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Amusing Planet - Amazing Places, Wonderful People, Weird Stuff

The Squatters of Grande Hotel Beira  

You might not know this, but Mozambique is one of the fastest growing tourist destination in the world. Its wild beauty and untamed nature has been drawing visitors since its pre-independence days. Back then, when Mozambique was still under Portuguese rule, the Mediterranean climate of the country's coastal towns attracted many affluent tourists from Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe), South Africa, Portugal and its colonies. The city of Beira, by the Indian Ocean, although an important port city...

2017-10-18 12:25:00

The Unfinished Obelisk of Aswan  

The granite quarries located along the Nile, in the city of Aswan, supplied some of the finest quality stones for the construction of temples, sculptures and monuments in ancient Egypt. The famous Cleopatra's Needle, now located in London, as well as several structures in the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and at Giza were constructed from stones quarried in Aswan. In the northern region of Aswan's stone quarries lies an Unfinished Obelisk, resting on its side. It was supposed to be the tallest...

2017-10-17 19:18:00

The Buddhas of Bamiyan  

On the cliff face of a sandstone mountain, visible from the ancient Silk Road near the town of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, are two massive voids left by two monumental statues of Buddha that once stood there. In 2001, the nearly 1,500 year old statues were blown to bits by the Taliban in an act of violence that shook the entire world, and set a disturbing precedent which has been imitated in recent years by Islamic State fighters in the Middle East. For a long time, Buddhism was an important religi

2017-10-17 11:24:00

Jealous Wall: Ireland's Largest Folly  

The Belvedere House and Gardens located on the shores of Lough Ennell near Mullingar, County Westmeath in Ireland, contains several architectural oddities and follies, including the largest one in Ireland—the aptly named "Jealous Wall". This three-storey structure, designed to resemble the crumbling ruins of an old Gothic castle, was built by Robert Rochfort, an ambitious aristocrat for whom jealousy and revenge were the key themes in life. Robert Rochfort, the first earl of Belvedere, wa...

2017-10-14 13:08:00

The Floating Fish Farms of China  

In the sheltered coastal waters of the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, there are large fish farms where marine crustaceans such as shrimps, and molluscs such as oysters, are raised in artificial enclosures. These farms are created by floating netted enclosures from a sprawling network of interconnected wooden pathways and platforms. Over these, fishermen have built wooden houses and huts where entire families live. These pictures were taken in south-eastern

2017-10-13 20:58:00

The Spectacular Sets of Early 20th Century New York Theater  

Many theatrical set designers today follow the maxim of "less is more", but in the old days when theaters had to compete with moving pictures, plays frequently featured elaborate and extravagant sets built with great attention to detail. These pictures of theatrical productions in Broadway, New York, from the early 20th century show how meticulously designers worked to create a make-believe world on stage. The set designed by Sergei Soudeikine for the Theatre Guild's production of "Po...

2017-10-11 21:42:00

Joe Reginella's Memorials to Disasters That Never Happened  

Most remember October 29th, 1929—also known as Black Tuesday—as the day when the New York stock market crashed. However, it was also the day when one of the most horrific tragedy involving human-animal conflict happened at the Brooklyn Bridge. On that awful day a trio of three circus elephants, including the star attraction—a thirteen-foot-tall African elephant named Jumbo, was to cross the Brooklyn Bridge and into New York. The event was greatly publicized and crowds of people came from m...

2017-10-11 10:27:00

Inside The Strange World of Soviet Sanatoriums  

In Soviet Russia, vacations were as purposeful as work. Many state workers of the era, instead of wasting time in idleness, used the holidays to spend time at a sanatorium—which is like a modern-day spa but with a strong medical component. The idea was to recover from the strains of working hard throughout the year and return refreshed and more productive. All expenses incurred during their stay at the sanatorium, which could be up to two weeks long, were paid for by the state. Many workers ac...

2017-10-07 18:49:00

Alexander Graham Bell's Tetrahedral Kites  

Alexander Graham Bell is best remembered for inventing the telephone, but the great Scottish inventor's interests weren't limited to just one field. Aside from his priceless contributions in the field of acoustics and telegraphy, Bell is also credited with the invention of the metal detector, the audiometer (an instrument used to detect hearing problems), and a device to locate icebergs. Bell and his associates investigated the possibility of impressing a magnetic field on a physical device ...

2017-10-06 12:50:00

Moscow's Bagel House  

In the early 1970s, Russian architect Evgeny Stamo and engineer Alexander Markelov came up with plans for an unusual house in the capital city Moscow. The house was to be shaped like a ring, about 150 meters across, enclosing a large inner courtyard with playgrounds and green spaces. The building was to have over nine hundred apartments, and all the necessary services and facilities, including shops, a pharmacy, a laundry room, a studio, post office, and so on. When completed in 1972, the author

2017-10-05 13:14:00

Rivers of Blood: The Aftermath of Eid al-Adha in Dhaka  

Early last month, a macabre image of a little girl posing in what appears to be a street flooded with blood-stained rainwater went viral over the internet. The picture was taken in Dhaka by Bangladeshi documentary photographer Nasif Imtiaz, after large-scale animal sacrifices conducted on Eid al-Adha, coupled with heavy rains and poor drainage turned some streets in the Bangladeshi capital into what the media has been calling "rivers of blood". Photo credit: Nasif ImtiazRead more » ©...

2017-10-04 16:00:00

The Earth Pyramids of South Tyrol  

At many places across South Tyrol, in northern Italy, one can see a peculiar geological formation called "earth pyramids". They consist of tall cone-shaped pillars made of clay, with a boulder resting on top. These unusual structures started forming from moraine clay soil left behind after the last Ice Age when the glaciers melted away. In dry condition the soil is hard as stone, but as soon as it rains, it turns into a soft muddy mass, starts sliding, and forms large slopes 10 to 15 meters...

