Alligator

United States
From his underwater perch, Claude, an albino American alligator, slips through the looking-glass waterline. Although his condition causes poor eyesight, he relies on other senses to navigate his abode in a San Francisco aquarium.

PHOTO: JAK WONDERLY

China
An emerald forest of light comes alive as dancers perform at the opening of last year’s Asian Games in the southeastern city of Guangzhou. More than 40 countries participate in the regional sporting event, held
every four years.

PHOTO: MENAHEM KAHANA, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Russia
Sunshine and freshly laundered sheets invite shadow plays in the yard of a special boarding home in the Pskov region. Here mentally disabled children from ages 4 to 18 learn to live independently —cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the wash.

PHOTO: DMITRY MARKOV

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in the highlands of Ethiopia, farmers separating the wheat grain from the chaff.
Paddling near a manatee sanctuary.

Regina Nicolardi

White Haven, Pennsylvania

Paddling on Florida’s Crystal River, Nicolardi, 32, and a friend (above) found a temporary traveling companion at Three Sisters Springs, near a manatee sanctuary. “Before continuing on its way,” says Nicolardi, “this one swam peacefully alongside our canoe, gently sharing the water.”

Peter Stanley

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

On a holiday trek in the highlands of Ethiopia, the 37-year-old Stanley and his wife met farmers harvesting, “separating the wheat grain from the chaff. Every so often the wind would shift, and I would get covered in straw, making the men smile and laugh.”

TODAY'S DAILY DOZEN

The Daily Dozen is selected by
a National Geographic magazine
photo editor each weekday, from
hundreds of photos submitted
to Your Shot at ngm.com daily.


EDITORS’ CHOICE

READERS’ CHOICE

Two storms—thunder and dust—appeared and painted an apocalyptic portrait over Australia’s Lake Eyre.

Salt Flats

Lake Eyre might be the bleakest, most featureless place on Earth—a flat, arid salt sink in Australia with only the horizon to define its 3,700 square miles. Yet I went there 16 times in eight years. Why? To create a series of photographs out of infinite space.

I’ve always been drawn to multiyear projects in remote locations, like the series I shot in Patagonia, Tasmania, and the Himalaya. After that I went back to art school and studied the history and language of my field. It was then that I decided to “remove” the landscape from landscape photography. Lake Eyre was the perfect canvas.

The Australia-based photographer’s website is murrayfredericks.com.au. For a video version of this series, go to saltdoco.com.

Each winter I would ride my bike to the dried heart of the lake and camp for five weeks, working every day in the harsh sun, wind, and cold. Somehow I never got lonely out there. It was only when I got back to civilization, and sat at a quiet bar, that I felt truly alone.

All artists are interpreters of the world. This series is my attempt to translate the visual power of extreme desolation.  

In the midst of a massive drought, two storms—thunder and dust—appeared and painted an apocalyptic portrait over Australia’s Lake Eyre. I used a digital camera and stitched together multiple images to capture this panorama.


Murray Fredericks

At first light, predawn colors are reflected and distorted by a rare rain puddle in Australia’s highly saline Lake Eyre.

At first light, predawn colors are reflected and distorted by a rare rain puddle in Australia’s highly saline Lake Eyre.


Cleanly divided by the horizon line, this frame was shot half an hour after sunset. Seen here through my 8-by-10-inch view camera, the clear light of the desert blends right into its reflection on a bit of salty rainwater.

Cleanly divided by the horizon line, this frame was shot half an hour after sunset. Seen here through my 8-by-10-inch view camera, the clear light of the desert blends right into its reflection on a bit of salty rainwater.


The black line is the edge of the lake, miles away from where I was standing. Working in such a space, I was keenly aware of variations in hue. In this shot, taken just after dusk, I was fixated on the subtle transition of orange to deep blue.

The black line is the edge of the lake, miles away from where I was standing. Working in such a space, I was keenly aware of variations in hue. In this shot, taken just after dusk, I was fixated on the subtle transition of orange to deep blue.


Pilots who fly over Lake Eyre had told me about a red hue that sometimes appears when the bed dries. I later learned that it’s caused by an organism that lives only in supersaline environments.

Pilots who fly over Lake Eyre had told me about a red hue that sometimes appears when the bed dries. I later learned that it’s caused by an organism that lives only in supersaline environments.


I took this shot as dawn was breaking, focusing my camera on the black line, which is the lake’s edge. I had never seen this shade of yellow before—nor have I seen it since.

