Rocks and boulders
This striking rock, situated between the islands Vágar (in front) and Mykines, Faroe Islands, is named Tindholmur. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Eroded formations of Nanya Sandstone with layers of oxidized iron, Nanya Peculiar Rocks, northern Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cumulus clouds, gathering around the Sella Mountains, Dolomites, northern Italy. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
“The rocks are not so close akin to us as the soil; they are one more remove from us; but they lie back of all, and are the final source of all. I do not suppose they attract us on this account, but on quite other grounds. Rocks do not recommend the land to the tiller of the soil, but they recommend it to those who reap a harvest of another sort – the artist, the poet, the walker, the student and lover of all primitive open-air things.”
– John Burroughs (1837-1921), American author and conservationist, in his essay The Friendly Rocks, from Under the Apple-Trees, 1916
Below is a collection of pictures, depicting remarkable rocks or rock formations. Others may be seen on the page Nature: Nature’s artwork.
The states of Utah and Arizona, and the western part of Colorado, south-western United States, are home to extremely dramatic landscapes, displaying rocks in almost every imaginable form and shape. The following pictures show a selection of these rocks.
The presence of natural bridges in Arches National Park, Utah, is caused by thick layers of salt, deep in the underground. These layers are unstable because of the tremendous weight of sediments, resting on them. The layers sometimes move, causing the rocks in the overlaying sediments to crack, often along parallel lines. In these cracks, alternating temperatures loosen small bits of rock, which are removed by rain and wind. In some places, underlying, softer sediments are eroded away, leaving natural bridges of harder material.
If you want to see the slender and fragile Landscape Arch, you probably have to do so soon. It may fall anytime. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Delicate Arch is balancing at the edge of an abyss, looking as it could fall any moment. In the background the La Sal Mountains. In the lower picture, it is illuminated by late afternoon sunshine. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Broken Arch resembles two giant lizards, one biting the other one’s snout. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Double Arch. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
South Window (left) and North Window. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This remarkable rock north of Monticello, Utah, has been dubbed Church Rock. A more suitable name would be ‘Stupa Rock’, as it clearly resembles this Buddhist structure. In the background La Sal Mountains with Mount Peale (3868 m). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Mesa Arch in morning light, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, United States. This stunning natural arch was created by rain water, eroding away the rock layer around the arch. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In Monument Valley, Arizona, rainfall and wind have eroded rocks into bizarre forms.
This picture shows The Totempole, which seems to defy gravity. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This rock formation, called Three Sisters, is silhouetted against the evening sky. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
East Mitten (left) and Merrick Butte in evening light. East and West Mitten were named due to their outline, resembling mittens, complete with a separate pocket for the thumb. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A unique landscape is found in Bryce Canyon National Park, southern Utah, displaying spires, towers, and other fantastic figures in brilliant red and yellow colours. The local Paiute people called the figures ’The Legendary People’, and, according to their mythology, they were people, turned into stone by the wizard Coyote. (You may read more about Coyote on the page Animals: Dog family).
The first white settler here was Ebenezer Bryce, whom the national park is named after. He grazed his cattle on the plateau above the gorge and had an entirely different opinion about this magnificent landscape: “A hell of a place to lose a cow.”
The figures are shaped by rivulets and rain water, eroding the soft sediment along the edge of a fault. This erosion caused many tiny gorges to emerge, through which the sediment could be washed out more quickly, leaving only ‘fins’ of harder material, consisting of a mixture of limestone, siltstone, dolomite, and mudstone, filled with holes and cracks. As the park is situated at a high altitude (c. 2300 m), the climate is harsh. In the holes and cracks, rain water freezes and expands, eroding away even more sediment. Only the hardest material remains, often shaped to the strangest forms. In American, these figures are called hoodoos.
Morning light (top) and evening light on eroded rocks, Bryce Canyon National Park. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Blue Mesa, situated in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, United States, consists of thick layers of grey, blue, purple, and green mudstone, deposited approximately 220 million years ago. This area abounds with petrified tree trunks.