2017-10-04 11:39:00

Ireland's Famine Follies  

In the grounds of the Castletown Estate, near the Irish town of Maynooth, is a large stone structure comprising of interlocking arches, adorned by stone pineapples and eagles, and topped by a massive obelisk pillar. The structure was supposed to mark the rear entrance to Castletown house, but in reality, it served no real purpose—it's a folly. Its construction, however, did have a purpose. The Conolly's Folly was commissioned by Katherine Conolly, the philanthropic widow of William Conol...

2017-10-04 10:28:00

A Garden In A Sinkhole  

The region in the southeast of South Australia, near Mount Gambier, is littered with many volcanic and karst features such as volcanic craters, lakes, limestone caves, water-filled caves and sinkholes. One particular sinkhole, located just off Jubilee Highway East, is particularly worth visiting. What was once a typical limestone cave formed by the corrosion of limestone rocks by seawater, and the subsequent collapse of the chamber's roof, has been transformed into a beautiful garden. Photo c...

2017-09-30 18:46:00

The Mysterious Sajama Lines of Bolivia  

Crisscrossing the highland plains in western Bolivia is a network of thousands of near perfectly straight lines etched into the ground. These lines do not make any figures or shapes, but they go on remarkably straight for tens of kilometers. Whoever created them worked extremely precisely, which was not easy task in this hilly terrain with rocks, shrubs and other natural obstacles. Named after the nearby volcano, the Sajama Lines lie under the shadow of Bolivia's tallest peak. From the ground,...

2017-09-30 10:34:00

The Stockholm Telephone Tower  

By the late 19th century, the miracle device called the telephone had been invented but the simple concept of undergrounding telephone cables had eluded engineers. Clumps of telephone wires strung from monstrous towers hung above the heads of pedestrians in all major cities with a sizable number of subscribers. Telephone service was expensive at that time, and only the wealthy could afford it. In Sweden, the first public telephone exchange was opened in the capital city Stockholm, in 1880, by t

2017-09-27 21:34:00

Appian Way, The First Roman Road  

Of the many things the Romans were famous for, roads rank pretty high in the list by importance, along with bridges, viaducts and canals. Together they formed an outstanding transportation network that played a crucial role in tightening Rome's grasp on the Mediterranean Basin. It was roads that held the Roman Empire together. One of the first and the most important long roads built by the Romans was the Appian Way. The road was begun by Appius Claudius Caecus, the Roman censor, in 312 BC, and...

2017-09-26 11:07:00

The Dust Bowl of The 1930s  

The 1930s were some of the driest years in American history. Eight long years of drought, preceded by inappropriate cultivation technique, and the financial crises of the Great Depression forced many farmers off the land abandoning their fields throughout the Great Plains that run across the heart of mainland United States. When the high winds came, it lifted the topsoil from barren lands and carried them in large choking clouds of dust for thousands of miles. Many dust storms started around the

2017-09-23 11:24:00

The Cathedral of Light  

Every year, the Nazi Party used to hold large annual rallies in Nuremberg, which was at that time the center of the German Reich. These rallies were grandiose propaganda events, carefully orchestrated to reinforce party enthusiasm and to showcase the power of National Socialism to the rest of Germany and to the world. At the designated assembly grounds, which spanned more than 10 square kilometers, hundreds of thousands of party loyalists, as well as spectators, assembled. Buildings were festoo

2017-09-22 12:05:00

The Mossy Lava Fields of Iceland  

Moss is a common plant in Iceland. It grows abundantly in the mountainous region and is a special characteristic of Iceland's lava fields. One of the most spectacular moss blanket is located on the southern coast of Iceland, over the Eldraun Lava Field. The Eldraun Lava Field was created in one of the most devastating eruptions in recorded history. Over a course of eight months, between 1783 and 1784, the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilom...

2017-09-20 13:12:00

Lanterns Of The Dead  

During the 12th century, people in the central and western parts of France erected small towers in their villages with windows at the top, in which lamps were placed like in a lighthouse, although none of them were near the sea. These structures are known as "Lanterns of the dead" and are thought to indicate the position of a cemetery. But this might not be true, considering that some of these towers are located nowhere near a cemetery. The towers come in all shapes and sizes, but usually, t...

2017-09-19 17:07:00

Puzzling Gravestones  

When Canadian doctor Samuel Bean lost his first two wives, Henrietta and Susanna, within 20 months of each other, he decided that the was best way to honor them would be to create a tombstone dedicated to a hobby they both enjoyed —solving puzzles. The doctor had them buried side by side in Rushes Cemetery near Crosshill, Wellesley Township, Ontario, and a single gravestone was placed over their graves. The gravestone bore a puzzle, one that had kept historians stumped and amateur cryptologist...

2017-09-19 17:04:00

The Outer Trial Bank  

In The Wash, a squarish estuary on the East coast of England, where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire, there is a peculiar island, perfectly circular, with a dimple in the middle resembling a giant doughnut. This doughnut, known as the 'Outer Trial Bank', is one of two islands constructed during the 1970s to study the feasibility of converting the entire estuary into a fresh water reservoir. The idea was to build a tidal barrage across half of the Wash to capture freshwater from rivers flowing int...

2017-09-16 13:19:00

The Building That Was Built From Top to Bottom  

At Plaza de Colón in Madrid, Spain, there is a twin building that is known locally as "El Enchufe" or "The Plug" for it is said to resemble a giant electrical plug. Its formal name is "Torres de Colón" or the Columbus Towers. Some say it is the ugliest building in Madrid. Its green art deco-style top, and copper and smoked glass façade doesn't inspire much pride among the city's inhabitants. Nevertheless, Torres de Colón has been an icon of Madrid's skyline sinc...

