50 Jarring Nature Photos
A massive wave that hit a lighthouse off the coast of France in 1989 - the man in the lighthouse survived. (Photo-Jean Guichard)
The natural world is full of beauty, wonder, and mystery. Nature has the power to create life and the power to take it away. As this collection of photographs show, the natural world is full of surprises that can be destructive and deadly or amazing and inspiring.
As these images were collected on the world wide web, some may be post-edited or altered. User discretion is advised.
In this now-famous photo snapped by Jean Guichard in 1989, a massive wave is nearly engulfing the Phares dans la Tempete, la Jument, a lighthouse on the northwest coast of France, near Brittany, that ironically translates to “Lighthouse in a storm.” During this storm, the lighthouse keeper, Theodore Malgorne, may look like he is calmly watching the monster waves, but he is actually awaiting rescue. Malgorne has a few colleagues tucked safely in the lighthouse, out of harm’s way. Although it looks like the wall of water is powerful enough to destroy the lighthouse, the structure received little damage and is still standing today.
A woman went camping 30 years ago and heard strange noises in the middle of the night so she stuck her camera outside the tent and snapped this photo.
Wikipedia says that raccoons are solitary mammals who mostly keep to themselves. This photo begs to differ! It looks like a raccoon rave is going on at this campsite. Raccoons are nocturnal so they do spend most of their waking hours in the darkness. They are omnivores and opportunistic eaters. For that reason, they are generally considered to be a nuisance animal that will tear up trash cans and gardens. Campers need to take extra care to secure their food. Raccoons have tiny little hands, but they are extremely dexterous and can open coolers and boxes. The woman who took this photo outside her tent probably didn’t have her food secured.
President Theodore Roosevelt riding a moose across a river in 1908.
This photo is a fake. It was created for a political ad when Teddy Roosevelt was running for the presidency for the Progressive Party, whose mascot was the moose. During this election, Roosevelt was running against Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic candidate, and William Howard Taft, the Republican incumbent. The photography firm of Underwood and Underwood carefully cut a photograph of Roosevelt on a horse and superimposed it on the image of a moose crossing a river. This image appeared in the September 8, 1912, edition of the New York Tribune.
Sylvester Stallone with the turtles he kept from Rocky, which are now over 40 years old.
Remember the scene in 1976’s “Rocky” when Sylvester Stallone’s character bought two tiny turtles from his girlfriend, Adrian, who worked at a pet store? Well, those red eared sliders, Cuff and Link, are still alive and celebrating their 44th birthday. When filming of “Rocky” wrapped up, Stallone kept the turtles and still has them today. In fact, word on the street is that Cuff and Link will have a cameo appearance in “Creed 2”. Unfortunately, Butkus, the bull mastiff that also appeared in “Rocky” crossed the rainbow bridge in 1981.
Morocco's tree climbing goats.
It is not the goats that are special in Morocco. It is the trees. The Argania tree is a rare tree that produces such a tasty nut that the local goats just can’t get enough. They will even climb to the top branches in order to pick the delicious nuts. Goats are natural climbers and are extremely sure-footed. Their cousins, the mountain goats, often scale high cliffs on the narrowest of ledges, so climbing on a average size tree is not a difficult task for them. Goats are herd animals, so once one goat spots an Argania tree, all his friends follow him. Soon the tree is full of goats.
B-25 bombers fly over Mount Vesuvius in Italy while it erupts in March 1944 during the Italian Campaign of World War II
The same Mount Vesuvius that erupted in 79 AD and buried the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under layers of rock and ash has actually erupted several times throughout history. In fact, it is the only volcano located on the European mainland that has erupted in the last several decades. The last significant eruption of the volcano occurred in March of 1944. This eruption destroyed four nearby villages. During the eruption, the U.S. Army Air Force was stationed in nearby Terzigno and the volcanic eruption damaged several aircraft, but not these B-25 bombers who got a bird’s eye view of the eruption.
A very wise dog waiting until his buddy finishes eating!
