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The Great Wall of China is the only man made object you can see from the moon…oh yeah? Do you know when this idea was first circulated? Around 1938. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why that fact makes the seeing-the-wall-from-the-moon-claim a piece of nonsense.
It’s been one of those myths that we accepted without question even after the first astronauts to land on the moon reported that there was no way you could see any man made object from its lunar landscape.
Anyway, that wasn’t the ‘something you might not know about the Great Wall of China’. This is.
Sections of it are damn steep. I’m not talking as in ‘steep set of stairs’ steep. I’m talking sheer cliff face steep; so steep that if you leaned back at all you might topple off; I’m talking ‘where’s my rope and crampons?’ steep. People don’t tell you that.
I wasn’t feeling at my best after causing havoc in a Beijing hospital a couple of hours earlier (that’s another long and embarrassing story) but we were determined to escape the crowds at one of the busiest parts of the Great Wall near Badaling 80 kilometres northwest of Beijing. There was only one way to do it – climb.
As a general rule of thumb, whenever you go to tourist hot spots it’s possible to get away from the masses by simply walking for a few minutes. The Great Wall of China is no exception and the vertiginous steps leading upwards and away from the main throng of visitors are a deterrent to anyone who is remotely unfit.
Feeling the Buzz on the Great Wall of China
By the time we’d huffed, puffed and dragged our way to the third watchtower perched on a hill way, way above the ants milling around the excursion coaches in the valley floor, we were alone. Alone on the Great Wall of China – that was an extra special travel moment.
The Great Wall of China is one of those magical wonders of the world that has inspired travellers to set forth in search of adventure for centuries; one of those places that to actually find yourself standing on its hallowed steps is overwhelming. It certainly left me breathless (or maybe that was the steps).
It was a miserable day; a grey mist hung over the entire vista washing out the scenery, turning all colours to stone. And yet the wall still had the power to mesmerise. It undulated to the horizon and beyond, hugging every hillock and valley for ten thousand li (over three thousand miles); its stone curves looked almost as natural as the forest that it cleaved its way through. It’s a beautiful structure, a brilliant ancient legacy that illustrates when it comes to nature, humankind’s hand can occasionally improve on the canvas.
Staring, transfixed by this monolithic man-made wonder I understood why it was so easy to believe that the Great Wall of China could be viewed from the moon…and as it turns out with good reason.
A photograph taken by an astronaut in 2004 from the International Space Station using a digital camera with an 180mm lens revealed that the claim made back in 1938 wasn’t that far off the mark as it captured a small section of the wall. The Great Wall of China may not be visible from the Moon, but it is the only man made object visible from outer space and that’s a fact.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+