2017-09-15 10:18:00

The Tumuli Lava Blisters  

In the relatively flat Harman Valley, located between Wallacedale and Byaduk, south of Mount Napier in Victoria, Australia, are peculiar rocky mounds, like blisters on land. Some of them are up to 10 meters high and 20 meters in diameter. These mounds are known as tumulus or lava blisters. Tumulus are formed in slow-moving lava fields. When lava flows, the surface often cools to form a thin crust, but underneath the lava is still viscous and molten. If the advancing lava underneath becomes rest

2017-09-14 12:47:00

The Kauri Driving Dams  

The Kauaeranga Valley in New Zealand's North Island was once covered in vast kauri forests. The trees were immense with thick, straight trunks. When the first Europeans came to New Zealand, they discovered that kauri trunks made excellent replacement masts and spars for sailing ships. Soon Kauri became the preferred local timber by carpenters and ship builders because the wood was durable, strong, straight and evenly grained. They had relatively few knots, and were easy to work and nail. In

2017-09-12 16:02:00

The Bullet-Scarred 'Operation Anthropoid' Church in Prague  

The Saints Cyril and Methodius Church on Resslova Street, in Prague, may look like any other Baroque church in the Czech capital, but turn round the corner and you'll see a bronze memorial plaque just above a small, now covered-up, window. The concrete wall around the window is fractured and there are bullet holes around it. This is the church where the paratroopers involved in Operation Anthropoid went into hiding after their assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. It was here where a fie...

2017-09-08 16:15:00

Signal Hill: The Birthplace of Modern Communications  

Overlooking the harbour of St John's, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is a massive piece of rock towering 140 meters above the Atlantic Ocean. The rock, known as Signal Hill, stands on St John's eastern shore across a narrow waterway that leads into the harbour. To the north lies Quidi Vidi Lake, and to the west lies the city towards which the hill descends gently in ridges and valleys. It was on top of this hill, in December 1901, that Guglielmo Marconi stood to receive the world...

2017-09-07 13:19:00

London's Cabmen's Shelters  

Scattered throughout the streets of London, often overlooked, are small green sheds that have been offering shelter and hot food to the city's cab drivers since 1875. In those times, cab drivers rode horse-drawn carriages where the passengers sat inside while the poor cabbie had to sit on the top, exposed to the elements. But the drivers couldn't just park their cabs by the side of the road and grab a quick drink at a public house, because the law forbade them to leave their carriages unatt...

2017-09-05 20:03:00

The Devil's Corkscrews  

In the mid-1800s, ranchers across Sioux County, in the US state of Nebraska, began unearthing strange, spiral structures of hardened rock-like material sticking vertically out of the ground. The spirals were as thick as an arm and some of them were taller than a man. Not knowing what they were, the ranchers began calling them "devil's corkscrew." The puzzling structures first came to the notice of the scientific community through geologists Dr. E. H. Barbour in 1891, when he was asked to ...

2017-09-05 20:01:00

Iligan, The City of Majestic Waterfalls  

The city of Iligan, in the Northern Mindanao region of Philippines, is one of the country's major city and the industrial center of the south. It has many heavy industries producing steel, tinplate, and cement. It also produces hydroelectric power for the entire Mindanao region. It's surprising hence, that an industrial city such as Iligan should be known for its natural beauty. The city is situated by the Bohol Sea which curves into the northern coast of Mindanao Island forming a small bay...

2017-09-01 10:53:00

Rocamadour—The Vertical Village  

Since medieval times, the village of Rocamadour in the Occitanie region of southwestern France has attracted pilgrims from across Europe for its historical monuments and its sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is said that Saint Amator—thought to be the Biblical tax collector of Jericho, Zacheus—had lived and died here, shortly after he left Jerusalem. Legend has it that after St Amator's body was discovered, several miracles started to happen, and as the healing powers of Amator...

2017-08-31 15:55:00

The Witness Trees of The American Civil War  

Across the United States there are hundreds and thousands of trees that have stood around for many centuries and bore witness to the history in that area. Some of these trees were present during key events in American history like the Civil War battles. Historians call these trees "witness trees". They were present when soldiers marched on to the battlefields and they stood silently as the soldiers fell. Many Civil War witness trees took bullets along with thousands of men. Many of them stil...

2017-08-30 12:41:00

Old Sarum of Salisbury  

Old Sarum in Salisbury, England, is a historically important archeological site consisting of an Iron Age hillfort and what little remains of an 11th century royal castle and cathedral. Located about two miles to the north of the city center, this is where the history of Salisbury began. The site has been occupied successively by the Romans, the Saxons, and the Normans before the foundation of New Sarum, or Salisbury, in the thirteenth century. Old Sarum was settled as early as 3000 BC. However,

2017-08-30 10:51:00

Hill of the Buddha  

The Hill of the Buddha is a giant Buddha statue located atop a small hill near a cemetery in the Japanese island Hokkaido. The statue was built some 15 years ago, but it was only in December 2015, that the landscape around it was sculpted to highlight the massive figure. "The aim of this project was to build a prayer hall that would enhance the attractiveness of a stone Buddha sculpted 15 years ago," explains architect Tadao Ando. "The site is a gently sloping hill on 180 hectares of lush...

2017-08-29 16:04:00

The Closes of Edinburgh  

The Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland, consisted originally of the main street, now known as the Royal Mile, and a large number of small alleyways that led off it to the north and south. Some of these lead to open courtyards and are therefore called "courts". Others are open thoroughfare wide enough for a horse and cart, and are called "wynds", a reference to the way they wind along. But most of these alleyways are called "closes", because they lead to private property and are hence ga...

2017-08-29 16:03:00

The Mysterious Erdstalls Tunnels  

Across Europe, there are hundreds of underground tunnels that lead to nowhere and about which no historic records have ever been found. They are mostly located in the German state of Bavaria and the adjoining country Austria, where they are known by the German name "Erdstall", which means "place under the earth". Locally, they are also called by various names such as "Schrazelloch" (meaning "goblin hole") or "Alraunenhöhle" (meaning "mandrake cave"...