This dog doesn’t want to mess with the skunk. Smart dog! This smelling mammal found in North and South America is closely related to the weasel despite its nickname, stink badger. The skunk has an effective way of keeping predators away. It sprays a strong smelling liquid from a gland near its anus. Curious dogs are often the unfortunate victim of a skunk spraying. There are special shampoos on the market that are said to remove the odor of skunk from dog fur, or you could try the home remedy of bathing the dog in tomato juice.
This tornado that was caught on camera near Oklahoma City back in 1898.
When this tornado struck the town of Waynoka, Oklahoma, in May of 1898, someone was prepared with a camera to capture the twister. Some claim that the two unidentified gentlemen in this photograph were engaging in storm chasing when this image was taken, but David Hoadley, who was born in 1938, a whole forty years after this photograph was taken, is the first recognized storm chaser. Hoadley began his career as a storm chaser in 1956 in North Dakota, using date from nearby airports and weather offices. Hoadley founded “Storm Track” magazine. If the men in this pic were, indeed, storm chasing, they were most likely just amateurs who liked to watch wicked weather.
Mammatus clouds over Nebraska after a tornado.
Because they are said to resemble the udders of an animal, this unique cloud formation is called mammatus clouds, or mammary clouds. These odd-looking clouds are formed by cold air that drops down to form pouches in the convection of warm air. Mammatus clouds most often occur in conjunction with anvil clouds, cumulonimbus clouds, and cirrus clouds and form on the heels of thunderstorms. They have also been associated with volcanic ash clouds. This cloud phenomenon was first recorded by William Clement Ley in 1894. Mammatus clouds can be dangerous for pilots because they form in downdrafts.
Tippi Hedren and her tiger Gregory on the set of her film, Roar 1981.
Roar, the 1981 film starring Noel Marshall and his then-wife, Tippi Hedren, along with Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, is considered to be the most dangerous movie ever made, but for Hedren it was just another day at home. She first started collecting exotic animals in 1972, and moved a collection of beautiful tigers into her home alongside her husband and daughter. In 1983 she founded the Roar Foundation to “educate the public about the dangers of private ownership of exotic animals." Hedren's foundation helps provide veterinarian care for large cats as well as African bush elephants. It's an amazing post-film career.
Abandoned by his mother in a Chinese forest, Qizai is the only known Brown Panda in the world.
Poor Qizai! He was bullied by other pandas because of his unusual coloring and was abandoned by his mother when he was just a few months old. Some sort of genetic mutation gave Qizai brown and white fur instead of the black and white fur that other pandas have. In fact, Qizai is the only known brown panda in the world. Fortunately, Qizai was found by humans and taken to the Foping Panda Valley in China where he is safe from bullying and thriving. Now seven years old, caretakers are hoping to find him a mate.
An apocalyptic sunset over Moscow.
A mountain of storm clouds and a beautiful sunset combined to create this stunning image over the streets of Moscow. It is amazing that a simple collection of visible water vapors can form such powerful and majestic billows in the sky. These clouds indicated that a storm is either approaching Moscow or has just passed the area. The sunlight playing on the clouds makes for a dramatic scene that looks like it was taken from a movie backdrop.
Terri and Steve Irwin with a croc at their Australia Zoo in 1996.
My, how we miss Steve Irwin! The Crocodile Hunter, pictured her with his wife, Terri, was a more than just a zookeeper. He was a conservationist, educator, showman, and television personality. The world was shocked when Irwin was suddenly killed by a wild animal he as filming. In the Batt Reef of Australia on September 4, 2006, a stingray pierced Irwin’s heart with its barbed tail. It was a freak attack, but it robbed the world of a popular animal expert and TV host. Irwin once said, “I have no fear of losing my life – if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it.”
Catatumbo lightning only happens over the Catatumbo River, Venezuela.
