Derweze, the Door to Hell. Photo: NMK Photography

EARTH IS A MIGHTY BIG PLACE, and if you’re willing to strap on some snowshoes or trek through barren deserts there’s a whole lot of strangeness left out there.

1. The Southern Pole of Inaccessibility

Bust of Lenin at the Pole of Inaccessibility. Photo: RicHard-59

Location: Antarctica

Antarctica’s Pole of Inaccessibility — the point farthest from the sea in all directions — is probably the most remote spot on the planet. It’s also the coldest, with an average year-round temperature of -58.2C (-72F).

The exact location is always in dispute, but the best marker lies at 82°06’S 54°58’E, where a creepy plastic bust of Vladimir Lenin sits atop a cabin built by the Soviets in 1958. The cabin is completely buried in ice, but should you manage to dig it up there’s a golden visitor’s book left for intrepid souls to sign their name.

2. Derweze – the Door to Hell

Location: Turkmenistan

While drilling for gas near Derweze in 1971, a team of geologists in Turkmenistan accidentally collapsed an underground natural gas cavern. Rather than have the poisonous gas escape and kill the local semi-nomadic Teke people, the team lit it on fire.

It’s been burning ever since.

3. The Principality of Sealand

Location: English Channel

After WWII, several British gun platforms were abandoned in the English Channel.

In 1967, a pirate radio broadcaster took up residence in one of them and declared the fort an independent nation, and after a run-in with the Royal Navy a court ruled that Sealand was outside British jurisdiction.

It’s been operating more or less as its own country ever since, issuing passports, currency, and tourist visas. There was even an attempted coup that involved helicopters, a shotgun, and several hostages, resulting in a German diplomat being sent to the nation.

Freedom from legal restrictions has made Sealand an attractive base for online casinos and filesharers, so “custodianship” of the principality is currently on sale for the low, low price of 750 million euros.

4. Bouvet Island

View from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Location: South Atlantic Ocean

Technically a part of Norway, the nearest landmass to Bouvet Island is an empty chunk of Antarctica over 1750km (1090 miles) away.

Inhabited only by lichens, penguins, and seals, Bouvet nonetheless has its own internet domain (.bv).

The most remote island in the world has only been visited a handful of times by various research expeditions and explorers attempting to claim it for their homeland, and in 1964 a mysterious boat loaded with supplies was discovered without any trace of its passengers.

Though, in reality, the most interesting thing on the island is probably a ruined weather station. The film Alien vs. Predator is supposed to take place mostly on Bouvet.

5. Bir Tawil

Location: The Egyptian-Sudanese border

Bir Tawil is a barren trapezoid of land between Egypt and Sudan that is so useless neither country will admit they own it. Both states claim its much more attractive sister territory, the Hala’ib Triangle, but due to treaty terms neither state can claim both.

It’s little more than sand, rocks, and a well in the middle, but it has the distinction of being the only unclaimed piece of Earth outside of Antarctica.

6. The Zilov Gap

Location: Central Siberia

The Trans-Siberian railway was completed in 1916, but its builders made sure to avoid the Zilov Gap. It’s a 640km (400 mile) stretch of wilderness so inaccessible that it wasn’t crossed until 2000.

If you’ve seen The Long Way Round, this was the impassable section that forced Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman to hop the train.

As of 2005 a road through the Gap was under construction, but given the condition of the average Russian highway, my guess is it will still make for an adventure.

7. Mount Thor

Location: Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

Although not a particularly tall mountain, Mount Thor is home to the greatest purely vertical drop in the world.

At 1250m (4101ft), the drop is over one and a half times higher than the tallest man-made structure ever built — currently the Burj Dubai.

An American team set the world record for longest rappel in 2006 on Mount Thor; another attempt by a Canadian park ranger ended tragically when his equipment failed and he dropped to his death.

8. Mir Mine

Location: Mirny, Siberia

The Mir diamond mine in Mirny, Eastern Siberia, is one of the biggest man-made holes in the world. At 525m (1720ft) deep and 1200m (3900ft) wide, it’s so huge it can suck in helicopters flying over it due to the downward air flow (the air space above is, therefore, off limits).

Its sister mine, Udachnaya pipe, is equally gigantic, and both can easily be seen on Google Maps.

This article was originally published on December 8th, 2009

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