2017-08-28 21:09:00

The Art of Deliberate Imperfection  

Some people are perfectionists, going great lengths and through punishing routines to achieve the perfect figure, the perfect score, the inimitable performance. But there are cultures around the world that have learned to abandon this rigid and obsessive behavior, and embrace the concept of imperfection. Artists and craftsmen of such cultures would deliberately introduce flaws into their works to remind themselves that flaws are an integral part of being human. In Navajo culture, rug weavers wou

2017-08-25 14:46:00

Ytterby: The Village That Chemists Love  

What do the following ten chemical elements have in common? Yttrium Ytterbium Terbium Erbium Gadolinium Thulium Scandium Holmium Dysprosium Lutetium The answer is that the all the ten elements were isolated from a single mineral ore extracted from a modest mine in the small village of Ytterby on the Swedish island of Resarö. All of these elements are rare earth elements, which means that they are very difficult to separate. It took many chemists and scientists decades of research to d...

2017-08-23 13:15:00

Elche, The City of Palm Trees  

In the city of Elche, in Spain, there is a large grove of palm trees that's the only one of its kind in Europe, and one of the largest palm groves in the world. Elche has more palm trees than people. According to some estimates, there are between 200,000 and 300,000 trees here distributed across hundreds of orchards.  Palm trees have existed in Elche for some 2,500 years. The first specimens were probably planted in the 5th century BC by Carthaginians who settled in south-east Spain. But the...

2017-08-23 10:28:00

The Stilt Walking Shepherds of Landes  

The Landes region of southwestern France, bordering the Bay of Biscay, is covered by a large pine forest. In fact, it's the largest 'maritime pine' forest in Europe—'maritime pine' is a species native to the Mediterranean region. But a hundred years ago, the landscape looked very different. Instead of forests, there was a great level of plain that stretched from horizon to horizon. This plain was covered with stunted bushes and dry heath that were periodically burned off by the local...

2017-08-22 12:16:00

The Silo Art Trail in Australia  

For more than a hundred years, grain silos doting the plains across the Wimmera-Mallee region of Victoria, Australia, have defined the state's rural landscape. Now these grain towers will provide a new aesthetic as they are transformed into enormous works of art paying tribute to the regions' farmers. In December 2015, Brisbane street artist Guido Van Helten created a gigantic mural spread across four disused silos in the town of Brim, capturing the imagination of the town and inspiring

2017-08-21 12:13:00

Wooden Churches of Maramures  

In the Maramureș region of northern Romania are a group of almost one hundred Orthodox churches built between the 17th and the 19th centuries. These churches are considered outstanding examples of "vernacular religious wooden architecture resulting from the interchange of Orthodox religious traditions with Gothic influences". The churches are of high timber constructions with characteristic tall, slim bell towers above the entrance and massive shingles-covered roof that dwarfs the main body...

2017-08-21 12:10:00

Castel del Monte, Andria  

On top of a small hill overlooking the comune of Andria, in the Italian region Apulia, stands one of the strangest looking castle. This 13th century citadel is octagonal in shape, with each of the eight corners sporting an octagonal tower. Its geometric design was very unique at that time. The castle was built in 1240 by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, but nobody knows why. It was not built to defend anything, as it has neither a moat nor a drawbridge, although archaeological work suggest

2017-08-17 16:03:00

Traboule: The Secret Alleyways of Lyon  

Below is a satellite image showing the old quarters of the French city of Lyon, by the river Saone. As you can see, there are a couple of streets running parallel to the river but not many side streets connecting the parallel streets. Using the distance scale given at the bottom of the map, I would guess the connecting streets are located about 200 meters apart, which should be a comfortable two minute walk or less, assuming you are a tourist. But when you are a 15th century silk trader carrying

2017-08-15 14:35:00

The Backstugas of Sweden  

In a forest in southern Småland, in southern Sweden, there is a small earthen cabin you can rent on Airbnb. The cabin is partially buried in the ground with its sod roof almost flush with the ground level, which renders the cabin nearly invisible. This type of house is known as "backstuga" in Sweden, which is literally "hill cottage". They are not very common today, but back in the 17th and 18th centuries, some of the country's poorest people lived in them. Many backstugas had ...

2017-08-15 11:30:00

Rhythmic Springs  

Rhythmic springs are those springs that exhibit tidal characteristics. In other words, the water level of these springs rises and falls over a fairly regular time period. Sometimes the spring would stop flowing completely and start again after a couple of hours or minutes. The cause of this periodicity is not truly understood but there is a fairly sound theory. The Intermittent Spring of Wyoming. Photo credit: Read more » © Amusing Planet, 2017.

2017-08-12 12:10:00

The Otherworldly Colors of Morocco's Deserts  

It's amazing what a little change in light can do to a landscape. Blue skies can turn red, orange sand can turn purple. In this photo series, Milanese photographer Luca Tombolini shows the sun's extraordinarily ability to render a landscape almost unrecognizable and soften even the most harshest and blandest of environments such as a desert. These images were taken during the summer of 2015 in Merzouga and Ouzina in Morocco. Tombolini would roam the desert looking for a place with just the r...

2017-08-11 12:23:00

The Wooden Wagonways of Britain  

Two hundred years before the first steam locomotive carrying passengers chugged out of the Heighington railway station in the English town of Newton Aycliffe in 1825, British engineers were laying wooden tracks across the island connecting coal mines to canal wharfs. These wooden trackways, called wagonways, were the world's first true railroads, and the predecessor to steam-powered railways. The history of rail transport goes back further than you think. According to the Tyne & Wear Archi...

2017-08-09 12:12:00

The Secret World of Number Stations  

Back in the days of Cold War espionage, foreign intelligence agencies used to communicate with agents on the field via shortwave radio. Radio transmitters placed at secret locations around the world would broadcast coded messages usually in the form of an automated voice reciting a string of numbers or letters. The message often began with a melody, or a set of beeps, or a buzz, followed by the actual coded message read aloud by a voice. Anyone with a radio receiver tuned into that frequency cou

2017-08-09 10:25:00

World's First Nuclear Power Plant  

Spread over nearly 900 square miles in the high desert of eastern Idaho, lies the vast campus of the Idaho National Laboratory. Much of the campus is closed to the public, except a small part where you can see what remains today of the world's first nuclear power plant. The Idaho National Laboratory has been involved in nuclear research for close to seventy years now. Much of what we know today of nuclear reactors and how they behave and misbehave was discovered here. More than 50 nuclear reac...

