I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Barbara Klein with Explorations in VOA Special English. We received a special request in a letter
from a listener in Nagano, Japan. Atsumi
Shimoda asked for a report about what the Special English writers thought were
the seven natural wonders of the United States.
now we will visit these natural wonders.
Some are huge. Some are powerful. And some are even a little
frightening! But, we will keep a safe
distance. The first stop is a natural
wonder that the United States shares with Canada.
That thundering crash is the tens of thousands of cubic
feet of water that flow each second over Niagara Falls which includes the
American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. The
American Falls in New York State extends more than three hundred twenty meters
across part of the Niagara River. The American Falls is more than fifty meters
Canada owns the larger Horseshoe Falls. It is about eight hundred meters wide and
almost fifty meters high. It is shaped
like the letter U, or a horse's shoe.
Falls formed about twelve thousand years ago when huge melting sheets of ice
formed the Great Lakes. The land was
uneven with several drops in level, some very sharp. Water from Lake Erie began
to flow north to Lake Ontario as a result of the loss of the ice barrier.
modern times, several people have gone over Niagara Falls, most of them on
purpose. Most also survived. But, we think the beauty and power of Niagara
Falls is best experienced from near the water, not in it.
we travel southeast to the state of Florida.
We will visit the area once called "the liquid heart" of that state --
of birds fly in a sunny blue sky. The
only sounds are bird calls and the soft noise made by tall grasses as the water
slowly moves them. Hidden in the
grasses, dark green alligators move at the edge of the water, like part of the
Earth come alive.
is the Everglades -- a low, watery, partly coastal area that covers ten
thousand square kilometers. The area is
filled with sawgrass. This plant grows
in sharp, thin pieces that are three to ten meters tall. The Everglades is sometimes called "river of
area also contains forests of palm, cypress, mangrove and pine. And beautiful plants and sweet-smelling
flowers grow in the Everglades. These
include several kinds of the highly prized and rare flower, the orchid. Animal species are
plentiful. Many colorful birds and
butterflies live here. So do snakes,
foxes, frogs and even big cats, called Florida panthers. But the Everglades
alligators and crocodiles are probably the animals most identified with the
Everglades. No other place in the world is home to both.
we travel to the north central part of the country. We are in the state of South Dakota. The land is big and mostly flat with many
fields of corn, wheat and soybeans. But
as we travel west, the cropland gives way to wild grasses. A strong dry wind blows continuously from the
the land becomes torn and rocky, dry and dusty -- no longer green and
gold. It is now a light red-brown
color. All around are broken disordered
forms. There are hills and valleys of
all sizes and strange shapes.
are the Badlands. Hundreds of thousands of years ago the area was
grassland. But, then, forces of nature
destroyed the grass. Water and ice cut
into the surface of the Earth. They beat at the rocks, wearing them away. The result is one of the world's strangest
All together, the Badlands cover more than fifteen
thousand square kilometers. About ten
percent is national parkland. The area
is a study in extremes. Temperatures in
the summer have been as high as forty-six degrees Celsius. In the winter they have dropped to as low as
forty-one degrees below zero. Life in the Badlands is difficult. But animals do survive. The most well known
is the prairie dog. This small mammal
lives in a series of underground passages.
As we continue west we also take a sharp dive south. We
want to see the huge hole in the Earth, called the Grand Canyon in the state of
Arizona. The first sight is
breathtaking. The Grand Canyon stretches
for hundreds of kilometers before us and hundreds of meters below us. It is about twenty-four kilometers across at
its widest point. Its deepest point is
almost two thousand meters down.
Grand Canyon is a series of deep long cuts in rock. There are many passages and large raised
areas. There are forests on the top
level and desert areas down below. They
provide support for several different ecosystems. The Colorado River flows through the Grand
Canyon offers a lot of information about the physical history of Earth. There is a huge amount of fossil evidence.
And its walls provide a record of three of the four major periods of the
Earth's geologic time.
Now, we are at the
hottest, driest and lowest place in North America. Death Valley is part of the
Mojave Desert. It lies mostly in the western state of California although part
of it reaches into Nevada.
area called Badwater sits about eighty-six meters below sea level. There is not really any water there. The area gets fewer than five centimeters of
rain a year.
the summer the temperature in Death Valley can reach fifty-seven degrees
Celsius. But, it can be dangerously cold
in the winter there, too. And storms in
the mountains can produce sudden flooding on the valley floor.
In other words, Death Valley is an unforgiving
place. The heat has killed people in the
past. And it will continue to kill those
who are not careful in dealing with the area's extreme climate.
Valley holds much evidence of nature's past violence. For example, there is Ubehebe Crater. This hole is about one kilometer across and
more than two hundred thirty meters deep.
It is the remains of a major volcanic explosion about two thousand years
Now it is time to cool off in the far northern state of
Alaska. We could probably just call all of Alaska a natural wonder. But of special interest are its
glaciers. These huge, slow-moving masses
of ice cover about seventy-five thousand square kilometers.
About one hundred thousand of
these rivers of ice flow down mountains.
Some start from thousands of meters up a mountain. They can flow to areas just a few hundred
meters above sea level. The largest
Alaskan glacier is called Malaspina. It
is more than two thousand two hundred square kilometers.
glaciers move very slowly. But sometimes
one will suddenly speed ahead for a year or two. These are called
surge-glaciers. The most recent surges
were in two thousand. The Tokositna glacier
and Yanert Glaciers now have deep, narrow cuts on their formerly smooth
surfaces. Yanert Glacier dropped
ninety-one meters as a result of the surge.
It is always very cold on the glaciers.
Next we go to a hot spot.
Sometimes very hot.
Mount Kilauea, the world's most active volcano.
It is on the island of Hawaii.
Kilauea is not far from Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world.
has been releasing burning hot liquid rock called lava continuously since
nineteen eighty-three. The lava flows
down the mountain to the Pacific Ocean.
Its fierce heat produces a big cloud of steam when it hits the cold
water. Kilauean lava continues to add
land to the island. Sometimes visitors
are able to walk out near the edge of this new black volcanic rock.
These seven natural American wonders, from waterfalls
to volcanoes, are not the only ones in the United States. What about the Great
Salt Lake, the Old Faithful Geyser, the Mammoth Cave and the giant redwood
forests? We will have to report about
them and other natural wonders another time.
program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein.
I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week
for another EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.