I took this shot as dawn was breaking, focusing my camera on the black line, which is the lake’s edge. I had never seen this shade of yellow before—nor have I seen it since.


In this three-hour exposure during a full moon, the two brightest stars in the sky are described as arcing lines. The cracked bed of Lake Eyre, meantime, resembles nothing so much as a lunar landscape.

In this three-hour exposure during a full moon, the two brightest stars in the sky are described as arcing lines. The cracked bed of Lake Eyre, meantime, resembles nothing so much as a lunar landscape.


Health for the Ages 

The plants pictured on this page might add up to a tossed salad. They might also be used to make remedies for serious intestinal disorders—just as they did in antiquity.
 
Medical historian Alain Touwaide says new DNA analysis of clay-bound pills from a Roman shipwreck confirms traces of the same dried plants (including carrot, radish, cabbage, celery, wild onion,* and parsley) described in ancient Greek medical texts. The brownish, coin-size pills—preserved in tin boxes for two millennia—are the first proof that the writings were “not just theoretical but actually applied.”
 
Could such knowledge inform today’s research? Touwaide says the second-century physician Galen referred to broccoli, a relative of cabbage, as an intestinal cancer treatment. Studies today confirm the plant’s anticancer properties—making “eat your vegetables” a timeless prescription. —Jeremy Berlin
 
 
 

Plants

Used by a physician around 140 to 120 B.C., this boxwood vial (left) was among the medical artifacts found 22 years ago on a Roman shipwreck off Italy’s coast.

 *LEEK, A DESCENDANT OF WILD ONION, IS SHOWN.

Vial from shipwreck

PHOTOS: REBECCA HALE, NGM STAFF; ITALIAN DEPARTMENT OF ANTIQUITIES (VIAL)

Et cetera graphic
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domesticated rice at around 8,200 years ago in China. • Turkey announced plans to build Canal Istanbul, a roughly 30-mile waterway that will bypass the Bosporus, linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. • A fossil found in Wyoming shows a giant queen ant that was the size of a small hummingbird.

A new species of unisexual lizard has been bred by Kansas City researchers. The all-female population reproduces by cloning. • A study of the rice genome puts the origin of

A Perfect Mummy In the Chinese city of Taizhou, workers digging a new roadbed recently uncovered a remarkable burial from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The deceased was a five-foot-three-inch-tall woman whose skin, hair, eyebrows, and more than 20 items of cotton clothing were all fully preserved. Three thick layers of plaster sealed her wooden coffin, keeping out oxygen and bacteria. When she was found, she lay in a mysterious fluid, which may have served to further stave off decay. Once the mummy is stabilized and studied, the city’s museum plans to make her one of the star attractions of a new exhibit. —A. R. Williams
 
Dressed to prevent contamination, staff from the Taizhou Museum prepare to ease ropes under a quilt-wrapped mummy to lift her from her coffin.
 

 
 

Dressed to prevent contamination, staff from the Taizhou Museum prepare to ease ropes under a quilt-wrapped mummy to lift her from her coffin.
China map

PHOTO: GU XIANGZHONG, XINHUA/XINHUA PRESS/CORBIS; GRAPHIC: KISS ME I’M POLISH. SOURCES: INCA; UNESCO. NGM MAPS

Illustration: Average school year among nations

That Stinks

They are resilient through winter, latch skillfully on to vehicles, and have few natural checks on their U.S. population. These factors have enabled an Asian native, the brown marmorated stinkbug, to thrive in the eastern U.S. First noted in 1996 in Allentown, Pennsylvania—and since spotted in 33 other states—the tenacious insect feasts on crops and creeps into homes, particularly in Maryland and Virginia. Squashing it unleashes a pungent odor. Now researchers hope a tiny wasp can help by attacking stinkbug eggs, but safety tests will take a few years. Smells like trouble in the meantime.  —Catherine Zuckerman

Shake It OffIt all begins with a twist of the head—one so powerful it leads to full-body, high-speed oscillations that whip water in all directions. Although hazardous to nearby humans, the wet-dog shake is an elegant, effective drying mechanism, says Andrew Dickerson, an engineering student at Georgia Tech who analyzed the mechanics of this everyday canine act. In taking less than a second to disperse half the water in a hound’s fur, the motion is “more efficient than a washing machine’s spin cycle,” he says.

