The tiny Pacific islands nation of Kiribati declared the world’s largest marine protected area on Feb 14, a California-sized ocean wilderness that includes pristine reefs and eight coral atolls teeming with fish and birds.

The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, or PIPA, lies about halfway between Hawaii and Fiji. [AP]

PIPA was the world’s third largest marine protected area before the Government of Kiribati announced the expansion of the boundaries of the protected area on Jan 28, 2008… which now encompass an area of 410,500 square kilometres. [Phoenixisland]

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The Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang, China, was covered with snow after a heavy snowfall…

Desert snow in Taklamakan Desert
Desert snow (Image courtesy of Xinhuanet; captured on Jan 19, 2008)

As beauty as it seems… China is suffering from the worst winter weather in decades, which are affecting the lives of millions.

A man-made saltwater lagoon on the southern coast of Chile has been acknowledged by the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest swimming pool.

Largest swimming pool in the world
Largest swimming pool in the world Largest swimming pool in the world
The pool is just beside the coastline… how bizarre…

The swimming pool at the resort of San Alfonso del Mar in Algarrobo city measures 1,013 metres (3,323 ft) in length, covers an area of eight hectares (20 acres), contains 250,000 cubic meters of water and is navigable in small boats. [Xinhuanet]

The previous largest pool in the world is the Orthlieb pool in Casablanca, Morocco, which measures at 480×75 metres. An Olympic size pool is just 50×25 metres.

The world’s densest cities according to Forbes (Top 20)…

1. Mumbai, India (29,650 people per square kilometre)
2. Kolkata, India (23,900)
3. Karachi, Pakistan (18,900)
4. Lagos, Nigeria (18,150)
5. Shenzhen, China (17,150)
6. Seoul/Incheon, South Korea (16,700)
7. Taipei, Taiwan (15,200)
8. Chennai, India (14,350)
9. Bogata, Columbia (13,500)
10. Shanghai, China (13,400)
11. Lima, Peru (11,750)
12. Beijing, China (11,500)
13. Delhi, India (11,050)
14. Kinsaha, Congo (10,650)
15. Manila, Philippines (10,550)
16. Tehran, Iran (10,550)
17. Jakarta, Indonesia (10,500)
18. Tianjin, China (10,500)
19. Bangalore, India (10,100)
20. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (9,450)

Interesting photos from Flickr user Musely, by lining up dollar notes with the Washington D.C. buildings depicted on them. The US $5, $10, $20 and $50 notes feature the Lincoln Memorial, US Treasury, White House and Capitol respectively.

Dollar notes and buildings in Washington D.C.
Image courtesy of Musely [Hat tip to Neatorama]

A man threw a bucket of red paint or dye into Rome’s Trevi Fountain on Friday (Oct 19), colouring the waters of the famous monument bright red in front of an astonished crowd.

Red Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain in red (Image courtesy of Xinhuanet)

The man managed to escape, leaving a box near the fountain containing leaflets by a group that claimed responsibility for the act. The leaflets said the red paint was a protest for expenses incurred in organizing the Rome Film Festival and symbolically referred to the event’s red carpet.

Police arrived and technicians briefly shut off the water before restoring a clear flow; experts said the baroque fountain was not permanently damaged and the marble statues depicting the sea deity Neptune on his chariot had not absorbed the colour.

The Blacksmith Institute, a US-based independent environmental group, has published a list of the world’s most polluted places. [Full Pdf report]

Sumgayit, Azerbaijan; Potentially 275,000 affected
Linfen, China; Potentially 3m affected
Tianying, China; Potentially 140,000 affected
Sukinda, India; Potentially 2.6m affected
Vapi, India; Potentially 71,000 affected
La Oroya, Peru; Potentially 35,000 affected
Dzerzhinsk, Russia; Potentially 300,000 affected
Norilsk, Russia; Potentially 134,000 affected
Chernobyl, Ukraine; Potentially 5.5m affected
Kabwe, Zambia; Potentially 255,000 affected

The report said an estimated 12 million people were affected by the severe pollution, which was mainly caused by chemical, metal and mining industries. Chronic illness and premature deaths were listed as possible side-effects.

The Blacksmith Institute’s director, Richard Fuller, said: “The fact of the matter is that children are sick and dying in these polluted places, and it’s not rocket science to fix them.

“This year, there has been more focus on pollution in the media, but there has been little action in terms of new funding or programmes. We all need to step up to the plate and get moving,” he said. [BBC]

The Pink Sands Beach in Harbour Island, Bahama, is often rated as one of the sexiest (and most romantic) beaches in the world. The colour of the 3-miles beach, as it name implies, is pink in colour.

Pink Sand Beach in Bahama
Pink Sands Beach, Bahama (Image courtesy of Xinhuanet)

The sand of the beach isn’t really pink though; it appears pink because of the red corals in the area, mixing with the white sand and giving the pinkish look.

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