5 Places on Earth We Haven’t Gotten Our Grubby Human Hands on Yet
It’s a base desire of the human psyche to explore new frontiers. To venture out into that great unknown in the pursuit of new knowledge and more accurate maps. Well, for some people at least. Personally, I’m perfectly content to just chill out. Nonetheless, there’s still plenty of people out there on the “new horizons” beat who are strapping up in wetsuits or heavy parkas or those weird billowy shirts desert explorers wear, dead (sometimes literally) set on seeing everything the world has to offer.
Despite this, and despite having been around on Earth for a whole heck of a long time, we still have not 100 percented the planet we live on. Sure, we’ve got a much better grasp now than the old guys who were filling in blank bits on the map with drawings of sea monsters. We’ve also got satellites and things like Google Earth to give us peeks, at least for surface-level mysteries. For all our advancements, though, there are still a couple tricky corners we haven’t been quite able to fit the vacuum head of knowledge into.
Here are five locations that have somehow remained unsullied by our filthy little mitts…
You’d think with all the sorts of new scanner technology available to us, it would make quickly exploring big areas easier. But sometimes, all it does is reveal all the places we haven’t found yet. For example, aerial scans of the ruins of Mayapan showed hundreds of previously undiscovered cenotes, which are basically sinkholes, if sinkholes were absolutely gorgeous and pulled straight out of a Tomb Raider tech demo.
The cenotes form when rainwater seeps through the surface limestone, eventually eroding it to the point where it collapses and reveals the pool that’s formed below, and the Mayans considered them to be sacred. Plenty of cenotes are discovered, and, as you might imagine, are tourist hotspots for swimming in cheap board shorts, but there are also many that have never been seen. Further, the cenotes are part of a huge and heavily unexplored cave system as well.
Unlike labyrinthine cave systems, regular old islands aren’t particularly hard to travel to and through, so how did we get this far into modern times without Surtsey Island getting walked all over, covered in plaques, guardrails and overpriced cafes? Well, Surtsey Island managed to remain unexplored for an incredible amount of time by virtue of not existing. The island formed from volcanic activity only 60 years ago, from 1963 to 1967. Compared to the age of most of Earth’s landmasses, it’s nothing more than a particularly determined sperm.
Still, you’d think that brand new land popping up would have been immediately tabbed for some sort of White Lotus style resort or an Amazon warehouse, but scientists saw that coming and called dibs. Since its formation, travel to Surtsey Island has been completely restricted to trained researchers, who themselves are tightly controlled in terms of interference. It’s because Surtsey provides us a unique window into seeing how new landmasses are naturally colonized by plants and wildlife. Naturally meaning, without us fucking around on it.
It may sound like two poorly localized Pokemon mashed together, but Gangkhar Puensum is, in fact, the world’s tallest unclimbed mountain. One that, outside of some sort of rogue, illegal expedition, is going to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Not for safety, as made clear by how relatively okay we are with letting corpsicles pile up on Everest or K2, but out of respect for locals’ spiritual beliefs. Maybe the only thing more shocking than the fact that there’s still a mountain out there that’s never been summitted is that there’s a place on earth where the native people’s wishes have actually been respected.
The Bhutanese people of the area have probably made the right call, looking at the massive mess that Everest has become in Nepal. What used to be a life-affirming achievement for black-toed and frozen-mustachioed explorers of old now has its own high-adrenaline form of glamping, where rich assholes can pay out their aforementioned orifice to get carted up the mountain, eating T-bone steaks, by actual climbers. It used to be the crowning achievement of a true outdoorsman. Now it’s something else for models in SoHo to get talked at about by coke-boogered new money failsons in Loro Piana vests.
On the other end of the vertical spectrum, we’ve got the ocean floor. Despite the fact that most of us have probably tippy-tapped our feet on the edges of it donning floaties from a young age, it remains the largest unexplored area on Earth. To that end, 95 percent of the oceans are unexplored, and when it comes to the actual floor, it remains 99 percent unexplored. Or in plainer terms, we don’t know fuck all about it.
What makes the mystery of the ocean floor even more impressive/mysterious/abjectly terrifying is that we haven’t been able to lay eyes on most of it either. Turns out fancy satellites have a hard time seeing through an absolute shitload of seawater. We’ve managed to eke out a semblance of floor pics, but only to a resolution of 5 kilometers, which means anything smaller than 5 kilometers isn’t popping up. For a little color on just how mediocre a map this is, we have more accurate maps, by a significant margin, of Mars.
North Sentinel Island
North Sentinel Island, in the Bay of Bengal, is a little unique on this list, in that it’s fully occupied, and has been for a good long time, by a people known as the Sentinelese. So, you might be wondering, how do they qualify for this list, especially when you could just hop over and check it out, or ask the locals, “Hey, what’s the deal with your island, any cool stuff on here?” Well, the Sentinelese are particularly known for their staunch anti-tourism practices of killing pretty much anyone that tries to land on their island.
The people speak their own language, one that no non-native has ever been able to learn, again, due to the difficulty of doing Duolingo while dead on a beach. Because of the natural curiosity our modern world possesses, every once in a while, someone tries, again, to make contact, and that person is usually pincushioned and left to fertilize the shallows. For this reason, travel to the island is banned, and it’s a rule not a whole lot of people are keen to break.
The most recent was an American missionary named John Allen Chau, who canoed to the island bearing a smile and the Good Book. They lit his ass up.