5 'Unspoiled' Locations That Are Actually Pretty Spoiled
Even if you're not the outdoorsy type, you don't have to listen to your neighbor's car alarm going off for very long before you imagine what life would be like in some beautiful, quiet place, unspoiled by humans. No crowds, no lines, no broken beer bottles anywhere.
After all, with corporations and reality shows getting their dirty fingers all over everything these days, it's comforting to know that there are some places on earth modern man still hasn't cheapened and ruined yet. Well, that's what you think until you get there, and see how long the line is to get in.
Yes, even at places like ...
If you climb Mt. Everest, you're forever known as a badass. Impossibly high, impossibly cold and utterly inhospitable to humans, when you reach the peak you know you're one of a scant few members of the species to survive it.
Well ... that was true at one time. Now? the entirety of Mt. Everest has 3G coverage. Now when you're climbing one of the most legendary, inaccessible peaks in the world, five miles above sea level, you can make a video call! And download Angry Birds. And read Cracked.
Mind you that before this, anyone could make cell phone voice calls from anywhere on the mountain, but I guess there was a huge demand to be able to Twitter from the peak of Mt. Everest or something, because Everest is now better equipped for smart phone usage than most major music festivals.
After all, who can forget Sir Edmund Hillary's historic email from the summit of Everest?
But iPhone status updates aren't the only thing ruining the mystique of the Tallest Mountain In The World* (you have to put the asterisk or people will yell at you but explaining the asterisk is just a bunch of boring geography talk). Apparently it's also full of petty crime. Everest Base Camp on the Chinese side of the mountain is a pretty lawless place where money talks loudest, with brothels, bars, gambling and probably honky-tonk piano tunes.
Everest Base Camp, China.
Hucksters shake down rich visitors for cash by claiming to be charities picking up trash off the mountain -- which makes sense because there's a shit ton of trash on the mountain.
Then they buy and empty a bunch of plastic bottles themselves and show their "donors" all the "work" they've done. If you're not charitably inclined, the scammers might sell you a faulty super-cheap "oxygen canister*" instead.
(*Oxygen not included.)
Even on the actual climb, there are assholes stealing supplies from people's caches, which has actually led to at least one death.
Yosemite's Half Dome
If you're not familiar with Yosemite National Park, it's the place that Ansel Adams was famous for taking lots of black and white pictures of, and also the place Captain Kirk went camping in Star Trek V. If that doesn't ring a bell, you've probably at least heard of this cartoon character named after it:
While Yosemite Sam was too ungrateful to ever refer to the park that named him, similar real-life personality Teddy Roosevelt once raved about it, saying that camping there "was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man."
In the years since, many have heard the call of the outdoor sanctuary and headed out to climb Half Dome (the name is an unsolved mystery), a long, grueling, 17-mile scenic hike that brings you to the heights of solitude with nature.
Wait a second, that's not solitude. Are those ... cordons?
To be fair, they're actually not, they're permanently installed climbing ropes that they provide to help you walk up a nearly-vertical dome along with the line of people in front of and behind you. There's just something wrong with the whole one-with-nature idea when your mountaintop experience feels less like this ...
... and more like this:
Not only does it ruin the pristine view, but climbing a steep ascent in the same manner as a Disneyland line has actually killed four people who got bumped by the crowd and slipped.
The park's solution has been to limit the number of climbers by requiring permits to ascend Half Dome. The first day the permits went up for sale, two months of permits sold out in 23 minutes. Weekend permits sold out in five minutes.
In the Star Trek future, apparently Half Dome will be so swarming with tourists that solitude-seeking hikers have to make do with the other big Yosemite landmark, El Capitan, instead.
That's probably not going to be an option for the casual tourist until they invent anti-gravity boots though:
We tend to think of the frozen wasteland at the bottom of the world as a place mostly populated by penguins with maybe about two researchers doing science or something. But like pretty much everything else here, it has developed a garbage problem.
And since it's a frozen wasteland, stuff doesn't decay there -- so all that garbage (including poo) is basically there forever. Almost everyone who goes there is a scientist or a bit of an eco-nut, so they try very hard to sort garbage properly and send it back to be disposed of. They do their best, and 70 percent of it goes back. But that means 30 percent of it doesn't.