Eroded gully with broken petrified logs, Blue Mesa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning light on a spectacular rock with alternating dark and light sedimentation, Mesa Verde, Colorado. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Chiricahua National Monument, south-eastern Arizona, is an area with countless outstanding rock formations, consisting of rhyolitic tuff. Yellow lichens are growing on many of the rocks, as seen in the pictures below.
Evening sun on rocks in Chiricahua National Monument. Two rocks far to the right resemble a gaping turtle and a long-eared dog. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning sun on rock pillars, Chiricahua National Monument. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This rock is aptly named Mushroom Rock. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Naturally, this formation is called Kissing Rocks. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This Hindu temple, named Tanah Lot, has been built on a rock off the west coast of Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In many areas around the Earth, cone-shaped pillars are formed in volcanic layers, or in moraine clay or gravel, which was deposited during the last Ice Age. In dry weather, these layers are hard as stone, but when it rains, it becomes softer and begins to erode away. However, larger rocks were also deposited by the volcanoes and the glaciers, and under such stones the soil is protected from the rain. Over the years, the surrounding soil is eroded away, and beneath the rocks majestic pillars are formed, often rising steeply out of the soil. Such structures are called earth pyramids.
Earth pyramids, carved out along a river, Pang, Ladakh, northern India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The volcanic tuff layer in the Zelve Valley, Cappadocia, central Turkey, has been eroded into earth pyramids. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These earth pyramids in the Zelve Valley strongly resemble stinkhorn fungi (Phallus). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The varied and interesting nature in Namibia is described on the page Countries and places: Namibia – a desert country.
Alternating temperatures have caused this rock near Spitzkoppe to crack into thin flakes, resembling the layers of an onion. Further erosion is made by rain and wind. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rocky area on the peak of Glyder Fawr, Snowdon National Park, Gwynedd, Wales. The standing stones are possibly a man-made structure. The highest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon (1085 m), is seen in the background. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The rocks of Djeti-Ögüz (‘Seven Bulls’) is a natural monument, located in the Issyk-Kul Province of Kyrgyzstan. A local legend relates, how these rocks got their name.
A long time ago, a khan (chief) had a beautiful wife. Another khan fell in love with the wife and stole her from her husband. This caused a brutal war to break out between the khans. The khan, who had abducted the wife, asked a wise man what to do. He advised the khan to kill the wife, so that her former husband could never take her back.
The khan now organized a large fiest, ordering seven bulls to be killed, after which he killed the wife. However, huge splashes of blood gushed from her heart, drowning the khan and his servants, and washing away the seven bulls. When they finally came to rest, the bulls turned into a red stone formation, resembling the backs of seven bulls. (Source: advantour.com/kyrgyzstan/legends/jety-oguz)
Horse rider, passing by Djeti-Ögüz. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Peculiar rock formations, resembling a group of aliens, in ‘The Stone Forest’, east of Kunming, Yunnan Province, China. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Balanced Rock is a pre-Columbian dolmen at North Salem, New York State, consisting of a 90-ton granite boulder, which is balancing atop several slabs of granular quartz. Geologists have labeled it an accidental glacial erratic, but it sits precisely over a major magnetic anomaly, and brilliant golf-ball sized lights have repeatedly been photographed circling it.
Such structures show links with electro-magnetic energies and increased crop production. You may read about this interesting theory, proposed by my late friend John Burke, on the page Books – Seed of Knowledge, Stone of Plenty: Understanding the Lost Technology of the Ancient Megalith-Builders.
Balanced Rock is balancing atop several slabs of granular quartz. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
From this angle, Balanced Rock resembles the head of a turtle. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Clothes have been spread out on a flat rock to dry, near Sravanabelagola, Karnataka, South India. A woman is washing more clothes in a pool beneath the rock. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
These flat coastal rocks at Laomei, Fugueijiao, northern Taiwan, have been eroded into wedge-shaped, more or less parallel rocks, covered in a species of sea lettuce, Ulva compressa. Sea water is washed into hollows beneath the rocks, sprouting up geysir-like through cracks. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The coastal rock on the pictures below, at the coast of Bornholm, Denmark, was formed by rainfall, waves, and wind. This formation is called Kamelhovederne (‘The Camel Heads’), although one of the figures resembles a wolf, rather than a camel. In the lower picture, a variety of sea mayweed, Matricaria maritima var. retzii, and a yellow lichen, are growing atop the rock.
(Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Peculiar rock formations in the mountain chain El Torcal de Antequera, Andalusia, Spain, consisting of Jurassic limestone, c. 150 million years old. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The African fish-eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer), which is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, always lives near water. This iconic raptor is the national bird of no less than three countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Sudan. This species was described by French naturalist François Levaillant (1753-1824), who named it vocifer (’the one who has a penetrating voice’) – a most suitable name for this eagle, whose scream often resounds over African wetlands.
This African fish-eagle is resting on a huge boulder near Adamson’s Falls, Tana River, Meru National Park, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Eroded limestone rock, Van Long Nature Reserve, Vietnam. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Joshua Tree National Park in the Mohave Desert, eastern California, contains several interesting rock formations. Three examples are shown below.
Morning sun illuminates an eroded rock, resembling the head of a sleeping giant. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Another formation in the national park is Skull Rock – a descriptive name of this eroded rock. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Morning light on eroded rocks, consisting of Monzo granite, with a juniper (Juniperus) in the foreground. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Erratic boulders, left by glaciers during the last Ice Age, 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, are a very common sight in Denmark and southern Sweden. Some of these boulders inspired Danish poet Steen Steensen Blicher (1782-1848) to write the following in his short-story Brudstykker af en Landsbydegns Dagbog (’Fragments of the Diary of a Parish Clerk’), from 1824: ”Thus I recognize many a tree, many a heather-covered hill, and even the dead boulders, which stand here unchanged for millennia, watching one generation after another grow up and vanish.”
Below, three examples of Scandinavian erratic boulders are shown.
Damestenen (‘Lady’s Boulder’), or Hesselagerstenen (‘The Hesselager Boulder’), Funen, is Denmark’s largest erratic boulder, with a circumference of 45 m, a volume of c. 370 m3, and a weight of about 1000 tons. As legend has it, an ogress, living on the island of Langeland, who was annoyed by the tolling bells of Svindinge Church, hurled this huge boulder, aiming at the church spire, but missed.
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Kroppkaka Stone is a glacial erratic that has been eroded to an almost globular form, resting on a number of smaller stones near the village of Folkeslunda, on the island of Öland, Sweden.
As legend has it, a giant named Wälter lived on Öland with his wife. One day, they were arguing as to where the centre of Öland might be, and, as they were very skilled at throwing stones, they decided to use this method. They knew that the giant was able to throw his large round stone exactly as far, as the wife was able to throw the lesser stones she was carrying in her apron. The wife now went to the northern tip of the island, from where she threw her stones southward, as far as she could, whereas Wälter, from the southern point of the island, with all his might threw his one large stone northward. Later, they met at Folkeslunda, and, as it turned out, the stones had all landed on the exact same spot, with the large stone resting on the smaller stones. They now knew that they had found the centre of the island.
The name Kroppkaka Stone is due to the almost globular form of this rock, which resembles a kroppkaka, a traditional Swedish dish, consisting of balls made of potato and wheat flour, with a filling of salt and onions, and beef, pork, or bacon.
Hans and Ann-Christine Lomosse at the Kroppkaka Stone, Öland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
According to legend, Slingestenen (‘The Sling Boulder’), an erratic boulder on the island of Bornholm, Denmark, was also hurled at a church. An ogre, living on the islet of Christiansø, aimed at Bodil’s Church, using a silver cord, which left an indent around the boulder. He also missed his goal, and the boulder landed in the nearby Paradisbakkerne.
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Krishna, who is the eighth avatar (incarnation) of the great Hindu god Vishnu, is a very popular deity, identified by his blue skin. He is often depicted, playing on his flute, accompanied by his greatest love, Radha, or with gopis, beautiful female herders, whom he was fond of seducing.