Using slow-motion video, Dickerson measured rates of oscillation in other animals too and found that the smaller they are, the faster they shake. Being wet adds weight, notes veterinarian Nicholas Dodman, and that makes it harder to run—perhaps one reason speed drying evolved.—Hannah Bloch

 

 

Dog shaking
Dog shaking illustration

Animals not drawn to scale
*Oscillation averages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.
PHOTO: TIM FLACH. GRAPHIC: LAWSON PARKER, NGM STAFF SOURCE: ANDREW DICKERSON AND DAVID HU, GEORGIA TECH

Furry mammals like dogs dry off with split-second oscillations. The looser the animals’ skin, the more water they shed with each
shake. 

Eva Nkirote, a student at Saint Annmona School in rural eastern Kenya.

Girl Power

7 Billion logoThe developing world holds an overlooked resource: millions of adolescent girls. Often forced to leave school and start families by their mid-teens, many fall prey to violence, disease, and complications of childbirth. Studies show that keeping these girls in school and delaying marriage benefits both them and their communities by reducing infant mortality, increasing family income, and slowing the spread of HIV. Groups including the World Bank, the UN Adolescent Girls Task Force, and movements such as the Girl Effect are looking at ways to make girls more valuable to their families as breadwinners than as child brides. —Margaret G. Zackowitz

Girl power illustration

Eva Nkirote, a student at Saint Annmona School in rural eastern Kenya, participates in a tree-planting program at the school. Says Esther Muthoni, Saint Annmona’s founder, “If you educate a girl, you educate a nation.”

PHOTO: LYNN JOHNSON

Cottage

Shark Sanctuary

Map of shark sanctuaryThe warm waters of the Raja Ampat archipelago have long been a hot spot for biodiversity. Now they’re Indonesia’s first refuge for sharks. The big fish are key to its ecosystem and to the diver-focused ecotourism that supports conservation efforts and the local economy. So last year Raja Ampat joined Palau and the Maldives as a top-predator protectorate. The 17,760-square-mile haven is now safe for all sharks, as well as manta rays, dugongs, and turtles. Fishing practices like reef dynamiting are also banned. While enforcement is a work in progress, one local resort pays villagers to patrol the waters—including their own traditional fishing grounds, which had been hurt by shark finning and industrial trawling. —Noy Thrupkaew

Sark mapSARK IS THE NIGHT They say on a clear day you can see forever. What about a clear night? If you’re on the isle of Sark (right), meteors, constellations, and a horizon-spanning Milky Way are on view. The tiny, rustic Channel Island—2.1 square miles, 600-some residents, no cars or public lighting— has long been a haven for naked-eye astronomy. This year it became the first island in the world deemed a Dark Sky Place by the International Dark-Sky Association, a U.S.-based nonprofit promoting solutions to light pollution. Sark joins about a dozen places worldwide recognized by the group for their commitment to night-sky clarity. Steve Owens, the astronomer who led Sark’s application process, says the designation came after a six-month “light audit” led to the retrofitting of 30 fixtures causing an orange glow. For midwinter stargazers, that means 12 hours of darkest night await. —Jeremy Berlin

PHOTOS: DANIELLE P. HEINRICHS (TOP); SUE DALY.
NGM MAPS

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Sky Rivers A forecaster points to a bright weather system on a map and warns of torrential rain and flooding. But it’s no hurricane. It’s an atmospheric river, or Ar, first seen clearly via satellite data in the 1990s. “We now know that Ars are the primary cause of flooding in the West Coast states,” says NOAA’s Marty Ralph. Water-vapor superhighways 300 miles wide and more than a thousand miles long, Ars can, in a single day, move up to 20 times the Mississippi river’s daily discharge. last winter one stalled in California. Six days later 26 inches of rain and 15 feet of snow had fallen. Now experts are working ahead. A recent what-if test, in which an Ar swamped California, predicted $735 billion in losses. Says Ralph, “We’re preparing for the Katrina of the West.” —Juli Berwald

Atmospheric river

CHIMPS AND DOLLS In a Ugandan forest, primatologists Sonya Kahlenberg and Richard Wrangham see chimpanzees toting sticks—for fun. “Usually when a chimp carries an object,” says Kahlenberg, “it has a function.” Yet new analysis of 14 years of observations suggests these apes are playing with dolls. Such stick carrying has been seen regularly only in this community, so it’s likely a learned behavior. The game is passed from one juvenile to another—social networking, chimp-youth style. —JB

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Chimp toys and dolls
Chimp toys and dolls
Chimp toys and dolls

Pieces of wood used as dolls are thicker than pieces used to probe for honey.

Dolls

Tools

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MAP: JEROME N. COOKSON, NGM STAFF. SOURCE: NOAA. PHOTO: SONYA KAHLENBERG