Seeker Archives

China's Great Wall Is Slowly Disappearing

Around 30 percent of China's Ming-era Great Wall has disappeared over time as adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities.

Around 30 percent of China's Ming-era Great Wall has disappeared over time as adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities -- including stealing the bricks to build houses -- erode the UNESCO World Heritage site, state media reported.

The Great Wall is not a single unbroken structure but stretches for thousands of miles in sections, from Shanhaiguan on the east coast to Jiayuguan in the windswept sands on the edge of the Gobi desert.

In places it is so dilapidated that estimates of its total length vary from 5,600 to 13,000 miles, depending on whether missing sections are included. Despite its length it is not, as is sometimes claimed, visible from space.

Great Wall of China Twice As Long As Thought

Construction first begun in the third century BC, but nearly 4,000 miles were built in the Ming Dynasty of 1368-1644, including the much-visited sectors north of the capital Beijing.

Of that, 1,200 miles has melted away over the centuries, the Beijing Times reported.

Some of the construction weathered away, while plants growing in the walls have accelerated the decay, said the report Sunday, citing a survey last year by the Great Wall of China Society.

"Even though some of the walls are built of bricks and stones, they cannot withstand the perennial exposure to wind and rain," the paper quoted Dong Yaohui, a vice president of the society, as saying.

NEWS: China's Great Wall Crumbles as Tourism Soars

"Many towers are becoming increasingly shaky and may collapse in a single rain storm in summer."

Tourism and local residents' activities are also damaging the longest human construction in the world, the paper added.

Poor villagers in Lulong county in the northern province of Hebei used to knock thick grey bricks from a section of wall in their village to build homes, and slabs engraved with Chinese characters were sold for 30 yuan ($4.80) each by local residents, it said.

Under Chinese regulations people who take bricks from the Great Wall can be fined up to 5,000 yuan, the state-run Global Times said Monday.

"But there is no specific organisation to enforce the rules. Damage could only be reported to higher authorities and it is hard to solve when it happened on the border of two provinces," said Jia Hailin, a cultural relics protection official in Hebei, according to the report.

It added that explorations of undeveloped parts of the Great Wall -- an increasingly popular leisure activity in recent years -- had brought those sections more tourists than they could bear, damaging them severely.

There are a lot of great places to take walks around the world, either because of the beautiful scenery or the climate. But if you're the sort of person who thinks it's exhilarating to be scared out of your wits, especially in a precarious position at a great height, then these routes are for you. Just remember that you venture on these footpaths at your own risk.  Above, visitors walk on the glass cantilever bridge on a cliff during the opening ceremony in Longgang scenic area in Chongqing, China, in late April, 2015. The horseshoe-shaped glass cantilever bridge was built at about 3,200 feet, with a vertical drop of about 7,500 feet directly under the skywalk to the ground. The bridge has a cantilever extending to 87 feet, 16 feet longer than the famous Grand Canyon Skywalk in Arizona near the Colorado River.

VIDEO: Extreme Sports Risk-Taking Explained

Spain's Caminito del Rey (pictured) was built in 1921 and stretches for five miles high above the Gualdalhorce River in southern Spain. At least five walkers have died there over the years, and it often has been called the most dangerous walkway in the world. 

7 Super-Secret Yellowstone Back Country Adventures

Switzerland's Titlis cliff walk is the highest footbridge in Europe, at about 9,800 feet in altitude. Built in 2012 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Engelberg-Gerschnialp cable railway, the path extends about the length of a football field.

This Happened Here: Biking The Pacific Coast

The hiking trail on Huayna Picchu, a mountain in Peru, provides a view of the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Some of the steps and terraces, which were carved by the ancients, seem to cling to the mountainside with a sheer drop of several hundred feet on the other side.

This Happened Here: Road Trip On The Edge Of The Himalayas

This suspension bridge across the Hunza River in northern Pakistan is located in a mountainous region called the Karakoram, which borders Pakistan, India and China. But if you cross the rickety structure, chances are that you won't be paying much attention to the scenery.

Hiking the Himalayas to Rohtang Pass: Photos

The ramshackle walkway along China's Mt. Hua Shan consists of wooden planks, steel rods and chains. It's been described by a travel writer for the Guardian newspaper as "possibly one of the most nauseating walks imaginable."

Hiking One of America's Most Dangerous Trails: The Kalalau Trail Along the Na Pali Coast

The Maze, located in Canyonlands National Park in Utah, is a rock labyrinth that Outside magazine describes as "difficult to reach, almost impossible to navigate, and full off dead-end gullies." Hikers must contend with the continual danger of rock slides, and sometimes flash flooding.

Climbing Mt. Everest: Which Face Is Safer?

The footpath along China's Tianmen mountain is only 200 feet long, but it's nearly 4.700 feet in altitude. One some days, the fog makes it a little less breathtaking for walkers, by obscuring the height.

Explorers Cross 200 Miles Of Alaskan Ice Field: Photos