know of. GIF via "Lost."

Tristan da Cunha was discovered in the 1500s and annexed by the British in the 1800s as a means of keeping an eye on Napoleon (who was exiled to the nearby island of St. Helena). If you want to go there today, it is only accessible by boat.

5. Before 2010, the only way into Mêdog County was over a suspension bridge.

Mêdog County is one of China’s wild natural treasures. Located in the mountains of the Tibet Autonomous Region (occupied Tibet adjacent to Mainland China), it is home to dozens of rare animals and thousands native plants.

Image via Croquant/Wikimedia Commons.

It’s also China’s least populated county. Of the 1.35 billion people living in China, only 12,000 people make their home in Mêdog County, mostly working as farmers. Part of that comes from Mêdog’s remoteness. For decades, the Chinese government tried and failed to build a reliable road into the county. Their efforts were thwarted by mudslides, avalanches, and extreme winter weather. Until five years ago, the only way into Mêdog County was through an overland mountain path and across a 650-foot suspension bridge. An all-weather road was completed in 2013. And "all-weather" means "passable by all-terrain vehicle for nine months of the year." Unless you're a yeti, in which case, you do you.

6. Svalbard, Norway, is the world’s biggest deep seed freeze.

If you can’t imagine a day without your down-filled parka, then the Svalbard islands are your 24,000-square-mile Arctic paradise. Located above the Arctic Circle, this Norwegian territory doesn’t experience days and nights like the world at lower latitudes. Instead it will go through months of complete darkness followed by months of endless daylight.

Svalbard in brighter, daylit times. Image via Rob Oo/Flickr.

If your circadian rhythms can handle it, you can visit Svalbard by catching one of the daily flights from Oslo and then join the 2,700 residents in the town of Longyearbyen for a plate of kjøttboller and a glass of akevitt.

The Global Seed Vault is built into the side of a frozen mountain. Image via Martyn Smith/Flickr.

Or check out the Global Seed Vault, an underground bunker storing most of the world’s plant and food seeds in case of an extinction-level catastrophe. Svalbard was chosen as the location due to its remoteness and its protective layer of permafrost. More than 720,000 seeds are kept in the Global Seed Vault from more than 4,000 plant species.

7. SGang Gwaay is visited so rarely, iStock doesn’t have photos of it.

SGang Gwaay is a tiny island tucked into the southwest corner of the lower part of Moresby Island in Haida Gwaii, Canada. Occupied by the Indigenous Haida people until the late 1880s, it is of great cultural significance to the Haida and was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991.

Haida Totem poles face the ocean in Skidegate, Haida Gwaii. Image via Karen Neoh/Flickr.

The village of SG̱ang Gwaay Llnagaay (Nan Sdins or, formerly, Ninstints) was the primary settlement on the tiny island. Its beaches are dotted with cedar mortuary poles and totems along with the remains of several longhouses.

Orcas are often spotted off the coast of Haida Gwaii.

Getting to SGang Gwaay includes a short plane ride from Vancouver or a two-day drive from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, plus a six-hour ferry ride to Haida Gwaii. Once there, travelers must purchase a permit to enter Gwaii Hanaas National Marine Park by sea kayak or boat then take a short course on responsible tourism. After that, it’s just a few lovely days' journey to reach this remote and magical place.

8. Gangkhar Puensum is the world’s tallest unclimbed mountain.

Mountain climbers of the world rejoice: There are still peaks to conquer, and Gangkhar Puensum is one of them. Located in the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan at its border with China, Gangkhar Puensum reaches 24,836 feet (by comparison, Mount Everest is 29,029 feet). Perpetually cloaked in snow, its name in Bhutanese means "white peak of the three spiritual brothers."

Image via GradytheBadger/Wikimedia Commons.

Four separate expeditions in 1985 and 1986 failed to reach the summit. No one has tried since.

Sadly, if climbing Gangkhar Puensum is your dream, it must remain unfulfilled. The Bhutan government has prohibited mountain climbing (at heights greater than 6,000 meters since 1994 and then altogether in 2003) out of respect for the spirits and gods that locals believe dwell in and around the mountains. It is an aggressive move, but one the government believes is necessary to protect the Bhutanese society, religion, and environment from external forces.

In the meantime, the view in photos alone is pretty darn spectacular.

How many had you heard of? Think your friends will have heard of more?

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

via USO

Army Capt. Justin Meredith used the Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program to read to his son and family while deployed in the Middle East.

True

One of the biggest challenges deployed service members face is the feeling of being separated from their families, especially when they have children. It's also very stressful for children to be away from parents who are deployed for long periods of time.

For the past four years, the USO has brought deployed service members and their families closer through a wonderful program that allows them to read together. The Bob Hope Legacy Reading Program gives deployed service members the ability to choose a book, read it on camera, then send both the recording and book to their child.

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