The World’s Greatest Geological Wonders
36 Spectacular Sites Collection

The Great Courses
Show More

36 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Santorini—Impact of Volcanic Eruptions
Learn Professor Wysession's criteria for choosing more than 200 different geologic wonders in nearly 120 countries. Then explore the first on his list: the beautiful Greek island of Santorini, which…
Episode 2 Mount Fuji—Sleeping Power
Turn from eruptions to volcanoes themselves--in particular, Mount Fuji in Japan, a sacred site whose nearly perfect cone shape is a popular subject in Japanese art. Investigate the origin of…
Episode 3 Galapagos Rift—Wonders of Mid-Ocean Ridges
Continue your study of phenomena associated with plate tectonics by visiting the Galapagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin. This magnificent archipelago is on a volcanic hotspot near a mid-ocean…
Episode 4 African Rift Valley—Cracks into the Earth
Visit the African Rift Valley, a mid-ocean ridge in the making. From the Red Sea to Mount Kilimanjaro, tectonic forces are splitting Africa apart, forming a new ocean in the…
Episode 5 Erta Ale—Compact Fury of Lava Lakes
Zoom in on a remarkable feature of the African Rift Valley: the lava lake at Erta Ale in Ethiopia. This seething cauldron of molten rock is the oldest of the…
Episode 6 Burgess Shale—Rocks and the Keys to Life
Chart the evolution of life revealed in the extraordinary fossils of the Burgess Shale in British Columbia. This mountainside quarry records the proliferation of new organisms--both familiar and bizarre--that followed…
Episode 7 The Grand Canyon—Earth’s Layers
Read the incredible story told in the mile-deep layers of the Grand Canyon. Investigate the canyon's formation and its connection to the opening of the Gulf of California and the…
Episode 8 The Himalayas—Mountains at Earth’s Roof
What makes the highest mountains in the world so high? Follow the events that created Mount Everest and the rest of the Himalayan range on the vast Tibetan Plateau. Learn…
Episode 9 The Ganges Delta—Earth’s Fertile Lands
Much of the rock eroded from the Himalayas ends up in the Ganges River delta, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. Learn how a delta forms and how…
Episode 10 The Amazon Basin—Lungs of the Planet
The Amazon River collects rainfall from a huge region, called the Amazon basin. Trace the basin's extensive network of tributaries, which produce 20% of the fresh water that flows into…
Episode 11 Iguazu Falls—Thundering Waterfalls
Waterfalls are among nature's most beautiful spectacles, and the most impressive falls form under unusual geological conditions. Along the border of Brazil and Argentina, tour thundering Iguazu Falls, a display…
Episode 12 Mammoth Cave—Worlds Underground
Water doesn't just flow on the surface; it also flows underground, carving caves in the process. The largest cave system in the world is Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.…
Episode 13 Cave of Crystals—Exquisite Caves
Focus on the spectacular shapes, such as stalagmites, stalactites, flowstones, and other cave features formed by minerals slowly precipitating from water. Then visit the recently discovered Cave of Crystals in…
Episode 14 Great Blue Hole—Coastal Symmetry in Sinkholes
Probe the mystery of the Great Blue Hole, an enormous submerged sinkhole ringed by a coral reef off the coast of Belize. Study the processes that create sinkholes, and investigate…
Episode 15 Ha Long Bay—Dramatic Karst Landscapes
The picturesque limestone islands in Vietnam's Ha Long Bay are an example of mature karst topography. Discover how the bay's cone-shaped towers are related to the sinkholes in episode 14.…
Episode 16 Bryce Canyon—Creative Carvings of Erosion
Continue your study of erosional features with Utah's Bryce Canyon, the densest display of weathered rock pinnacles, called hoodoos, anywhere in the world. Learn that Bryce Canyon isn't really a…
Episode 17 Uluru/Ayers Rock—Sacred Nature of Rocks
Go to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia to inspect two popular attractions shaped by erosion: Ayres Rock, known locally as Uluru, and the Kata Tjuta rock domes. Trace the…
Episode 18 Devils Tower—Igneous Enigmas
Famous as the landing pad for aliens in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Devils Tower in Wyoming is an otherworldly geological formation. Discover how this massive tower…
Episode 19 Antarctica—A World of Ice
Head south to a pristine, unearthly continent: Antarctica. Explore the varied geology and the complex behavior of the giant ice sheets that flow relentlessly toward the ocean. Among its attractions,…
Episode 20 Columbia Glacier—Unusual Glacier Cycles
Witness the power of glaciers, which carry a continuous stream of ice and rock from the tops of mountain ranges down to the base--often to the sea, such as at…
Episode 21 Fiordland National Park—Majestic Fjords
Visit the stunning fjords of Fiordland National Park in New Zealand, focusing on the most famous of these flooded glacial valleys, Milford Sound. The drama of the landscape is matched…
Episode 22 Rock of Gibraltar—Catastrophic Floods
The Rock of Gibraltar marks the gateway from the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean--a connection that has been closed on and off through recent geologic time. Explore the currents,…
Episode 23 Bay of Fundy—Inexorable Cycle of Tides
Why are the tides in Canada's Bay of Fundy exceptionally high? Probe the principles of tides--what causes them, why the times of high and low tide vary from day to…
Episode 24 Hawaii—Volcanic Island Beauty
The Hawaiian Islands are part of the Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain, which stretches 3,600 miles across the western Pacific Ocean. This feature is mostly straight, except for a curious sharp bend.…
Episode 25 Yellowstone—Geysers and Hot Springs
What happens when a hotspot is beneath a continent? The answer is Yellowstone National Park, a wonderland of geysers and hot springs nestled in the gigantic caldera of a supervolcano.…
Episode 26 Kawah Ijen—World’s Most Acid Lake
Imagine a place where steam is so acidic that it burns your lungs, where flaming, liquid sulfur condenses from that steam, and a turquoise-colored lake is filled with the equivalent…
Episode 27 Iceland—Where Fire Meets Ice
Visit Iceland, a geologist's paradise where you can walk along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland is a hotspot that sits atop the plate boundary that divides North and South America from…
Episode 28 The Maldives—Geologic Paradox
Home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean show the tranquil end-stage of ocean islands built on hotspots. The volcanoes beneath this coral…
Episode 29 The Dead Sea—Sinking and Salinity
Begin a series of episodes on desert regions by exploring the Dead Sea. Learn why this body of water on the border between Israel and Jordan is almost nine times…
Episode 30 Salar de Uyuni—Flattest Place on Earth
Travel to the world's largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. Almost the size of Connecticut, Uyuni is the flattest place on the planet. When it gets a very…
Episode 31 Namib/Kalahari Deserts—Sand Mountains
Contrast two of the world's most fascinating deserts, the Namib and Kalahari deserts in southern Africa. The Atlantic shoreline of the Namib Desert has been aptly named the Skeleton Coast.…
Episode 32 Siwa Oasis—Paradise amidst Desolation
Located in the eastern Sahara Desert, Siwa is an island of water in a giant sea of sand. Investigate how an oasis with 1,000 springs can exist in one of…
Episode 33 Auroras—Light Shows on the Edge of Space
Investigate a stunning atmospheric phenomenon caused by events both inside Earth and in outer space. The shimmering colors of auroras result when particles from the solar wind are accelerated in…
Episode 34 Arizona Meteor Crater—Visitors from Outer Space
Meteor Crater in Arizona is the best preserved of Earth's few remaining impact craters. Why does the moon have more than 500,000 craters at least as large? Explore what happens…
Episode 35 A Montage of Geologic Mini-Wonders
In an entertaining change of pace, watch a countdown of 10 geological wonders that are hard to classify, from number 10--the White Cliffs of Dover--to number 1--a geological mystery in…
Episode 36 Planetary Wonders—Out of This World
Tour some of the amazing geological features beyond Earth, among them planet-circling lava flows on Venus and the solar system's largest volcano and canyon on Mars. Close with the hydrocarbon…

