Polska on a Dime – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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 Must-See Places

in Poland

Poland. A land of record holding attractions. A heavily wooded country in places, beautifully urbanized in others, Poland is a gem of European intrigue with a complex history scathed by the tragedies of armed conflict. In this account, we showcase a visitor’s 10 must see sites in surprising Poland, including the world’s largest castle and a mysterious forest.

10. Malbork Castle

Did you know that “The King of Castles,” the largest castle on the planet (by land area) is in Poland? Poland’s Marlbork Castle is a medieval gem that should rank well in any world itinerary of castle tours. Built in the 13th Century, Marlbork Castle, known as the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, consists of a castle and associated fortress construction close to the Polish town of Malbork. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the magnificent building attracts visitors looking to tick “biggest castle” off the touring achievements list.

Marlbork Castle is near the River Nogat in northern Poland, built out of brick and typifying Gothic architecture. The construction reflects the Teutonic Order state located in Prussia, where militant German monks fought crusades against Prussian and Lithuanian pagan tribes from the south coast of the Baltic Sea. The crusaders also attacked the Kingdom of Poland, a Christian Kingdom. Thus, the castle is seen as a symbol of the violent religious conflict that embodies much of Europe’s grand but often troubled history.

9. Bialowieza National Park

The primeval forest of Bialowieza National Park is the refuge of the majority of the world’s few remaining European bison, Poland’s national animal. Also designated as a World Heritage Site, the huge relict tract preserves the last of the temperate forest that once grew lush and mysterious across much of the European continent. The first national park to ever be established on the European continent, Bialowieza was declared a protected area in 1932 and stands out for its exceptional diversity. Along with the huge bison, other species seen here include lynx, wild boar, wolves and red deer.

Despite the relatively cool climate of Poland and surrounding lands, 12,000 animal species call the park home. Also known as the Zubr, the European Bison that define this park are iconic giants as Europe’s largest land animal in existence. During the Second World War, pressures on the bison increased, being seen as a source of meat in challenging conditions. Their survival in the refuge stands out as a heroic work of conservation in European history, an accomplishment of the Bison Breeding Center located in the park, the place where all bison left in the world originate.

8. Tatra Mountains

Poland is a country with diverse and fascinating geography, spanning from high mountain Europe to the Baltic Sea. In the south of Poland lies the Tatra mountain range, which is the highest set of mountains in the Carpathian range.

Tatras National Park contains spectacular cave sites as well as mountains, offering the visitor a glimpse of Poland’s most spectacular geographical region. Lakes in these mountains are impressive, particularly Morskie Oko, a lake whose name means Eye of the Sea in English. Morskie Oko is the Tatra Mountains’ largest lake, ranking fourth in depth and located within the national park. The conifer trees, rock outcrops and high elevations contrast sharply with brilliant blue waters that seem tropical in nature until you see the snow beyond. A destination for world class sight-seeing, rock climbing, hiking and caving, as well as paragliding, mountain biking and wildlife viewing, the “Polish Alps” — as they are sometimes called — are a lesser known great attraction of Europe worth any visitor’s time. Strict environmental protection policies are in place to preserve the flora and fauna of the park.

7. Tri-City

Poland is not all about farmland, forest and castles. It is also a seaport nation, with an impressive section of Baltic Sea coastline to offer visitors. Gdansk and and two other coastal municipalities, Gdynia and Sopot are known as the Tri-City, a municipal area with spectacular coastal architecture that is most whimsical, combined with heavy industry and a population of around one million.

The National Maritime Museum in Gdansk showcases seafaring and fishing history of coastal Poland, while the city has some dark history as the place where the first bullets were fired in World War II during the German invasion of Poland. The Solidarity Social Movement also first broke through the Iron Curtain in Gdansk 40 years afterward. Sopot is a lighter destination, established as a sort of recreation zone for European ruling classes of old. Spas, beachfront resorts and summer homes define the often bustling coast of Sopot. Gdynia offers a different sample of Poland, with a more subdued style. Art Deco, socialist and communist architecture are all juxtaposed here, along with fascinating relics, such as the Polish World War II battleship ‘Blyskawica’, now a visitor’s attraction and military exhibit.

6. Wawel Royal Castle

Considered a cultural icon of Polish history as well as a masterpiece of European royal architecture, Wawel Castle is located in the center of one of Poland’s most famous cities, Krakow. The 11th century saw construction of a small castle by King Boleslaw I Chrobry.

King Casimir III the Great renovated until the Royal Castle was a grand Gothic structure, only for it to burn in 1499. Zygmunt I Stary created the current palace, Italian-inspired and representing Renaissance glory. The cultural and political center of Poland throughout the 16th Century, Wawel Royal Castle is a museum in modern times, consisting of five distinct sections open for visitation. These are the Crown Treasury and Armory, the State Rooms, the Royal Private Apartments, the Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art. These works and the stunning grounds of the castle give visitors a most memorable experience of Polish Royal history. A survivor of history, Wawel Royal Castle was vandalized by Swedish and Prussian forces, Austrian-occupied in the 19th century with intent to make it a mere barracks and then re-incorporated into Poland following World War I. Restoration was underway between the two world wars, continuing once World War II hostilities ceased. Much improvement has been made to the rooms and the castle exterior.

5. Zamosc

Dating back to the 1500s, Zamosc is a Renaissance town that offers a time capsule-like experience for visitors, giving an authentic glimpse of ancient Poland with strong Italian architectural influence. The sights of the town range from churches to a grand old university to historic dwellings that reflect the lengthy history of this unique master planned town. The community is located in close proximity to the Ukrainian border. Attractions are diverse and visually pleasing in the town that was built as a collaboration between the great Italian designer Bernardo Morando, and chancellor Jan Zamoysky, after whom the town is named. Zamosc was not only built with specific architectural ideas in mind.

The town was planned with care on a larger scale to be a multicultural hub of European social and commercial exchange, strategically placed along the trade route that connected western and northern Europe with the Black Sea coast. Interestingly, the construction in Zamosc reflects efforts to implement tolerance, as the town contains religious buildings that serve as locations for a variety of faiths to worship.

4. Wroclaw

Peaceful yet vibrant, full of life Wroclaw is a jewel of Polish cultural life. Visitors to the Western Polish city will marvel at the stunning and innovative Gothic architecture that is juxtaposed on unique geography. Wroclaw is spread across riverside lands and a remarkable 12 islands, built by the River Oder, which flows from the Sudeten Mountains to the Baltic Sea. Founded in the 900s, the city has changed hands an incredible number of times. Wroclaw has been under Polish, Silesian, Bohemian, Hungarian, Prussian and German as well as Austrian Habsburg Dynastic rule in its history.

The city survived Mongolian sieges and Nazi occupation, ultimately being returned to Poland after World War II. A remarkable 130 bridges span the city’s watercourse zones, connecting whimsical and grand architectural sites and urban park lands. Visitors can wander the human-scale streets and take in the towering Church of St. Elizabeth, the grand Wroclaw Town Hall, and the market square, Rynek.

3. Wieliczka Salt Mine

The southern Polish town of Wieliczka holds a secret attraction from Poland’s industrial legacy under the surface of the Earth. A source of salt since the Neolithic era, Wieliczka Salt Mine provided table salt from the 13th century up to 2007. Salt price drops and mine flooding led commercial mining to stop in 1996, but the mine is anything but closed. Designated an official Polish Historic Monument (Pomnik Historii), the former royal salt mine offers visitors a chance to explore shafts, passageways and remarkable mining equipment, including giant cogs and horse-operated treadmills.

