Landmarks That Could Disappear In Your Lifetime
Here are some endangered destinations that you should visit before they're gone!Knowledge
Our globe is full of iconic monuments such as the Eiffel Tower. However, for some pretty earth-shattering reasons, many of our world’s legendary landmarks that once seemed invincible could be at risk of being lost forever. From the crumbling wall of China, to the teetering Tower of Pisa, let's take a look at some landmarks that could disappear soon.
The Rusty Eiffel Tower
The Parisian culture is certainly among the world’s most iconic. But besides croissants and floods of red wine, there’s one thing that undeniably defines France: the Eiffel Tower! Constructed in 1889, the tower marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
Interestingly, it was only intended to stand for 20 years, however, given its height, scientists recognized its value as a radiotelegraph station, so it was kept. But how long can a tower that was built to survive just 20 years really last? Well, according to some, not much longer.
At 135 years old, this Mademoiselle isn’t doing terrible. Though, due to being made from wrought-iron, the future could be troublesome for the Eiffel Tower. When exposed to moisture or oxygen, a chemical process known as oxidation happens to iron.
During this process, iron is converted into iron oxide, which is typically reddish and flaky, something we commonly know as rust. If left unattended, the rust will progressively corrode the iron, weakening its physical integrity.
For years now, rust has plagued the Eiffel Tower. In fact, in 2022, leaked reports carried out by the tower’s management revealed how rust is eating away at the iron like termites at wood. And if nothing is done, we could well be saying au revoir to the Eiffel Tower within the next decade or so.
This is because, left untreated, the corrosion will eventually weaken certain parts of the structure so much so, that they will inevitably collapse. But with a somewhat laissez faire attitude, the French government reportedly just keeps painting over the damage every 7 years, rather than actually fixing it.
Expert opinion has it that this is only worsening the corrosion, and if it isn’t stripped to the metal and repaired at a deeper level, its structural integrity will become a genuine hazard. So, will the Eiffel Tower disappear in our lifetimes? It’s certainly possible, after all, merely covering your problems with paint won’t make them go away.
The Disappearing Great Wall of China
At a staggering 2,241-years-old, The Great Wall of China is so iconic that it’s officially one of the seven wonders of the world. But long before being a tourist-trap for Instagram snaps, it was actually conceived to protect the country from violent invading tribes.
And while it might’ve been strong enough to protect ancient China, is it strong enough to stand the test of time? Looking at recent snaps like the one below, it may seem as if the wall is still in good-condition. And true, at over 2,000 years old, the structure is not looking fragile.
However, according to UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, about 30% of the wall has disappeared. Firstly, natural erosion from the elements has certainly taken a toll on the wall, after all, rain-water is typically acidic and naturally dissolves rock over time.
But there is one thing, or rather, 10 million things destroying the wall worse than anything else: tourists. While tourists innocently strolling along the wall, taking snaps sounds completely harmless, it’s reported by numerous sources, including The Guardian, that many visitors actually take bricks from the wall as a souvenir. Needless to say that is a slight issue.
According to a report by the Global Times, new Chinese regulations state that anyone caught stealing from, or defacing the wall, could be fined up to 5,000 Yuan, which is roughly $720.
But despite the destruction by tourists, there’s still another type of erosion to consider. In recent years, an increasing number of abrasive sandstorms have taken a toll on western sections of the wall, so much so, that according to China’s official state news agency, the wall is being reduced to mounds of dirt, and vast expanses may be completely gone in 20 years!
Taj Mahal Demolition
India is a huge country brimming with culture. From food to fashion, and everything in between, there’s plenty to enthrall a visitor. However, when it comes to landmarks, there seems to be one stand-out: the Taj Mahal!
Like China’s Great Wall, this A-list landmark also finds itself a member of the 7 wonders of the world club, but that membership could soon be past tense. That’s because, astoundingly, there are plans for its demolition being discussed at the highest echelons of the Indian government.
