Landscapes shape our sense of place, yet Earth is constantly changing. The forces of volcanism, wind, water, sun, and, yes, people, relentlessly conspire to transform what we consider familiar terrain—pummeling cliffs into beaches, eroding vast canyons, forming new land with bubbling lava, and shifting the course of mighty rivers.
Indeed, change is the only constant—an idea seeded by Greek philosopher Heraclitus back in the fifth century B.C. and echoed by philosophers ever since. But people often forget that Heraclitus believed fear of change is also a constant. Perhaps it’s this sense of looming impermanence that compels travelers to see natural wonders before they’re forever altered.
In the last 50 years, hundreds of natural landmarks around the world have drastically shape-shifted—or worse, disappeared. Most recently, Darwin’s Arch in the Galapagos Islands collapsed into the seajoining other structures, such as Arches National Park’s “Wall Arch” and Malta’s “Azure Window,” lost to history. Here are landmarks that no longer exist—and some fragile sites you can still visit, responsibly.
This story has been updated since it first published on September 14, 2017.