The mine is also home to amazing underground architecture, including four chapels, each with immaculate detailing. Statues were created from rock salt by miners and stand to this day, while modern artists have added to the collection. To prove the salt mine has it all, there is even an underground lake. Together with nearby “sister” royal salt mine Bochnia Salt Mine and the Zupny Castle, Wieliczka Salt Mine is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

The single darkest legacy among many from the Nazi government’s military occupation of Poland is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. With that name comes a diabolical past that historians have ensured will not be forgotten. Located in Oswiecim, the memorial and museum encompasses the two camps, named Auschwitz I and nearby Auschwitz II-Birkenau, with infrastructure connecting the two sites included in the memorial site. It is here that disturbing relics ranging from camp fences and watchtowers to bunkers and railway tracks used to transport prisoners can still be found.

The ghastly relics include the actual crematoria used to dispose of murdered victims of the Third Reich, while an interesting asset includes the crude gallows used to hang SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Rudolf Hoss, the first commandant of Auschwitz. Countless Jewish prisoners, as well as members of targeted ethnic groups, dissidents and others deemed targets of persecution by the Nazi regime were imprisoned at Auschwitz. A shocking 1.1 million people were killed here, including men, women and children. The museum and memorial was established in 1947, a relatively short time after the camp’s eventual liberation near the end of World War II.

1. Warsaw Uprising Museum

Warsaw, Poland’s capital, survived the Nazi invasion that sought to permanently take Poland as a new land asset of the Third Reich. Despite the damage, Warsaw is a city of both architectural and military historical interest. The Warsaw Uprising Museum is a Polish site of national pride that contains five display levels that document the Polish city’s efforts to overthrow German occupation force rule in 1944.

Opened 60 years after the liberation of Warsaw, the museum is within what was once a tram power station, constructed to commemorate the 1944 Warsaw Uprising by remembering the fighters for a free Poland. Exhibits include displays that portray the conflict of occupation era resistance, while a much newer section that opened in 2006 focuses on the history of Allied force supply air drops and includes a faithful replica of a B-24J bomber.


Polska on a Dime

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #277

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #277

…How can a person disappear with nary a trace and then show up six years later, without knowing what had gone on in the intervening years… six blankety-blank years…

Blankety Blank-001

Properly fueled and inspected, Bob Ford & Carolyn Hanes are soon winging their way across the country. The early part of the flight is spent catching up on things. That is easy. Bob works. Lyn works. So tales of working are swapped, which for a pilot and a writer, not entirely dull or uninteresting. Lyn has a first draft of her current C. C. Private Eye book, still untitled to give Bob Ford. Ford gives her the only copy of his diary about the final “Pacific” Clipper flight, hoping that Lyn would find it interesting enough to pen, which is a given.

  Later, after Lyn had gotten her crack in the pilot’s seat of the gage-strewn cockpit, spelling Ford who had come to New York via Toronto for his load of film, risking his certification by flying into La Guardia without a co-pilot or navigator, the real reason for this junket is discussed.

How can a person disappear with nary a trace and then show up six years later, without knowing what had gone on in the intervening years… six blankety-blank years, Bob? Like they didn’t happen? That is the kind of fiction that I cannot fathom.” Dumbfounding a writer is hard to do. “Did you say they told you that she was wearing the same dress as when she vanished? You would think that puff-of-smoke would have been that man in the navy blue suit.”

 “You remember that?”

The Vanished Flame by lowjacker deviantart.com

The Vanished Flame by lowjacker deviantart.com

  “Oh, yes and the brand of perfume and how she had her hair fixed. Did they take a picture of her, you know, when they first found her?”

  “I believe so. I guess we’ll find out in a few hours.”

  “I’m going to lie down in back, this messes up my mind and I need to be fresh.”

  “There is a cot, but at 25,000 feet, you’ll need a few blankets. I’ll wake you when I make my approach to Holloman AFB. Wanna land this thing?”

  “We’ll see, Bob.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

DC-3 Cockpit

Episode #277


page 258

Bad Beach Blanket Bingo – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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The World’s

Nastiest Beaches

When most of us think about beaches, we visualize pale sands, clear blue waters, and picturesque palm trees waving in the breeze. What we imagine are tropical paradises where we might soak up the sun’s golden rays, with tropical drinks in hand.

Unfortunately, there are beaches that don’t measure up to our fantasies. Some of the beaches on today’s list are unpleasant places. They get bad press for good reason.

10. Henderson Island, British Overseas Territories

If visiting a beach that’s polluted by a whopping 18 tons of plastic sounds good to you, you may want to plan an excursion to Henderson Island. This isolated island is uninhabited and it is home to sugar-sand beaches, which are unfortunately marred by the presence of plastics and other garbage from Japan, America, and a host of other nations.

So, how does all of this trash arrive at Henderson Island, which is part of the Pitcairn Islands Groups, which is a British Overseas Territory? Well, Henderson Island, which is a notable marine reserve, has ended up with trash on — and buried inches under — the sands due to a strong ocean current known as the South Pacific gyre.

This circular current sends debris from international seas directly onto Henderson Island’s shores. Every day 3,500 pieces of garbage end up on the shores.

This island is at the halfway point between Peru and New Zealand. Right now, experts estimate that 38 million pieces of plastic are present on the island’s beaches. The hermit crabs of Henderson Island have taken to living in plastic containers and birds and other wildlife are consuming plastics.

Back in the ’80s, the island was a pristine paradise, which earned a World Heritage Site designation, thanks to its unspoiled beauty.

9. Cabrillo Beach (Harbor-Facing Side), Los Angeles, USA

You’ll find Cabrillo Beach in Los Angeles. This beach should be an ideal place to frolic in the water and chill out on the sand, but pollution has made the harbor-facing side of this beach an unappealing destination for city residents and tourists. Cabrillo Beach’s harbor-facing side has the dubious distinction of being one of the USA’s dirtiest beaches.

The beaches of California are prone to pollution from urban runoff that lands in the ocean, plus rusted septic and sewer systems. Decomposing algae and kelp also contribute to pollution problems. The section of Cabrillo Beach that faces the harbor of San Pedro is subject to all of these issues, and it’s been ranked as one of the most polluted beaches in the Golden State.

Interestingly, the oceanside section of Cabrillo Beach, San Pedro, is in good shape, pollution-wise. This is because the two sides of the beach are separated by a seawall, as well as a long pier. Sadly, the side facing the harbor is anything but pristine, in part because of icky human bacteria that enters the waters through a source that is currently unknown.

If you want to go swimming at Cabrillo Beach, stick to the oceanside area. If you want to swim at a beach that’s known for being one of the cleanest in the region, consider heading for Las Tunas County Beach in Malibu.

8. Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, USA

This beach used to be stunning and relatively unspoiled. Now, Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach is saddled with two nicknames, “Plastic Beach” and “Trash Beach,” which speak volumes. This beach is off the beaten track and used to be a hidden gem for adventurous beach lovers, who were willing to take 4-wheel drive vehicles down an unpaved road to get there.

Now, people visit Kamilo Beach to gawk at the astounding amount of garbage that is mixed in with the sand. Some come to help clean it up. The trash on this Hawaii beach really piles up and this trash comes from the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” This patch is a collection of marine litter that’s situated in the North Pacific Ocean.

Kamilo Beach currents are unique and these currents push plenty of things onto the stores, including garbage, logs, and dead animals.

Logs aren’t so common on the shores these days, but an abundance of plastic arrives regularly. Ninety percent of the debris that washes up on the shores is composed of plastic.

At Kamilo Beach, the sand is dotted with small pieces of bright plastics, many of which have faded a bit because of exposure to the elements. There are also bigger pieces of garbage, such as plastic vats. A lot of the garbage comes from the fishing industry.

The beach looks terrible. It stands out for the wrong reasons. It’s beach that is a total downer.

7. Juhu Beach, Mumbai, India

Another extremely dirty beach is Juhu Beach in Mumbai, India. It’s mega-polluted.

This beach isn’t part of an uninhabited island or tucked away in some out-of-the-way location. It’s part of an upscale Mumbai neighborhood where many Bollywood stars choose to live. While people are making a serious effort to clean up Juhu Beach, with some success, the pollution problem is major.