Bult in 1632, the 390-year-old mausoleum was created by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to immortalize his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. But thanks to its opulent white marble façade and pointed domes, the stunning mausoleum quickly became world-recognized, and today attracts around 8 million visitors annually! But that could all be about to change.
Thanks to excessive vehicles, burning of coal, dust storms, and forest fires, India is said to be the 3rd most polluted country in the world. As a result of this, alongside smatterings of algae and insect waste, the once pearly white Taj Mahal has gradually been turning sickly shades of green and yellow.
Even so, it seems the local authorities responsible, the Government of Uttar Pradesh, have turned a blind eye, much to India’s Supreme Court’s disapproval. In fact, the rapidly-deteriorating quality of India’s most prized monument has become a concern for the Indian Supreme Court.
The court has actually presented the Government of Uttar Pradesh an ultimatum: either they restore the monument, or they have it shut down and potentially even demolished.
Safe to say this would be catastrophic to the city of Agra’s economy, and maybe even wider India, considering that since 2019, the mausoleum has generated over 16-and-a-half million dollars, just from ticket sales alone.
So, will the Taj Mahal continue to survive? Or will it be bulldozed into a distant memory? Well, there are discussions of bans on pollution-causing vehicles and industries in the area, but talks of these kinds have been going on for years, without any real outcome. So, it seems, for the iconic Taj, only time will tell.
Cities That Could Be Underwater Soon
The concept of climate change is becoming more and more real every day. So real even, that if something isn’t done soon, some iconic places on Earth might be underwater as soon as 2050. And, in a disturbing existential realization for any Gen-X-ers and Millennials reading, 2050 is closer in time to us than the early 90s is!
According to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, since the industrial revolution, we’ve pumped enough greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere to raise the Earth’s global temperature by 1-degree-celsius. And sure, at their core, greenhouse gasses aren’t inherently bad, as they help retain the sun’s heat, keeping the planet at a useful temperature for life.
However, thanks to us, this natural and harmonious balance of greenhouse gasses is now in surplus, meaning that the Earth’s natural cycles of climate change are being accelerated to a destructive level. Icecaps are melting, fast, and in doing so, raising the sea levels, which can only spell-out trouble for we land-dwellers.
A 1-degree-celcius increase might sound inconsequential, but huge changes are already happening. And scientists reckon that if the global temperature should increase by 2-degrees-celsius, it’ll bring around an unstoppable process that could raise sea-levels in certain coastal areas by an astounding 16 to 29 feet!
If this does happen, it’s believed that New York’s surrounding waters, for example, would flow over and into the city, causing devastation of many areas of Manhattan’s waterfront districts. Iconic NYC landmarks could be at risk, including Lady Liberty herself, as the water would be firmly creeping up onto her island refuge.
In the decades and centuries after that, if ice caps were to melt almost entirely, Lady Liberty could one day be almost fully immersed. While the statue’s full immersion is a little unlikely in our lifetimes, the costly rising sea levels are nonetheless expected to become a serious problem by 2050.
There’s currently a plan to build a floodgate wall around the lower half of Manhattan. However, if the sea levels were to rise by the full 16 to 29 feet forecasted in some regions of the world, they would need to build a wall around the entire city. If not, New York could become less of a concrete jungle and more a concrete aquarium.
Further south, you’ll find another coastal U.S. city at even greater risk of flooding: Miami, Florida. Currently at just 3 feet above sea level, by 2060, the surrounding sea-levels are expected to rise by around 31-inches, according to research from the University of Miami.
And while this won’t entirely wipe out Florida, at least not in that timeframe, it is estimated that much of Miami Beach and its landmarks, such as South-Beach and the art-deco hotels of Ocean Drive, will be uninhabitable within 3 decades. With these scary predictions, Miami may be bye-bye-ami by the end of the century.
Another major city in the firing-line is none other than London, and just like Miami, it’s all about rising sea-levels. But London isn’t a coastal city, so how could this happen? Well, the River Thames, which runs directly through the city, is actually tidal, meaning its water-level just as the north sea which it runs into does.