2017-08-03 16:16:00

The Pig of Lucerne  

Below is a photograph of one of Lucerne's most famous tourist attraction. You may recognize it as the "Lion of Lucerne"— a rock relief sculpture of a mortally wounded lion hewn into the rocky face of a large cliff in a former sandstone quarry near Lucerne, in central Switzerland. The monument was dedicated in memory of the Swiss Guards who lost their lives defending the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the 1792 French Revolution. The dying lion symbolizes the soldiers' courage, strengt...

2017-08-02 16:40:00

The Towers of Bologna  

In mediaeval times, the city of Bologna in Northern Italy must have looked not unlike what Manhattan appears today. Hundreds of high-rising towers stood against the sky overlooking a sea of red-tiled rooftops. These towers were status symbols built by the city's rich families to demonstrate their power and importance. Between the 12th and the 13th century, Bologna had as many as 180 towers, possibly more. In the 13th century, many towers were taken down or demolished, and others simply collap...

2017-08-01 22:01:00

SS Richard Montgomery: The Thames' Ticking Time Bomb  

On 20 August 1944, an American cargo ship named SS Richard Montgomery carrying huge amount of explosives, meant for use in the ongoing Second World War, ran aground on a sandbank in the Thames Estuary, near the town of Sheerness, in England. A salvage operation was launched, but before the ship's cargo could be recovered in its entirety, the ship broke in half and sank. To this day, the wreck of SS Richard Montgomery remain in place, lying in the shallow waters of the estuary about 2.5 km from...

2017-08-01 21:58:00

The Decorative Birdhouses of Turkey  

Turkish societies value animals greatly, especially birds which they believe bring good luck. The Turk's great love for the feathered species is demonstrated by the elaborate birdhouses they have built for sparrows, doves and pigeons to roost and raise their young ones. These small shelters are constructed high up and out of reach of humans and animals on the outer facades of mosques, madrasahs, libraries, houses, tombs, bridges, and palaces. The birdhouses, aside from providing shelter to b

2017-07-29 13:27:00

London's Mail Rail  

For seventy-six years, starting from 1927, the London Post Office operated a fleet of driverless electric trains that scuttled around pairs of narrow gauge rails deep under the ground hauling mails between various sorting offices. The Mail Rail ran from the Paddington Head District Sorting Office in the west to the Eastern Head District Sorting Office at Whitechapel in the east, a distance of 6.5 miles. In between, it had eight stations, the largest of which was underneath Mount Pleasant. At its

2017-07-28 21:25:00

The Birmingham Back to Backs  

In the late Georgian era, Britain's urban population began to grow rapidly as the country's economy shifted from agricultural to industrial. Many people left their country homes to pursue life in one of the newly developing industrial towns. To house these industrial workers near their workshops and manufactories, a new type of low-cost, high-density housing was developed—called the back-to-backs. These houses in Birmingham are the city's last surviving court of back-to-back houses. P...

2017-07-27 15:21:00

Elfreth's Alley: America's Oldest Residential Street  

In Philadelphia's Old City neighborhood near the Delaware River, close to Interstate 95, is a historic cobblestoned street lined with thirty two houses built in the Georgian and Federal styles. These houses with their old-fashioned flower boxes, shutters, and Flemish bond brickwork, provide visitors a glimpse of how Philadelphia was in the early 18th century. Elfreth's Alley is named after Jeremiah Elfreth, a blacksmith and land speculator, who built and rented out many of the alley's...

2017-07-27 15:19:00

Hamilton, The Waterfall Capital of The World  

Niagara Falls might be the most visited waterfalls in North America but the true 'Waterfall Capital' of the world lies 50 miles to the west, in the Canadian city of Hamilton. Situated in the heart of the most highly industrialized region of the country, Hamilton is also a place of great natural beauty. Its most famous natural feature are its waterfalls. Hamilton is home to more than one hundred waterfalls—one of the highest in any urban area of its size. The abundance in waterfalls is due ...

2017-07-25 16:44:00

Kattenstoet: The Cat Throwing Festival  

For the last sixty years, the city of Ypres in Belgium has held a popular "Cat Parade" that draws visitors from around the country. Kattenstoet, or the "Festival of the Cats", is held once every three years and consist chiefly of parades featuring giant cat effigies, brass bands, marchers and people riding on horseback. Revelers dress themselves as cats, witches or mice and march through the town to the cheer of large crowds of people who turn out on the streets. While it's all gay and...

2017-07-25 11:02:00

Stock im Eisen: Vienna's Nail Tree  

At the corner of the extravagant 19th century mansion, Palais Equitable, in the city of Vienna, Austria, is a glass case behind which is the midsection of an ancient tree. Its trunk is studded with hundreds of nails pounded over the centuries for good luck. Back in medieval Europe, hammering iron nails into living trees, wooden crosses and even rocks was a common practice, just as throwing coins into wishing wells or fountains is today. Sometimes, sick people would rub a nail on the afflicted pa

2017-07-24 16:12:00

Victor Noir's Mysterious Erection  

The Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is home to many famous dead people, including Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. The grave of Oscar Wilde, in particular, is very popular. His female fans have smothered the tomb with kisses leaving red lipstick marks all over. Many female visitors, after assaulting the grave of the famous Irish writer, move over to the adjacent plot for their next target—the effigy of Victor Noir. It's perfectly reasonable to ask who Victor Noir is, just like it was a century...

2017-07-22 13:10:00

The Sourtoe Cocktail: A Drink Garnished With A Human Toe  

In Dawson City, by the Yukon River, up north in Canada, there is a bar where you can order a shot of whiskey garnished with a real, dehydrated human toe. The ritual known as the "Sourtoe Cocktail" started more than forty years ago and has become almost like a rite of passage for visitors to Dawson City. The story goes that back in the 1920s, a rum-runner named Louie Linken and his brother Otto ran into an awful blizzard, and Louie got his big toe frozen solid. In order to prevent gangrene, O...