Pollution in the Arabian Sea is rising alarmingly, and an Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay report indicates that there may be more plastic than fish in the sea by the year 2050. According to the report, 50% of plastics that pollute the Arabian Sea have been generated in the past decade. Plastic usage is on the upswing and marine life (and beach-goers) are paying the price.

Hundreds of tons of trash have been removed from Juhu Beach, so it doesn’t look as bad as it used to, but the root issue that leads plastic and other garbage to wash up on the shores, which is rising pollution in the Arabian Sea, means that clean-up efforts will need to be aggressive and ongoing.

Although the beach can look picturesque sometimes, particularly, after clean-ups, the waters are always intensely polluted.

As of November 2019, the beach earns an overall rating of 3.5 out of 5 at TripAdvisor. In November 2018, a reviewer described the beach’s waters as “black” due to pollution. In August of 2019, another visitor characterized the beach as a “disgrace” due to its overcrowding and general dirtiness.

People are valiantly trying to make this beach better, but it’s a 24/7 job which is an epic undertaking. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is now overseeing clean-up operations, and these operations are changing things for the better. Large machines are needed to get rid of the trash that collects on the beach in the morning.

People who visit the beach may not realize just how polluted the water is, since garbage that washes onto the beach is now being cleaned up faster than it once was. Visitors, and those considering visiting Juhu Beach in the future, do need to know the truth.

Of course, there are concerned citizens who understand. Some of them are activists who are trying to turn things around.

6. Fujiazhuang Beach, Dalian, China

Do you want to share a beach with 50,000 other people? Probably not, right? This is what you’ll need to do if you decide to spend time at Fujiazhuang Beach in Dalian, China.

Beaches may be nasty for an array of reasons, including crazy overcrowding. This beach is widely considered to be the most crowded stretch of sand in the world. Visitors are encouraged to avoid swimming if they have skin ailments, or eye diseases, or gastrointestinal problems. They are also supposed to avoid smoking, spitting, and littering.

Will several tens of thousands of visitors follow all of these instructions? You know the answer.

So, why do people keep flocking to this beach? What is the attraction? Well, it’s a scenic pebble beach. It’s a pretty place, really.

The overcrowding is worst in summer. During spring, there is a lot more space to move around and enjoy the pretty locale. Unfortunately, the beach is polluted year-round. Food packaging and plastic waste are generated by all of the beach-goers.

This beach also gets a 3.5/5 rating at TripAdvisor (as of November 2019). Some extroverts enjoy the fact that so many people visit the beach during the high season, because it’s a socially vibrant environment, but others hate the overcrowding. People who gave Fujiazhuang Beach poor reviews commented on the fact that the beach’s pebbles were painful to walk on, noted the unpleasant pollution, and remarked that it was hard to see the water because of all of the people.

5. Villa Angela State Park, Ohio, USA

Villa Angela State Park is home to Villa Angela beach, which is connected to Euclid Beach. These beaches are known for having high bacteria levels in their waters. Unfortunately, the bacteria levels tend to stay high, rather than plummeting sometimes. Villa Angela State Park beach and its adjacent Euclid Beach are often unsafe to swim at.

Some of us expect American beaches to be safer than some international beaches, thanks to the Clean Water Act, but this isn’t always the case. American beaches may be filled with human fecal matter, or other nasty contaminants, just like beaches in undeveloped nations, or beaches in other countries that are developed.

USA residents, and tourists who visit American destinations, need to understand that American beaches can be hazardous sometimes — or all of the time. Anyone who wants the inside scoop on a beach’s safety should look for official reports before visiting and, especially, before swimming or wading.

So, what’s in the water at Villa Angela State Park in Ohio? Well, this state park’s beach is often filled with fecal matter that contaminates the water and may trigger respiratory illnesses, ear infections, intestinal distress, eye infections, and skin rashes. The main beach at the park is 900 feet in length and it’s a pretty place to be, but the waters are dirty, which is actually the case with many Ohio state beaches.

4. Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia

Beaches situated near this Victoria, Australia bay are places where roughly 800 million pieces of garbage flow into the waters yearly, via a couple of rivers. The situation at Port Phillip Bay beaches highlights the damage that pollution is doing to Melbourne’s coastline. Most of the pollution is plastic garbage, which surges into the bay and threatens the survival of marine life.

Microplastics in the water are a huge issue. These types of plastics are smaller in size than a typical fingernail. Plastic bags also end up in Port Phillip Bay waters. Feces contamination is also sometimes a problem at Port Phillip Bay beaches. Usually, flash flooding is the cause of high contamination from feces.

Port Phillip is home to a lot of beaches, which are generally long, flat, and shallow. These beaches are quite popular with tourists, because they offer gentle conditions for swimming. These beaches aren’t surfing beaches with big, rough waves.

Unfortunately, some tourists don’t know about all of the pollution in Port Phillip Bay. Popular beaches in this region include Dromana Beach, Sandringham Beach, St. Kilda Beach and Brighton Beach. Some of these beaches fail water quality tests on the regular.

3. Guanabara Bay Beaches, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Guanabara Bay Beaches in Rio land on most lists of the world’s most polluted beaches, including this list. The problem is the untreated human waste that pollutes the water.

When it comes to swimming in the waters of Guanabara Bay Beaches, strongly reconsider, as local neighborhoods are very short on sanitation, which means that water conditions are terrible, and that nasty microorganisms, and raw sewage, are rife within the water.

Some people who do swim at Guanabara Bay Beaches live to regret it, because they experience skin irritations and stomach problems afterwards. Athletes, including Olympic rowers, take pains to avoid splashing the bay’s waters on themselves or others. They also disinfect with sanitizing products while they are in their boats.

A beach shouldn’t make you sick. This beach very well might.

Exposure to pathogens from raw sewage from millions of Rio residents is just the beginning. At this beach, the water is also polluted by industrial waste. There are tons of refineries, pharmaceutical factories and oil and gas operations in the region. A huge amount of industrial wastewater ends up in the bay daily.

These beaches may look beautiful, but they have a dark side that local residents and tourists need to be aware of. If you’re going to hang out at these beaches, maybe don’t go in the water. Stick to a little people-watching and sun-bathing on the sand.

2. Freedom Island, Manila, Philippines

You may not want to load a beach tote or knapsack with towels, sunscreen, the latest juicy, best-selling novel, and drinks, and then head out for a day at the beach at Freedom Island, Manila, Philippines. Freedom Island’s sands are basically buried under piles of trash.

The Philippines is known for being a big generator of ocean plastic pollution and the garbage dump that Freedom Island has become is testament to the fact that the Philippines needs to reduce ocean plastic pollution as soon as possible.

The buildup of plastic waste is linked with the development of the sachet packaging craze in the Philippines. Sachets are plastic pouches which are fortified with aluminum layers that provide durability and shape. If you’ve opened a package of ketchup and squeezed the contents onto your french fries, you’ve used a sachet.

Sachets make life easier for Philippines residents, but this ease and convenience comes with a very heavy environmental price.

This Metro Manila beach is covered in plastic pollution. It’s really pretty horrible.

When waves are vomiting refuse onto the shores, and beaches turn into landfills, we should all be alarmed. It’s happening all over the world, including on Freedom Island.

1. El Gringo Beach, Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic

When a beach earns the unofficial title, “Dominican Chernobyl,” it’s a clear sign that the condition of the beach isn’t exactly safe or inspiring. El Gringo Beach in DR is remarkably filthy and some of its pollution is dangerous, hence its worrisome nickname.

People who visit El Gringo Beach need to worry about plastic pollution, as well as toxic levels of lead in the soil and sand. The lead comes from an illegal car battery recycling smelter. The car batteries recycled contained lead-acid. That smelter is now abandoned, but activities there caused significant environmental damage.

Those who go to this beach also have to be concerned with other forms of industrial waste that land in the waters and on the shores. Examples of toxins found the Bajos de Haina beach include the aforementioned lead, plus ammonium, formaldehyde, and sulfuric acid. These toxins are generated by oil refineries, manufacturing plants, and power plants in the region.