So, if global sea levels do rise as projected, according to an interactive map by Climate Central, huge chunks of the city would be left devastated by recurrent annual floods by 2060. Even Big Ben could be left with his feet in the water.
While it’d likely take upwards of a century for certain iconic London landmarks like Tower Bridge to be overwhelmed by floodwaters, London’s relative flatness will still put a concerningly large portion of the city at flood-risk in the next 4 decades.
However, Sarah Smith, an environmental agency flood risk manager in the UK, is hopeful these rising floodwaters can be overcome. Not because the waters won’t rise, but because the British government is actually working on necessary defenses for when this does happen, which Sarah is confident will save the Big Smoke.
Named ‘The Thames Estuary 2100 Plan’, the initiative aims to combat flooding leading up to the year 2100, by building and improving the Thames Barrier flood walls and embankments, pumping stations, and flood gates. Ultimately, it’s estimated this will save £320-billion worth of property.
So, will London Bridge fall down? Or will Britannia need to re-learn how to rule the waves? We’ll have to wait and see.
The Dying Of The Dead Sea
Named due to its uninhabitable saltiness, the Dead Sea is one of the saltiest lakes on Earth. However, in an unfortunate, yet ironic, turn of events, it would seem the Dead Sea is actually dying.
No surprise, it’s yet another man-made problem, but not so much climate change this time. It’s actually to do with the lake’s tributary. A tributary is essentially a river that flows into a much larger river or lake, in this case, the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea, providing it with water.
According to Professor Abu Jaber, a specialist in the geochemistry of groundwater in Jordan, the Dead Sea used to receive around 200-million-cubic-metres of water per year. However, during the 60s, Israel began to divert the headwaters for various human uses.
Later on, Jordan and Syria got in on the action too, and this, alongside water-evaporating mineral extraction processes in the area, has left the Dead Sea with less than 100-million-cubic-metres of water today. At this rate, if no major action is taken, the tributaries feeding the Dead Sea are at serious risk of completely drying up by the year 2050.
If this happens, the lake will rapidly deplete to a fraction of its size, and be left to potentially fully evaporate under the increasingly hot middle-eastern sun in the decades that follow. So, if we don’t want this unique natural landmark to evaporate like a pan of water left on the stove too long, governments in the region better get their acts together!
A303 Stonehenge Tunnel
Thought to be around 5,000 years old, Stonehenge is a formation of ancient bluestone and sarsen rocks in Wiltshire, England, deliberately arranged in a circular position. Theories for the monument’s purpose range from burial site to ritual grounds, and it intrigues over 1 million visitors annually. But could Stonehenge’s days be numbered?
Of course, like anything exposed to the elements, Stonehenge is slowly eroding away. But erosion can take thousands to millions of years, so why should we be worried about Stonehenge disappearing?
Since 1995 there have been multiple proposals from England’s highways authority for an underground tunnel that would connect south-east and south-west England. Problem is, the tunnel would need to run beneath the foundations of Stonehenge, potentially compromising its integral structure, and defiling the sacred site.
The government-led project was actually approved by then British chancellor, now prime minister, Rishi Sunak, in 2020. Though this was met with outcry from concerned campaigners, who feared the construction could potentially destroy Stonehenge, alongside risking ruining other archeological finds recently found in the area. And with that, the decision was deemed unlawful in 2021 by the High Court.
Even so, The Guardian reports that Highways England are still cooking up alternative proposals to get their precious tunnel built. So, it looks like this decades-long saga isn’t over and our lifetimes could conceivably see Stonehenge collapsing into the ground below as the tunnel is built.
Threats To The Great Barrier Reef
Did you know the Great Barrier Reef, just off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is one of the largest living organisms on Earth? In fact, it’s so big that it’s even visible from space.
However, in recent times, its greatness has begun to decline, with Australian researchers reporting that the reef’s lost half of its corals since 1995. And at that rate, it’s certainly not unrealistic to say that it could completely vanish within our lifetimes.