Krishna grew up with a herdsman, well protected against a cruel king, Kansa, who was killing man-children, as a fortune teller had warned him that he would be overthrown by a young man. A divine voice warned Krishna, who took shelter with the herdsman. When he had reached manhood, he killed the evil king and liberated the people.
The name of this huge boulder, resting on a flat rock near Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu, South India, is ‘Krishna’s Butterball’. The goat beneath the boulder gives an impression of its size. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) is a small gull, which is widely distributed in Arctic seas, breeding in colonies on steep rocks or cliffs, where each pair builds a nest, consisting of plants and seaweeds, on a narrow ledge. As a breeding bird, this species is found southwards to the Kuril Islands, southern Alaska, Newfoundland, the British Isles, and France, with scattered colonies in Portugal and Spain. In winter, it disperses to a huge area in subarctic and temperate seas.
The generic name is derived from the Icelandic name of the bird, rita, whereas the English name was given in allusion to its call. The specific name is from the Greek tridaktulos (‘three toes’), referring to the fact that this species is missing the small, back-pointing fourth toe, which most other gull species possess.
In North America, this species is called black-legged kittiwake to differentiate it from its near relative, the red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris), which breeds on small islands in the far northern Pacific.
White kittiwakes, breeding on dark rocks off Rauðanupur (‘Red Cliff’), northern Iceland. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rocks in morning light, Djebel Musa (Mount Moses), Sinai, Egypt. On this mountain, Moses, according to The Book of Exodus, received the two tablets with the Ten Commandments inscribed. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Boulders is the name of a coastal area at Simonstown, near Cape Town, South Africa, with many rounded boulders, among which a breeding colony of jackass penguins (Spheniscus demersus) have made their home.
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
El Capitan, Half Dome, and other remarkable granite rocks in Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, eastern California, were sculpted by glaciers during the last Ice Age, 10,000 to 15,000 years ago.
El Capitan (Spanish for ‘captain’ or ‘chief’) is a vertical rock, about 914 m from base to summit. Its name is a loose translation of the local Native American name for the rock.
Half Dome is named after its shape. One side is a sheer rock face, whereas the other three sides are smooth and round, making the rock appear like a dome, cut in half.
An Ahwahneechee legend relates that, long ago, two travellers, Tissiak and her husband Tokoyee, were quarrelling with each other. He became so enraged that he began beating her, which made her so angry that she hurled her basket of acorns at him. As they stood facing each other, they were turned to stone for their wickedness. The acorn basket (Basket Dome) lies upturned beside Tokoyee (North Dome), and the rock face of Tissiak (Half Dome) is stained with her tears.
The plant life of Yosemite National Park and surrounding mountains is described on the page Plants – Mountain plants: Plants of Sierra Nevada.
El Capitan (left) and Half Dome (in the background). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Half Dome and Merced River. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
On this rock wall in Yosemite National Park, cracks and streaks of mineral deposits, created by repeated rainfall, have painted a sad face. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Over the millennia, the Kalhatti Waterfall, in the Nilgiri Mountains, South India, has carved out a circular depression in the rock. The flowers to the left are marigolds (Tagetes). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Millions of years ago, volcanic activity in today’s northern Iceland brought fluid basaltic lava to the surface, where it formed a plateau. As the lava cooled, it contracted and fractured in a similar way to drying mud. As the lava cooled further, these cracks penetrated downwards, forming 6-sided (sometimes 4-, 5-, and 7-sided) columns. Further volcanic activity since pushed some of the columns into a horizontal position.
Vertical basaltic columns, Aldeyarfoss, Aldeyjardal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Following the creation of these basaltic columns at Hljoðaklettar, along the Jökulsá á Fjöllum River, further volcanic activity pushed them into a horizontal position. The yellow leaves in the foreground are of arctic downy birch (Betula pubescens var. pumila). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a large wader, belonging to the curlew genus, of the large snipe family (Scolopacidae). It breeds in Arctic and Subarctic areas in North America, Greenland, Iceland, northern Scotland, Scandinavia, Finland, north-western Russia, and at scattered locations across Siberia. The name whimbrel is an imitation of its call, a number of rattling tones.
