Friday, April 1, 2011

Newly discovered natural arch in Afghanistan is one of world's largest

Washington, Mar 31 

A natural stone arch spanning more than 200 feet across its base in a remote corner ofAfghanistan is said to be one of the world's largest.

Researchers from the WildlifeConservation Society stumbled upon the geological colossus, named the Hazarchishma Natural Bridge, at the central highlands of Afghanistan.

It is more than 3,000 meters (nearly 10,000 feet) above sea level, making it one of the highest large natural bridges in the world. It also ranks among the largest such structures known.

“It’s one of the most spectacular discoveries ever made in this region,” Joe Walston, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asia Program, said.

“The arch is emblematic of the natural marvels that still await discovery in Afghanistan,” he said.

Wildlife Conservation Society staff Christopher Shank and Ayub Alavi discovered the massive arch in late 2010 in the course of surveying the northern edge of the Bamyan plateau for wildlife(the landscape is home to ibex and urial wild sheep) and visiting local communities.

After making the discovery, they returned to the Hazarchishma Natural Bridge (named after a nearby village) in February 2011 to take accurate measure of the natural wonder.

The total span of arch—the measurement by which natural bridges are ranked—is 210.6 feet in width, making it the 12th largest natural bridge in the world.

This finding pushes Utah’s Outlaw Arch in Dinosaur National Monument—smaller than Hazarchishma by more than four feet—to number 13 on the list.

Consisting of rock layers formed between the Jurassic Period (200-145 million years ago) and the more recent Eocene Epoch (55-34 million years ago), the Hazarchishma Natural Bridge was carved over millennia by the once flowing waters of the now dry Jawzari Canyon.

The world’s largest natural arch—Fairy Bridge—is located by Buliu River in Guangxi, China, and spans a staggering 400 feet in width. Several of the top 20 largest natural arches are located in the state of Utah in the U.S.

“Afghanistan has taken great strides in initiating programs to preserve the country’s most beautiful wild places as well as conserve its natural resources,” Peter Zahler, Deputy Director for the WCS Asia Program, said.

“This newfound marvel adds to the country’s growing list of natural wonders and economic assets,” he stated.


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