“The profoundest satisfaction in travel is a sense of discovery, the private thrill of seeing something new or seeing it in a new way."
In the heart of every traveller is a longing for adventure and the desire for discovery. Every trip brings with it new experiences, but imagine stumbling upon a previously unnoticed anomaly or uncovering an unexplored wonder of nature.
We’ve put together a list of the ten most spectacular travel discoveries from across the globe.
Hint: If you plan on going backpacking anytime soon, make sure to check out our Great Backpacker Giveaway.
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
You don’t have to be interested in speleology (the scientific study of caves) to appreciate the magnificence and beauty of the recently discovered Son Doong Cave. Replacing Borneo’s Deer Cave as the world’s largest cave passage, Son Doong was first discovered by local farmer Ho Khanh. Although his discovery was made almost two decades ago, only recently has the British Cave Research Association begun extensive exploration of it.
Located in Vietnam's Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, the massive cave is far from quiet, due to the underground river that flows through it. The passage of the cave is more than 2.8 miles long and explorers are yet to delve further, as they are still in the process of identifying and profiling every detail. The size of the cave's interior is measured using lasers. The mysterious cave reaches 460 by 460 feet in some places and is spanned by more darkness awaiting exploration.
Sensational images of the Son Doong Cave can be viewed in the video below.
Lake Paradise, Kenya
"It’s Paradise, Martin!” - The words of Osa Johnson on seeing Lake Paradise for the first time.
After many days of travelling through rough terrain, documentary filmmakers Martin and Osa Johnson finally reached a destination that blew them away: a stunning spoon-shaped lake accompanied by animals serenely enjoying the resources of their habitat. The Johnson’s christened this unknown lake in the 1920's with the name that we still know it as today - Lake Paradise.
Today the lake falls under the protection of the Marsabit National Park. Lake Paradise and the surrounding area are popular tourist attractions, and continue to be of interest for anthropologists.
Sinkhole - W.A.C. Bennett Dam, Canada
When the mayor of Hudson’s Hope got word of a supposed sighting of a sinkhole at the WAC Bennett Dam, she laughed off the possibility. The very next day the sinkhole was confirmed, leaving the mayor in shock.
In 1996, while on a guided tour, a tourist spotted what looked like a pothole in the asphalt on the crest of the dam and reported it to the Visitor’s Centre. Upon inspection, they realised that it was in fact a sinkhole. Approximately 18 inches in diameter and appearing in a dam that holds 75 billion cubic yards of water, it had potentially fatal consequences for both the stability of the dam and the safety of the surrounding area. After much inspection, deliberation and finally evacuation, the hole was repaired. The estimated loss of generating capacity during the repair process, cost £63 2200 per day.
Battle Axe, Norway
The Summer of 2003 brought an exceptional finding, the first of its kind in Northern Norway - the discovery of a supposed battle axe, which was made in approximately 2400 B.C. A Danish tourist found the axe near the river of Eitera in the valley of Dunderlandsdalen. Dunderlandsdalen previously belonged to the battle axe culture that originated in the Neolithic age. As such the axe was given the name Streitaxe, which translates as battle-axe people.
In contrary to initial speculation of it being a weapon, however, the axe was since found to be symbol of status. Made from green shale, with a raised stripe down the back, it is believed to have been owned by a chieftain.
The Norwegian valley holds additional historical significance as it was found to have housed settlements since the Stone Age and was used as a base for concentration camps during World War Two.
$3 Gold Coin, USA
Only two small US $3 gold coins were ever made. One of them was found glued into a souvenir book about the coin's history. Pried off by a European tourist who made the finding back in 1997, the coin is now worth £2,528,600. It was kept a secret until a few months ago when it was to go up for auction.
The second $3 coin was minted in San Francisco in the 1870's to be placed in the cornerstone of a building. The coin was later removed after getting damaged and a second one was made - presumably the one found in the old souvenir book. Apart from the fact that it’s made from gold, the rarity lies in the hand-carved triple ‘S’ present on the coin.
Quedagh Merchant, Dominican Republic
The discovery of the Quedagh Merchant made headlines across the globe, thrilling pirate fans around the world. The mystery of William 'Captain' Kidd’s famously abandoned ship, which had been lost for over three hundred years, had finally been solved.
