Sometimes, abandoned man-made structures turn into dangerous eyesores, rotting away slowly before returning to nature or being torn down.
But other times, like when abandoned ships are re-purposed as living reefs, or mines colonized by bats, abandoned structures take on a new semi-natural life all their own, like a crab who uses a jar for a shell.
Such is the case with the Newnes railroad tunnel.
The Newnes railroad was closed in 1932 after 25 years of shipping oil shale.
The rails were pulled out of the 600-meter tunnel, which had been bored through the sandstone in the Wollemi National Park, and the tunnel was left to its own devices.
For Newnes, that meant becoming home to thousands and thousands of glow worms.
The glow worm is a catch-all name for the bioluminescent larvae of various species, in this case the Arachnocampa richardsae, a type of fungus gnat.
Found in massive numbers in caves, the fungus gnat larvae cling to the rocky walls of the abandoned tunnel and hunt with long, glowing strings of sticky mucus.
To see the glowing gnats, enter the tunnel during daylight hours, and head to the middle – it gets dark in the middle where there is a bend in the tunnel – with a flashlight, so as not to bump into the walls.
Turn off the light and wait a minute or two. One by one, the gnats will begin to shine like stars emerging in the night.
Bruce Campbell stands near his Boeing 727 home in the woods outside the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.
In 1999, the former electrical engineer had a vision:
To save retired jetliners from becoming scrap metal by reusing them.
Bruce Campbell, is one of a small number of people worldwide who have transformed retired aircraft into a living space or other creative project, although a spokesman for the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association was unable to say precisely how many planes are re-used this way.
Cambodia is the closest you can get, today, to your own real life Indiana Jones movie. There, the temples of Angkor seem built into the fabric of the forest itself, bats flap their leathery wings in the vaults, and incense drifts down the empty colonnades.
The god-kings of Angkor were at the height of their powers from the 9th century until the 15th century.
In that time, they built the largest preindustrial city in the world in Cambodia: larger than Rome, larger than Alexandria, larger by far than London or Paris at the time.
Wealth was poured into ever more spectacular temples, replete with intricate carvings and statues. I
n the fifteenth century, for reasons which still puzzle scholars today, the gigantic complex was left almost entirely abandoned – lost to the jungle.
Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia (via Wikimedia)
Early Western visitors, glimpsing the astonishing structures looming up amidst the trees, were left almost speechless.
For António da Madalena, Angkor was “of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world.”
Since the 19h century, a slow process of restoration has been taking place. While tourists flock to Angkor today, much of the site remains to be discovered, and the trees loom on all sides, ready to swallow the city up again.