They call it Spoolhenge. Really.
And while we tend to think of it as a place that only science expeditions go, in the 2008 season, 45,000 tourists visited Antarctica, and that number just keeps going up. With so much traffic, ships are starting to have more accidents, to the point where politicians are like, "Hey, maybe we should make some laws about it." Remember, even if no ships crashed and everybody picked up every wrapper and bottle and took it home, that's still 45,000 people worth of poop frozen irrevocably to Antarctic landscape every year.
Even weirder for an unspoiled wilderness, the South Pole itself already has ruins. Built in 1956 and abandoned in 1976, the Old South Pole Station is now a historical ruin being explored by curious visitors. It's kind of surreal to head down to one of the most inaccessible and wild places on the planet and have a sort of King Tut's Tomb experience.
The Bottom of the Ocean
Well, shit, where else is there to go? The mountains and the Arctic are all becoming tourist traps. Hey, what about the bottom of the ocean! As long as people can't breathe water, they won't be setting up Deadwood Under The Sea. Right?
Oh, but they can. While looking for fish in the deep sea off the coast of California, research teams turned up some surprises such as a ton of fishing gear, beer bottles and a literal kitchen sink, delighting all the headline writers out there.
That trash is only at a depth of 1,200 feet, though. Really deep places should be safe, like, say, the watery grave of the Titanic. That's over two miles down, where over 1,000 dead lie in the eternal stillness of Davy Jones' locker, undisturbed till the end of time. Except by subs and camera crews and James Cameron.
Ever since we discovered the wreck of the Titanic, we've wanted to take pictures and video of it. With a constant two-knot current, it's pretty hard to set up lights and cameras, so filmmakers send down sandbags and lead weights to hold all the equipment still. When they're finished shooting, they haul the lights and cameras up, but not the sandbags and weights because fuck that, they're heavy.
There's also beer bottles and soda cans which apparently must have teleported there because no film crew will admit to having tossed anything overboard in that area.
But whatever. So we're kind of desecrating a historical site or putting ugly garbage on the bottom of the ocean. It's not super dangerous, and undersea life is already building ecosystems on some of it.
They're pretty creative critters.
What they probably can't work with, though, is nuclear waste. There are at least five known nuclear sub wrecks on the bottom of the ocean. At least one of them has had its nuclear warheads break open, spewing plutonium right into Neptune's bedroom. And nothing lasts forever, so who knows when the rest of that crap is going to leak out.
So yeah, we still can't even get a human to most of those places, but we've already ruined them.
Well, if we're ruining every spot we can think of on Earth, space is pretty much the only unspoiled place left, right?
As you've probably guessed, it isn't. Sure, space tourism may just be in its infancy, but we've actually sent a lot more space tourists up than you might have thought. At least seven people have gone up as bona-fide money-paying customers -- one of them twice.
This rich bastard. You can do anything you want if you invented Microsoft Word and Excel, I guess.
Even 'N Sync's Lance Bass almost went up but lost his funding at the last minute, I'm guessing because his sponsors were actually making a hyperbolic joke about "launching all boy bands into orbit" and backed out when they realized they were being taken literally.
There aren't enough tourists going up to ruin everything, yet -- but that's OK because corporations and space agencies are way ahead of them. In the years since Sputnik went up, we've been putting more and more crap in orbit -- discarded rocket stages, defunct satellites, loose parts -- and not bringing any of it back, because, how would you do that, seriously. It takes like two hours to pick something up with the space shuttle arm.
People have been warning for years that sooner or later, crap is going to start running into other crap, and it happened in 2009 when a phone company satellite crashed into an old Russian communications satellite. It's worth noting here that space is big. But not big enough to keep all the trash we've been shooting up there without it turning into junk bumper cars.
And it's not just NASA and Soviet stuff up there -- your Sirius radio, your satellite TV, weather forecasts and any kind of GPS device, all depend on satellites. It's getting damn crowded. And it's easy to forget that China's getting into space now, a country notorious for giving less than half a shit about the environment, which explains why 31 percent of tracked space trash already belongs to them.
And unlike hazards in the mountains or ocean or at the South Pole, you can't keep safe just by staying away from space. Due to, you know, physics, space junk can come down and hit anybody. Anywhere. Like this rocket casing:
Or this thing:
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