By the Wonderful Sea – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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Remarkable Ocean

and

Sea Settlements

Ocean cities. Settlements in seas. Famed writer Jules Verne was on to something with “Propeller Island,” after all. (see below)

In this account, we explore some of the most ingenious ways in which human settlements have taken a marine form that thrive in modern times, while paying respects to some real-life versions of Atlantis found below the waves.

10. MS The World

The brainchild of Knut U. Kloster, MS The World is remarkable and globally unique condo at sea. With everything from sports facilities to a grocery store, this “largest residential yacht on the planet” is an apartment ship with 165 residential apartments, in total measuring 644 feet, 2 inches long and 98 feet wide. A board of directors elected by the residents, plus committees, plan out the ship’s travel routes, budgeting and on-board activities, along with shore stops.

The attractive vessel is a place to reside, with its fully livable apartments that range from its little studio residences to middle ground studio one or two-bedroom apartments, regular two-bedroom apartments, all the way up to three-bedroom suites with a full range of amenities. One to three expeditions (typically informed by 20 or more relevant experts, for planning) take in culture, scenery, and natural history of places like Madagascar, the British Isles/Hebrides, and the Northwest Passage.

9. Kansai International Airport

A masterpiece of Japanese engineering, Kansai Interntional Airport, opened in 1994, is an airport in the middle of the sea. Well, in the middle of Osaka Bay, offshore of Japan’s main island, Honshu, to be exact. Originally planned to be floating, the airport was instead built on sand, creating a runway-shaped construction surrounded by water, with all the amenities expected at an airport.

The airport is connected to Honshu by a narrow strip for rail and road transport, and has been judged as an engineering disaster due it its history of sinkage into the soft sands and mud of Osaka Bay and the subsequent costs. The airport nevertheless received recognition as an American Society of Civil Engineers “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium” award recipient in April 2001. The airport notably weathered a 120 mile-per-hour typhoon in 1998 and survived the 1995 Kobe earthquake without destruction despite the thousands of deaths on Honshu.

8. Jules’ Undersea Lodge

While not quite a full city or even a town, Jules’ Undersea Lodge is a most unique hotel that requires SCUBA certification for guest access. Located in Florida, the structure is located 21 feet below the waves. Celebrity visitors to the lodge have included Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler and former Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau.

The lodge itself is located in a mangrove environment with 42-inch windows while hot showers, music and movies, beds with a view of wild fish outside, and a kitchen containing a microwave and fridge are present in the lodge. A variety of stay packages ranging from just a few hours to a full overnighter are available, along with dive training if the required certification is not already held by visitors.

7. Palm Islands

The United Arab Emirates is a land home to some of the world’s most remarkable feats of marine engineering. Take the Palm Islands, a set of stunning marine archipelagos with rays and centerpieces that can be most fully appreciated from aerial views or space photographs. The islands include Palm Jumeirah, a precisely palm leaf shaped archipelago, Palm Deira Island, and Palm Jebel Ali, located along the Dubai coastline. Started in 2001, the developments contain a vast array of dwellings and commercial buildings constructed on the rays and stems. Breakwaters protect the construction works on the islands.

The project scale was most impressive. The first of the Palm Islands, Palm Jumeirah, utilized a whopping 3 billion cubic feet of sand, dredged from the Persian Gulf, built into the palm shape with GPS, while mountain rock totaling seven million tons was used to form the seven-mile breakwater protection system. Near the Palm Islands are two more human-made archipelagos, The World, named after its construction in the likeness of a map of the Earth, and The Universe, built to resemble the Milky Way Galaxy.

6. Neft Dashlari (Oily Rocks)

Extending from overturned scrapped tankers and connected by trestles and pipes is an expansive ghost city in the Caspian Sea. Located off the coast of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Neft Dashlari, or Oily Rocks, is one of the strangest urban areas on the planet. A ramshackle yet industriously constructed network of oil drilling facilities, stores, and apartment buildings stands bizarrely perched throughout the settlement. Neft Dashlari gained the amenities of an entire town including stores, educational facilities, and homes, plus libraries and service centers. Dormitories with five stories and hotels were among the grander structures built.

The community was literally built on top of overturned ships, which serve as building foundations. The site holds the Guinness World Record for being the first ever offshore oil platform. Neft Dashlari is now largely abandoned, with only some settlement remaining. A dark episode in the history of Neft Dashlari was the perhaps less than surprising, with the disappearance of three workers following the collapse of living accommodations into the Caspian Sea.

5. The Boat City of Aberdeen Harbour

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, has a complicated cultural history. Aberdeen Harbour exists in stark contrast to the towering and densely clustered skyscrapers for which Hong Kong is famous. Here in the harbor, there are large congregations of boats on which dwellers live and work. Restaurants are included in the amenities offered by the “boat city,” adding significantly to the tapestry of the village as a unique attraction.

Despite some viewing the floating neighborhood as a visual disturbance, the boat city is gaining an established place in Hong Kong’s culture. Movie depictions of Hong Kong make good use of the boat city for both panoramic views and as the setting for great action scenes. In historic times, the pirate life of the boat city was colorful, to say the least.

4. Ko Panyi

The image is incredible. One of Thailand’s most fascinating sights is the aerial view of Ko Panyi. With multi-colored roofs, the buildings of the village on stilts extend outward in a rough question mark shape around the base of a precipitous stony island, formed from a single mini-mountain that rises from Phang Nga Bay. Ko Panyi is in southern Thailand’s Phang Nga Province on the Malay Peninsula, between the Thai border with Myanmar to the north and Malaysia to the south.

A testament to the resourcefulness of its founders, Ko Panyi was established by Toh Baboo, friends and family who were Muslim ocean travelers who arrived around 200 years back but were unable to settle on land as foreigners upon arrival in Thailand. Today, the 300 families numbering almost 1,500 individuals live in the village that clusters around the rock. Dwellings, restaurants, a mosque, and even a floating football pitch are among the features of the village.

3. Fadiouth, Senegal

In the African nation of Senegal, a section of coastline known as Petite Côte is a village of fishers that is divided between a land-based section of settlement, Joal, and a much stranger island portion of the village, Fadiouth. Joal-Fadiouth’s two sections are connected via a wooden footbridge, 1,312 feet in length. Fadiouth is bizarre because it is on an entirely human-made island, and that island is made from discarded yet rather precisely placed seashells.

Over the last century (and more), villagers have been toiling at a two-fold project. On one hand, they have been harvesting marine mollusks for food, and on the other, casting the shells aside. This has created the huge midden that grew into the island supporting Fadiouth. Fastened by mangrove roots and other coastal wetland plants, the shell island resists the tides. The theme everywhere is shells. The famous cemetery is made of shells, while streets and buildings sport shells. The population is Christian and Muslim and is known for its close community held together by residential embrace of religious diversity.

2. Halong Bay Floating Villages

Vietnam is home to a spectacular floating village group that has achieved world recognition for its cultural and architectural uniqueness. Amongst pillar-like mountains that emerge from the waters of Halong Bay are four floating villages comprised of multiple buildings on rafts that form a fishing community. The four villages in Halong Bay contain 1,000 villagers and are named Cua Van, Ba Hang, Vong Vieng, and Cong Tau.

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the villages provide a base for fishing lobster, shellfish, finned fish, and squid. Larger vessels resemble land-based houses in their design, while smaller boats are moored to the dwelling boats, which can themselves move around or anchor to neighboring dwellings to allow convenient forays through the bay. The largest village, Cau Van, hosts the Floating Cultural Center, which seeks to preserve the villages under the auspices of the Ha Long Ecological Museum.

1. Urban Rigger

A floating apartment is a novel concept and even more-so when the apartment complex is made of recycled structures. The Urban Rigger project in Copenhagen, Denmark is just such a remarkable development, with 12 studio apartments for students fashioned from shipping containers. Floating by the shoreline in the Copenhagen neighborhood of Refshaleoen, the project was designed by Bjarke Ingels Group after being first dreamt up by Urban Rigger CEO Kim Loudrup, who encountered great challenges in finding his son student housing in Denmark.

Students appreciate the sustainable, livable design of the mini community on the water, the first residents having arrived in 2018. The shipping containers that make up the apartments focus on making the best use of natural light and are fitted with their own bathrooms and kitchens, while common areas include gardens, a gym, and laundry facilities. Residents can go for a swim right from their doorstep.


By the Wonderful Sea

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Climate Change For Dummies – WIF Mad Science

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Bizarre “Solutions”

to Climate Change

Fighting climate change – a widely-used euphemism for the ongoing climate catastrophe – is humanity’s biggest priority at this point. Or at least it should be, as most governments of the world are simply not bothered with something that may as well be the end of our species. It’s not even like we have to do impossible things to stop it; many scientists are of the opinion that if we just come together and take certain measures (like stick to treaties like the Paris agreement), we could avert the worst effects of it.

Though in usual human style, we’re busy thinking up other creative (and often outlandish) ways of trying to prevent this calamity, rather than actually joining hands and fixing what we’ve collectively broken. Here are some of the most bizarre potential solutions we’ve come up with to the biggest question facing humanity right now: how do we tackle climate change?

