Outer Space Tracings – WIF Space

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Scary Things

About Space

Image result for space gif

Since the dawn of man (and woman), humankind has gazed longingly at the flickering stars high above in search of meaning, guidance, and inspiration. A gradual progression in science and technology has taught us much about our faraway skies — namely, that it’s cold, dark, and tantalizingly mysterious up there. It’s also scarier than Hell.

Nonetheless, it’s hard not to daydream about the outer limits or simply laugh at Captain Kirk and that space lizard in the worst fight scene ever filmed. Although many elements of the final frontier remain elusive, recent discoveries have revealed an array of terrifying threats that will keep even the bravest star warriors hiding under the covers with the lights on at night.

10. Meteor Showers

Imagine cruising along in your Honda or Chevy GUV (Galactic Utility Vehicle) blasting sound waves on the ol’ satellite when suddenly out of nowhere — BLAMMO — you’re blindsided by a huge boulder. Not only is your insurance rate going to skyrocket, but the nearest space side assistance is billions of miles away. Bummer.

Although this scenario may seem like a sci-fi nightmare, a similar occurrence actually occurred on planet earth in 2013 after a meteorite exploded over the Ural mountains in Russia. By the time the dust settled, over 400 people had been injured, underscoring the disturbing reality that cascading debris can strike without warning.

Fortunately, most large falling objects burn up while traveling through the earth’s atmosphere. Space travelers in the future, however, will have to dodge a spate of other potential hazards, including meteors, comets, and asteroids.

9. Black Holes

Q: What traps light, warps time, and operates on a colossal scale but yet can’t be seen? A: Black Holes. True to its enigmatic label, black holes have been mythically confounding ever since Albert Einstein first introduced the notion with his general theory of relativity in 1916.

Recently, astronomers took the first image ever of a black hole via the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of eight linked telescopes around the world. Although many questions still remain unanswered, black holes are characterized by the way they affect nearby debris, stars, and galaxies — and typically form out of the death of a large star called a supernova (more on that that later). Unlike a planet or star, a black hole doesn’t have a surface but rather occupies a region where matter has collapsed on itself. The amount of concentrated mass is such that nothing can escape its gravitational pull — not even light — and certainly not an astronaut who makes a disastrous wrong turn while lost in space.

Black holes exist in many different sizes, and similar to tornadoes, they tend to move around at high speeds, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Even a small one in our Solar System would be catastrophic, tossing planets out of orbit and ripping the sun to shreds. Although intrepid explorers will be tempted to visit these dark voids, nothing so far has ever survived a trip to a black hole.

8. Solar Flares

Our sun is a glorious, awe-inspiring star that provides warmth, light and the necessary temperature for precious life to exist. It’s also steadily expanding —and will someday completely destroy earth, torching our beloved planet like a marshmallow that’s been left too long around a campfire. Fortunately, that won’t happen for billions of years, but in the meantime, solar flares are capable of inflicting tremendous damage with little or no warning.

solar flare is a violent eruption that occurs when stored energy on the sun is suddenly released. This produces another one of those ridiculous hotter-than-Hell numbers, releasing a flash of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum.

Scientists classify solar flares according to their brightness and in relation to x-ray wavelengths. The largest of categories, X-class flares, are large, disruptive events that can severely damage satellites, wipe out power grids, and basically relegate all “smart” technology to stupid pieces of crap.

7. Eridanus Supervoid

First of all, stop your juvenile snickering. No, this isn’t slang for an epic bowel movement or anything of the sordid kind. The Eridanus Supervoid is believed to be a massive empty section located in the Eridanus Constellation just south of Orion. However, what makes this discovery so intriguing is that it’s not only the largest structure ever observed in the Universe, but it’s missing about 10,000 galaxies — or around 20 percent less matter than other regions. As a result, the oddity could possibly contain an “alternative reality” within this ominous patch of sky.

In 2004, cosmologists at University of Hawaii observed a span stretching 1.8 billion light-years across and located about 3 billion light-years away (1 light year = 5.88 trillion miles). They identified a large Cold Spot on the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), a map of the radiation left over from the Big Bang, providing a critical tool to study the origin and development of the Universe at cosmic timescales.