An unusual atmospheric phenomenon takes place in only one location on Earth, the mouth of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela. The magnificent lightning display takes place 140 to 160 nights a year, and during those times, the lightning can be seen for up to ten hours with more than 250 strikes per hour. The lightning originates from storms that pick up energy as the winds blow across Maracaibo Lake and the bogs that surround the lake. Mountains are on three sides of the area, so the air masses are forced to climb, picking up electrical charges on the way. This area of Venezuela has the most sustained lightning activity of any spot on the planet.
Cell tower after snowstorm.
Cold and menacing, these ice spears are the result of high winds sweeping across and open space until it hits a structure, like lighthouses, fences, or this cell phone tower. Like horizontal icicles, the icy tentacles are as destructive as they are beautiful. The weight of the ice can damage the integrity of the structure and cause a significant amount of damage. It could be that this technician has been tasked with scaling the cell phone tower to chisel off some of the ice…a difficult and dangerous job.
Incredible lightning storm over Lake Michigan.
Just off the Chicago shoreline, Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes, is a major factor in the city’s weather patterns. The third largest of the Great Lakes and the only one located entirely in the United States, Lake Michigan is technically a large freshwater sea instead of a lake. The massive body of water intensified thunderstorms and adds fuel to them. The photographer who snapped this image had impeccable timing and was able to capture several lightning strikes in the lake in one impressive shot.
Lens shaped clouds that can be seen 60 miles away.
People have mistaken lens clouds for UFOs and when you look at these saucer-shaped clouds, it is easy to see how that could happen. Lens clouds, lenticular clouds, and fairly uncommon cloud formations. Lens clouds are formed when air travels over a mountain that disrupts the air flow. Moist stable air causes the water vapor to condense and form these round, flat clouds. You have to admit, they look other-worldly so it is understandable that so many people think they are seeing a flying saucer when it is just a lens cloud.
Stunning 50-ft blue ice monolith in the Antarctic.
Some of these photographs floating around the internet claim this is a tsunami wave that was flash frozen, but that is fake news. This is actually an exciting example of the natural phenomenon of blue ice. The ice is extremely thick…so thick, in fact, that as light passes through it, the red wave lengths are filtered out so the ice only reflects back blue. Formed of compressed ice with tiny air bubbles, the giant ice monolith in Antarctica is frozen year-round, though some ice melts off the surface in the summer months. New layers are added in the winter months.
One of the rarest animals on the planet, the Black Jaguar.
It takes two spotted black jaguar parents to produce spotted black jaguar cubs. The animal’s fur is a rich golden color and the spots are a deep black. Black jaguars were once considered to be a separate animal from the standard jaguar but biologists now classify them as different colorings of the same animal. Jaguars are most closely related to panthers and leopards and all are members of the feline family of big cats, a group that also included lions and tigers. Like their other family members, the black jaguar is a skilled and dangerous hunter.
Photographer Darren Pearson captured this incredible long exposure shot of lightning striking a tree.
Ben Franklin famously demonstrated the lightning is really electricity slicing through the air. In this image by Darren Pearson, we can really see the power of the electricity. Pearson claimed he took this shot using a long exposure on his camera which captured the movement of the electricity as it passed through the tree and into the ground. The color changes show us how the intensity of the electricity dissipated after it is grounded. Some critics on the internet claim that this image is fake and that the color and pattern of the lightning has been photoshopped. Whether that is true or not, this is still a striking image.
Proof that cats are smarter than dogs.
What a clever kitty hiding from this pair of Doberman pinschers! Dobermans may look menacing, but they are actually really good with cats, kids, and other dogs. The breed has gotten a bad rep as a dangerous dog, partially thanks to Hollywood’s portrayal of Dobermans as fierce and aggressive. Developed in Germany in the late 1800s, the Dobermans were bred to be guard dogs to protect tax collectors who were carrying large sums of cash around the countryside. Sure, they are good guard dogs, but that just means these gentle giants will protect their human and feline family, too.
Sadly, this Tasmanian Tiger family at the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart in 1910, is extinct.