2017-07-22 13:08:00

The Gastown Steam Clock  

Not far from Vancouver's waterfront, in the historic Gastown neighborhood, stands one of the city's major crowd-drawer—a steam-powered clock. The 16-foot-tall clock displays the time on four faces, and every quarter hour it plays the Westminster chimes on four whistles with steam shooting out of the top just like in a locomotive. Despite its antique look and archaic technology, the Gastown Steam Clock is of a much younger generation. It was built in 1977 by the renowned Canadian clockmaker...

2017-07-20 12:05:00

Magnitogorsk: Russia's Steel Heart  

At the extreme southern extent of the Ural Mountains in Russia, about 140 km west of the border with Kazakhstan, there are some hills that are composed largely of iron ore. So rich is their iron content that magnetic compasses cannot function near it and birds avoid flying over it. The Russians call the mountain "Magnitnaya" or the Magnetic Mountain. It is at the foot of the Magnitnaya Mountain, on the eastern slope of the Ural mountain, lies Magnitogorsk, the second largest city in Russia t...

2017-07-18 12:41:00

The Way Sperm Whales Sleep  

Swiss wildlife photographer Franco Banfi and a team of scuba divers were following a pod of sperm whales off the coast of Dominica Island in the Caribbean Sea, when suddenly the large creatures became motionless and fell into vertical slumber. This phenomenon was first discovered only in 2008, when a team of biologists from the UK and Japan inadvertently drifted into a group of sperm whales floating just below the surface, completely oblivious to their surrounding. It was only when one of boats

2017-07-17 18:20:00

The Topiary Trees of San Francisco  

San Francisco residents have a particularly strong liking for topiary trees, as apparent from these photographs taken by three different photographers. One is Marc Alcock, a British photographer, who after moving to San Francisco in 2010, became interested in photographing the visual differences between the two places. One of the things that struck him about San Francisco, Los Angeles and the surrounding suburbs were the houses and the unique relationship they have with plants and nature. A hou

2017-07-17 18:17:00

The Giddy House, Port Royal, Jamaica  

On the grounds of Fort Charles in the small town of Port Royal, Jamaica, stands a lopsided building called "the Giddy House". Half buried in sand and tilting at nearly 45 degrees, the Giddy House is one of the few remaining relics of the 1907 Kingston earthquake which shook the capital of the island of Jamaica, and destroyed the former "sin city" of Port Royal. Port Royal, situated at the mouth of the Kingston Harbour, in southeastern Jamaica, was once the pirate capital of the Caribbean...

2017-07-14 21:29:00

The 'Great Stink' of London  

In the summer of 1858, Londoners found themselves in the middle of a big stinking problem. For centuries, the city was abusing River Thames using it as dumping ground for human excrement and industrial waste resulting in a river that was little more than an open sewer devoid of any fish or other wildlife. The stench rising from the river had been a mounting problem for some years priors to the "Great Stink" of 1858. That year, the weather was unusually hot. In the scorching heat, the sewage ...

2017-07-12 16:29:00

Lake Kavicsos, Hungary  

Kavicsos Lake, or "pebble lake" in Hungarian, is a scenic lake about 2 km across located south of Budapest, just a 30-minute ride away from the city center. The lake sits at the site of a former pebble quarry, and hence its name. About twenty years ago, the quarry closed and the excavated pits filled with rainwater creating the lake. Since then nature has reclaimed the area and rich wildlife has taken root in and around the lake. In 1996, the lake was sold to a private organization but ther...

2017-07-12 12:47:00

Canal du Midi, France  

The Strait of Gibraltar between Europe and Africa isn't the only waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. A thousand kilometer north lies another connecting route. This route connects the French city of Bordeaux, near the Atlantic ocean, to the Mediterranean port of Sète through a series of canals collectively called Canal des Deux Mers, or the "canal of the two seas." Lying entirely in Southern France this man-made canal is one of the most remarkable feats of c...

2017-07-11 11:32:00

The Model Villages of Britain  

Starting from the late 18th century, many English landowners and industrialists began building villages to provide housing for their workers and their families close to their workplace. Elsewhere, such type of settlements are known as "company towns". In Britain they are called "model villages". While company towns are usually associated with the mining industry, in Britain model villages are centered around all sorts of industries ranging from soap to chocolate. When they began popping ...

2017-07-08 12:44:00

The Mystery of The Longyou Caves  

In 1992, a strangely curious man named Wu Anai, near the Chinese village of Shiyan Beicun in Longyou County, based on a hunch, began to pump water out of a pond in his village. Anai believed the pond was not natural, nor was it infinitely deep as the local lore went, and he decided to prove it. He convinced some of his villagers and together they bought a water pump and began to siphon water out of the pond. After 17 days of pumping, the water level fell enough to reveal the flooded entrance to

2017-07-07 10:50:00

The Humongous Fungus  

Beneath the soil in the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon, the United States, lurks a very large fungus that has been slowly weaving its way through the roots of trees for centuries to become the single largest living organism known to humans. The fungus, Armillaria solidipes, remains mostly underground, hidden from sight, but every autumn just after the rains it sends up clusters of small yellow-brown mushrooms from the bases of trees it has infected. These mushrooms, commonly called ...

2017-07-05 16:08:00

Paracas Candelabra of Peru  

The Nazca Lines in southern Peru are some of the best known geoglyphs on earth, but they aren't the only ones in the Nazca desert. About 200 kilometers north west of Nazca is another isolated and somewhat less popular geoglyph called Paracas Candelabra. It is also known as the "Candelabra of the Andes" because of its resemblance to a three-branched candlestick. The geoglyph is etched on the sloping face of a hill at Pisco Bay on the Peruvian coast. The design has been cut into the soil to...

