We know Venice is sinking, but climate change, war, and even tourists’ breath is causing many other landmarks you may or may not have heard of to disappear.
Here’s 10 destinations to visit before commercialisation, climate change, tourism or politics makes them unreachable…
The Republic of Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands located in the South Indian Ocean, 1500 kilometres east of mainland Southeast Africa. This popular honeymoon destination which is home to 86,525 residents won’t be around for much longer.
Unfortunately, these idyllic islands are sinking as rising water levels are gradually creeping up on the beaches. The Seychelles International Airport is located just 10 feet above the sea, and according to some scientists, will be underwater in the next 50-100 years. Erosion is usually controlled by the incredible coral reefs that surround the island but rising water temperatures led to one of the worst coral die-offs ever seen.
2. The Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is located in the Theban Hills, west of the Nile, in Egypt and is the resting place of many ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and nobles.
For nearly 500 years, between the 16th and 11th century BC, slaves constructed the tombs for the likes of Tutankhamun, Nefertiti and Seti I. There are around 63 tombs and chambers in the valley and the royal tombs are intricately decorated. While almost all of the tombs have been robbed, they still provide an insight into ancient Egyptian life.
Although in 1979 it became a World Heritage Site, the Valley of the Kings might not be around for much longer. Head of Egyptian antiquities, Zahi Hawass, has predicted that the tombs in the Valley of the Kings could disappear in 150 years due to damage caused by visitors. Not by your traditional vandalism though, visitors breath and poor ventilation is causing fungus to develop and erode the walls.
Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities has already begun protective measures by introducing ventilation systems and restricting the level of visitors. Some tombs will be entirely closed to visitors.
Olympia, located in Elis, Greece, is the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The games were held every four years, from the 8th Century BC to the 4th Century AD, they were held in honour of Zeus. Olympia is also the home of the Temple of Zeus.
The site was buried under soil and sediment, thought to be the result of river flooding. Mollusc shells have also been found, leading researchers to believe the site was also buried by ocean waters from repeated tsunamis. The English antiquarian Richard Chandler discovered the site in 1766 but excavation was not carried out until 1829.
Olympia is also known for the enormous ivory and gold statue of Zeus that used to stand there which was named as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Olympia is at risk due to the warm and dry summers that have led to an increase in wildfires. With temperatures forecasted to continue rising as rainfall is reduced, these fires could become a bigger threat in the future. Olympia currently has a population of just 982 people.
We’ve all heard Venice is sinking, but is it really? And how fast?
Located in north eastern Italy, Venice is actually made up of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges – 409 to be exact. Venice has an estimated 50,000 tourists a day and is home to renowned attractions such as St Mark’s Basilica, the Grand Canal and the Piazza San Marco. Famed for its beauty, architecture and artworks, the sheer number of tourists are not the only thing threatening this city.
The city has long been threatened by flood tides coming in from the Adriatic Sea between autumn and early spring. Around 1400 BC, Venetians protected themselves from attack by diverting all the major rivers flowing into the lagoon, which prevented sediment from filling the area around the city. This has, however, led to rising tides threatening to drown the city, a World Heritage Site.
To combat the issue, in May 2003, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi implemented the MOSE project – an experimental model for evaluating the performance of a hollow floatable gate. 78 hollow pontoons will be fixed to the sea bed across the three entrances to the lagoon, when the tides are predicted to rise above 110cms, the pontoons will be filled with air, causing them to float and block the incoming water from the Adriatic Sea. This project is due to be completed by 2016.
Intramuros is the oldest district and the historic core of the City of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. It is also known as the Walled City because there is a nearly three-mile-long stone wall that surrounds the entire district. This wall was built in the 1500’s by the Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi to protect the inhabitants from attack. The Walled City sustained damage during World War 2 and was only partially rebuilt. Among these beautiful ruins, however, now lies a Starbucks and a McDonalds. The Global Heritage Fund fear that Intramuros will soon be overrun by rampant commercialism. Some historians believe high-rises and malls may be next.
6. The Beaches of Culebra and Vieques
These islands located seven miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico are just 11 square miles and 56 square miles respectively.
The islands were both occupied and controlled by the US military for over 50 years until as recent as 2003. Since their withdrawal, dozens of beaches previously untouched are now able to be accessed by tourists.
Vieques is famous for its dramatic bioluminescent Mosquito Bay, which is lit up by tiny micro-organisms when disturbed after dark. Culebra is known to the locals as Última Virgen (the Last Virgin), but this untouched piece of paradise might not be around much longer. Culebra is also famous for Flamenco Beach, purported to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Large chain hotels have turned their sights on the islands as more tourists head to the islands to see these majestic beaches.
7. Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is located in the US state of Montana, close to the Canadian border. The park’s one million acres are home to turquoise alpine lakes, mountain goats and grizzly bears and obviously the glaciers. Popular for hiking, many tourists come to see the 25 remaining active glaciers.
Glacier National Park has been, for the most part, largely undisturbed by human civilisation, however, human civilisation is still set to lead to the disappearing of the glaciers. National Geographic has predicted that, due to climate change, all of the glaciers in the national park will have melted by 2020.
In 2003, the US Geological Survey undertook a study that suggested the glaciers would be gone by 2030 when coupled with 1992 temperature predictions from the UN’s intergovernmental Panel on Climate change. Daniel Fagre, a USGS ecologist who works in the national park has said it is likely to be 2020 instead, as “Temperature rise in our area was twice as great as what we put into the  model”. This will greatly endanger the region’s plants and animals and hopefully this 2020 estimate will be pushed back again, following analysis on aerial surveys and photography that has been taking place since the early 1980s. Fagre also said nonpolar ice is disappearing all over the globe. Glaciers have disappeared from the Andes, and the Himalayas have lost a third of their snow.
8. Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is a 64km long, 18km wide salt lake bordering Jordan, Palestine and Israel. This religiously historical lake was mentioned in the Bible as King David’s refuge and is the Earth’s lowest elevation on land, at 427 metres below sea level.
The Dead Sea is roughly 8.6 times saltier than the ocean and because of this, humans are able to easily float due to natural buoyancy.
Unfortunately, the lake is sinking at an alarming rate. The lake has sunk 4.9 feet in the past year, which, compared with the fact that the world’s oceans have only risen 4 to 8 inches in the past century, is pretty dramatic. It is thought as much as half the drop has been caused by industry development, specifically Israel Chemicals Ltd and Jordan’s Arab Potash Co. The salinity of the water makes the perfect environment for manufacturing potash, an ingredient in fertiliser. While this is going on, a local agriculture industry is redirecting water from the Jordan River to reach their fields of crops, that usually flows to the Dead Sea.
The diminishing of the Dead Sea has also led to serious geological problems such as the creation of sink holes in the area, which are not a cheap problem to fix. A simple fix such as pumping salt or freshwater into the lake would not be possible either, as the composition of the lake is so unique, this would deeply affect the local ecosystems. As the Dead Sea has now lost over one third of its surface area, this unusually salty lake may not be around for much longer.
Tibet, a plateau region in the People’s Republic of China is a somewhat mysterious buddhist kingdom, the land is spiritually ruled by the exiled Dalai Lama. With breathtaking treks through mountainous ranges to culturally rich monasteries, it is well worth a visit. Although Tibet is not disappearing, per se, it will be increasingly difficult to visit the country, with local government regularly restricting visas to the area. It is thought in the future, unless freedom is granted from China, tourists will be prevented from entering Tibet completely – best to go while you still can!
The Everglades are a region of tropical wetlands located in the south of Florida, in the US. The system begins with the Kissimmee River near Orlando and reaches Lake Okeechobee. Susceptible to both flooding and drought, they have been referred to as a river of grass by writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The Everglades are a complex system of different ecosystems that includes tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Island and cypress swamps.
Humans inhabited the area around 15,000 years ago and it was originally an arid landscape supporting animals and plants adapted for desert conditions. Following a suspected ice age, which brought about a wetter landscape, the area developed into what is now recognised as the Everglades. Just a few decades after humans fully civilised the area in the 1900’s, more than half the ecosystem was gone causing the remaining south west corner to survive on manmade canals. Upstream construction had blocked the natural drainage system and wildlife populations subsequently plummeted.
Overtime, however, industry has also taken water flow away from Lake Okeechobee. Research is being done in the area to address the continuous production of sugarcane in the Everglades, which is causing phosphorus runoff. In 2008, Florida Governor Charlie Crist, pledged to buy and restore 180,000 acres of former Everglades from US Sugar. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $96 million for the restoration of the Everglades. A 1.6km bridge has been designed to replace the Tamiami Trail that borders the national park and currently blocks water from reaching the south.
Sadly, these ideas alone can’t revive the wetland’s former glory and this unique ecosystem may not be around for tourists to visit in the future. – Benedicte Earl
Top photo from Charlie Philips’ Flickr photostream.