10. Blot Out the Sun

There are some definite reasons as to why things have gotten as bad as they are when it comes to ever-rising global temperatures. One of the biggest is greenhouse emissions. Nearly all industries around the world are responsible for it, and if countries like China look like major contributors to it right now, it’s only because the polluting stages of most developed countries are already in the distant past.

There are other culprits, too, though something that’s definitely not responsible is the existence of the sun. In some weird leap of reason, however, some scientists have concluded that it’s the sun that’s the whole problem, and are now looking for feasible ways to block it in order to cool the Earth down. They’re already planning experiments to inject chemicals into the atmosphere to dim the intensity of its rays, and while many other experts have warned against the adverse effects of literally dimming our primary source of energy, it looks like they’re going ahead with trying it out anyway.

9. Smaller Children

Even if the majority of the pollution and global warming is caused by industries, we all contribute to it in tiny ways. Every one of us has a carbon footprint, no matter how many plastic bottles we give up or online petitions against climate change we sign. Of course, our individual footprints aren’t nearly as large as, say, the oil industry, so as long as we do our part in living sustainable, things should be fine.

For some scientists though, the best way we can reduce our carbon footprint is by reducing the size of people themselves. In a research paper, some scientists argue that genetically engineering our babies to be smaller will go a long way in helping the environment. It seems that they came up with this by solving the incredibly complex ‘big people = big pollution’ equation. It may even work, though we think that there might be better ways of doing this without the whole eugenics vibe.

8. Cow Farts as Fuel

Vegans may be annoying, though they aren’t entirely wrong. The meat industry is actually quite a huge producer of greenhouse emissions, and cutting down on our meat consumption may really help with global warming. Some of the animals bred for consumption produce particularly harmful gases like methane, which is much deadlier than your usual carbon dioxide and such. Take cows, who account for 25 percent of all methane emissions in the world. Instead of cutting down on meat consumption, though, some scientists have come up with what they think is a better way: collecting their farts and using it as fuel.

Despite how ridiculous it sounds, it may just be one of the more sensible options on this list, even if we’re yet able to fully figure out the logistics of how it would work. Argentina has come up with a way to equip its cows with backpacks that collect the farts and convert the methane into fuel powder, which can then be used to power various things on the farm. It may be some time before this plan may actually start yielding results, but it may just be crazy enough to actually work.

7. Build Massive Underwater Walls

The oceans are the focal point in our fight against global warming, as they’re consistently growing warmer due to the rising temperature on the surface. What happens underwater affects us in more ways than we realize, or even yet understand. If we had to find a solution to restore the health of our oceans, we’d probably find ways to dump less plastic and oil into it, and limit our greenhouse emissions to cool the Earth down and stop the now-consistent rise in sea level. Though for the scientists who have given up on those solutions entirely, there’s another possible solution: build enormous walls of concrete underground.

We aren’t just talking about walls you build to keep water out of your farm; these would be gigantic underwater structures – starting from the ocean floor – to stop warm water from going near glaciers to halt their melting, and generally isolate the effects of warming to certain sections of the ocean. Who would build those walls? Robots, of course, as humans still aren’t the best at building structures at the depths we’re talking about.

6. Artificially brighten clouds

One of the most alarming parts of the whole climate change debate is how little time we have to be sitting around and having debates about it in the first place. Scientists have given us till 2050 to cut down our carbon emissions to zero if we’re going to even have a chance at reversing its worst effects. And we have the solutions, suggested by those same scientists, if only we could stick to them.

As we can’t really come together to do that, some scientists have more drastic solutions for the problem, one of them being artificially brightening clouds to reflect more sunlight back into the sky (as dark surfaces absorb the heat). There are many proposed ways to do it, like injecting salt into the clouds, or making whole new clouds of our own.

Yes, we’re talking about the same huge floating things found in the sky around the world, and yes, they realize the enormity of the task. It’s a part of a new type of potential solutions to global warming known as sunlight reflection methods (SRM). This is actually one of the more sensible plans, as others include painting the mountains white – instead of, you know, doing something to maintain the natural white of the ice currently melting off of them – or launching massive mirrors into orbit.

5. Cover Buildings with Slime

Even though industries – like oil and mining – are hugely responsible for climate change, they’re only a part of the problem. Modern civilization is inherently built to take from the Earth to thrive rather than coexisting with it, even though there have been many civilizations in the past that knew how to combine sustainability with economic development. Of course, we can take notes from them and start rearranging how we plan our cities and architecture, or we can find ways to keep them as is, with some modifications.

According to researchers from U.K.’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers, one of those ways is covering our buildings with algae. It’s not a bad idea per se, as it’s not like they’d just throw algae on the side of buildings and hope it sticks. It would be contained in huge tubes running throughout the length of the buildings, and could help by reducing CO2 levels in the air with photosynthesis. It’s obviously too expensive to do right now, and they’re looking into ways they could make it cheaper.

4. Sin Tax on Meat

As we said above, the meat industry is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse emissions in the world, and if something could be done about it, it’d go a long way in our fight against climate change. We’re not exactly asking everyone to go vegan overnight, but rather collectively coming up with more sustainable practices that could help reduce that.

Some of those solutions are more radical than the others, though — one of them being a sort of a sin tax on the consumption of meat, similar to what we have on products like tobacco and alcohol. An investor group called Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) thinks that governments would start considering this sooner than we expect, and has already started taking measures to invest in more sustainable meat-producing ventures.

Other studies have also suggested a similar tax on meat due to its overwhelming contribution to global warming, and we can’t argue with their reasoning: they tried asking us nicely first.

3. Kill the Camels

Different countries have come up with their own solutions to global warming, each according to how rich they are and how they’re contributing to it. Where countries like India and China are drastically reconsidering the way their industries work, other countries at a higher risk of drowning due to rising sea levels – like Malaysia – have taken to being nicer to other nations, in the hopes that we’d do something about the problem a bit faster.

Australia’s assessment of the situation, on the other hand, is rather focused – they think it’s all because of those pesky camels. In case you didn’t know, yes, Australia has camels. It actually has so many that it sends some to Saudi Arabia whenever they’re a bit short. According to an increasingly-popular opinion in Australia, eradicating camels should solve climate change for the foreseeable future, as they’re one of the biggest producers of methane, and are generally looked down on as pests. While that may be true, if we go by that, we should just kill all the animals in the world, as most of them produce methane. The camels need protection from changing climate as much as we do.

2. Turn CO2 into Rocks

Iceland – and Scandinavia in general – has been particularly worried about climate change, as it’s one of the few countries that will feel its worst effects before most other nations due to its proximity to the Arctic. It’s also one of the more technologically advanced countries in the western world, and has been trying to come up with creative solutions to tackle the problem with the tech that it has.

It may sound a bit weird, though from all the items on this list, it may just end up having the most impact. The University of Iceland – along with a bunch of other researchers – has come up with a way to turn CO2 emissions into rocks, and store them underground so it’s never released back into the air. If you’re asking ‘well why don’t we just do that then’, you should know that it’s not easy to do. It takes CO2 emissions from an industrial facility, mixes it with water and sends it to another facility, which in turn dumps it deep into the Earth. The fizzy liquid mixes with the basalt in the ground, and turns into rocks within a few months, and the technology that can do it is expensive and only proven to be effective at one facility.

1. Resurrecting Animals

If a lot of our efforts to stop climate change are focused on saving the Arctic, it’s because of a more pressing reason beyond maintaining the natural ice cover. It’s believed that a lot of greenhouse gases – worse than what we already have in the atmosphere – are buried deep beneath the Arctic permafrost, and its thawing could release them in the atmosphere, further accelerating global warming.

According to a group of scientists at Harvard, the best way to do that would be by resurrecting the woolly mammoth. The ongoing theory is that the mammoths will do regular mammoth things – like running around, trampling trees and shrubs and generally having a good time – which would help increase the grass cover. Grass, as we know, absorbs less heat than other plants, and could theoretically stop the thawing of the permafrost over a long enough period of time. Though to be honest, we really don’t think we have that long, as mammoth resurrection is still quite a bit in the distant future.


Climate Change For Dummies

WIF Mad Science

Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers – WIF Bad Things Go Happen

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Epic Natural Disasters

Throughout History

Natural disasters have existed as long as humanity, and in fact a lot longer. This means that pretty much every century in recorded history has been forced to endure one or more incredibly destructive attacks of nature’s strongest powers. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest natural disasters in history, and how they affected the people of that era.

10. Peshtigo Fire

Most people are familiar with the Great Chicago Fire, with its “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow tipped over a lantern” backstory and hundreds of dead. However, it’s far from the most destructive fire in American history. It’s not even the most destructive one that started on October 8, 1871. That dubious honor goes to the Peshtigo Fire of Wisconsin — the most destructive forest fire in America’s history, which caused around 1,200 deaths, burned an incredible 1.2 million acres and burned through 16 different towns, in 11 counties. At one point, it even “skipped over” Green Bay to burn sections of two counties on the other side. It even made the same amount of damage as the much more urban Chicago fire — roughly $169 million.

