Too Big To Comprehend: The Largest Things On Earth

The average height of a human is five-foot-nine. Compared to other things in the world, like a 250-foot tall tree, or a cave that is 5.25 million cubic feet in volume, that is very, very small. When you learn about the largest things in the world–from buildings to animals to waterfalls–your perspective will change.

Sequoias Are The Tallest Trees Ever Known

A postcard shows a cabin amongst a forest of giant sequoia trees.
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Sequoias are the largest trees in the world, especially the ones that grow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On average, sequoias can grow up to 250 feet tall and 26 feet wide. However, some of these trees are even larger.

The General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree in the world, stands at 275 feet tall and over 36 feet wide. The second tallest is the General Grant Tree at 267 feet tall and 29 feet wide. Even crazier–sequoias live up to 3,000 years old!

Jackfruit Can Weigh Up To 120 Pounds

Two chefs cut a jackfruit open.
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ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images

Although certain fruits are purposefully grown to be massive, in nature, jackfruit is the biggest fruit. Each fruit can be around two feet long and weight up to 120 pounds. They also stem from the largest fruit trees in the world, which stretch between 30 and 50 feet high. Depending on the age of the tree, it can produce between 200 and 500 fruits every year.

Jackfruit is called “vegetable meat” because, when canned, it has the texture of meat. However, the fruit is sweet and has a musky smell. Even so, jackfruit is popularly used as a meat substitute, as it can be shredded like chicken or pork.

Any Other Cave Can Fit Inside This Cave

A man stands in the world's largest cave, Hang Sơn Đoòng.
@samim/Twitter
@samim/Twitter

If you were to explore Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park, you might happen across the world’s largest natural cave. This is Hang Sơn Đoòng, which measures 1.35 billion cubic feet and an extra 5.25 million cubic feet in volume.

Hang Sơn Đoòng is twice as large as the world’s second-biggest cave. Dating back between between two and five million years old, it formed from soluble limestone. Cave expert Howard Limbert told CNN Travel, “Any cave in the world will be able to fit comfortably inside Song Dong…it’s just outrageous in size.

This Massive Bird No Longer Exists

A man stands next to an Argentavis for scale.
The 10s/Pinterest
The 10s/Pinterest

Nowadays, the largest bird in the world is the ostrich. But the Argentavis, which lived in Argentina around six million years ago, put ostriches to shame. These now-extinct birds had a wingspan of up to 21 feet and a body length of 11 feet.

Argentavis, also called the Giant Teratorn, stood at five feet tall. They had eagle-like beaks and preyed on large rodents, armadillos, and giant sloths. They could kill and eat their prey without landing. Oddly enough, their eggs were smaller than the ostrich egg.

The Largest Desert In The World: Antarctica

A team of geographers cross Antarctica.
Monaco Palace via Getty Images
Monaco Palace via Getty Images

Believe it or not, the world’s largest desert is not the Sahara; it is the Antarctic desert. According to NASA, Antarctica is technically a desert because it rarely rains or snows there. When it snows, the ice hardens into sheets, forming a “polar desert.”

The Antarctic desert covers 5.5 million square miles. Some people walk across Antarctica from the Ronnie Ice Shelf to the South Pole, a total of 651 miles. Even that takes around 65 days–only ten miles a day. You could not cross all of Antarctica in your lifetime.

The World’s Biggest Flower Is A Parasite

A researcher measures one petal of the world's largest flower, rafflesia arnoldii.
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The largest flower in the world is called the rafflesia arnoldii, which grows in the forests of Indonesia, specifically Sumatra and Borneo. Is can grow up to three feet long and weigh 15 pounds. The weirdest part? It is a parasitic plant.

The rafflesia arnoldii has no stem, leaves, or roots. It attaches itself to other flowers’ stems and sucks away water and nutrients, like a vampire. These flowers do not smell pleasant, either. It smells like rotting meat, which attracts insects that help it pollinate.

The Highest Waterfall Is Underwater

The Underwater waterfall is seen at the Denmark strait.
reddit/u/Snoo-35707
reddit/u/Snoo-35707

Believe it or not, the world’s highest waterfall is actually underwater. The Denmark Strait cataract, which is on the side of the Denmark Strait, falls 11,500 feet into the ocean. By contrast, the tallest above-water waterfall is 3,212 feet (Angel Falls in Venezuela).