Whimbrels, resting on a lava rock, Aðaldal, northern Iceland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Devil’s Tower is a rock formation in north-eastern Wyoming, United States – presumably the eroded remnant of a laccolith, a large mass of magma, which is intruded through sedimentary rock. As the magma cooled, 6-sided (sometimes 4-, 5-, and 7-sided) vertical columns formed. This amazing rock rises dramatically above the Belle Fourche River, 265 m high from base to summit.
For hundreds of years, this rock has been sacred to local peoples, such as Lakota, Cheyenne, and Kiowa, and it appears in the mythologies of several other tribes. Today, it is the site of tribal vision quests and other rituals, and in the surrounding grasslands, Sun Dances and other tribal ceremonies are performed.
Vision quests are described in detail on the page Books: Seed of Knowledge, Stone of Plenty, Chapter 3.
Devil’s Tower, north-eastern Wyoming, United States, rises dramatically above the surrounding landscape. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Devil’s Tower is popular among rock climbers. In this picture, climbers scale some of the columns. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Deposited minerals add gorgeous colours to this rock wall at Lisong Hot Springs, Sinwulu River, eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Kopjes are isolated rocky outcrops, which, somewhat wantonly, pierce the African savanna here and there. Incidentally, they are the remains of ancient, eroded mountains. To the Boer, when they migrated to Southern Africa in the 1700s, these outcrops resembled heads, so they named them kopjes (‘head’ in Dutch).
Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), resting on Gol Kopjes, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. A male pallid harrier (Circus macrourus) is passing by. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Young lions (Panthera leo), resting on Simba Kopjes (‘Lion Heads’), Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Cattle, grazing in front of eroded rocks, Manang, Upper Marsyangdi Valley, Annapurna, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Granite rocks in Lake Femunden, Hedmark, Norway. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Usually, construction of a fortress atop Sigiriya (‘Lion Rock’), eastern Sri Lanka, has been ascribed to the Sinhalese King Kasyapa, or Kassapa (ruled 473-495 A.D.) – a terrible man, who killed his own father and tried to kill his brother Moggallana, who was the rightful heir to the throne. Moggallana escaped to India, but later returned to Sri Lanka with an army. A huge battle ensued, during which Kasyapa was killed.
Archaeological excavations, however, have revealed that parts of the fortress were built long before Kasyapa’s reign. (Source: Roloff Beny & John Lindsay Opie, 1970. Island Ceylon. Thames & Hudson, London)
Sigiriya (‘Lion Rock’), eastern Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rough sea at Muriwai Beach, New Zealand. The rocks in the background are home to a large colony of Australian gannets (Morus serrator). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In 2007, together with Indian forester Ajai Saxena and his wife Madhu, I undertook a hike in the Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh, northern India. At several spots, the trail along the Tirthan River had been washed away by heavy monsoon showers, and new ‘paths’ had been constructed, many of them leading through the river itself. This hike is described in detail on the page Plants – Plant hunting in the Himalaya: Abode of the deodar.
In this picture, Madhu Saxena is being assisted while crossing a huge boulder in the Tirthan River. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Misty mountain peaks behind grazing horses, Alto Gallego, Pyrenees, Spain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Peculiar limestone rock formations, Mei Shan (‘Plum Mountains’), Guizhou Province, China. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Rock formations, Cliffs of Moher, western Ireland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Ladakh is a barren land in north-western India. Geologically it constitutes a part of the Tibetan Plateau.
Eroded rocks near Sumda. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Evening shadows on rocks, Lamayuru. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In later years, the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) has declined in large parts of Europe, but there is still a viable population in Spain.
Evening light on a rock, utilized by griffon vultures as a night roost, Salto el Gitano, Parque Natural de Monfragüe, Extremadura, Spain. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
This opening in coastal rocks at Eluanbi, Kenting National Park, southern Taiwan, which consist of fossilized coral, is called ‘The Sea Pavillon’. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded February 2020)