2017-07-05 16:06:00

Kito Fujio's Dramatic Photos of Japanese Playgrounds At Night  

Ever since Kito Fujio quit his job as an office worker to become a freelance photographer, he has been exploring every possible nook and corner around Japan looking for unusual playground equipments. Those little games and rides on rooftops of department stores that keep children entertained while their parents shop are interesting, but what really drew him were the giant cement-molded play equipment that dots playgrounds around the country. Kito Fujio visited these playgrounds in the dead of ni

2017-07-04 11:04:00

Herculaneum: Pompeii's Less Famous Neighbor  

In late August 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius blew its top off and for three days death rained down upon towns, villas and farms surrounding the volcano. One of the most famous casualties of the eruption was the Roman town of Pompeii, known for its wealthy inhabitants and lavishly decorated homes. The other was Herculaneum, an equally wealthy but smaller seaside resort and trading port. The larger Pompeii, glamourized with its brothels, bars, and amphitheatre, has completely overshadow Herculaneum and ma

2017-07-04 11:02:00

Who Put Bella In The Wych Elm?  

This question, which appears in the form of a graffiti on a towering brick obelisk in Hagley in Worcestershire, England, has been haunting the small village for more than seventy years. The story begins one April afternoon in 1943. Four teenage boys from a neighboring village were out hunting for bird eggs in Hagley Wood when they came across a large wych elm. In the hollow trunk of the elm they discovered what first appeared to be an animal skull. But after seeing hair and teeth, the horrified

2017-07-01 10:38:00

Kuching, The Cat City  

The city of Kuching, in the state of Sarawak in Malaysia, is full of cats. There are cats on the sidewalk, at traffic signals, in parks, inside roundabouts and on rooftops. But unlike other cities, most of Kuching's feline population is in the form of statues and sculptures, installed by the city's cat-obsessed folks. The obsession stems from the city's name. "Kuching" is thought to be a derivative of the Malay word "kucing", which means cat, but it is equally likely that the name ...

2017-06-29 16:41:00

Hattusa: The Ancient Capital of The Hittites  

One of Turkey's lesser visited but historically significant attraction is the ruin of an ancient city known as Hattusa, located near modern Boğazkale within the great loop of the Kızılırmak River. The city once served as the capital of the Hittite Empire, a superpower of the Late Bronze Age whose kingdom stretched across the face of Anatolia and northern Syria, from the Aegean in the west to the Euphrates in the east. The Hittite Empire is mentioned several times in the Bible as one of the...

2017-06-29 16:39:00

The Forgotten Sport of Octopus Wrestling  

One April morning in 1963, some five thousand spectators gathered on the shores of Puget Sound near the Tacoma Narrows, in Washington, to watch an unusual event—the World Octopus Wrestling Championships. The rules were simple: teams of three divers would descend into the waters at depths between 30 to 50 feet, and try their best to grab an octopus and drag it to the surface. Whoever pulled the biggest octopus out of the water won the trophy. A total of 25 giant Pacific octopuses were captured ...

2017-06-27 15:15:00

The Steam Hammers Of The Industrial Age  

Standing proudly at the entrance to the French industrial town of Le Creusot, in the region of Bourgogne in the eastern part of the country, is a colossal Creusot steam hammer built more than a century ago. Being a former mining town whose economy is now dominated by multi-national metallurgical companies, the steam hammer is Le Creusot's main attraction. The steam hammer defined the industrial age. It is a massive machine that can deliver powerful blows to iron ingots and give them large sha...

2017-06-26 21:22:00

Heikegani: The Crab With A Human Face  

In a small seaside park near the Kanmonkyo Bridge, in the Japanese city of Shimonoseki, stands two bronze statues depicting two Samurai warriors locked in mortal combat. The statues are flanked by replicas of cannons and ships. The monument commemorate a historic battle that took place in this area more than eight centuries ago. The year was 1185. Two powerful fleets, one consisting of the Heike clan, the imperial rulers of Japan, and the other consisting of the Minamoto, who were fighting for c

2017-06-26 21:21:00

The Unfinished National Monument of Scotland  

High up on the summit of Carlton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland, stands the country's National Monument. But far from being the source of national pride, the fallacious project has been a national embarrassment, a disgrace, a folly. The monument was supposed to be a national memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. If completed, it would have resembled the iconic Parthenon of Athens. Instead, all the Scottish could muster was to erect twelve pillars....

2017-06-22 21:13:00

The “Lone Pine” Trees Growing Across Australia  

Many war memorials across Australia have pine trees growing in their grounds. These trees are called "Lone Pines", and their ancestry can be traced back to a single pine tree that stood where one of the bloodiest battles of the Gallipoli campaign took place. The Battle of the Lone Pine was fought around an area called Anzac Cove, on a rise known as "Plateau 400", in Gallipoli, in Turkey. It was year 1915 and the First World War was in full force. The Allied offensive against the Ot...

2017-06-21 16:45:00

How Amsterdam's Airport Is Fighting Noise Pollution With Land Art  

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, located just 9 km southwest of the city, is the third busiest airport in Europe and one of the busiest in the world. In an average year, more than 63 million passengers pass through Schiphol in as many as 479,000 flights to and from various international destinations. That's an average of about 1,300 flights every day, or nearly a flight every minute. In other words, Schiphol is very busy and very loud. When the Dutch military first built a landing strip here in...

2017-06-20 16:26:00

Inkerman Cave Monastery of St. Clement  

The Inkerman Monastery of St. Clement, located near the city of Inkerman at the mouth of the Black River, is built into the natural caves and hollows in the cliff face carved by the river. The name "Inkerman" is Turkish meaning cave fortress, although the city itself is located in the Crimean peninsula, a territory currently under dispute between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The current monastery was founded in 1850 on the site of a medieval Byzantine monastery where the relics of St...

2017-06-19 17:15:00

The Sand Covered Floors of Caribbean Synagogues  

The Caribbean is not all about sandy beaches, its about sandy synagogues too. As many as four synagogues in this part of the world have floors covered with sand, and a fifth one in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. These Jewish places of worship have a regular wood or brick base, but topped with a layer of sand about an inch or two in depth. The tradition of spreading sand on the floor is thought to have originated at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, which raged across Spain and all Spanish colon

2017-06-19 17:11:00

The Norias of Hama  

The norias of the ancient Syrian city of Hama are seventeen historic waterwheels located along the Orontes River that date back to the Byzantine Era, although locals claim they are older still. The water wheels, called noria, are part of the city's now-defunct irrigation system, and were designed to lift water from the river and move it through aqueducts to agricultural fields and people's home. The wheels were powered by the current of the flowing river. As the wheels moved, wooden buckets ...