Underwater waterfalls occur from different densities of water. In the Denmark Strait cataract, colder, denser water falls beneath the warmer, lighter water. The flow exceeds 175 million cubic feet, three times more voluminous than Victoria Falls. In Danish and Norwegian, the waterfall is called “the Greenland Pump.

The Largest Animal Ever Known Is Still Alive

A blue whale swims by a boat.
Mark Carwardine/Barcroft Media/Getty Images
Mark Carwardine/Barcroft Media/Getty Images

If we were to compare every animal in history, the largest animal is one that is still alive today. The blue whale grows up to 102 feet long and 25 feet wide at the tail fin. Plus, they each weigh around 190 tons.

To give a comparison, a blue whale could be composed of 40 elephants or 2,670 average-sized men. In 2015, PBS posted a video showing a researcher crouching inside of a blue whale’s heart aorta. Every heartbeat pumps 58 gallons of blood across the body.

The World’s Biggest Statue Contains A Museum

The Statue of Unity is erected with a crane.
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The world’s tallest statue stands in Gujarat, India. It is called the Statue of Unity, and it depicts India’s first Deputy Prime Minister after becoming an independent state, Vallabhbhai Patel. At 597 feet tall, it is far higher than the second-largest statue, the Spring Temple Buddha (420 feet).

The project began in 2010 and cost around $422 million to complete. It stands on the Sadhu Bet river island surrounded by 7.5 miles of artificial lake, which makes it visible from space. And yes, the statue is accessible to the public as it has a museum inside of it.

Don’t Get Caught In The World’s Largest Whirlpool

An aerial view shows the World's Strongest Maelstrom at Salstraumen, Arctic Norway.
OurTour Blog/YouTube
OurTour Blog/YouTube

The Maelstrom Whirlpool, between Norway and the Arctic Circle, is the largest and strongest whirlpool in the world. Lying in the middle of a strait, this whirlpool is 490 feet wide. The second-largest whirlpool, Old Sow in Maine, is 250 feet wide.

The Maelstrom Whirlpool becomes the most terrifying in March, when tides are at their highest. Then, the waters can travel up to 23 miles per hour. Water funnels into the whirlpool at least four times a day, which widens and shrinks the width of the strait.

Here Is The World’s Largest Organism, Period

Dark honey fungus grows next to a tree trunk.
Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The oldest and largest organism on earth lives in the Malheur National Forest, Oregon. It is larger than a whale and covers over 1,500 acres. And it’s only a mushroom–the Armillaria ostoyae or honey mushroom.

This is not one mushroom head that sticks through the surface. It is actually a long series of mushrooms called a mycelium. Throughout its 8,650-year life, the Armillaria ostoyae spread its tendrils through the soil and wood and poked up periodically. One study found that this fungus exists inside at least 112 trees.

The Largest Lake Is A Sea

Salt deposits sit where the Ural River meets the Caspian Sea.
Reza/Getty Images
Reza/Getty Images

If you categorize lakes as inland bodies of water, then the Caspian Sea is the largest. As the world’s biggest inland body of water, the Caspian Sea spans 143,000 square miles and is 19,000 cubic miles deep. It is so big that it leaks into five countries: Kazakhstan in the northeast, Russia in the northwest, Azerbaijan in the southwest, Iran in the south, and Turkmenistan in the east.

Ferries that cross the Caspian Sea can take between three to five days to get to their destination. Despite being so massive, this lake has only one-third of the salt that the ocean does.

It Takes Two Hours To Cross The World’s Longest Bridge

The Danyang Kunshan Grand Bridge is seen over marches in China.
LUPOO/ullstein bild via Getty Images
LUPOO/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Currently, the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge holds the record for the longest bridge in the world. This Chinese bridge connects Shanghai and Nanjing, passing lakes, rice fields, rivers, and more. It is 102.4 miles long and 30 feet wide, and it takes two hours to cross. Before it was built, it took 4.5 hours to get from Shanghai to Nanjing.

Danyang–Kunshan is a viaduct bridge, meaning that it requires periodic columns or arches to hold it up. The second-longest bridge, also in China, is the Changhua–Kaohsiung Viaduct at 97.8 miles.

Would You Ascend All 154 Floors?

