Previous: Hank and Michael Meet an Alien: SciShow Talk Show #4
Next: Spring, Time for Drunk Birds



View count:420,820
Last sync:2023-01-09 16:15
There are a lot of weird places on Earth and our new series will explore some of the weirdest. Today Hank takes us to Göreme National Park in Turkey so we can learn about this region's fascinating geological history and about the people who have been living there since the 4th century.

Like SciShow?
Follow SciShow!
Tumbl SciShow.

References and licenses for this episode can be found in the Google document here:
(Intro music plays)

There are a lot of really weird places all over the world, and they're weird for different and fascinating reasons. 

Goreme National Park in Turkey is one that you can file under "weird because rocks". Found in Turkey's Cappadocia region, the park looks a whole like the moisture farm where Luke Skywalker grew up, which is why some locals like to spread the rumour that it was one of the locations that Star Wars Episode IV was filmed, even though those scenes were actually shot in Tunisia, Cappadocia, and the way the people have been living there for thousands of years reportedly inspired George Lucas' vision for Tatooine.

Now, what makes the place so mouth-hanging openly interesting is its soft, sandy, yellow rock that's been sculpted into all sorts of crazy shapes: cones, lumpy hillocks, anthill looking things, mushrooms, and hoodoos -- pillars of rock that are sometimes referred to as "fairy chimneys", but what locals have different names for. Let's just say that the valley where most of the fairy chimneys are found is known to locals as "The Valley of Love". These formations are giant, like, forty meters tall. It's something to see, that's all I'm sayin'.

Cappadocia's incredible geology is a product of the same volcanic activity that created the European Alps. During the tertiary period, the geological period from sixty-five million to two point five million years ago, a chain of three volcanoes on the edges of the region started erupting, covering the area in volcanic ash and lava, which eventually compressed into a soft, Igneous rock called "tuff". At that point, Cappadocia probably looked a lot more like a plateau than the rumpled, pointy landscape we see today. But over time, wind, water runoff, and fluctuations in temperature sculpted the soft rock into the crazy shapes that are there now.

The Hoodoos formed when lava covering the tuff gave way along cracks in the rock, at which point, they turned into spires. The ones that survived retained a cap of harder rock that sits on top. Once a hoodoo has lost its cap, though, it's not long for the world. The weather erodes the soft tuff underneath pretty quickly.

Another extra-crazy thing about Cappadocia is that people have lived in these rocks for more than a thousand years. Since the fourth century when early Christians came here to keep clear of the Romans, people have been using these formations as personally sanctuaries. Since tuff is so soft, as rock goes, it's been hollowed out into homes with windows and doors, and even spiral staircases. There are whole villages of these homes. 

Goreme, the town that the national park is named for, is one of them. But one of the probably several problems with living in a tuff formation, is that you are constantly exposed to erionite, a fibrous mineral commonly found in volcanic ash. It's like asbestos in a lot of ways, and like asbestos, it is a carcinogen, meaning it can give you cancer.

So, a lot of Cappadocian villages have seen epidemics of mesothelioma, a type of cancer that attacks the mesothelium, the membrane that serves as a protective lining for all of your organs. And that is why Turkey's government is looking to provide alternate housing for some of Goreme's families, because as cool as it might be to live in a rock shaped like a mushroom or a giant wee-wee, for that matter, it's not worth getting cancer for. Wee-wee? Did I really just say wee-wee?

And, thank you, for watching this episode of SciShow. If you have any questions or comments, we're on Facebook or Twitter, and of course, down at the comments below. If you want to keep getting smarter with us here at SciShow, you can go to and subscribe. See you next time.