Where the Great Chicago Fire was a disaster, the Peshtigo fire was hell, plain and simple. The fire was likely started by careless railroad workers who caused a brush fire which the dry summer and unfortunate winds soon whipped up into a superfast wall of flame that some say moved almost like a tornado. The flames “convulsed” and moved in strange ways, eating up all the oxygen and bursting fleeing people ablaze. It looked like the end of the world, and for many, it was. There were heroics, and tragic losses, and desperate survival stories. One heroic man reportedly carried a woman all the way to safety, thinking it was his wife, and when he found it was a stranger he immediately went insane. A young girl spent all night in the river to escape the inferno, holding on to a cow’s horn to stay moored.

The worst damage was done to the fire’s namesake, the town of Peshtigo. 800 of the fire’s 1,200 victims were from there, and the entire place was “gone in an hour.”

9. Ch’ing-yang event

There have been many times when meteors and meteorites have graced our planet with their presence, but arguably the one with the biggest death toll is the Ch’ing-yang event in 1490. Seeing as this meteor shower event in China happened well over five centuries ago, actual details about the event are unfortunately somewhat fuzzy. Accounts of the era report that “stones falling like rain” killed up to 10,000 people on the Ch’ing-Yang area of the Shaanxi Province.

Modern experts have expressed doubt over that exact figure — after all, it is the only meteor shower case with such a giant death toll. However, pretty much everyone agrees that a “dramatic event” happened at the reported time and place, and it’s speculated that a breakup of an asteroid may indeed have resulted in a deadly rain of celestial hail.

8. Calcutta cyclone

The Ganges River delta area is no stranger to tropical storms, but the Calcutta cyclone of 1737, also known as the Hoogly River cyclone, ranks among the absolute worst. It struck on an early autumn morning just south of the city of Calcutta, tearing 200 miles inlands before finally calling it a day. The cyclone brought with it a 30 to 40-foot storm surge (a sudden rise of water level in Ganges), along with 15 inches of rain over just six hours.

The combination of these elemental attacks was catastrophic. Most of the city of Calcutta, built largely of mud huts and brick buildings, was utterly demolished. The city suffered 3,000 casualties, but the cyclone’s overall damage was over a hundred times worse; The disaster is estimated to have killed up to 350,000 people and destroyed around 20,000 boats, ships and canoes of all shapes and sizes.

7. Dadu River dam landslide

On June 1, 1976, a huge earthquake shook the Kangding-Luding area of southwest China, causing all the problems that a major 7.75 magnitude quake can cause. What happened next was worse. A landslide dam (debris from the landslide blocking the water flow of the river), and as is so often the case in impromptu dams, it unfortunately wasn’t built to last.

After building a nice reservoir behind it for 10 days, the landslide dam eventually breached. The water cascaded downstream as a catastrophic wall of death, flooding the areas it encountered to the tune of 100,000 deaths. Experts think that this was likely the most destructive event of this particular nature in history.

6. Coringa cyclones

Coringa was a large and prosperous Indian port city at the mouth of river Godavari. These days, it’s still there, but only as a mere small village. This is because the former busy city went through some of the worst cyclones in history.

In 1789, Coringa received a massive blow when a nasty cyclone tore through the area, leaving around 20,000 people dead. The shaken city was nevertheless able to resume its functions, but unbeknownst to its residents, their terrors had only begun. On November 25, 1839, another, much worse cyclone came, bringing a 40-foot storm surge and punishing winds with it. Once the roar of the storm died down, Coringa’s entire port was destroyed. The death count of the cyclone was an estimated 300,000 people, which along with the 20,000 boats that were also destroyed by the storm marked the end of Coringa’s glory days.

5. Krakatoa volcanic eruption of 1883

What the Krakatoa volcano’s eruption in August 1883 lacked in death toll (it killed “only” 36,000 people), it delivered in pure, deadly spectacle. The volcano, which was on a 3-by-5.5 mile island between Sumatra and Java, started giving signs of upcoming trouble months before the incident, starting with massive ash clouds, “thundering” noises and strange “natural fireworks” that lit the sky. Unaware of the impeding doom, the people living on nearby islands took to celebrating the show — only to be rudely interrupted when Krakatoa started a very different, deadly party.

On August 26, the first blast threw debris and a gas cloud a good 15 miles in the air. The next morning, the area was shaken by four explosions that equaled the strength of 200 megatons of TNT (the Hiroshima bomb was around 0,01% of that) and could be heard from 2,800 miles away. Super-heated steam, hot gases and volcanic matter scorched the surrounding 25 miles at speeds over 62 miles-per-hour.

The eruption claimed its first victims via thermal injuries from its mighty blasts, and the rest fell victim to the 120-foot tsunami that came when the volcano collapsed into an undersea caldera. Even after its initial terrors were over, Krakatoa wouldn’t stop wrecking humanity’s day. The eruption was so strong that it actually changed the climate and dropped temperatures all over the world.

4. Shaanxi earthquake

In 1556, the Shaanxi province of China had the extreme misfortune of hosting what is thought to be the deadliest earthquake in recorded history. The quake was around 8 on the Richter scale, meaning it was a “great” earthquake that is totally capable of leveling communities near the epicenter. The Shaanxi quake wasn’t content with just communities, either; Chinese annals report that it lasted mere seconds, but was so incredibly strong that it destroyed buildings, remodeled rivers, caused floods, ignited massive fires and even “leveled mountains.”

As you can probably expect, such a massive disaster was bad news for any and all humans who happened on its way. The Shaanxi earthquake had an estimated 830,000 casualties, and it actually cut the population of the area by a ridiculous 60 percent. Oddly, it also managed to affect the architectural trends of the area: Because many people had been killed by falling stone buildings, the rebuilding process saw the adaptation of wood, bamboo and other more earthquake-resistant materials.

3. Yellow River floods of China

Between 1887 and 1938, China’s famed Huang He (Yellow River) went through the top three most destructive floods in recorded history. The 3,395-mile river is extremely silted, which makes especially the North China Plain’s flatlands to be in constant risk of flooding: Since the 2nd century BCE, it has flooded an estimated 1,500 times, and no one can even begin to calculate the death and destruction these floods have brought in total.

We do, however, know unpleasantly well the havoc these three ultra-destructive floods brought on the ill-prepared China. In the flood that happened over September and October of 1887 (and the famine and diseases it brought to the survivors) the death toll is estimated somewhere between 900,000 and two million people. An even more destructive one in August 1931 covered 34,000 square miles of land in water, and “partially” flooded a further 8,000. Up to 4 million people were killed by the flood and its aftermath, and a devastating 80 million people were left homeless. This particular flood is often considered the most deadly natural disaster in recorded history.

The last of the three mega-floods came in June 1938, and it was actually completely man-made. Thanks to the military’s destruction of dikes near Kaifeng in an effort to stop the approaching Japanese forces in the Sino-Japanese war, up to 900,000 people died.

2. The great European famine

If even honest men can do terrible things when they’re desperate, and the best way to make a person desperate is to make them terribly hungry, imagine what would happen if you’d make a whole continent starve. Actually, you don’t need to, because that exact thing happened in 14th century Europe.

The Great European Famine happened when bad weather conditions caused crops to fail all over Europe from 1315 to the summer harvest of 1317. The results were nothing short of cataclysmic. The few years of hunger single-handedly stopped a centuries-long time of wealth and growth, and plunged the continent into a pandemonium of disease, death, crime, and even the indescribable horrors of infanticide and cannibalism. Millions of people died, and it took until 1922 for Europe to recover from the terror. In fact, the effects of the disaster can still be felt today: Reportedly, certain parts of France are still more sparsely populated than they were just before the Great Famine hit.

1. Plague of Justitian

Disclaimer: this one has a death toll that goes right through the roof, though technically it’s not a natural disaster in the “earth rises to devour us all” sense, but rather an outbreak of disease. A massive, massive outbreak of disease.

Imagine being an all-powerful emperor trying to cement your legacy, only to find that the main thing history books remember about you is that a bunch of rodents managed to kill countless thousands of people during your reign … and then giving the ensuing epidemic. Such was the fate of Byzantine’s emperor Justitian I, who became the namesake of the Plague of Justitian (or Justitian’s plague, because why bother giving it just one version of the guy’s name?) just because he happened to be in charge when it struck.

Justitian’s plague, which was basically a nasty cellar band version of the Black Plague before it went mainstream, had formed in China and/or India, and its tours eventually took it to Egypt and assorted trade routes. it got its big break in the year 542, when the rodents bearing the disease finally reached the mighty city of Constantinople. Reports indicate that the city was struck with pretty much all forms of plague at once: Apart from the Black Death classic bubonic plague, pneumonic and septicemic types were also present. As such, citizens started keeling over by the thousand. Tens of thousands of people died in an extremely short span of time, and matters weren’t helped by the fact that authorities were unable to dispose of the masses of dead, diseased bodies in a timely manner.

After the plague was done with Justitian’s Constantinople, it turned its attention to the Mediterranian and later Persia. Its active career lasted for an estimated half a century, though some indicate that the plague continued its Mediterranean tour for a good 225 years. Ultimately, it’s estimated that the Plague of Justitian killed up to 40% of Constantinople’s residents, and the entire Byzantine empire lost somewhere between 25 and 50 million people. Nice legacy, Justitian.


Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers

WIF Bad Things Go Happen

Amazon = River – NOT = Fulfillment Center

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Amazing Mysteries

of THE Amazon

Not Amazon.com

Depending on who is looking, the mysterious jungles of the Amazon inspire many different urges. The wise fear and respect the incredibly diverse biosphere. The curious enter its jungles with a sense of wonder and harbor hopes of discovery, while the greedy view the green tangle of dense forest as something to be destroyed and converted into a different kind of green.

Sometimes called the lungs of the world, the Amazon basin lies mostly in the South American country of Brazil (although the rainforest spans multiple nations including Peru, Colombia and minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and the French territory of French Guiana). The Amazon basin itself is huge — almost 2.9 million square miles — or about 35% of South America. Even with the horrible exploitation of slash and burn farming practices, most of its unexplored rainforests are very difficult to penetrate. Under its deep and thick canopy lie many mysteries…

10. The explorer Francisco de Orellana

After Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incan Empire, his half brother Gonzalo Pizarro (who took part in the Incan destruction) arrived in Peru as the ruler of the city of Quito. The local people spoke of a great Kingdom East of the Andes called the Land of Cinnamon, or the famous golden city of El Dorado. In 1541 Pizarro choose one of his trusted underlings, Francisco de Orellana, to accompany him on his quest to find the Kingdoms. From the beginning, things did not go well with the exploration crusade. Thousands of expedition members died or simply disappeared into the wilderness. After crossing the towering mountain peaks of the Andes only a few dozen remained. Pizarro decided to return to Quito and ordered Orellana to try and find more kingdoms to conquer and to also follow the rivers to the Atlantic.

With about 50 men, Orellana built some riverboats and set off down the Amazon. Along the way he recorded encountering multiple riverside cities that they determined were ruled by an Inland Empire. When Orellana interrogated these people about the location of the cities of gold the locals didn’t know what he was talking about. Thinking they were lying, the European conquistadors resorted to torture, eventually turning most of the peoples they came into contact with against them. On June 24, 1542, they came across another group of riverside dwellers. Warned of Orellana’s hostile actions by natives farther upstream, they attacked the Orellana party. While fighting off the brave combatants, the conquistadors were stunned to be fighting women warriors. This would later remind Europeans of the famous Amazon fighters of Greek legend — thus giving the river its name.  On August 26, 1542, the men reached the Pacific, becoming the first Europeans to travel down the Amazon.

Returning to Spain, Orellana spoke of his travels and the great urban areas he encountered along the river. Yet years later when the Spanish were able to finally get back to the Amazon they found nothing but thick jungle. What happened to all the people he saw?

9. The Amazon jungle was once home to millions

When later expeditions tried to find the civilization that Orellana spoke about all they could find along the Amazon river was jungle. Orellana had died soon after his voyage and could not offer any insight or defense for what people now claimed was, at best, an exaggeration, and at worst a lie in hopes of scamming the Spanish crown out of money for a new expedition. For centuries this was the conventional wisdom of the academic world: that the Amazon jungle was sparsely populated with a smattering of now-famous  not-contacted native tribes.

New research is smashing these assumptions, aided by emerging technology like satellite imagery and LIDAR (a laser imaging system that can harmlessly see through forest canopies). Analyzing this data has revealed that during 1200 and 1500 A.D. a huge civilization of millions lived along the Amazon River system.

It is thought that this civilization was ruined by its success as a complex trading network, as newly introduced European diseases spread to every corner of the Empire. People became infected without ever seeing or coming into contact with a sick European. With most of its people dead and its society destroyed, the jungle grew over the abandoned urban settlements within a few years. When European explorers returned years later all they saw was a thick, impenetrable jungle.

8. Black soil

One of the biggest arguments against a large Amazon civilization was the basin’s famously poor soil quality — soil so bad that it could never have supported a civilization with such a large population. Even today, after the jungle is mowed down and its trees burned up, farmers can only grow a limited yield of crops before the soil becomes exhausted and they have to move on and continue the destructive slash and burn farming cycle.

This argument was finally overturned with the discovery of terra preta. Scientists would find patches of rich, dark soil that they termed terra preta. Crops grown in this soil grew exponentially more than crops grown in normal Amazon soil. At first, it was thought to be naturally occurring but then researchers were able to determine that the soil was made by craftsmen of the ancient Amazon civilization through a process scientists are only now beginning to understand.

7. Boiling river

Deep in the Peruvian jungle lies a mysterious boiling river. For decades it was thought to be a myth; it was only when Andrés Ruzo trekked deep into the forest to try and seek it out that it was confirmed to exist. Traveling up river after river, he finally found a river so hot that if anything falls in it is boiled alive. Its non-volcanic origins are a mystery. The river starts off cool and passes through a hot spring before eventually cooling off again. With no known local volcanic activity, researchers are unsure of the boiling river’s origins.

Some suspect that it was actually accidentally created by unscrupulous prospectors that comb the jungles looking for oil or mineral deposits with little care of the environmental consequences of their Wild Wild West drilling techniques. Similar drilling practices caused an ecological disaster in Indonesia: the Sidoarjo mudflow. There, an oil drilling rig unleashed a mud volcano that, for about a decade, has buried multiple villages in as much as 130 feet mud, forced 60,000 people from their homes, and still spurts out mud to this day.

6. Man-made structures are everywhere in the Amazon 

For decades, impoverished farmers have been plundering the incredibly diverse biosphere of the Amazon. The scale of deforestation is mind-boggling. As of 2019 scientists estimate that almost 20 percent of the original Amazon has been slashed and burned. While this ransacking of the rainforest’s unique ecosystem is unforgivable, there have been some startling discoveries among the burnt stumps and charred endangered species.

As the forest retreats from the fires, hundreds of fortified urban areas, as well as mounds of circles, squares, and other geometric shapes, have been revealed. Researchers estimate that hundreds and possibly thousands of more structures are still hidden by the existing jungles. This has been partially confirmed by limited LIDAR scans. These shapes hint at a complex lost civilization. To create such structures would have required astrologers, as they are aligned to the stars, and artisans with complex math knowledge as shown by structures that are difficult to create, like squares in circles. There would also have to be a society that was big enough to support these specialized roles. Only a fraction of the remaining jungle has been revealed by LIDAR scans. As more of the jungle is scanned, more of the lost civilization will be revealed.

5. Amazon nutrients come from Africa

Amazon soil is notoriously poor in nutrients, the most important of which is phosphorus. What phosphorus the Amazon does have slowly leaks away in the massive Amazon River complex. What is even more amazing is that the nutrients it does have do not come from local sources — not even from the landmass of South America. It is replenished through dust from across the ocean.

Hundreds of million tons of wind-borne, phosphorus-rich dust flows from Africa across the Atlantic ocean and drops onto the Amazon, providing valuable nutrients. Over half of the dust fertilizing the Amazon rainforest comes from the Bodélé depression in Northern Chad in the Sahara desert. Winds stir up the dust, where it rises into the upper atmosphere and is carried to South America and the prevailing winds.

4. Something is mysteriously making little silk towers

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon jungles, scientists like spider hunter Phil Torres were mystified by the incredibly intricate silk structures found throughout its trees. If they were human-sized they wouldn’t look out of place as a city plaza or art sculpture. Dubbed “Silkhenge,” these symmetrical “buildings” hearken back to the architecture of the ancients. The tiny silk constructions have two parts: a tall, central tower, and a circular fence that’s about 6 millimeters across.

After months of investigation, researchers were finally able to determine their purpose when a baby spider emerged from the tower. This shocked the researchers, as a spider species that lays just one or two spider eggs is incredibly rare. Even with all their research, spider experts are still unsure of which species make the Silkhenge complexes.

3. Man is causing droughts in the Amazon

One of the greatest fears of climate scientists is Earth’s carbon release feedback loops. One of the more famous examples is the Arctic permafrost. As climate change increases, the worldwide temperatures rise. Nowhere is this more dangerous than the Arctic. There, rising temperatures are melting the permafrost. This in turn is releasing methane and other greenhouse gases that the permafrost had kept trapped under its frozen mass. This released gas is further raising the temperature, melting more permafrost and releasing more greenhouse gases — a feedback loop.

The Amazon jungles are a great carbon sink. When it rains, the jungles grow, and tons after tons of carbon are locked away into Amazon’s vegetation. So much of the Amazon is being deforested that it is causing droughts — droughts so rare that they were thought to be once in hundred-year events. Now they are happening more frequently as fewer trees mean less rain. Episodes of drought in 2005, 2010 and 2015 are alarming scientists as during droughts carbon is actually released from the Amazon as tree growth is stunted and trees die from thirst. From 2005 and through 2008 the Amazon basin lost an average of 0.27 pentagrams of carbon (270 million metric tons) per year. This causes a feedback loop. More deforestation causes less rainfall and droughts. As the more droughts happen, more of the forest dies, causing more droughts — a climate change feedback loop.

2. There’s a plastic eating fungus in the Amazon

One of the greatest innovations of the modern age has been the invention of plastics. It has also been one of our greatest curses. Plastic litters the landscape, causing huge problems — problems so bad that cities and even countries have banned things like plastic bags. In the oceans, discarded plastic has created huge garbage patches that are bigger than Texas. Oceans are littered with so much plastic that it is being mistaken as food by fish and animals. Dead birds and even whales are washing up on shores with stomachs full of plastic debris. The problem with plastic is also its best feature: it is so durable. An answer to this problem might have been found in the Amazon.