2017-06-15 12:12:00

Operation Tracer: The Secret Plan To Bury Soldiers Alive Inside The Rock Of Gibraltar  

The great limestone monolith called the Rock of Gibraltar, towering over the small British overseas territory near the southwestern tip of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula, has long been Gibraltar's natural defense. During the American Revolutionary War of the 18th century, and later, during the Second World War, the British Army dug a dizzying maze of tunnels at the base of the rock to defend this strategically important military hold against enemy attacks. More than 50 km of tunnels permeate ...

2017-06-13 12:15:00

Casa Vicens: Gaudi's First Building Opens To Public  

More than 130 years after it was built, the first building designed by Barcelona's famed architect Antoni Gaudi opens to the public for the first time. Casa Vicens was built as a summer home between 1883 and 1885 for Manuel Vicens i Montaner, a brick and tile factory manufacturer. Gaudi was 31 years old at that time and was just beginning his career. Throughout his graduation years at the Provincial School of Architecture in Barcelona, Gaudi's work portrayed a rather Victorian style, similar...

2017-06-13 12:14:00

The Moving Facade of Bund Finance Center, Shanghai  

A new financial quarter is being built near the waterfront of Shanghai's old town. Designed by British architectural firms, Foster + Partners and Heatherwick Studio, the 420,000 square meter development includes two 180-meter-high landmark towers, containing offices, a boutique hotel, and a wide variety of luxury retail spaces. At the heart of the scheme is the arts and cultural center with a flexible façade that can be changed to dramatically alter the look of the building. Read more » &...

2017-06-12 16:34:00

A New Atmospheric Phenomenon Called Steve  

For the past three years, members of a Facebook group called the Alberta Aurora Chasers, consisting of photographers who exchange tips and images of the famed northern lights, have been capturing images of a gorgeous arc of light across the sky. The arc can be seen streaking across the northern sky typically in mid-latitude location like Calgary or Edmonton. It has a distinctive purplish or greenish color, and sometimes looks braided like a helix. The group initially mistook the glowing ribbon o

2017-06-10 16:21:00

Haiti's Wandering Street Pharmacies  

In the Haitian capital city of Port-au-Prince, one need not be a pharmacist to sell medicine. All you need is a bucket and the willingness to roam the streets in the hot sun looking for patients. For many Haitians, medicine is an ordinary consumer good just like candies or groceries are, and buying them off roaming street peddlers is the norm. As a matter of fact, actual pharmacies are hard to come by in Haiti, and these street dispensaries are the main source of medicine for many Haitians. Ph

2017-06-09 20:31:00

Spreewald: Germany's Venice  

About 100 km south-east of Berlin in the State of Brandenburg, lies the beautiful Spreewald Biosphere Reserve. This low-lying area in which the river Spree meanders in hundreds of small waterways through meadows and unspoiled forests is one of Germany's most beautiful and greenest holiday destinations. Like most of Brandenburg, this region was sculpted during the last Ice Age by the retreating glaciers. As the glaciers began to melt and disappear, it left behind a delicate network of streams

2017-06-09 15:47:00

The Sand Collars of The Moon Snail  

These strange-looking frilly edged flat spirals made of sand sometimes wash ashore on tropical beaches. They are called sand collars—so called because they are said to resemble an old-fashioned detachable shirt or blouse collar. Sand collars are made by the female moon snails when they lay eggs. Moon snails, also known as the necklace shells, are a predatory sea mollusks in the family Naticidae. The snails are known for their rather globular-shaped shells and their voracious appetite for other...

2017-06-08 12:03:00

The Pines That Lean Towards The Equator  

Most trees grow vertically straight, but under challenging conditions where individuals have to compete for light, or when mechanical stress is intense, trees may grow at an angle. Araucaria columnaris, or Cook pines —named after Captain James Cook, whose second voyage around the globe carried the first botanists to classify the tree— is a tree endemic to New Caledonia in the Melanesia region of the southwestern Pacific Ocean, but have since been planted in temperate, subtropical, and tropic...

2017-06-08 09:52:00

El Helicoide: A Shopping Mall That Became A Prison  

Sitting on top of a small natural hill, amidst the slums of San Agustín, in south-central Caracas, Venezuela, is a magnificent building with a spiraling ramp that coils onto itself becoming tighter and tighter, rising higher and higher, until it reaches the apex crowned by a geodesic dome, designed by none other than Richard Buckminster Fuller himself. El Helicoide, or the Helix, is one of Venezuela's most important relics of the modernist movement. It was supposed to be the world's first ...

2017-06-08 09:49:00

Pomerode: The Most German Town In Brazil  

About thirty kilometers to the north of Blumenau, a city in Brazil, lies the town of Pomerode, so named because its founders came from Pomerania, a region on the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, split between Germany and Poland. The town was founded more than 150 years ago, yet even today, ninety percent of the town's 25,000 inhabitants speak German with a distinct 19th century Pommersch accent. Pomerode is probably one of the "most German towns in Brazil." This is immediately apparent as...

2017-06-06 13:12:00

Rama's Bridge: A Bridge Built By Monkeys  

In the great Indian epic of Ramayana, penned several thousand years ago, author Valmiki speaks of a bridge over the ocean connecting India and Sri Lanka. The epic poem, that stretches for nearly 24,000 verses, narrates the life of the divine prince Rama and his struggle to rescue his abducted wife Sita from the demon king Ravana, the ruler of Sri Lanka. Rama, the crown prince, was forced to relinquish his right to the throne and go into exile for fourteen years. During his stay in the forest, h

2017-06-03 12:58:00

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