A non-profit organization called the Blacksmith Institute considers Bajos de Haina, which is home to El Gringo Beach, to be one of the most polluted areas of the planet. Toxins in the area are present in sand, soil, and water, and some of these toxins are also airborne.

Suffice is to say that El Gringo Beach isn’t the ideal location for a leisurely family beach picnic. It’s not the nicest place to go for a dip, either.


Bad Beach Blanket Bingo –

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #123

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #123

…Anticipation to see the newlyweds  is building…

“Do I look alright, John?” Martha Ferrell fidgets with the mound of hair atop her head, he being the mirror in the absence of one. She is afraid that if she goes to the washroom, sheLegacy-001 will miss their entrance to the station. She pictures James and Abigail waiting and waving.

“Yes you do Ma’am,” answers John–rather the conductor. And he is not lying. She wears her 48 years very well, perhaps because her 19 Century vogue hour-glass figure intrigues the male eye. “We will make the Buffalo station within the hour,” he offers as a more relative addendum.

   Well, at least she got one response. Deep in thoughtful contemplation, her John may as well be in another car. He is watching the landscape turn from empty rural to farm rural to suburban to urban. During that span, he reflects on his life. What will be his legacy? Sure he has his stores, but there are a hundred stores of one kind or another in Tallahassee.

He has fine children, all grown except for little Maggie Lou and who knows just what will come of that; Martha mostly washing her hands of the issue. He suspects that parts of the truth have already filtered into the gossip stream. ‘And I am entering my forty-fourth year. My father died when I was sixteen, he was only 45 and leaving us with only the shack we were living in,’ he thinks back with trepidation. The doctor did not know what killed him, believing he was, “Healthy, surely not,” he mutters aloud.

“Pardon me?” responds Martha to the only sounds coming out of John’s mouth for 100 miles.

“I was saying that I hope the children are healthy,” masking what he had made audible.

“It looks like we will see for ourselves in a minute.” Martha is anxious and content at the same time.

“Their train may not be in as yet, so don’t get your hopes up and try not squeezing them to death if they are there.”

Anticipation to see the newlyweds is building.

“I was saying that I hope the children are in good spirits,” repeats John F., seeing that those kids did these, in ascending order:

“It looks like we will see for ourselves in a minute.” Martha is anxious and content at the same time.


Alpha Omega M. D.

Episode #123


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Moon Over Mankind – WIF Space

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Fascinating Facts

About

Our Moon

Ever since man looked up at the stars, he has been fascinated by the big round white hunk of rock that hangs in the sky above us. The Moon has featured in religious beliefs and in the lore of countless cultures and societies. Due to human curiosity, we set out to understand the Moon further, and what we have learned is sometimes even more interesting than the legends themselves. Join us below as we explore our Moon and revel in its glory.

10. Helium 3

mining-helium-3

Many people, upon hearing that countries still plan to return to the Moon, often wonder why. Some people don’t really think much of a big hunk of dull rock that isn’t even made of cheese. However, the Moon has something much more valuable than stale Gouda underneath the surface. Enter Helium 3, a lightweight isotope that could single-handedly fix our energy problems. Helium 3 can be used in nuclear fusion sans the radioactivity, making it a way safer process. This isotope has already been tested, and has been found to be incredibly efficient. While mining it would be extremely expensive, the costs would be well worth the gain. Imagine a future with safe, affordable, clean energy for the entire world.

9. Water

Bullialdus-RGB

These days, scientists are on a roll finding all kinds of cool new things, and the Moon has been no exception. While many people would suggest all kinds of strange things that could be on the Moon, such as extraterrestrial beings or maybe all of those socks that you lose in the washing machine, what scientists actually found is much more surprising. Using remote imaging, scientists scanned the crater Bullialdus near the equator of the Moon, and found water molecules locked in the rocks deep below the surface. Found beneath the surface, it is referred to as magmatic water and is thought by scientists to have originated due to solar wind that impacted on the surface of the Moon.

8. Preserved Footprints

moon-footprint

As you know, our Moon doesn’t really have much in the way of an atmosphere, but what you may not realize is that this has some very interesting implications. Namely, things don’t erode very easily, so the footprints left by US astronauts in the ’60s and ’70s are still preserved, and should be for a long time. This unique situation has given a brand new thing for people to worry about, and US lawmakers spent time that they were getting paid for in an attempt to legislate the issue. You see, some people are worried that, with commercial organizations getting into space flight and other countries working towards landing on the Moon, that we needed to make sure no one messes with our historical imprint. For this reason, lawmakers tried to pass a bill making the Moon landing site a national park. This failed, though NASA has asked people to at least attempt to respect the original lunar landing site, should they somehow end up there.

7. Spaceship Moon Theory

secret-moon-base

It’s a God! It’s a huge hunk of cheese in the sky! It’s … an alien spaceship? The Moon has been the victim of many strange origin stories over the years. Many have been convinced that the Moon is some sort of God that needs to be worshiped, and some people actually think it is made of cheese. However, perhaps the oddest theory is that the Moon is the remains of an alien spaceship left orbiting earth. The theory starts with the supposition that aliens have been seen on the surface of the Moon. At one point, the United States even experimented with remote viewing, although they decided it was pure rubbish.

But it gets weirder. Those who subscribe to the theory claim that the Moon’s deposits of rocks such as chromium, titanium and zirconium were actually because they were strong building materials for the alien’s enormous spaceship. Those who believe this claim that the Moon’s surface is actually armor plating and was used to protect from meteorite impacts, although they believe the Moon has been abandoned for some time.

6. Moonquakes

moonquake

Over forty years ago while visiting the Moon, astronauts left seismometers that sent data back to the scientists waiting on good old terra firma for results. These seismometers were left active for over a decade and now many years later a professor from Notre Dame and his team set to work once again looking at the data.

What they found is that the Moon has earthquakes or “moonquakes” as it were. Apparently there are several different kinds of quakes that can happen on the Moon. The first are hundreds of miles below the surface, some are simply vibrations set off by meteorites striking the surface. Still others are simply due to thermal expansion. and then there are the shallow moonquakes, the ones that, according to the scientists, we need to watch out for. These are only tens of miles below the surface and can reach a 5.5 on the Richter scale. However, quakes on the Moon have some features that differ from ours and make them more intense. Many of these shallow moonquakes went on for a good ten minutes, and the researcher in charge said the Moon was “ringing like a bell”. Learning more about these quakes is very important if any country is ever to set up a base on the Moon.

5. The Man in the Moon

man-in-the-moon

Long ago before all of our precious modern technology, man looked up at the Moon and wondered about it. For one thing, what was that strange outline that looked like a man on its surface? Wanting to explain the strange shape, people made up many different stories about the Man in the Moon. While these stories have different variations they usually feature a man who was banished to the Moon as punishment for working on the Sabbath and some versions include a woman who was punished with him for a similar crime. However, some legends suggest the man was actually Cain, exiled to our lonely Moon as punishment because his offering was not pleasing to God.

4. Moon Base

Lunar-base

Suggesting that NASA will build a base on the Moon has turned into almost something of a joke in the United States. NASA keeps talking about it and people keep making plans or claiming it is going to happen, and it just never quite gets off the ground. However, while the United States may have been the first to land on the Moon, they may not be the first to establish a permanent base. Supposedly, the Russians plan to head to the Moon with some cosmonauts in 2025, and hope to have a base established a few years later, but they have the countries of Japan, China, and India close on their heels. China especially has ambitious plans of their own and has come up with advanced concepts for their own plans to establish a fully-working base on the Moon by the year 2050.

3. Blue Moon

blue-moon

You’ve probably at some point in your life heard the expression “once in a Blue Moon” and thus know it means something that doesn’t happen very often. However, interestingly there is some confusion as to how not often a Blue Moon actually occurs. Some people are under the impression that it is when two Full Moons happen in the same exact month, but this isn’t accurate. Essentially, a Blue Moon is when a particular season has four Full Moons instead of only three.