Pestalotiopsis microspora is a fungus that may be our way out of our plastic waste crisis. Discovered in the Amazon, scientists have tweaked the fungi into Fungi Mutarium, which turns plastic into food. At present, the process is too slow to be an effective way to deal with the plastic crisis. Hopefully, in the future, a new industry based on this fungus will be created that will be able to deal with the mountains of plastic waste our world creates every… single… day.

1. Amazon forest is an overgrown garden

The lost Amazon civilization is slowly emerging from oblivion. Stories like that told by Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana are being looked at in a new light. Structures emerging from the ravaged jungles are showing us physical proof of its existence. Their advanced technology, as shown by the mysterious black soil, is now only beginning to be understood. However, one of the biggest vestiges left by their society has been hidden in plain sight.

Studies of the plant species of the Amazon have revealed startling results. While surveying the tree species of the Amazon, scientists discovered a large percentage (too high to be by chance) are domesticated flora like the Brazil nut, the Amazon tree grape, and the ice cream bean tree. The results show that the lost Amazon civilization was advanced in silviculture — or the science of identifying, domesticating, growing, and cultivating trees. Not just any trees, but trees that provide enough food to support millions of people.

The Amazon isn’t a random collection of trees, as would be expected if it was untouched wilderness. No, the Amazon jungles are really just a giant collection of overgrown, man-made orchards.


Amazon = River –

NOT = Fulfillment Center

No Summer, No Vacation, No Fun, No Kidding – WIF Into History

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Global Impact

of the Year

Without a Summer

The year 1816 was the first since the onset of the French Revolutionary Wars in which the western world was at peace. In Europe, the nightmare of the Napoleonic Wars began to fade. In North America, Washington DC began the process of rebuilding after being burned by the British Army during the War of 1812. Global commerce was expected to thrive, unimpeded by the raiding ships of nations locked in a death grip with each other. Farmers expected strong markets for their crops, shippers looked forward to record profits, manufacturers hoped the return of peace would create demand for their products. But then a funny thing happened. There was no summer. As late as August of that year, hard freezes in the farmlands of upper New York and New England destroyed what little crops had been planted during a spring of continuous snow and freezing weather.

1816 was the year of no summer, not just in North America, but across the Northern Hemisphere. Record cold, freezing rains, floods, and frosts occurred throughout the months in which warmer weather could be reasonably expected, given centuries of its showing up more or less on schedule. It did not, and without global communication to understand why, the underpinnings of civilization – farming and trade – suffered across the globe. The year with no summer is now understood to have been the result of a series of geological events which masked the sun with volcanic dust, but to those who endured it, it was simply an inexplicable disaster. The commercial effects continued to be felt for years, as financial markets roiled from the unexpected disruption of trade and investment. For those unconcerned with climate change it remains a stark, though wholly ignored, warning of the power of nature. Here are just a few of its impacts.

10. Thomas Jefferson found his indebtedness increased by drastic crop failures

In 1815 former president Thomas Jefferson, living in retirement at his Monticello estate, offered his personal library as replacement for the losses suffered by the Library of Congress when the British burned the American capital. The sale was a gesture which gained Jefferson some temporary praise, but more importantly to him it provided an infusion of badly needed money. The former president was broke, and the $23,950 (almost $400,000 today) he received alleviated some, but by no means all, of his indebtedness. Jefferson was relying on a strong crop from his Virginia farms in 1816 to reduce his debts further. In his Farm Book for 1816 Jefferson noted the unusual cold as early as May; “repeated frosts have killed the early fruits and the crops of tobacco and wheat will be poor,” he wrote.

Jefferson struggled with the bizarre weather throughout the summer months, recording temperature and rainfall data still used by scientists studying the phenomenon, but he was unaware of its cause. He did lament its effect. Jefferson’s corn and wheat crops were reduced by two thirds, his tobacco even more so, and the former president slipped yet more deeply into debt, as did most of the farmers of the American states of Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and all of New York and New England. The failure of tobacco crops was particularly devastating, ships which normally would have carried the cured leaves to Europe lay idle, and British tobacconists shifted to plantations in Africa as the source of the weed, in high demand in Europe. During the summer, Jefferson reported frosts in every month of the year in the higher elevations of Virginia, and in every state north of his farms.

9. Prices of grains spiked as the summer went on, and remained high for nearly three years

In Virginia, oats were a crop which was considered essential to the survival of the economy. Oats were consumed by humans in the form of porridge, and in oat breads and cakes, but the grain was also an essential part of the diet of horses. Horses were of course critical in the early 19th century as motive power for plows and transportation. The shortage of oats caused the farmers who produced it to respond to the insatiable demand for the grain by raising their prices on the little they were able to harvest. According to Jefferson and other Virginia farmers, oats cost roughly 12 cents per bushel in 1815, a price already inflated by the demand placed on the crops by the recently ended War of 1812, when armies needed horses for cavalry and as draft animals.

By midsummer of 1816, oats had increased to nearly $1 per bushel, an increase which most were unable to pay. The shortage of grain, (as well as other fodder) meant what horses were available were often undernourished. European markets were unable to make up the shortage, as Europe too was locked in the grip of the low temperatures and excessive rains. In Europe the cost of maintaining horses increased dramatically, and the use of horseback for individual travel became the privilege of the wealthy few. A German tinkerer and inventor by the name of Karl Drais began experimenting with a device consisting of a piece of wood equipped with a seat upon which a person would perch while moving the legs in a manner similar to walking. Called variously the velocipede, the laufmaschine, and the draisine, it was the precursor for what is now known as the bicycle.

8. Temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere were abnormally cold, especially in New England

The New England states were particularly hard hit during the summer of 1816 by abnormally low temperatures. In the New England states, which were at the time still mostly agricultural, every month of the year suffered at least one hard frost, devastating crops in the fields and the fruit trees which had managed to blossom during the long and wet spring. On June 6, a Plymouth, Connecticut clockmaker noted in his diary that six inches of snow had fallen overnight, and he was forced to wear heavy mittens and his greatcoat during his customary walk to his shop. Sheep were a product of many New England farms, well adapted to grazing on the hillsides in pastures too small to accommodate cattle herds. Shorn in late winter, as was customary, many died in the unexpected cold, and the price of lamb and mutton reached record highs.

By the end of June, temperatures in New England had begun a rollercoaster ride which they would retain for the rest of the summer, further damaging crops and livestock. Late June in western Massachusetts saw temperatures reach 101 degrees only to plummet to the 30s over the Fourth of July. Men went about in their hayfields harvesting their sparse yields dressed in overcoats. Beans – long a staple crop of New England – froze in the fields. From Puritan pulpits across the region, the weather was attributed to a righteous judgment of God. In August there was measurable snowfall in Vermont, and though winter wheat crops yielded some harvests, the cost of moving the grain to market was often prohibitive. New Englanders, especially in the rural areas, began to forage off the land in the manner of their ancestors, surviving on what game and wild plants they could find in the woods.

7. The lack of summer provided one of literature’s most infamous characters

Most people had no idea what were the scientific reasons behind the bizarre weather in the summer months of 1816. Many of the wealthy, better able to weather the storm, so to speak, went about their business despite the adverse weather conditions. In Europe, a group of young English writers and their guests summered at Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The group included Lord Byron and an English poet named Percy Shelley, who brought with him his wife, the former Mary Wollstonecraft. Housebound by the continuing inclement weather (Mary later wrote that it was an ungenial summer), the group was forced to find ways to entertain themselves. Bored of playing parlor games one of the members, probably Lord Byron, suggested that each member of the group write a story, along the lines of a ghost story, for the entertainment of the rest.

Mrs. Shelley at first balked at the idea, unable to come up with a plot until mid-July, when she confided to her diary that at the group’s nightly discussions she arrived at the idea of “Perhaps a corpse could be reanimated.” She began writing a short story, which grew into a full length gothic novel which she entitled,  “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.” Her husband was later credited with assisting Mary with the work, though the extent of his contributions to the classic tale of horror remains disputed by scholars. Mary Shelley later credited her inspiration to a waking dream which came upon her during one of her long walks in the woods around Geneva, immersed in the gloom of the strange weather that summer. Shelley wrote that while her husband Percy – who committed suicide in 1822 – helped her with technical aspects of the writing, the tale wholly originated with her.

6. The year with no summer coincided with the end of the Little Ice Age

The year without summer is commonly ascribed to the summer months of 1816, though its effects were felt for three years, part of the final months of what is known as the Little Ice Age. Crop failures were acute in the first harvest season of the period, and such continued for at least another two years. Wet and cold weather impeded planting in the spring as well as harvests in the fall, and the size of the harvests from North America to China were insufficient to support the populations. Hunger became famine in many areas, including Europe and China, residents of rural communities migrated to urban areas in search of food through begging, and population density grew those diseases which strengthen among hungry populations, including cholera and typhus. Medicine of the time was inadequate to treat either.

