One of the most stunning weather phenomena in the world happens in northern Venezuela, where the Catatumbo River pours into Lake Maracaibo.
The area sees almost never-ending lightning storms.
In a new video, The Weather Channel’s “That’s Amazing” profiles a 21-year-old photographer who’s on a constant search to capture the Never-Ending Storm on film.
German storm chaser Jonas Piontek travels all over the world to capture the beauty of extreme weather, but he’s particularly interested in Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, which has the most lightning strikes of anywhere in the world—1.2 million a year.
He braves not just the intense, frequent lightning storms, but also hurricane-force winds to do so.
See some of his work in the video below. You’ll want to watch in HD.
Rising up out of the Venezuelan slums, the eye-catching complex known as The Helix (El Helicoide) looks like something out of a super-villain’s dream and with its intelligence headquarters, mysterious prison, and general air of secrecy, it acts the part as well.
Designed to be an ultra-modern retail destination, construction began on the Helix complex in 1956. The tiered shopping center was set to have a five-star hotel, a park, and floors of luxury shopping.
The massive mall would have allowed people to drive their cars right into the complex and park right near the shops they wanted to visit. Built on a pre-existing hill in Caracas, the pyramid-like structure jutted impressively from the surrounding neighborhood.
Unfortunately funding for the project ran dry in the 1960’s and work on the site slowed to a trickle despite the inclusion of a Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome which was placed like a cap atop the hill.
Eventually the Helix was completed as six concentric levels of the building were built onto the shelves carved out of the hill. With the dream of an easily accessible mecca of retail and luxury scuttled due to money woes, the Venezuelan state began using the space for a number of its agencies.
This centralization of government power led to a damaging bombing in 1992.
However the structure was rebuilt and the whole complex is now home to the Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP). This secretive intelligence agency headquarters in the eccentric building and has also started a not-so-secret prison at the site. Like many such facilities, the prisoners are often held without charge and have reported myriad human rights abuses from within the iconic building.
In the real world, most shady government agencies try to remain under the radar, but the shadow agents of The Helix seem to have taken a page from a different book.
Tepuis are flat table-top mountains found in the Guayana Highlands of South America, especially in Venezuela. In the language of the Pemon people who live in the Gran Sabana, Tepui means ‘House of the Gods’ due to their height.
Tepuis tend to be found as isolated entities rather than in connected ranges, which makes them host to hundreds of endemic plant and animal species, some of which are found only on one tepui.
Towering over the surrounding forest, the tepuis have almost sheer vertical flanks, and many rise as much as 1,000 meters above the surrounding jungle. The tallest of them are over 3,000 meters tall.
The nearly vertical escarpments and dense rainforest bed on which these tepuis or mesa lie make them inaccessible by foot. Only three of the Gran Sabana’s mountains can be reached by foot, among which the 2,180m-high Roraima is the most accessible.
Tepuis are the remains of a large sandstone plateau that once covered the granite basement complex between the north border of the Amazon Basin and the Orinoco, between the Atlantic coast and the Rio Negro, during the Precambrian period. Over millions of years, the plateaus were eroded and all that were left were isolated flat-headed tepuis.
Although the tepuis looks quite barren, the summit is teeming with life.
The high altitude of tepuis causes them to have a different climate from the ground forest. The top is often cooler with frequent rainfall, while the bases of the mountains have a tropical, warm and humid climate.
Many extraordinary plants have adapted to the environment to form species unique to the tepui.
Some 9,400 species of higher plants have been recorded from the Venezuelan Guayana, of which 2322 are registered from the tepuis. Approximately one-third of the species occur nowhere else in the world.