Much more interesting though, is that under certain circumstances the Moon can truly appear blue to the naked eye. According to scientists, volcanic eruptions can cause huge plumes of ash to spread out over the atmosphere and scatter red light particles. Particularly strong eruptions such as the volcano Krakatoa caused people to see blue Moons and lavender suns for literally years. According to some people as recently as the 1980’s, after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption a Blue Moon was visible in some parts of the world.

2. Outer Space Treaty

space-treaty

We mentioned earlier that one lawmaker tried to have the lunar landing site made into a national park, but it turns out that there is a really good reason why his legislation failed. It may not be obvious to those outside the US at first, but the Moon is not actually our property. The Moon orbits the Earth, and is not claimed in particular by any one group of people.

This presents a unique problem when it comes to colonizing, mining from, or even landing on the Moon. Many years back, during the Cold War, some people were afraid the Moon might end up a serious point of contention, perhaps even used as a military base or a place to launch missiles. After much diplomatic back-and-forth, a treaty was finally agreed upon that essentially makes the Moon international territory, from which no one is allowed to conduct any military operations.

1. Dark Side of the Moon

dark-side-of-the-moon

You’ve probably heard the phrase “dark side of the Moon” before; after all, it was one of Pink Floyd’s most well known albums. What you might not realize though, is that the phrase actually doesn’t make any sense. You see, the Moon is mysterious and has a whole secret life we know nothing about, and by that we mean there is a half of the Moon we never see. However, while the Moon only shows one side to us, it still shows both sides to the Sun, and the “dark side” gets plenty of light. Interestingly, if you take this the other way around, it means that if you looked at the Earth from the surface of the Moon, you would end up with the same effect. The Earth would continue to show you the same side, and remain in the same place in the sky every single day.


Moon Over Mankind –

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Blastoffs, Landings, Moonwalks and You – WIF Space Travel

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Unusual Aspects

of NASA’s

Apollo Missions

In July 1969 – five decades ago, and just eight years after President Kennedy challenged the United States to land a man on the moon – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin accomplished the task to international fanfare. They were of course just the tip of the sword. The lunar landings were a massive accomplishment, supported by an international network of communication stations and strategically located ships. It had required advances in the preparation of food and the disposal of waste; the exact determination of contingencies beyond the ken or caring of most of humanity. It was a scientifically determined exercise which required, at the end, the courage of three men strapped atop what was essentially an enormous bomb. At the time, only a few unmanned vehicles had been dispatched to the moon, and more than a few had failed spectacularly.

Scientists, engineers, mathematicians, cooks, tailors, technicians, administrators, politicians, and virtually every discipline known to humanity had contributed to the effort, striving to consider in advance every potential contingency and have in place the means to deal successfully with whatever event may arise. Fifty years later much of their efforts can be viewed as nearly quaint, particularly when one compares the computing power of one’s smartphone with that of the Lunar Excursion Module, which carried Armstrong and Aldrin to the surface of the moon and returned them to rendezvous with their colleague, Michael Collins, in lunar orbit. As with all of humanity’s great leaps forward, there are many aspects little remembered, but which were a part of the event and the community which accomplished it. Here are just a few.

10. NASA took steps to protect the Earth from moon germs, but they weren’t foolproof

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the only two men of Apollo 11 to walk on the moon, but upon their return to the mission’s Command Module they were reunited with fellow astronaut Michael Collins. Thus it was determined by whomever determined such things that all three astronauts could have been exposed to unknown microorganisms while on their journey, and that it was a wise precaution to isolate the three astronauts from the rest of the human race upon their return to earth, at least for a short time. Accordingly NASA constructed a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) to house the three upon their return, and it was waiting for them aboard USS Hornet. It was, essentially, an Airstream trailer which had been properly modified. Since they had made contact with other humans as part of exiting the spacecraft floating merrily in the Pacific, those potentially contaminated worthies joined them in the trailer.

Within the confines of the Airstream – which was actually built by Airstream – the three astronauts were seen via television chatting with American president Richard Nixon. What the public did not see was that the astronauts, and those recovery personnel isolated with them, were doing what many vacationers did when temporarily residing in their Airstreams. They were enjoying martinis. Perhaps it was the alcohol which stymied lunar pathogens, or perhaps it was a bit of over-caution on the part of NASA officials, but after three weeks the quarantined men were allowed to return to the life of the living, having exhibited no ill effects caused by moon germs (Not all the time was spent in the Airstream. They were transferred to a larger isolation facility after being flown to Houston). After Apollo 14 (the Apollo 13 astronauts were not quarantined, having never reached the moon) isolating the astronauts upon return was deemed to be unnecessary.

9. A piece from the Wright Brothers’ airplane was carried to the moon by Neil Armstrong

Humanity first achieved powered heavier than air flight in December 1903, when Wilbur and Orville Wright launched their Flyer into the air at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Less than 66 years later the first men walked upon the surface of the moon. Millions of people who were alive when the first flight was accomplished were still alive to see men on the moon. Neil Armstrong, like the Wrights, was an Ohioan, and it was his decision to take to the moon with him a tribute to the men who had not only achieved the first flight, but had developed the principles of control which still determine the ability to fly. To do so he enlisted the help of the Museum of the United States Air Force, also located in Ohio, and obtained pieces of the Wright Flyer, one of muslin fabric from the left wing of the aircraft, the other a piece of wood from the left propeller.

Armstrong took advantage of an authorized piece of equipment carried by the astronauts known as the PPK – NASA speak for the Personal Preference Kit. Basically it was a purse, made of Teflon coated fabric, and roughly the size of a standard lunch box. The space travelers were limited to five pounds or less of personal items, which they were allowed to carry to the moon and back. Although no one knows for certain what else Armstrong took with him to the moon (there has been speculation that personal items which had belonged to his late daughter were carried) the pieces of the Flyer which went to the moon were brought back with him. Both the swatch of fabric and the piece of wood are in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington today, having been, like a man, taken to the moon and returned safely to earth by the end of the decade, as President Kennedy had challenged.

8. The Apollo Program missions were a massive undertaking in terms of workers

It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of people who directly supported the Apollo program and its accomplishment of landing Americans on the moon. Earlier programs, from which some workers had already retired, were essential to the success of Apollo, though they are not usually counted. By the time of the launch of Apollo 11 in July 1969, NASA had already been subjected to cutbacks in other programs. The United States military also provided active duty personnel, particularly the US Navy, whose ships provided the recovery vessels for retrieving returning astronauts and their spacecraft. Other military organizations used the Apollo missions (and other space missions) to hone their missile tracking skills as part of their continuous training towards stymieing the Soviets during the ongoing Cold War. So a true number is somewhat difficult to pin down when counting those who made Apollo a success.

At least 400,000 men and women were directly involved in the successful landing on the moon. Whether this number considers those who were tangentially involved – such as those who prepared the recipe for a space dinner – is debated. Regardless, the effort was truly a national one, involving contractors and subcontractors from virtually every American state. President Kennedy had exhorted “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal” and the nation responded in a manner not seen since the industrial buildup during the Second World War, and unfortunately, not seen since. Each Apollo space mission, including all of the components of the boosters and the Apollo system itself, comprised over 5.5 million individual parts, any of which could have led to a catastrophic failure and the loss of the lives of the three men which rode the system into space.

7. Astronauts returning from the moon signed customs forms asserting items to declare

When Apollo 11 returned from the moon – in the form of the three astronauts and the Command Module, the rest of the equipment remained in space or on the moon – the astronauts were treated to the trappings common to heroes in American tradition. They were visited by the President of the United States. They were interviewed by the press, radio, and television. They were given ticker tape parades and the keys to the city by American towns. Streets were renamed in their honor. Later so were schools, parks, museums, highways, and other sites. But before enjoying any of the perks derived from their mission, they were subjected to the bureaucratic nonsense which is all too often part of modern life (after their period of isolation in the Airstream, that is).

