Man at His Best

The 10 Greatest Wildernesses In The World

There are a still a few lands (and seas) that humans have barely touched.

BY John Wenz | Jun 20, 2016 | Travel

You may have seen it in the news: There's no place on Earth left that doesn't have at least some effect from humanity. Indeed, there may be no true wilderness left. But there are still remote or inhospitable places where few if any people have ever tread.

1 | Gila Wilderness

Fredlyfish4 / Wikimedia Commons / Flickr

Within the Gila National Forest there is the Gila Wilderness, a part of New Mexico with so few humans that, according to USA Today, it's used breed the critically endangered Mexican grey wolf. Some camping and fishing is allowed in the interior, but not much else.

The 872 square miles of wilderness is home to bears, rattlesnakes, reintroduced elk, beavers, and fish, including the Gila trout. Although the Gila monster is present in New Mexico, strangely enough it is uncommon in the Gila Wilderness.

2 | Patagonia

Miguel Vieira / Wikimedia Commons

At the Southern tip of the Americas, Patagonia combines mountains, plains, glaciers, and more into what some call "the last true wilderness." There's something untamed about Patagonia, whether it's the ice caps, the deep-cut canyons, or the wild lakes. A few dozen towns can be found throughout the region, which is shared by Chile and Argentina. Small wonder the outdoor clothing brand chose Patagonia as its namesake.

3 | Greenland

Christine Zenino / Wikimedia Commons

There are people in Greenland, but all of them are on the outskirts. The interior of the country is, as the cliche goes, mostly ice to Iceland's green. In that area is the Greenland ice sheet, which measures one to two miles deep and encompasses 660,000 square miles. If all of it melted, ocean levels would rise 24 feet.

The Greenland ice sheet is a testbed for past climates, allowing 100,000 years worth of ice core sampling. Under the ice is a 460 mile long "mega canyon.”

4 | Gangkhar Puensum

Gradythebadger / Wikimedia Commons

The highest peak in Bhutan (and the 40th highest mountain in the world), Gangkhar Puensum is believed to be unclimbed, with prohibitions in place going back decades. A small handful of expeditions have tried, and failed, to reach the summit, making it virtually untouched.

Bhutan, a small country bordering China and India and not far from Nepal holds many of its Himalayan mountains to be sacred, forbidding climbing on many of them. Since 1994, any climbing above 19,685 feet is strictly forbidden. Gangkhar is 24,836 feet, about 5,000 feet shorter than Mt. Everest.

5 | Annamite Range

Rolf Müller / Wikimedia Commons

Every few years a new animal species is discovered in Vietnam, and that's thanks to a dense mountain forest on the border of Laos called the Annamite Range. Though there are some indigenous groups there and many, many settlers, there are still plenty of areas where the forests are too thick or the peaks too prohibitive for all but the hardiest souls to enter.

The range is home to tigers, elephants, and pangolins, the latter of which is currently one of the most endangered creatures in the world thanks to rampant poaching. The sooty babbler bird also lives there, which I'm mentioning mostly because that is a fantastic name.

6 | Remote Alaska

Dorte Dissing / University of Alaska-Fairbanks

Alaska is our largest and least densely populated state by far. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks used three different metrics in its study to find the most remote parts of the Last Frontier.

St. Matthew Island is the farthest from any human development. Aside from some World War II era settlements, it's been largely untouched by humans. There are two native species, the arctic fox and insular voles, and a variety of lichens.

On the mainland, two areas are the most remote. One, to the eastern end, is isolated even from trails, while the other is removed from towns and villages.

7 | Bouvet Island

Bjarne Aagaard / Wikipedia Commons

Bouvet Island, found way out in the Southern Atlantic, is the most remote island on Earth. A few intrepid explorers have been there, but otherwise it's a breeding ground for penguins, a handful of bird species, seals, and a scant few plant and fungi species. The nearest human settlements are 1,404 miles away.

Of course, there may have been a longer-term human there. A lifeboat and survival supplies were found on the island in 1964, but the owner's remains have never been found. Today the island is mostly used for scientific expeditions.

8 | Antartica 

Jason Auch / Wikimedia Commons

Any list of vast wildernesses must include Antarctica, a vast continent where humans have never permanently settled. Some areas are ripe with life, like the famous penguins and a few other snowbirds that occasionally migrate off the continent. Meanwhile, some areas are so dead they may be devoid of even microbial life. Despite a few South Pole expeditions, most of Antarctica is uninhabited ... and uninhabitable, at least by humans.

9 | Mariana Trench

Hussong, Fryer / NOAA

The deep ocean is the last vast unexplored frontier on Earth, and Mariana Trench is one of the most remote places on the planet. At 6.8 miles below sea level this is the deepest place in the ocean. It's been explored only four times, including once by film director and ocean nerd James Cameron.

There's some scientific equipment down there still, which sometimes hears really, really creepy sounds. Despite immense water pressure and perpetual darkness, life has found a way to thrive there.

10 | Atacama Desert

B. Tafreshi / ESO

The Atacama Desert in Chile is one of the driest places on Earth, too harsh for permanent human habitation. This extreme climate attracts a certain kind of person, though. I'm talking about scientists.

The harsh desert climate makes the Atacama look a lot like a wilderness humans want to visit someday: Mars. Plenty of Mars simulations have happened in the Atacama to see if humans can survive in an area with limited rations and air so dry that water capture is impossible.

Then there are the astronomers. It's rarely cloudy in the Atacama, giving a perfect view of the sky. The dry air means there are few distortions from vapour in the atmosphere. As a result, a handful of observatories are located there, including ALMA, the largest radio telescope, and two upcoming telescopes that will be the largest in the world.

Oh, and llamas live there.

From: Popular Mechanics