Even in the 21st century there are places on our planet that have yet to be explored. Some of those places are veritable “lost worlds,” cut off from the outside for centuries, they often hide new and unusual species that have yet to be discovered by scientists. Such was the case recently in Australia where a team of researchers visited a remote region for the first time. Inside they discovered things that they couldn’t have imagined before venturing forth.
Back in October, scientists from James Cook University traveled to a place called Cape Melville. Rugged and isolated, the cape is cut off from the rest of Australia by millions of boulders piled up on one another to form a massive wall. That impassable barrier has essentially created a self contained ecosystem with little interaction with the outside world. Those boulders made entry into the region nearly impossible in the past and it wasn’t until the explorers discovered a place where they could land a helicopter that they could even enter at all.
The first thing the team discovered upon gaining entry to Cape Melville is that it was covered by what they call a Gondwana rainforest. That means it dates back millions of years to when Australia was still part of the super-continent of Gondwanaland, which eventually broke into pieces, forming Antarctica, Africa, India, South America, Madagascar and Arabia in the process. In a sense, the rainforest on the cape is about as old as anything else living on the planet.
The mere fact that the forest remains at all was exciting enough, but over the course of their four-day expedition the team also discovered several never-before-seen species of animals living there as well. Those species included a new frog that lives between the giant boulders that has evolved beyond the need to lay its eggs in water. They also spotted a golden skink that flitted across the boulders as it hunted for insects to prey upon. But perhaps oddest of all, they discovered a large, spindly gecko that doesn’t hold much resemblance to anything else on the planet.
The scientists estimate that during their time on Cape Melville they only managed to explore roughly about a tenth of the region. They are already planning a return visit during which they hope to spend more time mapping the forest and searching for other hidden treasures. They believe that there may be unique birds, insects, reptiles or even mammals to be found inside the valley, which stretches just nine miles in length and three miles at its widest point.
I love that there are still these remote places that hold hidden things for us to discover. In an age when the Internet has made the world feel like a smaller place, these kinds of stories remind us that our planet still has plenty of amazing things that it has yet to reveal to us. It makes you wonder what else is out there, just waiting for us to stumble across it.