The first men to return from the moon returned to US territory via the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. From there they were flown, ensconced in their Airstream, to Honolulu, then Houston, where they entered the more spacious isolation facility. While in Honolulu they filed forms claiming that they were re-entering the United States with items to declare to customs. The items were dust and rocks collected from the lunar surface. They also had to state, as all international travelers do, their travel itinerary, and they described it as being from Cape Kennedy to Honolulu, with a stopover on the moon. All three astronauts signed the form, declaring it to be “complete, exact, and true” as if they could have possibly deviated, having just completed what was the most closely monitored trip of all time.

6. The Apollo 11 astronauts were among the most closely watched television personnel in history

Apollo 11 provided some of the most dramatic television scenes in history, presented by the astronauts themselves as they continued on their journey, and emphasized by network personnel hosting the broadcasts. Walter Cronkite – an unabashed fan of the American space program – spent hours explaining events as the mission wound on, and his competitors at the other networks did the same. Regularly scheduled television broadcasts were bumped to allow events from space to be viewed by the American public (who were paying for them through their taxes) as well as by the rest of the world. When Neil Armstrong stepped down the ladder of the Lunar Excursion Module, named Eagle by the astronauts, it was seen live on television. So were his early steps on the moon, undoubtedly the most dramatic footage yet created.

It should be no surprise then, to learn that a broadcast prepared by NASA and the astronauts engaged on a space mission should be the recipient of an Emmy award. But it went to the astronauts of an earlier Apollo mission, Apollo 7 in October 1968. Apollo 7 never left earth orbit as the astronauts went on an eleven day mission which tested the components of the program’s Command Module. Astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham were awarded a special Emmy award that year for their nightly broadcasts of what came to be known as the “Wally, Walt, and Donn Show,” during which they demonstrated eating in space and other daily evolutions. Later Schirra revealed that he had wanted to televise astronauts using the relief tube to answer the call of nature while in orbit, but his bosses in Houston demurred.

5. When astronauts needed clothes that moved with them, a bra manufacturer came to the rescue

As early as 1962 NASA was evaluating and testing spacesuits to be worn by the Apollo astronauts, cognizant of the fact that unlike suits to be worn only within the confines of a space capsule, the Apollo astronauts would require better range of motion and comfort. Of particular concern were the suits to be worn by the astronauts on the surface of the moon. Two companies led the bidding process to produce the Apollo suits, International Latex Corporation and Hamilton Standard. Hamilton tried to muscle ILC out of the process, but Hamilton’s spacesuits failed to make the grade required by NASA, with a great deal of the criticism coming from the astronauts themselves (the astronauts were heavily involved in all aspects of crew comfort and safety throughout the manned space program). ILC became the lead developer and manufacturer of space suits, a position it retains in the 21st century.

ILC is better known by its current name, Playtex. In 1962 it was a subsidiary of Playtex, known primarily as a manufacturer of two types of women’s undergarments, brassieres and girdles. Although girdles are all but unknown in current women’s fashions, in 1962 they were still considered a foundation (ahem) of the lingerie industry. The suit produced for the Apollo astronauts weighed just over 100 pounds minus the astronaut, and when the latter and his support pack were included the total was around 500 pounds, depending of course on the weight of the astronaut. It is a little known fact that at the same time the women’s lib movement was beginning to exhort their sisters to burn their bras, a suit designed and made by a bra manufacturer was preventing astronauts from being burned up in space. By the way, as of 2019, Playtex no longer manufactures girdles, preferring to concentrate on something called shaping wear.

4. Some of the astronauts carried contraband to the moon

America’s astronauts had an established history of smuggling unauthorized objects into space with them, to the everlasting frustration of their earthbound bosses. John Young once flew into space (Gemini 3) taking along a corned beef sandwich, mostly as a joke on his traveling companion, Gus Grissom. Both astronauts took bites from the sandwich before concerns over errant crumbs forced Young to return it to his pocket. The incident drew debate in the House of Representatives and other political posturing and drew Young a reprimand, though according to Young it was neither the first nor the last sandwich to be smuggled into space by astronauts less than enthralled with the NASA prepared official cuisine available. Alan Shephard took smuggling contraband a step further. He took along a golf club on his journey to the moon.

Specifically, he took the head of a six iron, specially modified by an accomplice (a Houston golf pro named Jack Harden) to fit an authorized piece of equipment to serve as a shaft. In the manner of golfers everywhere, Shephard also smuggled along golf balls with great secrecy, enabling him to play while his spouse thought him at work. While on the lunar surface, Shephard took out club and balls, and became the only man to hit a golf ball (thus far) while standing on the moon. According to Shephard, he shanked the first shot. On his mulligan he hit the ball “flush and it went at least 200 yards”, nice distance for a one-handed shot while wrapped in an over one-hundred pound Playtex space suit. The United States Golf Association Museum in New Jersey has the modified six iron, donated to it by Shephard at the suggestion of Bing Crosby. The balls still lie on the surface of the moon. Shephard never revealed to the world what brand they are.

3. Communion has been taken, but not served, on the surface of the moon

The second man to set foot on the surface of the moon was Edwin E. Aldrin, known to his fellow astronauts as Buzz. Aldrin was, in addition to being a veteran combat pilot (he flew 66 missions in Korea, shooting down two enemy planes), the first astronaut to hold a PhD (Astronautics, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and a veteran of walking in space, an Elder at Webster Presbyterian Church. While on the surface of the moon and while awaiting his commander’s first steps on the lunar surface, Aldrin took communion, an event witnessed by a respectful Neil Armstrong, who did not participate. Aldrin took communion in the form of both water and wine, with the foreknowledge of mission controllers on the ground. The event was kept from the media at the time, since NASA was already involved in a lawsuit regarding the astronauts having read from the Bible during the mission of Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968, an event broadcast to the earth on television.

Aldrin used a communion kit which had been presented to him by the pastor of his church. He poured the communion wine into a vessel and reported on the qualities it displayed in the severely lower gravity as a matter of scientific observation. Many years later (in 2009) Aldrin reflected that had he the opportunity to repeat his act, he would not do so, since the rite was a Christian one and thus not reflective of the mission’s self-stated intent to be for “all mankind.” There are other examples of astronauts taking part in religious rites while deployed in space, particularly on the space shuttle missions and while serving aboard the International Space Station, but Aldrin’s communion is the only such act to have been performed on the surface of the moon.

2. Humanity has left tons of trash and refuse on the surface of the moon

For the most part, the moon and Las Vegas have in common that what happens there stays there. There have been six manned moon missions, all completed by the United States. Twelve men, all Americans, have trod upon the lunar source. No man has ever gone back. Nearly all of the equipment taken to the moon by the missions was left behind. In return for the soil samples and rocks which Americans took from the lunar surface, left behind have been cameras, flags, shovels and other small tools, the bases of the six lunar modules, lunar rover excursion vehicles (yes, there are abandoned cars on the moon), and a host of other detritus. At least one bird feather remains there (falcon) and a hammer. The two items were used in an experiment mirroring those of Galileo, and then left to lay.

The Apollo missions aren’t the only source of man-made detritus on the moon, many unmanned space missions which reached the moon are of course still there, some of them Soviet property, making America not the only earthbound nation to litter the moon. Most estimates are that there are upwards of 400,000 tons of earth-made trash lying around,waiting for the next lunar explorer to encounter. In fact there is so much trash on the moon that missions to recover some of it have been proposed, as a means of studying the long term impacts of radiation and the lunar environment on man-made materials. The NASA History Program Office maintains an inventory of items known to have been abandoned or lost on the moon, visible online. Among the items listed is a Gold Olive Branch (sic) and just a bit lower on the same page, a Defecation Collection Device.

