No, it’s not a Roger Dean album cover. It is a real place right here on Earth. Ball’s Pyramid rises like a wizard’s hat out of the Pacific Ocean 12 miles off the coast of Lord Howe Island between Australia and New Zealand. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably warrants a post all to itself. But the remarkableness of this remarkable piece of rock isn’t the most remarkable thing about it. This is:
That is a pair of Dryococelus australis, aka the Lord Howe Stick Insect, aka the “Tree Lobster,” aka the world’s rarest insect. It was believed to have been extinct since the 1930s. But in 2001, two Australian scientists scaled sheer face of the tiny island on a hunch that perhaps a few of the insects were hiding out there. On their first excursion, they found an encouraging sign– bug poop. They returned at night to find about 30 of the handsome critters gathered around a single plant.
I recommend reading the entire story of the expedition at Robert Kurlwich’s NPR science blog.