Burj Khalifa stands near freeways and other buildings in Dubai.
Charles Crowell/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Charles Crowell/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you are scared of heights, do not travel to the top of Burj Khalifa, Dubai. This is the tallest building in the world at 2,722 feet high and 154 floors. That’s taller than some mountains.

This concrete skyscraper was built in 2004 and finished in 2009. It was part of a mission called Downtown Dubai, which paved space for more companies to enter the city and diversity the oil-based economy. Designer Adrian Smith designed it with a combination of Islamic architecture and the Tower Palace III, a luxury skyscraper in Seoul, South Korea.

This Is The Largest Structure Made By Living Organisms

An aerial view shows the Great Barrier Reef.
Phil Walter/Getty Images
Phil Walter/Getty Images

The world’s largest structure made by living organisms is not a skyscraper or building. It is the Great Barrier Reef. Spanning over 1,429 miles, the Great Barrier Reef was built by coral polyps that secrete calcium carbonate. These chemicals harden and eventually form reefs.

The Great Barrier Reef lies off the northeastern coast of Australia and is the world’s largest reef. Since 1981, the reef has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of the world. It houses over 411 types of hard coral, 134 species of sharks and rays, 30 species of marine mammals, and six of the world’s seven threatened turtle species.

The Biggest Home In The World Is Also A Skyscraper

The Antilia Tower is the largest house in the world.
Adeel Halim/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Adeel Halim/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The largest house in the world also happens to be a 27-story skyscraper. The house is named Antilia, after the phantom island that was said to lie near Portugal and Spain. Spanning 400,000 square feet, this private home has a 168-car garage, a 50-seat theater, and nine high speed elevators.

Currently, the house is owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who has been living in it since 2012. As of May 2020, the house is worth $2.2 billion, the second most valuable residence behind Buckingham Palace. You can find it in Mumbai, India.

You Couldn’t Squash The World’s Largest Insect

A woman holds a model of the Meganeuropsis, the world's largest insect.
Kristi Devine/Pinterest
Kristi Devine/Pinterest

The largest insect ever to live is the dragonfly–not the modern dragonfly, but the prehistoric Giant Dragonfly. The meganeuropsis had a wingspan of 28 inches and a body length of 17 inches long. That’s about the length of a medium-sized dog such as an American Terrier.

Giant Dragonflies roamed the skies before birds and dinosaurs even evolved. They were not true dragonflies as we know today, but another species called griffinflies. Scientists still debate over how the meganeuropsis grew so large, but some theorize that it could be due to high levels of oxygen in the air.

The World’s Largest Flying Animal Looks Like A Plane

A student stands underneath the skull of a Quetzalcoatlus.
TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images
TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty Images

While the world’s largest bird had a wingspan of 21 feet, the biggest flying animal’s wingspan is 36 feet. This is the Quetzalcoatlus, a pterosaurs dinosaur. It also stretches around 36 feet long and and weighs 550 pounds, making it similar in size to a plane.

Researchers still do not know much about the Quetzalcoatlus. Feeding theories have ranged from scavenging to picking up fish to even chasing land animals on foot. However, experts agree that the Quetzalcoatlus could likely fly up to 80 miles per hour.

The Longest Road Tunnel Spans Over 15 Miles

Cars drive down the Lærdal Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in the world.
Francois LE DIASCORN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Francois LE DIASCORN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The world’s longest underground road is called the Lærdal Tunnel. This tunnel connects Lærdal and Aurland in Norway. At 15.23 miles long, the Lærdal Tunnel sees over 2,000 vehicles every day.

Although the tunnel is lined with lights, it still looks quite dark. Construction began in 1995 and ended in 2000, costing over $113 million. If you were to drive through it, you would be in the dark for about 18 minutes. Frighteningly, there are not many safety exists inside.

This Rock Is Tall Enough To Be A Mountain

Hikers walk at the base of Uluru, the largest rock in the world.
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

You’ve probably heard about the world’s largest mountain, but what about the biggest rock? The largest single rock in the world is called Uluru, or Ayers Rock. This hunk of sandstone in Northern Australia is 1,142 feet high.

Oddly enough, Uluru is tall enough to be considered a mountain (the cutoff being over 1,000 feet). But because it is a single sandstone formation, it is not a mountain. Uluru is a World Heritage Site, as the area around is features springs, caves, waterholes, and ancient paintings from the native Pitjantjatjara people.