5. Smoking Hills, Canada
The hills are alive with the smell of sulphur and the sight of smoke. This land of fire and ice is in Canada’s Northwest Territories, where enormous deposits of lignite (a combo of carbon-rich shale and sulphur-rich pyrite) spontaneously combust and billow smoke plumes that can be seen for miles. The phenomenon was discovered and named in 1828 by Sir John Franklin, who later went missing in his quest to find a Northwest Passage. In 1850, British Navy Captain Robert McClure lead an search and rescue expedition through the Arctic and thought the smoke might be a signal from the missing crew. A landing party brought a sample of smouldering rock to him which reportedly singed a hole through his mahogany desk. The local Inuit people call this area the “land of sour water”.
6. Chimaera/Olympos Mountain, Turkey
This long-flaming area is said to be the inspiration for the Chimaera, a fire-breathing monster in Greek mythology. It may also be what Pliny the Elder was referencing when he wrote about “a flame that does not die by day or by night”. For over 2000 years, sailors used the mountain’s firelight as a natural lighthouse to help navigate the rocky shores. Methane gas seeping up through the rocks is what fuels these fires, although volcanic activity may also be a factor. The flames can be extinguished when covered in dirt, but sooner or later the gas reignites again.