Related videos

Yellowstone: Microcosm of the National Parks
Start your tour of the geological wonders of North America's national parks with Yellowstone, where the breathtaking landscape inspired the idea of a national park. Focus on the processes that produce Yellowstone's many geothermal formations, particularly its geysers.
Planetary Wonders—Out of This World
Tour some of the amazing geological features beyond Earth, among them planet-circling lava flows on Venus and the solar system's largest volcano and canyon on Mars. Close with the hydrocarbon lakes on Saturn's moon Titan, proving that there is no end to geological wonders throughout the cosmos.
A Montage of Geologic Mini-Wonders
In an entertaining change of pace, watch a countdown of 10 geological wonders that are hard to classify, from number 10--the White Cliffs of Dover--to number 1--a geological mystery in Death Valley that would seem like a hoax if it weren't true.
Galapagos Rift—Wonders of Mid-Ocean Ridges
Continue your study of phenomena associated with plate tectonics by visiting the Galapagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin. This magnificent archipelago is on a volcanic hotspot near a mid-ocean ridge, formed by moving tectonic plates. Natural wonders abound in the region, both above and below water.
Santorini—Impact of Volcanic Eruptions
Learn Professor Wysession's criteria for choosing more than 200 different geologic wonders in nearly 120 countries. Then explore the first on his list: the beautiful Greek island of Santorini, which is the relic of a volcanic eruption that had a profound effect on the ancient Mediterranean world.
Devils Tower—Igneous Enigmas
Famous as the landing pad for aliens in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Devils Tower in Wyoming is an otherworldly geological formation. Discover how this massive tower of igneous columns developed. Along the way, investigate why nature loves hexagons.
Iguazu Falls—Thundering Waterfalls
Waterfalls are among nature's most beautiful spectacles, and the most impressive falls form under unusual geological conditions. Along the border of Brazil and Argentina, tour thundering Iguazu Falls, a display of 275 separate falls over a 1.5-mile span with individual falls up to 270 feet high. Learn their close connection…
Big Bend on the Rio Grande and Saguaro
Investigate the multitude of geological processes on view at Big Bend National Park in Texas. Here you find signs of continental collisions, volcanic eruptions, dramatic erosion, and other breathtaking events. Then survey another geologist's paradise--Saguaro National Park.
Zion, Gunnison’s Black Canyon, Capitol Reef
Witness other wonders of canyon erosion on the Colorado Plateau, including the deep and narrow Black Canyon of the Gunnison, as well as The Narrows, a dramatic slot canyon in Zion National Park.
Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Kenai Fjords
Continue your tour of the largest state with stops at two spectacular parks that are popular destinations for cruise ships: Glacier Bay and Kenai Fjords. Discover how glaciers form and examine their historical advance and retreat in this region. Also, learn how a glacier is like a candy bar!
Kawah Ijen—World’s Most Acid Lake
Imagine a place where steam is so acidic that it burns your lungs, where flaming, liquid sulfur condenses from that steam, and a turquoise-colored lake is filled with the equivalent of battery acid. This hellish place is the crater lake of Kawah Ijen on the island of Java in Indonesia.
Bryce Canyon—Creative Carvings of Erosion
Continue your study of erosional features with Utah's Bryce Canyon, the densest display of weathered rock pinnacles, called hoodoos, anywhere in the world. Learn that Bryce Canyon isn't really a canyon because it hasn't been formed by a river. But then what created the hoodoos?