The thylacine was also called the Tasmanian tiger and the Tasmanian wolf, though it was neither tiger, not wolf. It was actually the largest carnivorous marsupial that lived in modern times. Native to Tasmania, Australia, and New Guinea, the thylacine was a shy, nocturnal apex predator. The animal is believed to have gone extinct in the 20th century, though its numbers were declining for quite a while. Disease, domesticated dogs, hunting, and habitat loss were all contributing factors to the demise of the Tasmanian tiger.
A crab and sea stars feast upon a squid carcass.
It’s the circle of life. Nothing in nature goes to waste. A dead animal becomes food for the living. As this photograph has captured, a couple of sea stars and a crab are all sharing a meal together and a squid carcass is the main course. When we look at the adorable and peaceful-looking sea stars, it is hard to imagine that they are carnivores, but they are. In the wild, sea stars will eat snails, clams, barnacles, and sea urchins. There are
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic exploration vessel ‘Endurance’, as it sits stuck in sea ice, later to be crushed from the force and sink, 1915
The 2002 movie told the remarkable story of survival of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew of the aptly-named Endurance in the frigid Antarctic ice. Shackleton was racing to be the first person to the South Pole, but was beat out to pole by Roald Amundsen in 1911. It was the return voyage that would test Shackleton’s endurance. The ship became trapped in the shifting ice and was slowly crushed to bits by the powerful ice. The captain and crew survived by camping on the ice for 497 days until they braved the open sea in life rafts to reach an inhabited island.
Soviet soldiers feeding polar bears in the 1950s.
It takes some guts to hand-feed a polar bear, but that’s exactly what these Soviet soldiers did. This picture was snapped in the Chukchi Peninsula in the Soviet Union. In this harsh environment, the temperature can did to 25-degrees below zero and the snow can be so deep that animals have a hard time finding food. This polar bear mama and her cubs were facing starvation until the soldiers fed them tin cans of condensed milk, an item they had in abundance. The mama bear licked the milk from the can and fed some to her cubs. Near starvation must have mellowed this polar bear. A mother polar bear protecting her young is among the most dangerous animals on the planet.
Photo of a Morning Glory cloud formation taken from a plane near Burketown (plane heading to Normanton) in QLD, Australia
These look fake, but the morning glory cloud is a real and rare meteorological phenomenon that only occurs with some predictability in the southern region of the Gulf of Carpentaria, located in Northern Australia. Morning glory clouds are formed of low-level atmospheric waves that develop into a series of waves or rolls. From late September to early November, visitors to Burketown, where this photo was taken, can often see this strange morning glory clouds. In fact, the area attracts visitors, weather experts, nature photographers, and glider pilots who are all hoping to experience these unique cloud formations.
Texas State Capitol Austin tornado May 4, 1922.
A tornado outbreak on May 4, 1922, spawned a twister that struck Austin, Texas, before splitting into two tornadoes. This was the worst tornado disaster in Austin. Damage from the twin twisters was wide spread, with damage reported a St. Edward’s University, East Austin, the University of Texas, Manchaca, the State Institute for Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Colored Youths, and Oak Hill. One person was killed on the campus of St. Edward’s University when a roof was torn from a dormitory. An additional 13 people were killed throughout Austin and more than 50 people were injured. The funnel cloud hovering about the State Capitol building in this photograph would soon split into the twin twisters.
The Arctic hare, also known as the polar rabbit.
The arctic hare has evolved to have some unique adaptations that make it better suited for life in the frigid ice than its cousins in the south. The most noticeable adaptation is in the animal’s fur color. During the summer months, the hare sports brownish-gray fur that helps the animal blend into its surroundings. But in the winter months, the hare’s fur becomes stark white. The white fur helps camouflage the animal in the snow and ice. The arctic hare also has a lower surface area to volume ration than other rabbis. Its shorter legs and stockier physique helps it to retain more body heat. The paws of the arctic hare are padded fur that helps give the animal traction in the ice.
The craziest thunderstorm photo ever.