1. Armstrong and Aldrin both claimed that they could smell the lunar surface

Beginning with Armstrong and Aldrin, and confirmed by subsequent lunar explorers (unanimously) the surface of the moon had, or has, a unique but readily noticeable smell. First noticed by the Apollo 11 astronauts at the end of their first stroll around Tranquility Base (as they named the landing site in July 1969), it remained a subject of discussion among the small fraternity of men who have seen the earth while standing on the moon. The astronauts all noticed the smell upon re-pressurizing the cabin of the lunar module, allowing them to remove their helmets. Dust and other residue present on their boots, suits, and gloves gave off the smell, which several likened to gunpowder. Spent gunpowder. An interesting phenomena is that the smell is not detected emanating from lunar samples examined back on earth. It was only present in the lunar module, shortly after completion of re-pressurization.

While all of the astronauts who walked on the moon agreed on the existence of the smell and its similarity to the odor of gunpowder, none have ever agreed to explanations of what the smell was, or why it was not replicated when examining samples on earth. But the smell was bothersome at the time, as some scientists believed that lunar dust collected by the astronauts could spontaneously combust when exposed to oxygen, a worry not lost on Armstrong and Aldrin. Armstrong collected a handful of dust while on the moon, depositing it in a pocket rather than a sample bag, and placed it on a flat surface while the LEM was re-pressurized for the first time, ready to act should the sample begin to smolder. It did not, and the two astronauts returned to earth. The strange smell of the moon is a mystery which began, rather than ended, with man’s first trip to the moon.


Blastoffs, Landings, Moonwalks and You –

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Getting Sphinx-y W/You – WIF Like an Egyptian

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Mysteries of Egypt’s

Great Sphinx

of Giza

When the soldiers of Rome first encountered the Sphinx they gazed upon an ancient structure which was already older than the ruins of the ancient Roman Empire are today. Staring with mouths no doubt agape in wonder, they likely formulated questions which for over two millennia have remained largely unanswered. What was it? Who built it? Why? The great head which appeared before them (the body of the Sphinx was buried in the desert sands, unseen for hundreds of years before and after the Romans visited) may have retained the colors applied by its builders, adding to the mystery which stood before them. Or they may have already been scoured away by the sands of the desert and of time.

Since its rediscovery the Sphinx has added to its mysteries, with every proposed answer and theory leading to others, yet more secretive. It has left impressions upon its visitors throughout time. Napoleon gazed upon it in awe. Archaeologists, explorers, historians, and tourists have attempted to understand and explain its purpose, its meaning to those who built it and to those who followed. Yet it remains among the most mysterious artifacts of the ancient world. Why it was built, how it was built, what it represented, and what it continues to represent remain matters of speculation, mysteries unsolved, further enshrouded by the passage of time. Here are some of the mysteries of the Sphinx, the eternal lion of the Egyptian desert, silent guardian of the Pyramids.

10. Who built it?

The short answer, and one which has changed frequently over the centuries, is nobody knows. At least not to a certainty. Theories have abounded, with differing views presented based on science, religion, and even the study of extraterrestrials. It has been called a device representing astronomical configurations. It has been called a tribute to the dead. The bulk of the evidence regarding its origin is circumstantial, and its construction has been described to support other theories regarding ancient Egypt, each of questionable accuracy on their own. Some believe the statue to predate the nearby pyramids, others posit that it was added later. Today, the consensus is that the face of the statue represents the pharaoh Khafre, though some maintain that earlier known images of Khafre bear little likeness to the face on the statue.

Khafre is regarded as the builder of the second pyramid at Giza, and the theory that he built, or rather had built, the Sphinx is supported by those who believe that a statue in his likeness was included in the Sphinx Temple, part of the overall complex which was built as a funerary. Other Egyptologists of past years disputed Khafre’s contribution to the construction, claiming it to predate his reign by centuries. Accurately dating the construction is difficult, as there are no references to the statue, at least not by name, in any contemporaneous documentation yet discovered. A causeway near the statue, generally believed to have been built during Khafre’s reign, is believed by some to have been designed with the existing statue in mind, rather than as a part of the construction of the statue itself. Who built the Sphinx remains one of its riddles, to date unanswered, and to many unanswerable given the existing evidence.

9. What is the Sphinx?

Whoever built what is now known as the Sphinx aside, it is also unknown by what name the statue was called by its creator or creators. No inscriptions have yet been discovered which describe the statue, refer to it by name, or describe the purpose for which it was intended. The great statue was not referred to as the Sphinx until over 2,000 years after it was built, if the most widely accepted date of construction is used as a point of reference. The term itself is borrowed from the Greek, referring to a mythological being with the body of a lion, wings of eagles, and the head of a woman. Other Egyptian “sphinxes” which have been discovered bear the head of a man, the body of a lion, and lack wings. Even the name Sphinx comes from Greek, meaning (loosely) to squeeze. The term refers to the beast squeezing to death those unfortunates who failed to solve the riddle she presented.

Nearly all known inscriptions connected to the statue refer to it as the “Terrifying One.” It has been linked to the sun-god Ra, as well as the god appearing in the form of a jackal, Anubis. Anubis was the god of the Necropolis, the city of the dead. Over 1,000 years after the generally accepted date of its construction it was excavated and restored for the first time, or rather attempts at such restoration were made. The pharaoh Thutmose IV directed the excavation of the statue (which had been buried in the desert sand over the preceding 1,000 years, only its head showing above ground), though his attempt managed to expose only the front paws. To mark the event, Thutmose had a granite slab placed between the paws. Thutmose inscribed the slab, known as the Dream Stele, on which he linked the statue, already approximately 1,200 years old, with Ra.

8. How was the Sphinx built?

The Sphinx, contrary to common belief, is not a construction but a carving. It was hewn out of the rock of a quarry which also provided the limestone blocks for the construction of the nearby pyramids and the temples and causeways which surround them. The rock appeared in layers, with each layer presenting differing qualities regarding resistance to erosion and the ravages of time. How it was carved is, like all else about the statue, a subject of debate. It may have been hewn by hammer and chisel, shaped with saws, or blasted with water. Water, routed through leather hoses, pressurized by decreasing the diameter of the vessels transporting it, and used to wear away the rock might have been used. But if water was used, what was its source? There are those who believe, as much because they have to believe it to support their theory as for any other reason, that the valley, now arid desert, was once fertile and well-watered.

The theory is given some support through the belief, not fully accepted by the scientific community, much of the erosion which has damaged the statue is the result of rainwater, rather than desert sands driven by the winds. The theory that extensive rainfall damaged the statue furthers the argument that it predates the time of Khafre, during whose reign the region was arid, much as it is today. Nonetheless, by the time of the reign of Thutmose IV the Sphinx was buried up to the neck in the sands of the desert, as has been seen. Climatologists believe that the last period of heavy and persistent rainfall in the region occurred over 4000 years BCE, and the level of erosion, if the theory is accepted, indicates that the statue was built as early as 6000 BCE. The dates alone lead Egyptologists to consider the theory to be a fringe idea, lacking credence and scientific evidence, especially since it conflicts with theories of their own.

7. How was the Sphinx used in Ancient Egypt?

Over time, according to the experts, the significance and use of the Sphinx changed. In ancient Egypt, the lion was symbolic of the sun, and thus it is believed that the statue was used for solar worship more than 2,500 years before Christ. One thousand years later the statue was connected to the worship of the god Harmachis, another god of the sun. The Sphinx was at least one thousand years old when a temple to the god Harmachis was built nearby by the Pharaoh Amenhotep II. Yet the massive statue meant different things to different beholders. The Canaanites, a polytheistic people of many tribes often referred to in the Old Testament of the Hebrews and modern day Christians believed the Sphinx to refer to the god Horon, one of two gods who held sway as lords of the netherworld.

Despite the beliefs of the Canaanites, covered in detail in the Old Testament which describes the many conflicts between them and the monotheistic Israelites, the massive statue is not referred to or otherwise described in the biblical narratives. How it could be overlooked, when it was a focal point of so many of the ancient tribes and cultures, is one of its enduring mysteries (particularly given the large number of Israelites held as slaves by the Egyptians, according to the narrative in Exodus). The Book of Jeremiah does refer to what it calls “…signs and wonders in the land of Egypt,” but a more specific description is lacking. If Moses, or his brother Aaron, or any of the Israelites saw the Sphinx, they evidently did not find it worthy of comment in the books of the Old Testament.