The startling revelation presented a perplexing conundrum: the enormity of the cold spot doesn’t align with our current understanding of how the Universe evolved. While it’s not uncommon to find a few small warm and cold patches on the CMB, cold patches of this magnitude are a head-scratching anomaly. According to one report, it’s “too big to exist.”

6. Fermi’s Paradox

In 1942, an Italian-American physicist named Enrico Fermi led an all-star team of scientists to build the world’s first nuclear reactor. This monumental effort was part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret U.S. government operation that produced the atomic bomb. Afterward, Fermi shifted his attention and extraordinary acumen on solving another complex subject: why haven’t we detected any other alien civilization despite the billions upon billions of other Earth-type planets that most likely exist?

The theory, which came to be known as “Fermi’s Paradox,” posits how the high probability of extraterrestrial life is contradictory to the lack of fact-based, demonstrable evidence supporting it. Naturally, this school of thought discounts the myriad of claims made by people who have allegedly witnessed UFOs or experienced alien encounters — not to mention phenomenons such as Crop Circles and Cargo Cult Theory.

While it’s tough to argue with a genius of Fermi’s stature (especially with our own limited, reptilian brains), we’re left wondering if it’s more frightening that we’re all alone or that hostile life forms are waiting to devour us like a Great White Shark munching seal snacks. Either way, it’s best to keep that aforementioned light on at night.

5. HyperNova

Many subjects dealing with the cosmos involve an impossible-to-fathom number. A hypernova is one of them. In this instance, the astronomical figure relates to the excessive amount of heat and energy generated from an explosion. But first, let’s review what is known about these fascinating wonders.

Novas are relatively small eruptions that occur in double star systems. When a white dwarf’s gravity pulls material away from a companion star, gas piles up and eventually becomes dense enough to ignite in a spark of nuclear fusion. Next, the Supernova, usually marks the death of a large star and the formation of a neutron star. The heat of a supernova can reach 120 million degrees — a temperature five times that of a nuclear blast.

Finally, a hypernova is an ultra-energetic supernova marking the birth of black holes and the release of intense gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most energetic form of light. As the mightiest of the Nova family, hypernovae are 5 to 50 times more energetic than a supernova. Additionally, for sake of completion, “Champagne Supernova“ is a song by the mega pop band Oasis, featuring lyrics of which scientists have yet to decipher the meaning…

4. We’re really, really, really small…

Although mother earth appears to be a gigantic sphere of bottomless oceans and endless roads, we’re relatively puny compared to other planets. How small? In terms of relative scale, Jupiter is 2.5 times larger than all the rest of the planets in the Solar System combined. But if you really want to feel minuscule, look no further than our sun — that big fiery 10,000-degree inferno 93 million miles away.

The Sun’s diameter is 109 times bigger than the rock we call home and is so large that 1,300,000 planet Earths could fit inside of it. While the luminous ball appears to be the largest star in the sky, that’s only because it’s the closest. The #1 star in the universe is the gargantuan UY Scuti, a Red Supergiant with a radius around 1,700 times larger than our sun.

But don’t despair, Earthlings. At least now you know how a ladybug feels, clinging to a thin blade of grass.

3. Rogue Planets

These wandering vagabonds (also known as nomad planets, unbound planets, orphan planets, starless planets, etc.) are objects with enough mass to qualify as planets but orbit a galactic center directly. The Universe, despite its vast expanse, consists of a jam-packed arena of activity that often resembles a well-choreographed dance. But a rogue planet disrupts this flow, stumbling recklessly to the beat of its own rhythmless hum while bumping into other cosmic bodies like a drunken ballerina.

Scientists believe rogue planets may have have been ejected from a previous planetary system or have never been gravitationally bound to another body such as a star. Furthermore, our galaxy (aka the Milky Way) alone may have billions of them.

Interestingly, some rogue planets feature a molten core, which combined with an insulated, cold exterior, could possess subterranean oceans that support life. A team of petrologists from Rice University recently theorized that a rogue planet the size of Mars possibly collided with earth 4.4 billion years ago, and could very well have planted the seeds of life while creating enough debris that later developed into our moon.