The result was a globally felt – at least in the Northern Hemisphere – calamity, which encompassed starvation, diseases, and popular unrest for a period of three years. Hundreds of thousands of former soldiers, veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, roamed Europe seeking the means to feed themselves and their families. In England sailors who had manned the ships of His Majesty’s Navy found themselves unemployed as warships were decommissioned, and the absence of crops reduced the amount of goods available for international trade. Ships rotted at their moorings. By the summer of 1817 organized groups of former soldiers across Europe were rioting in the belief that government warehouses held grain being kept from the starving people. In the United States, especially in still largely agricultural New England, failed crops caused farmers to pull up stakes and head for the promised lands west of the Ohio River.

5. The Swiss disaster of 1816-1817 was among the worst of the global catastrophe

Over a period of 153 days between April and September, 1816, Geneva, Switzerland recorded 130 days of rain. The temperature remained too cold for the snow in the Alps to melt, which prevented the disaster from being far worse. The streets, and more importantly the sewers and drains, of Geneva were flooded, and Lake Geneva was too swollen with rain to absorb the runoff. Meanwhile local crops were drowned by the incessant chill rains, and the harvest of 1816 was a complete failure, leading to the last recorded famine on the European continent. The lack of fodder led to the demise of hundreds of thousands of draft animals and cattle and oxen died in the waters in the fields and alongside the Swiss roads. Hundreds of thousands of Swiss were rendered homeless, living in the streets and fields unable to feed themselves, as the brutal cold of an Alpine winter settled upon them.

Beginning in early 1817 the death rate in Switzerland, already well above normal due to starvation and disease, increased by more than 50%. Oxen, horses, and cattle dead from starvation and rotting in the fields became sources of food for the desperate populace. Aid from European neighbors was nonexistent, as the harvests on the continent and in England were similarly sparse. France had but recently survived its revolution and the ravages of the Napoleonic Era, it was short of manpower, and its newly restored monarchy was inadequate to the challenges of the disaster which had befallen. As the seemingly unending winter lengthened it soon became obvious to the people of Europe that those of wealth and privilege were better able to cope, and that the burden of suffering was being borne by the urban and rural poor.

4. The Year with no summer was well documented by the educated and wealthy, including Thomas Jefferson

In the United States, former president Thomas Jefferson left behind a record of meteorological events which was so detailed it remains in use by scholars and scientists studying the global disaster two centuries later. In modern times it is compared to scientific data acquired through means not understood in Jefferson’s day. For example, the studies of tree rings cut from trees which were alive during the catastrophe in Vermont indicate that for the period including 1816 there was little or no growth, which corresponds to the notes left by Jefferson in his Farm Book and other diaries, recording observations he made hundreds of miles to the south. Among the observations left by Jefferson are records of rainfalls, which while devastatingly heavy in some areas were scant in others, including Jefferson’s Virginia.

Jefferson wrote to Albert Gallatin towards the end of the summer of 1816 describing the shortage of rainfall which had been prevalent during the ending growing season, as well as the unseasonably cold temperatures. Jefferson, who used the records he had prepared every year since occupying his “Little Mountain” as a basis, informed Gallatin that an average normal rainfall for the month of August was 9 and 1/6 of an inch. Rainfall for August 1816 had been less than one inch; “we had only 8/10 of an inch, and still it continues”. He also noted the continuing cold weather conditions, including the frosts well to the north of Virginia, of which he had learned through his voluminous correspondence. Yet not Jefferson, nor any other student of science or the weather of the time, was able to postulate the global disaster had been due to a natural event, occurring many thousands of miles away.

3. In England, the army was called out to crush urban uprisings of the starving

England, which had been instrumental in the formation of the coalitions which crushed Napoleon, was particularly hard hit by the lack of a growing season. Unable to feed itself with the best of harvests, England found its own crops devastated by the adverse weather and its trading partners unable to provide food in sufficient quantities to make them affordable for most of its population. England had already endured years of shortages as the nation threw its might behind the wars with Napoleon, and the people by 1816 had had enough. As early as in the spring of 1816 food and grain riots were experienced in the west counties. In the town of Ely armed mobs locked up the local magistrates and fought the militia which mustered to rescue them.

By the following spring mobs in the urban centers of the midlands were common. Ten thousand armed and angry people rioted in Manchester that March. The summer of 1817 saw the British Army called to quell riots and other uprisings in England, Scotland, and Wales, while the transports to the newly established penal colonies were increased. Local landlords and magistrates often ignored the pleas of the authorities in London, establishing their own mini-fiefdoms through the promises of bread and grain. In England, as well as on the European continent, demands from the wealthier classes led to an increase in more authoritarian governments and the subsequent loss of civil liberties – such as they were at the time – in response to the international demand for food. On the other side, the suspicion that governments were hoarding food and grain at the expense of the poor led to a rise in radical thought, especially in France and the German principalities.

2. The Great Migration from New England to the west began in 1816

 

Most history books attribute the movement of the American agricultural population to the west following the War of 1812 to the end of the threat from the Indian tribes formerly supported by their British allies. The end of British influence was no doubt part of the mass migration, but it takes more than just the potential of new lands to uproot families from farms held by their ancestors for generations. The catastrophic crop failures which began in 1816 were a large part of the motivation for the movement to the west, as indicated by the massive depopulation of the New England states which began during the Year with no Summer. Particularly hard hit were Vermont and New Hampshire, as residents packed up and left for the west. For many of them, it was a journey away from divine punishment, a new exodus to a promised land, a view encouraged from pulpits.

family from Vermont was one of them, which headed to the west into the lands which are now upstate New York, Indian Territory before the American victory during the War of 1812. The move coincided with a religious revival across America which became known as the Second Great Awakening, a return to the fundamentalism which had protected Americans from the ravages of an angry God, in the view of many. The family which settled for a time in New York were the Smiths, of Sharon, Vermont. While in their new home one of them, a son named Joseph, experienced the visions which eventually led to his discovery of the Book of Mormon. Without a rational explanation for the seemingly apocalyptic weather, divine explanations sufficed, not only among the Smith family, but with thousands of families fleeing what they were unable to understand, in search of an explanation and deliverance.

1. During the global cooling, the Arctic experienced warming and ice melt

As nearly all of the Northern Hemisphere in the climes occupied by humans felt decreased temperatures and abnormal rain patterns, the Arctic, including the ice cap, experienced a sharp increase in temperature which led to a melting of the ice at the top of the world. The receding ice cap allowed explorers, especially those from the United States and Great Britain, to travel deeper than ever before into the polar region, using waterways which until then had been unwelcoming sheets of ice. Since the days of Henry Hudson and the earliest English exploration of North America, the quest for the fabled Northwest Passage had occupied the minds of explorers and adventurers, and the opportunity presented by changing weather conditions was too good to pass up. 1818 was the first year in a new series of English led Polar Expeditions which continued for most of the 19th century.

Among them was an expedition led by Englishman John Ross which included a counter-clockwise navigation around Baffin Bay, which had the salutary effect of opening the waters for the exploitation of whaling ships. Though the Northwest Passage eluded him, as it did so many others over history, the boon to the whaling industry was immediate, and whalers from Great Britain and the United States were soon delivering the fine oil for illumination to ports around the world. By 1820 the effects of the Year with no Summer were relegated to history, a part of family lore in which elders described to children the weather events of the past as far more consequential than those of the current day. Unknown to them, the real effects continued for decades, and in some ways continue to this day.


No Summer, No Vacation, No Fun, No Kidding –

WIF Into History

Great Mischief in the Great Expanse – WIF Space

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Most

Terrifying Places

in

the Known Universe

Like Great Cthulhu, who lies dead and dreaming in the sunken city of R’lyeh, or the nuclear chaos–the blind idiot god–Azathoth, in HP Lovecraft’s stories and other cosmic horror stories, the universe is home to planets and celestial objects that defy our expectations and exhibit truly horrific environments–where humankind was surely never meant to voyage.

10. Trappist-1

Imagine that you stand on the surface of an alien world, where the sky burns dark and crimson, oceans of magma stretch from horizon to horizon and volcanoes constantly resurface the planet. A red globe of light rises slowly above the horizon, but unlike Earth’s star, it barely provides any light at all. Five other worlds appear as moons, forever drifting in the dark, threatening one another in their eternal celestial dance. Brilliant auroras fill the sky, burning and caressing the atmosphere, irradiating the surface and anything that dares to draw breath.

The Trappist-1 system may be the best hope for finding an Earth-like planet yet, with each of its seven planets being very Earth-like. Scientists think that many, if not all, have some sort of atmosphere and feature liquid water.

But—there’s always a but, isn’t there?—it may also be terribly inhospitable.

So far, evidence suggests that these worlds orbit their parent star peacefully. But, if our system is any indication, orbits are rarely static. Earth itself has at times exhibited a more elliptical orbit (which has been used as a possible explanation for our many ice ages).

A bigger threat to emerging life and habitability in the Trappist-1 system, however, may be a process called magnetic induction, causing many of the innermost worlds (even those in the habitable zone) to have oceans of flowing magma (like Io, which orbits Jupiter).

There is also the fact that super-cool dwarf stars like Trappist-1 are extremely active. They flare more than our star does, and this could prove to be particularly dangerous for the planets that orbit at such close proximity.

Trappist-1 is also a very dim star. Super cool dwarfs don’t emit much visible light, so processes like photosynthesis may be impossible. So, we can probably rule out rich vegetation.