6. Why was the Sphinx vandalized in ancient times?

A fairly well-known feature of the Sphinx is that the massive head is lacking a nose.Instead there is an irregular and roughly textured area of the face where the nose once was displayed. For many centuries it was assumed that the facial feature had fallen to the ravages of the desert and time. In other words, it simply fell off the face. The same fate was assumed to have befallen the beard which once adorned the chin of the statue. A myth developed in the nineteenth century that a cannonball fired by Napoleon’s troops during the Battle of the Pyramids destroyed the nose. In fact, subsequent archaeological research revealed that the nose was deliberately removed, using either lengthy rods or other instruments designed for the purpose, sometime prior to the tenth century of the common era. The unanswered question regarding the act? Why?

One theory is that Islamic peasants prayed to the Sphinx, offering it sacrifices, in the belief that the gods would intervene to ensure a better harvest, a sacrilege which Sufi Muslim leaders could not abide. The statue was thus desecrated to discourage the practice. Other sphinxes throughout the region were similarly defaced during the 13th and 14th century, for similar reasons. The desecration of the statue was also rumored to be the source of retribution, including the Crusade of Alexander in 1365. The status of the beard reputed to once have been a feature of the statue is disputed, with some scholars believing the beard was an original part of the carving. Others believe that it was a later addition, though all are in agreement that the beard is no longer a part of the face, with portions of the stone which formed it recovered from the sands between the beast’s paws.

5. Is the human portion of the statue a man or a woman?

The presence of a beard adorning the chin of the massive head of the statue would lead an observer to assume it depicts the head of a man. But beginning in the 1500s CE, and continuing well into the nineteenth century, visitors regularly described the statue as depicting a woman’s head and upper body melded with the body of a lion. The description of the statue as being that of a woman was reflected in both written form and in sketches and paintings by western artists. The Sphinx was described as having the breasts and neck of a woman, as well as a woman’s face. Traces of coloration which remain around the statue’s eyes and the lower face suggested that the statue at one time presented a garishly multi-colored visage, as that of a woman wearing heavy makeup.

George Sandys, an English poet, translator of the ancient classics, and extensive traveler who chronicled his journeys, described the Sphinx as a harlot. A noted contemporary, German writer Johannes Helferich, described the Sphinx as a “round-breasted woman.” Prior to the French Revolution, the overwhelming majority of images of the statue available in Europe depicted the Sphinx as decidedly feminine in appearance. Only after the French invasion of Egypt led by revolutionary general Napoleon Bonaparte were images of the Sphinx which were more interested in accuracy than romanticism widely available in Europe. Interestingly it was not until 1755 that European drawings of the statue presented the absent nose.

4. Who are the Anunnaki and did they build the Sphinx?

The Anunnaki were the temple gods of the Ancient Sumerians, a trading people who recorded their activities in cuneiforms, and gave to history among other things the twenty-four hour period known as one day, divided into periods of sixty minutes each. An agricultural society, they also left behind a method of preserving grain for consumption in liquid form, a beverage we know today as beer. According to a believer in ancient visitors from alien realms, Zecharia Sitchin, the Anunnaki built the Sphinx, as well as the pyramids, centered in Giza as a port for other visitors. Sitchin’s theories have been dismissed as both pseudoscience and pseudohistory, but his works have sold millions of copies around the world to followers of his beliefs.

Though it is easy to dismiss Sitchin’s work, it is not easy to deny the influence he has over those who believe in extraterrestrial visitations in the ancient world. The seeming impossibility of explaining much of the mystery which surrounds the Sphinx and the ancient peoples who saw it in the background every day, just as modern people see cell towers and giant aircraft soaring overhead, leads some to seek otherworldly explanations. Sitchin’s numerous books and interviews have inspired motion pictures, video games, religious fringe groups, and various clubs and groups who believe that there is no mystery at all to the Sphinx, it is simply evidence of alien visitation, created by the gods of the ancient Sumerians.

3. How has the Sphinx survived for so many thousands of years?

It is no secret that the part of the Sphinx which has had the most difficulty weathering the passage of time is the head and upper torso. There is a simple explanation for that seeming mystery. For most of its existence the majority of the statue has been buried beneath the sands of the desert which filled the quarry in which it was carved. Before it was submerged, evidence of erosion was present (remember the postulation that water was eroding the statue), and the carving was protected by covering the damaged areas with limestone and sandstone blocks, carved for the purpose, as a sort of laminate.

During an excavation in 2010, a wall was discovered surrounding much of the statue, built of mudbrick, which ran for more than 400 feet around the Sphinx. It was determined it was intended to act as a windbreak, erected around the same time that Thutmose installed the Dream Stele between the paws. Most of the statue was still buried in the sand at the time. Not until the 20th century, in a project which began in 1925 and took 11 years to complete, was the entire statue exposed to view, and thus also to the elements. The face on the other hand was exposed continuously throughout the millennia since its completion, as well as being the subject of vandalism, or at the very least religious censorship, since it was first completed at a time still unknown.

2. Is the Sphinx linked to the constellation known as Orion, the Hunter?

According to some theorists (Robert Bauval, Graham Hancock, et al) the Great Pyramids of Giza are aligned in the same manner as the stars which create the “belt” of the constellation Orion, and when considered along with the Sphinx and the nearby Nile River present a model of the relationship of Orion and its position with the Milky Way. According to their calculations, the positions of the stars, if established in relationship to the pyramids and the Sphinx, are depicted as they were 10,500 years ago. That would mean that the Sphinx is part of a model displaying the astronomical positions at that time, and is thus 10,500 years old. To those subscribing to the theory, Giza is a map, presumably for the use of visitors from beyond the stars.

They are undaunted by the fact that no artifacts of any kind supporting such an early appearance of the Sphinx, the Pyramids, or any other man-made structure of the kind have ever been found in the region. They are equally undaunted by the fact that their method of establishing the date has been proven to be inaccurate. While it is possible that the belt of the constellation could have been used as a guide for the layout of the Pyramids (the Sphinx is also laid out in a manner which annually measures the sun’s attitude during the solstices), that in and of itself does not necessarily indicate a link to interstellar visitation. Alien influence in the construction of the Sphinx also does not take into account one important fact about the statue. After surviving thousands of years, through earthquakes, floods, world wars, the rise and fall of empires, and all of the vagaries of human existence, the statue is rapidly crumbling into dust.

1. Can the Sphinx survive the 21st century?

Modern man is destroying the Sphinx. The greatest single culprit is the air pollution emanating from the city of Cairo, as well as high winds and humidity, both of which are increasing and for both of which climate change is a contributing factor. Since 1950 – almost three-quarters of a century – organized efforts to save the statue have been underway. They are failing. Concrete used to reinforce the statue was found to be incompatible with the original stone, and did more damage than good. Chemical injections to help the stone resist the effects of modern pollution failed to do so. Additional limestone blocks were added to reinforce the stone, but they were unable to prevent further erosion of the original structure.

By the 1980s portions of the left shoulder were crumbling, falling to the ground in pieces, and attempts to reattach them, or replace them with modern substitutes, also failed. The structure is crumbling so badly, and its decay accelerating so quickly, that further exploration of the Sphinx has been for the most part set aside in order to concentrate on saving what is left before it is too late. The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities is responsible for protecting and hopefully saving the massive structure, the oldest extant relic of the ancient world, as well as the largest. With them lies the answer to the greatest of all the mysteries of the Sphinx; can a marvel created by ancient man survive the foibles and shortsightedness of their modern successor? As with all of the mysteries of the Sphinx, the answer remains unknown.


Getting Sphinx-y W/You –

WIF Like an Egyptian