The complex relationship between lightning and tornadoes is one that scientists are only just beginning to study. While visible air-to-ground lightning is common in thunderstorms, we often see a decrease in lightning strikes during tornado outbreaks. That doesn’t mean there is not lightning being produced. There is actually a lot of lightning, it is just air-to-air, or cloud-to-cloud lightning, as shown in this photograph. This type of lightning never reaches the ground, therefore, it is not recorded as a lightning strike. This means that the energy from the lightning is staying in the clouds, adding fuel to tornadoes.
The evolution of a tornado.
In this image, we see the progression of a wispy funnel cloud into a full-fledged tornado. The swirling cloud begins as a small tendril and ends in a destructive twister. While this resulting twister looks menacing, it is not as large and deadly as it could be. The F-Scale, of Fujita Scale, is the scale used to rate the intensity of tornadoes and it is based on the damage that a tornado can do to structures and trees. Tornadoes are rated an F-1 through F-5 and meteorologists survey the damage on the ground or via airplane to determine the rating that the tornado will receive.
The exact moment lightning strikes water.
Water and electricity don’t play well together. So when lightning strikes over the ocean, it is a dangerous combination. The US National Weather Service says that the average lighting strike contains 300 million volts and 30,000 amps, which is more than enough power to kill a person. When lightning hits water, the electrical discharge spread out horizontally across the surface of the water, rather than vertically. Fish and other marine life dodge the danger by swimming deeper, but humans tend to stay at or near the surface of the water, increasing their risk of death from lightning. If an electrical storm hits while you are at sea, your best chances of survival are to find shelter or dive deeper.
The Milky Way over the ancient Pyramids of Giza.
Our home, the Milky Way galaxy, is a barred spiral galaxy that creates the illusion of a milky pathway across the night sky. Ancient cultures have long invented myths and legends associated with the Milky Way. In Egyptian mythology, the legends said that the Milky Way was a stream of cow’s milk from the cow goddess, Bat, who ruled over fertility. The milky appearance of the Milky Way is from the light of so many stars that they are indistinguishable for each other but present as a light and dust linear glow.
The moment you realize this is only one photo.
That perfectly horizontal line of the lake creates a bit of an optical illusion. It tricks the eye and makes this image look like two different photographs, but in reality, it is one pic. What a stunning scene this is! Who wouldn’t want to travel down this winding waterfront road, and look up to see this massive sweep of mountainside. The low-handing clouds just make it look more picturesque. Mountains and lakes make for some of the more spectacular scenery.
The phenomenon of ball lightning.
Ball lightning is one of the most unusual and unexplained type of lightning. It is, technically speaking, a luminous, spherical atmospheric electrical phenomenon, which just means it is a round, glowing ball of electricity. Ball lightning is so rare that hard scientific data on this freak of nature remains scanty, but scientists have been able to replicate the phenomenon in the laboratory setting. Ball lightning is associated with thunderstorms, but last much longer than the split-second bolt lightning. The ball of lightning has been reported to explode after a few moments, emitting a strong sulfur smell in its wake.
The sunset over the Giza Pyramids, as seen from Cairo.
When you see a sunset as spectacular as this it is easy to see why the ancient Egyptians through Giza was a special place. Everyone associated the city of Giza, the third-largest city in Egypt, with the Giza Plateau, which is the location of some of the best known monuments in the world…in Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx. There are, in fact, a number of other, smaller pyramids, temples, and structures at the site. Giza was an important location because of its proximity to Memphis, an ancient capital that translated to “the beautiful wall.”
These little white fluff balls are Honduran white bats that snuggle together in large leaves - not in caves.
Who says all bats are dark, scary, cave-dwellers that descent on unsuspecting people to get tangled in their hair or bite their necks via vampire fangs? These adorable, fluffy Honduran white bats are breaking old bat stereotypes with their cute, non-threatening appearances. The Honduran white bat is only one of six known bat species that are all white in color. These bats don’t lurk in dank caves and spooky attics. They make their own shelters by forming plant leaves into makeshift tents. And they won’t suck your blood either; the Honduran white bat is a frugivore and eats only fruit.