The ship remains were found by Italian tourist Ferruccio Fiorucci in 2007, off the shores of Catalina Island, at a mere depth of 69 feet. Although no wood of the ship had been found, the guns and iron anchors that were discovered was evidence that they belonged to the Quedagh Merchant.
William 'Captain' Kidd was a Scottish sailor known for his piracy trial. While taking refuge on the coast of the Dominican Republic, Kidd realised his ship was in poor condition and as such decided to offload all the valuables and to burn and sink the ship. Until its discovery in late 2007, no remains of the Quedagh Merchant had been found, despite many extensive searches.
Forgotten Grave, USA
For years, many visitors have walked the Granary Burying Ground, honoring the deaths of numerous historic figures, including victims of the Boston Massacre and people who signed the Declaration of Independence. One tourist, however, took a fateful step on a portion of loose ground, which dropped her hip-deep onto the granite stairway of an unmarked crypt.
The self-guide tour, which lead to the discovery made in January 2009, explores a collection of five thousand tombstones, graves and monuments, making it difficult to determine precisely who the crypt belonged to. Members of the Historic Burying Grounds Initiative assume that the grave belongs to Captain Jonathan Armitage, who served on The Committee of Fortification in 1733.
Unfortunately, the glory attached to the discovery remains untouched as the identity of the tourist is unconfirmed. Boston city refuses to release her details, citing privacy concerns.
Ötzi the Iceman, The Alps
While hiking in the Italian Alps, Helmut and Erika Simon spotted a skull and torso protruding from the ice. Initially under the impression that it was the body of a fellow hiker, their assumptions were soon put to rest by the University of Innsbruck. The corpse turned out to be one of the oldest and best-preserved mummies ever discovered.
On 22nd September 1991, three days after its discovery, the mummy, now referred to as Ice Man or Similaun Man, was completely extracted from the ice. Upon extensive study, it was found that Ice Man’s blood cells were still intact - the oldest blood cells to ever be identified. They were also able to identify activities associated with his lifestyle and the exact food content ingested a mere few hours before he died. His death resulted from excessive blood loss due to an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder. Ice Man’s body is believed to be 5300 years old.
Apoxyomenos is the name given to the statues depicting Greek athletes in the famous act of scraping off oil and dirt from their bodies after participating in a competition. Many variants have been discovered in countries worldwide, but the one spotted by Belgian tourist, René Wouter, is said to have existed since 4th Century BC and is the best preserved example found to date.
In 1996, Wouter noticed the statue 148 feet deep in the waters of Lošinj. On reporting his finding to the authorities, it took close to three years to finally remove the statue from the seabed, causing as little harm to the statue as possible. Once algae and sea shells were removed, the statue was reconstructed over the next seven years. It has since been exhibited in Florence, Zadar, Split, Rijeka and Osijek, and is currently being displayed temporarily at the Mimara Museum in Croatia.
The finding of the Apoxyomenos off Croatia came as a surprise to archeologists as up until then they had been unsuccessful in trying to locate evidence of an ancient shipwreck. The only possible conclusion for the statue being deposited there is said to be a storm that threatened a ship, resulting in Roman sailors tipping over the 76 inch statue to prevent the ship from sinking.
The video below shows the Apoxyomenos being removed from underwater at Lošinj.
Power of Pyramids, Egypt
Like many mind blowing discoveries, the unusual power of the pyramid was stumbled upon in the least expected manner. Antoine Bovis, a French hardware store owner, happened to be touring the Khufu’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid when he came across a pile of animal carcasses that hadn't decomposed. The sight left him with many questions and he decided to experiment back home.
Bovis reconstructed the pyramid shape with cardboard and used vegetables as objects of observation. To his surprise, the vegetables remained fresh for longer than what they did in other shaped containers. Since then the wings of Pyramidology have extended wider to include food preservation techniques.
What may seem as a small observation by just a regular tourist, turned out to be a pivotal scientific discovery.
Know of any other travel oriented discoveries? Share your stories with us on Facebook or in the comment box below.