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Tally from 2-year vote reveals New 7 Wonders of Nature

David Silverman / Getty Images

Water flowing over Iguazu Falls leaves a cloud of mist between Brazil, foreground, and Argentina. According to an ititial tally of results from a 2-year vote, Iguazu Falls is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

The people have spoken. Millions of voters from around the world have cast their ballots for seven sites to be included in the New7Wonders of Nature list.

Seven finalists have been announced: the Amazon in South America; Halong Bay, Vietnam; Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil; Jeju Island, South Korea; Komodo, Indonesia, Puerto Princesa Underground River, the Philippines; and Table Mountain, South Africa.

The results are provisional, based on the first count of votes, and were chosen from 28 locations spanning the globe.

Slideshow: See images of the provisional New 7 Wonders of Nature

Voting ended Friday (11/11/11) at 11:11 a.m GMT (6:11 a.m. EST). 

A vote count started immediately and continued for almost eight hours until the announcement was made Friday evening in Zurich, Switzerland, at the headquarters of New7Wonders (N7W), the group that oversees the campaign.

The results will now be checked, validated and independently verified. Confirmed winners will be announced early 2012. It is possible that there will be changes between the provisional winners and the final confirmed winners, New7Wonders said on its website.

Earlier today, the top 14 finalists were announced and included: Bu Tinah Island, United Arab Emirates; Dead Sea in Israel, Jordan and Palestine; Great Barrier Reef,  Australia; Jeita Grotto, Lebanon; Kilimanjaro, Tanzania; Masurian Lake District, Poland; and Sundarbans in Bangladesh and India.

The idea for the campaign was the brain child of adventurer, filmmaker and N7W founder Bernard Weber, who "saw the potential of the Internet in 1999," according to Eamonn Fitzgerald, N7W's head of communications. 

"There are some places in the world where people can’t vote. We like to think that we can make a contribution by getting people to participate in democracy," Fitzgerald said. Projects like the New 7 Wonders of Nature, he said, do that, and "help raise digital literacy."

The New 7 Wonders of Nature is the group’s second campaign. It began in 2007 when more than 440 locations were nominated in more than 220 countries through a global voting process. The top 77 choices were short listed, and with the help of a panel of experts, further narrowed to 28 candidates and announced on July 21, 2009, when the voting for finalists began.

"So many breathtakingly beautiful, natural places are still quite unknown to many," Weber said on the organization’s website. "From waterfalls to fjords, rainforests to mountain peaks, freshwater lakes to volcanoes, we are discovering together the incredible beauty and variety of our planet."

Today, in a statement announcing the provisional results, Weber said: "When the New 7 Wonders of Nature are confirmed they will join the man-made New 7 Wonders of the World in becoming part of global memory for humankind forever."

The movement began when Weber had an idea to revive the Seven Wonders of the World, much like Pierre de Coubertin revived another ancient Greek concept, the Olympic Games, in 1896 with the introduction of the modern Olympic Games.

The Seven Wonders of the World, selected by Philon of Byzantium in about 200 B.C., included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Pyramids of Giza, and served as a travel guide for fellow Athenians. The key difference, noted on the N7W website, is that the New 7 Wonders of the World, announced on July 7, 2007 (7/7/7), were not chosen by one man, but by millions of people all over the world.

What’s the significance of certain numbers, like seven and 11?

"He is fascinated with numbers," Fitzgerald said of Weber. "Numbers play a very big role in his thinking." Seven, for example, is the number of things that the average person can remember.

Are lists like this a good thing?

"The world seems to be obsessed with lists — the best five, the best seven," said Sharr Prohaska, clinical associate professor, Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University. Generally there is not a specific list of criteria used as a basis for decisions; as a result most lists are subjective, Prohaska said.

However, "lists sell," she said. "Some tourists will take that list and definitely decide to visit and check off the sites on the list."  Efforts like those of N7W create interest and allow participants to feel like they are contributing to a topic that is very important to them, a way they can make a difference, she said.

"Part of the success of lists reflects that we are all too busy to do the research ourselves," she said. People are often relieved to have lists, "as they want to visit the 'best'."

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