9. Wasp-12b Exoplanet

A black shape transits across the surface of a star not unlike our own. It glows with an eerie iron red halo as its parent star devours it, the tidal forces squishing it and inflating the atmosphere until it’s nearly the size of Jupiter.

Welcome to WASP-12b. Deep in the Auriga constellation. Where the tidal forces of its dwarf star parent are so great, they stretch the planet into the shape of a football, and diamond is as abundant as limestone is on Earth. Despite how close the planet is to its star, it emits almost no light, making it one of the darkest exoplanets ever discovered.

But it won’t be around for long, because its host star is devouring it.

8. PSO J318.5-22

In the depths of interstellar space, a lone rogue burns on through the darkness. From within its raging dust clouds, there is no star in the ever-night sky. But, even with no star to warm its skies, somehow, its temperatures rage on into the 800s, and it rains rocky debris and pure iron.

PSO J318.5-22 is a rogue planet, a lonely, wandering jovian class world with no star to call its home. It exists some 80 light years away in the constellation capricornus. The planet is thought to be six times larger than Jupiter, and, surprisingly warm for a free-floating object.

The object is part of a group of stars which formed almost 12 million years ago. That’s relatively recent in cosmic terms. Scientists aren’t quite sure how objects like these end up floating all by their lonesome in the depths of interstellar space.

7. Mira: A Real Shooting Star

Imagine that you wake up in the middle of the night. There’s an odd glow visible from your bedroom window. You go outside and stare up at the night sky. You see a new, bright object in the night sky. At first, you think it’s a comet. But, soon realize that it’s not. It’s a star, shedding its material much like a comet.There’s just one problem, your world is in its way.

You’ve heard of so-called “shooting stars,” which you’ve probably also learned are nothing more than meteoroids burning up in our atmosphere. But what if we told you there were real shooting stars out in the blackness of space?

With a tail of cosmic gas and debris that stretches 13 light years, Mira is quite special. It’s actually part of a binary system, and its partner (Mira-B) feeds off of its stellar partner. A bow shock forms in front of the star, as it swallows up cosmic dust and gas and anything unlucky enough to get in its way.

So, what’s so terrifying about this? Imagine if our world were in its way.

6. Wandering Black Holes (Black Holes)

You’re looking through a telescope, focusing on Jupiter. You notice something warping the stars around the planet’s bright surface. Then, you see a large trail of gas and dust stretching from Jupiter to a dark spot, hurtling through space toward you.

The earth rumbles, and you realize that it’s all over for humanity.

Wandering black holes are terrifyingly common in our Milky Way Galaxy. Scientists have found two possible Jupiter-sized black holes in gas clouds using ALMA, a set of 66 telescopes spread throughout the Atacama Desert in Chile. And it’s thought there are close to 100,000,000 black holes in our galaxy alone.

But what would happen if such a black hole came close to us? Well, unfortunately, if a wandering black hole got anywhere near our star system, the results would be disastrous, throwing the orbits of every planet, even our Sun, into utter chaos. The most terrifying part? We wouldn’t see it coming until Jupiter and the other gas giants ended up getting their atmospheres gobbled up by the black hole’s immense gravity, creating an accretion disk.

5. Supermassive Electric Current

From the bright core of a spiral galaxy shoots a massive jet of glowing material. Getting any closer than 150,000 light years would mean certain death due to immense radiation and the strongest electric field in the universe.

Equalling about a trillion bolts of lightning, the cosmic jet resulting from the supermassive black hole at the core of galaxy 3C303 is the strongest electric current ever detected in the known universe. Scientists aren’t sure why the electric field is so powerful but theorize that it has something to do with the jets created by the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center.

Considering that the Milky Way is only estimated to be about 100,000 light years in diameter, that’s quite impressive, if not terrifying.

4. Hand of God

From the depths of space, the apparition of a ghostly hand reaching up to grab the corpse of a star that went supernova. It flashes with dangerous x rays, filling the pulsar cloud that makes up the hand every seven seconds.

Created by a pulsar wind nebula, the hand formation that the pulsar creates is a mystery scientists are still trying to solve. If our Earth were too close to a pulsar like this, and in the direct path of its gamma ray and X-ray jet, all life on Earth (except extremophiles in caves and near volcanic oceanic vents) would likely go extinct.

Pulsars like the one creating the Hand of God nebula are actually rapidly rotating neutron stars, which emit pulses of intense radio waves and electromagnetic radiation. It has been suggested that objects like these, which emit gamma ray radiation, if pointed directly at the Earth, could cause a mass extinction event.

3. The Boomerang Nebula

From within the hourglass nebula, you freeze almost instantly, drifting through space on a collision course with a dying star.

A proto-planetary nebula created by a dying red giant star 5,000 light years from Earth. It’s the coldest object in the known universe. The boomerang nebula’s average temperature is a minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1-degree Kelvin). For reference, the coldest place on Earth (located in Antarctica) registers minus 133.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)–located in the Atacama desert in northern Chile–suggest that the extremely low temperatures may be caused by the collision of a small companion star, plunging into the dying red giant’s surface. The rapid expansion of gas caused by the collision is likely what’s causing the extreme decrease in temperature.

2. RXJ1347

Assuming you had a ship that could get you to this galaxy cluster, it would likely melt within seconds of entering the hottest place in the known universe.

gas cloud surrounding a galaxy cluster in the constellation Virgo is the hottest place in the known universe. It’s thought that this massive celestial heat storm was produced by two galaxy clusters colliding, creating one of the most violent phenomena in the universe. Contained within a 450,000 light year wide area, the cloud shines like a spot light. What’s more terrifying is that the custer is swimming with X-rays.

Now imagine if Earth was contained in that cluster. How long do you think our planet would last?

1. Boötes Void (The Great Nothing)

Imagine that you’re falling through space. You try to orient yourself, but every which way you turn, all you see is darkness. Up is down, is right, is left. No matter where you look, there are no stars, no planets, nothing but pitch-black nothingness to inform your senses. Imagine now, that this is all you’ve ever know, from the dawn of your existence.

A true abyss from which nightmares are spawned.

Boötes Void is the largest void in the known universe. It’s nearly 330 million light-years in diameter, and its existence is somewhat baffling. Most of the universe appears to be sponge like, expanding uniformly, but the presence of such a void, where thousands of galaxies could (or should) easily fit, raises many questions about the origins of the universe.

Answers, such as TYPE 4 or 5 alien civilizations, capable of harnessing the light and energy of their galaxies, to dark energy or other phenomena, have been proposed as potential explanations for Boötes Void. Some even think that it may be the very epicenter of the Big Bang, and others think that its very existence refutes the big bang as a whole.

The fact stands, that Boötes Void is the largest thing ever discovered within the known universe. If the Earth were to be placed at its center, we wouldn’t have known that there were even other galaxies until the 1960s.


Great Mischief in the Great Expanse

– WIF Space

I’m Radioactive! – WIF Contaminated Geography

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The Most Radioactive

Places on Earth

There are many terrifying places in the world, but few of the horrors that they contain are as scary as radiation. When a site becomes thoroughly nuclear, you can’t fight it, you can’t outrun it, and you’re pretty hard-pressed to contain it. No matter how well the location is cleaned and taken care of, the residual radiation can still affect the environment for hundreds of years. There are many of these extremely creepy and dangerous sites around the world. These are their stories.

10. The Polygon

When the Soviet Union crumbled and Kazakhstan became independent, one of the first things they did was shutting down The Polygon. This Soviet nuclear testing site had seen tryout nukes of various sizes for over four decades, and during its Cold War heyday, it was home to an estimated 25% of the world’s nuclear tests. The site was originally chosen because it was unoccupied, but this didn’t take into account the many villages that were located near its perimeter. Years of nuclear radiation bombarded the area, and eventually, the residents of the “safe” villages started showing birth defects and various radiation-related illnesses.

Today, it is estimated that at least 100,000 Kazakhs near the Polygon area suffer from the effects of radiation. The radioactive materials at the Polygon itself will take hundreds of years to reach safe radiation levels, and the poor people suffering from the effects may do so for five generations.

9. Chernobyl

It’s impossible to discuss radioactive sites without bringing up Chernobyl. The 1986 nuclear power plant explosion in Ukraine is considered the worst nuclear disaster that the world has ever witnessed, and despite the fact that it’s been extensively researched, many questions remain. The most pressing of those questions concern the long-term health impacts of the people who were exposed to the radiation. Acute radiation sickness wreaked havoc among the first responders to the scene, but that was just the tip of the deadly iceberg: The nearby town of Pripyat was not evacuated until 36 hours after the disaster, and at that point, many residents were already showing symptoms of radiation sickness. Despite all these clear signs that the situation was pressing, and the realization that the disaster sent nuclear winds blowing towards Belarus and into Europe, the Soviets still tried to play the situation close to their chest — right up until the radiation alarms at a nuclear plant all the way in Sweden went off, and the terrifying situation unfolded.

On the surface, Chernobyl’s death toll was surprisingly moderate: “only” 31 people died in the disaster and its short-term aftereffects, and the Still, the long-term effects to the people in the area were still unsafely high, though just how the disaster affected their lifespans is very difficult to measure. For instance, an estimated 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer in Ukraine,  Russia and Belarus may be connected radiation exposure in some way, but it’s borderline impossible to directly link them to the disaster.