Aside from oceanic pollution, it’s largely down to our old pal climate change. As more greenhouse-gasses are emitted and the Earth warms, not only do our oceans become more acidic, the corals in the water become too warm, which triggers them to expel the algae living inside their tissues.
This causes the corals to turn completely white, a process known as ‘bleaching’. While bleaching doesn’t instantly equate to death, it does leave them vulnerable to disease, stunts their growth and impacts reproduction, leaving them more likely to die off.
As mentioned earlier, we’ve raised global-temperature by 1-degree, if that reaches 2 degrees, climate change specialists, Carbon-Brief, predict that 98% of the Earth’s coral reefs will be at risk of bleaching by 2050. Researchers at the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies warn that we must, quote, ‘sharply decrease greenhouse-gas emissions ASAP’.
If we can do so, and slow the rise of global temperatures while reducing pollution and overfishing of coral-supporting fish species, it’s proven that the corals can return to health, though it may take decades. It’s estimated that if action isn’t taken in the next 10 years, the damage could be irreparable. And the Great Barrier Reef might become the Late Barrier Reef.
The Sphinx Erosion
Having been built around 4,500 years ago, the Sphinx in Giza, Egypt has certainly proven to stand the test of time, and among all the relics of ancient Egypt, is one of the most iconic. However, being exposed to the elements, it isn’t without isn’t without its fair share of wear and tear. In fact, it’s famously lacking a nose.
Depending on which sources are true, the nose was either broken during a French military battle in 1798, or removed in the 15th century by a Sufi Muslim named Muhammad Sa'im al-Dahr in protest of the worship of idols. But with centuries of erosion under its belt, could the Sphinx disappear in our lifetimes?
With the right combination of hazardous weather, it’s possible. While rain is rare in Egypt, meteorologist Jim Andrews notes there is the occasional torrential downpour, which erodes naturally porous rocks, such as the limestone that makes up the Sphinx.
Not just that, but according to Jim, the salt-laden groundwater beneath the landmark wicks up into the porous rocks, further weakening the structure. On top of that, high winds and sandblasting are slowly but surely gnawing away at the giant feline structure.
While it stands strong today, it’s likely that these factors will eventually lead to crumbling, and if that occurs inside the sphinx, the structure could collapse. Granted, it’d have to be a very unluckily specific combo of these factors to trigger this in the next few decades, so the Sphinx might not disappear in our lifetimes.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
From ancient Roman ruins to the Sistine Chapel, Italy is brimming with landmarks. And perhaps one of the most Instagrammable, is none other than The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Beginning construction way back in 1173, the tower is actually a freestanding bell tower, as part of Pisa’s Cathedral Square, and, no surprise, was never actually intended to have its iconic lean. So why does it lean? And more importantly, will it ever fall?
The short answer is that when they began construction, they didn’t consider that they were building on alluvial soil, a loose soil typically found near rivers. Inevitably this resulted in the tower infamously tilting to one side.
Over the years, there were attempts to correct the tilt, however nothing seemed to do the trick. And besides, after years of being known specifically for its tilt, it was decided that it would be best to keep the lean. That said, by 1990, the tower was becoming increasingly tilted, at 5.5 degrees, and was deemed too much of a hazard and was closed.
In the end, it took a $30 million restoration that lasted until 2001, to save Pisa. They managed to achieve the ‘perfect’ tilt at 3.9 degrees, by extracting the Earth beneath the shallow side to create a cavity, adding weights to that side, which allowed the pressure to slowly, partially reverse the tilt.
With that, the most optimistic estimators suggest that the tower may be able to stay put for upwards of another century. However, that is hugely dependent on it not being struck by extreme natural disasters, like strong earthquakes.
Even though the tower’s low center of gravity makes it somewhat resistant to earthquakes, they do occur in the area, and one of sufficient strength could conceivably topple the vulnerable tower. But had Pisa not been restored, it may well have toppled to the ground back in the 90s, so the famous leaner is just grateful for whatever extra time it can get!