This Deep Sea Jellyfish Looks Like It Came From Outer Space
Jellyfish are fascinating organisms. They are classified as marine animals, yet they have no brains, no blood, and no bones. Found all over the world in salt and fresh water, jellyfish have adapted a few fun tricks. Some species of jellyfish use a green fluorescent protein to become bioluminescent. That means they create their own light, like fireflies. Still others are poisonous and can sting anything that gets too close to them. While most of these stings only cause mild irritation, some can be deadly. The Box jellyfish is one of the most deadly animals on the planet. One sting carries enough venom to kill several humans.
Incredible supercell storm near Howard, Kansas.
You can almost feel the power of this storm. That’s because it is a supercell thunderstorm, a type of storm that is categorized by strong, continuously rotating updrafts. We often see supercell storms form in the Plains states, like in Kansas where this impressive supercell was photographed. They are often observed in the area of South America known as the Tornado Corridor, too. The Tornado Corridor is in parts of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. Supercell thunderstorms influence the weather as far away as twenty miles from the storm and they can last up to four hours.
Volcano Eruption In Chile.
It is a good thing that Chile’s Calbuco Volcano is surrounded by a National Reserve. Still more than 1,500 people were evacuated when the volcano erupted three times in April of 2015. The last time this volcanic mountain peak erupted was in 1972. Chile and its Calbuco Volcano are located in the Ring of Fire, a ring of volcanic activity that circles the Pacific Ocean. Almost all…all but three…of the most significant volcanic eruptions in the last 11,000 years happened in volcanoes located in the Ring of Fire. Plate tectonics is responsible for the volcanic activity.
When upset, baby elephants throw themselves into the mud like a child having a temper tantrum.
What a big baby! Sometimes human babies get overwhelmed, overtired, and frustrated, and the only way they can release the stress is by throwing a temper tantrum. Well, human babies don’t have a monopoly on the tantrum front. Baby elephants have been known to break down and throw a tantrum every now and then. When they do, it is adorably hilarious and downright cute. The baby elephant shown here has thrown himself onto the mud, much to his mother’s dismay, because some aspect of elephant life hasn’t gone his way.
Water density, temperature and salinity of the glacial melt water and the off shore waters of Gulf of Alaska makes them too difficult to mix.
Not all water is the same. The make-up and temperature of ocean water differs greatly and the different types of water don’t always mix well. As this photograph shows, the density and salinity of the fresh water running off a glacier melt is so vastly different than the salty sea water of the Gulf of Alaska. The result is a distinct line where the two types of water meet but don’t mix.
Where did everybody go?
As their native habitat diminishes, bears are finding their ways into neighborhoods and backyards. Naturally curious, it is not surprising to see these bears trying out the unfamiliar playthings. This adorable little bear cub has discovered the fun of a slide. Chances are, this little guy’s mother is nearby, watching carefully to make sure her baby is safe. Just because you don’t see her, doesn’t mean she isn’t there. If mama bear senses danger, she will be right there.
Water spout in Tampa Bay Florida.
Water spouts can occur in fair weather where there is not storm of tornado activity. They can form on the surface of the water and swirl upward reaching for the clouds. Once the water spout is fully formed, the funnel cloud is clearly visible. They form along the base line of developing cumulus clouds. They don’t often travel far because they form when there isn’t much wind to move them. If a water spout does reach land, fair weather water spouts usually dissipate quickly. They don’t venture too far inland.
You're looking at a spider’s foot under an electron microscope.
Looking at a spider’s foot under a microscope, it is easy to see how these creepy-crawlies can cling to the ceilings and walk on walls. The claw-like structures not only help the spider defy gravity, but it also helps them to navigate their own spider webs. Spiders don’t get caught in their own webs because they know which strands are sticky and which one are not. A spider will place the sticky stings in places that insects are likely to get caught, and they build in non-sticky strands where they will rest to await their prey.