8. Siberian Chemical Combine Plant

Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) is an old uranium enrichment plant in, yes, Siberia. When it comes to its waste disposal, it was always a product of the patented Soviet “eh, just put it wherever, comrade” way of doing things: Significant amounts of the combine’s liquid radioactive waste were pumped into underground pools of water. That would probably been bad enough even without the nuclear accident of 1993, which saw an explosion damage the radio-technology plant of the complex. The blast wrecked two floors of the building,  and more importantly, destroyed a tank containing highly dangerous materials such as plutonium and uranium.

The radioactive gas released by the incident contaminated 77 square miles of downwind terrain, and only sheer luck prevented the fumes from turning the nearby cities of Tomsk and Seversk into Fallout locations. The cleanup process took four months, but for locals, the disaster was just the beginning of the nightmare: They found out that there had been a whopping 22 accidents at the SCC over the years, and even during its normal operations it released around 10 grams of plutonium into the atmosphere every year. For reference, it takes just one millionth of a gram to potentially cause serious diseases on humans.

7. Sellafield

Sellafield is to Great Britain what Chernobyl is to Russia: The worst ever nuclear accident to happen in the country. In a way, it managed to be even more badly managed than its more famous counterpart — or rather, managed in a more British way. When the Windscale No. 1 “pile” (a sort of primitive nuclear reactor) of the Sellafield nuclear material processing factory caught fire in October 1957, eleven tons of uranium burned for three days. Despite this rather worrying situation, everyone went  about their day as if nothing had happened. While the reactor was close to collapse and radioactive material spread across the nearby areas, no one was evacuated, and work went on in the facility with a stiff upper lip. In fact, most people weren’t even told about the fire. The workers realized that something was going on, but were told to “carry on as normal.”

Meanwhile, a true disaster was just barely averted, largely thanks to one heroic man. When the fire started, deputy general manager Thomas Tuohy was called on site from a day off. When it came apparent that the blaze could not be easily contained, he threw away his radiation-recording badge so no one could see the doses he was taking. Then, he climbed at the top of the 80-foot reactor building, and stared at the inferno below him while taking the full force of the radiation. He did this multiple times over the next hours to assess the damage, and when the blaze started to reach the melting point of steel, he made the last-ditch call to use water to drown the pile. It was a risky maneuver that was untested on a reactor fire, and if anything had gone wrong, the whole area would have been blown up and irradiated to the point of uninhabitability. Fortunately, Tuohy’s gambit paid off, and 30 hours of waterworks later, Sellafield was saved. While the area was thoroughly irradiated all the way down to its milk and chickens, Britain carried on with a stiff upper lip. Of course, Tuohy himself, who had basically wrestled with the burning reactor, eventually died … at a respectable age of 90.

6. The Somali Coast

The coastal areas of Somalia are better known for their pirate activity than their nuclear materials, but that’s just because the radioactive waste tends to be hidden under the surface.  Weirdly enough, the two phenomena have the same cause: The area’s unrest during the 1980s led to a long period where the country had no central rule, which left its shores unguarded. Unfortunately for Somalia’s residents, this meant that every unscrupulous operator and their mother was free to cheaply dump their unwanted nuclear and other hazardous waste along the country’s coastline, instead of disposing of it in a safer (and much more expensive) manner.

The United Nations have been aware of the problem for years, and describe it as a very serious situation. It was further aggravated in 2009, when a large tsunami made the problem literally resurface. The wave dislodged and broke many of the containers, causing contaminants to spread at least six miles inland. The cocktail of radioactive materials and assorted toxic sludges caused a host of serious health problems for the residents, and may even have contaminated some of the groundwater.

5. Mayak

Even before Chernobyl, there were whispers that the Soviet Union’s track record with nuclear power wasn’t exactly spotless. Some of said whispers were almost certainly about the Mayak complex, which was the country’s first nuclear site. Built in the remote southern Urals shortly after WWII, Mayak was a secret military site that was near the closed town of Chelyabinsk, and specialized in manufacturing plutonium for the army. Its secretive nature eventually came in handy for the Soviet government.

In 1957, the complex suffered one of the worst little-known nuclear disasters, when an accident at the facility contaminated 7,700 square miles of the nearby area, which affected roughly 270,000 people. The incident would eventually become known as the Kysthym disaster, after the nearest town. At the time, however, the authorities fully played the “secret facility” card, and released little information about the crisis. The true scale of the disaster would not emerge until the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s. It took until 2009 for the villagers nearest to the Mayak facility to be relocated … and even then, most of them were just moved a little over a mile up the road.

4. Church Rock uranium mill

In 1979, a spill at the Church Rock uranium mill in New Mexico sent 1,100 tons of uranium mine tailings and 94 million gallons of effluent into the Puerco River, spreading contamination some 50 miles downstream. Together, these released three times more radiation than the notorious Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

To this day, the Church Rock spill remains the largest accidental release of radioactive material the United States has ever seen, and its damage to the environment was wholesale. Radioactivity was in water, animals, plants and, eventually, the Navajo population of the area, who suffer from an increased likelihood of birth defects and kidney disease.

The disaster is particularly tragic because it would have been perfectly avoidable. The spill happened because one of the dams holding the United Nuclear Corporation’s disposal ponds at bay cracked. Later, both the corporation itself and various federal and state inspectors noted that the rock it had been built on was unstable.

3. Fukushima

In March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake moved the entire Japan several feet east, and sent tsunami waves washing over the country’s shorelines, causing a death toll of 19,000 people … and the worst nuclear plant disaster in the country’s history. Initially, it seemed that the Fukushima Daiichi power plant had withstood the watery onslaught, and that all of its reactors had automatically shut down and survived without significant damage. However, the plant was not quite as tsunami-proof as everyone had assumed, and it soon became evident that the wave had disabled the cooling systems and power supply for three of the reactors. Within three days, their cores had largely melted, and a fourth reactor started showing signs of trouble.

The government evacuated roughly 100,000 people from the area, and engaged in a battle to cool the reactors with water — and even more importantly, to prevent radioactive materials leaking in the environment. Since the facility is just 100 yards from the ocean and on an area that’s prone to various natural disasters, the cleanup process is a difficult, yet urgent task. The radiation inside the plant is so deadly that it’s impossible to enter the facility, so no one’s even sure precisely where the molten fuel is within the plant. In a massive, unprecedented challenge that is estimated to take decades, the cleanup officials are currently mapping the terrain with radiation-measuring robots, and hope that strong robots are eventually able to seal and retrieve the radioactive substances from the premises.

2. Mailuu-Suu

Mailuu-Suu is a town in Kyrgyztan that not only lives under the constant shadow of Soviet-era radiation, but has actually made its peace with the fact. Some locals joke that they actually need the radiation to survive. You can even get walking tours to the worst radioactive waste dumps — followed by a healthy dose of vodka to flush the radioactivity out of your system, of course.

The town is one of the largest concentrations of radioactive materials in former Soviet Central Asia. Because the area is naturally rich in uranium, the Soviet Union mined it to death, while toxic waste was buried all around town. All in all, some two million cubic meters of radioactive waste lies under gravel and concrete, in 23 different dumping sites around Mailu Suu. The sites are often just lazy piles of hazardous material lying in their deteriorating bunker pits, halfheartedly marked with barbed wire and concrete posts.

Unfortunately, this makes Mailu Suu both a current crisis and a future, potentially much worse one. The dumping sites are located right by a fast-moving water source, the Mailuu-suu river, which is a water supply for two million people downstream. What’s more, the area is tectonically active, and extremely prone to landslides. This has already led to one nasty disaster: In 1992, one of said landslides busted one of the waste dumps open … and 1,000 cubic meters of radioactivity spilled into the river.

1. The Hanford Site

In the 1950s, America was happily entering the Atomic Age, and the nuclear site in Hanford, Washington was where the future was made. The plant had already made its mark in the 1940s during the Manhattan Project, for which it was built to produced the plutonium required for the nukes. After the war, the future seemed bright in more than one way. Although every kilogram of plutonium the site produced came with a side order of hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive waste, the site’s entrepreneurial owners believed they could sell even that. Unfortunately, they couldn’t … and they also hadn’t bothered to create proper ways to store the deadly sludge.

As years went by, temporary underground containers quietly became permanent, cracked, and allowed their radioactive contents to seep in the ground. The Atomic Energy Commission, which oversaw the manufacture of nuclear bombs, didn’t even bother to set up an office for waste management, so unregulated radioactive material ended up buried wherever, in containers that creaked at the seams. In the end, Hanford and its nearby areas were so saturated with radioactive waste and strange toxic sludges that the site became the largest nuclear cleanup site in the entire western hemisphere. The cleanup process has gone on for decades, caused health problems to dozens of workers, and cost billions of dollars, but the treatment plant that’s meant to deal with the sludge is yet to materialize. In fact, the area is still so deeply dangerous that when they started to demolish the site’s plutonium finishing plant in 2017, 42 workers became exposed to radioactive particles despite all the precautions.


I’m Radioactive! –

WIF Contaminated Geography