The Melting Glaciers Of Kilimanjaro
At 19,340 feet high, Mount Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania, is the tallest mountain in the whole of Africa. Kilimanjaro is capped with snow and glaciers, on account of the reduced atmospheric pressure at those lofty heights, resulting in lower temperatures.
That being said, the huge glaciers that once covered the top of Kilimanjaro are rapidly disappearing. So much so, that between 1912 and 2006, Kilimanjaro’s ice sheet shrank by a mind-blowing 85%!
As you can probably guess, this is all to do with climate change. As mentioned, the increase of greenhouse gasses since the industrial revolution has contributed to Earth’s temperature rising by around 1-degree-celcius. This rise in temperature has caused a combination of melting and evaporation of Kilimanjaro’s glacial ice, though not in the way you might expect.
While some change has occurred directly from the increased heat upon the mountain, most of the ice-loss has occurred due to the effects of global warming on the Indian Ocean. The increased global temperature interacts with the ocean to produce more weather events like cyclones, which disturb weather patterns around Kilimanjaro.
These weather disturbances have resulted in less snowfall on the mountain; snow which usually serves the crucial purpose of reflecting the sun’s warming energy away from the glacial ice. With these circumstances as they are, the American Geophysical Union has claimed the glaciers could disappear entirely as soon as 2030.
More optimistic scientists believe they’ll stay intact until 2060. Either way, it’s sadly very probable that Kilimanjaro’s glaciers will disappear within our lifetimes, so better climb up there quick if you want to catch a glimpse!
Yellowstone Supervolcano Eruption
Brewing in the state of Wyoming, sits the Yellowstone Volcano, or rather, super volcano. Unlike the volcanoes you might typically imagine, this one bubbles underground over an area of 30-by-45-miles-wide in Yellowstone National Park.
Some more alarmist scientists will tell you the colossal volcano is overdue an eruption, based on fact that three terrifyingly-huge eruptions have occurred at relatively regular intervals in history.
Each emitted more than an astonishing 250 cubic miles of magma, with one eruption occurring 2.1 million years ago, another 1.2 million ago, and the most recent being 640,000 years ago. The pattern-spotters among you will be able to see why some are a little concerned we’re due another, given the time since the last eruption is similar to the time period between the previous 3.
However, the truth is, volcanoes are very unpredictable, making it impossible to accurately predict when such an eruption will occur. But if the pressure in the underground magma chambers does build to the point of eruption, what exactly would happen to the America above-ground?
If such an event occurred with the same ferocity as those previous 3, it’s likely that enormous amounts of volcanic ash, gas, magma, and other volcanic debris, would spew across most of the continental U.S., even reaching as far as Louisiana! This fatal plume of hot ash and gasses would blast miles high into the atmosphere, blocking sunlight and leaving a third of the continent in darkness, crippling agriculture.
Pyroclastic flows, the fast-moving rivers of lava and scalding gas, would race outwards into the 50-mile-radius region around the volcano at speeds as fast as a commercial airliner, burying, burning, or shattering anything in their path.
As the clouds of ash settled, they would leave parts of the U.S. in as much as 3-feet of ash. This ash would collapse roofs, contaminate water supplies, destroy powerlines, and poison the lungs of any survivors.
In previous eruptions, it’s thought that in the aftermath, the volcano collapsed into itself, pulling with it trees, mountains, and anything else unlucky enough to be nearby. All that remains afterwards is a large depression in the ground, known as a caldera.
If all this were to happen, there’s no saying which or how many U.S. landmarks would be obliterated, severely damaged, or at the very least, made to vanish under a blanket of ash.
Before you start panic-buying survival supplies, a good handful of scientists argue there’s not enough fluid magma bubbling below Yellowstone to sustain an eruption comparable in scope to previous mega-eruptions.
But, the fact remains that, truthfully, an eruption of some kind can’t be fully written off. Yellowstone could indeed be brewing a storm that might not only happen in our lifetimes, but, in the worst-case-scenario, end our lifetimes. We just have to hope we’re all gone before that happens.
I hope you were amazed (and not too terrified) at these landmarks that could disappear in our lifetimes. Thanks for reading!