2. Space Junk

Ever since the start of the space race, man-made objects have been piling up in what has been politely termed “orbital debris.” But that’s being a little too kind. Let’s just call it what it really is: space junk. A wide range of discarded litter now includes thousands of metal fragments, cameras, spent rocket boosters, and even a complete 1958 U.S. satellite (Vanguard-1) that’s currently the oldest artificial hunk of metal still in orbit.

This overflowing galactic garbage, not unlike our polluted oceans, is rapidly nearing a critical juncture; the consequences could be detrimental for both astronauts and those below running for cover from the falling rubbish. There are currently over 1,700  satellites in operation, yet represents less than 10 percent of debris large enough to track from the ground. An obscene amount of smaller objects could also cause serious damage — and sadly, the number will only to continue to climb.

In just one single action from 2007, China destroyed a decommissioned weather satellite during one of its weapons tests, smashing the object into over 150,000 pieces. However, any attempts to clean up spiraling mess could present even more problems in terms of national security (surveillance equipment) and/or result in conflicts over territorial rights. In short, we’re doomed.

1. Zombie Stars

Just when you think we couldn’t be inundated any more movies, TV shows, and books about bloodsuckers and the undead, the science community has joined the fray with “Zombie Stars.”  Really? What’s next brainiacs, a Frankenplanet? Never mind.

As one might guess, a zombie star is something that won’t die. Ever. The monstrous explosion from a supernova typically glows brightly for a while before the dying star is obliterated into space dust. That is unless, for reasons that have yet to be determined, the star manages to avoid death. Adding to the horror show, the zombie star can become a vampire star by sucking fuel and energy from a nearby star to revive itself.

The most famous zombie (for scientists, anyway) is known as iPTF14hls. The star first appeared in 1954 and was thought to have died over a half century ago — but a discovery in 2014 revealed it’s still alive with no plans of retiring. According to the renowned astronomer, Iair Arcavi, a NASA Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Las Cumbres Observatory, the star’s inexplicable behavior is the “the biggest puzzle I’ve encountered.”

Yikes. If he’s stumped, folks, all we can do is lock the doors to the space station and hope for the best.


Outer Space Tracings –

WIF Space

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Forbidden Places

You’ll Never

Be Able

to Visit

For a huge part of human history, there were plenty of places left that remained a mystery. But in modern times, it seems like every square inch of the planet is accessible for anyone who has the time, money, and desire to get there. However, there are still plenty of places that truly are forbidden to the general public.

10. The Lascaux Caves Contain Ancient Cave Paintings

Deep in the Dordogne Valley of Southern France, there is a cave that holds a number of ancient secrets. The Lascaux Caves were first found in the year 1940 by a group of 13-year-old boys and their dog. They contain some of the oldest drawings in the history of mankind, and after this discovery, tourists flocked to see the cave. Unfortunately, though, the caves also contain a rare fungus that is slowly destroying the ancient artwork. In 1963, a decision was made to close the caves off from the public, because the belief was that the more human beings visited the cave, the more heat and humidity would come off of their bodies, worsening the problem with the fungus and threatening the paintings. So now, there are security guards watching over the caves full-time to make sure no one goes inside, and they only patrol within for a few minutes just once a week.

In 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy and eight people in his entourage toured the caves to see the 900 pieces of art, sparking controversy across France. This actually sparked a debate, because many people felt that there should be no exceptions to the rule, even if you’re the President.

9. Only a Few Select People Can Access the Vatican Secret Archives

Inside of Vatican City, there are the Secret Archives filled with classified documents that date back thousands of years. For most of modern history, the Pope was the one and only person who could access the archive. In 1881, the rules were changed to allow a few select Catholic scholars to examine the documents, so long as they go through background checks and a vetting process, which includes receiving permission from the Pope. Even then, the paperwork must be 75-years-old before they are accessible to the scholars, which guarantees that the people who are mentioned in the documents would most likely have passed away before their secrets are ever revealed. So, we’re sorry to say, but you’re not likely to be allowed into the archives any time soon.

Of course, when anywhere is this secret, conspiracy theories abound. And just like literally everything else in the world, some people believe that the Vatican is hiding evidence of aliens. And in 2010, when Dan Brown released his novel Angels and Demons, more and more people began to question what, exactly, the Vatican was trying to hide. So finally in 2012, they held an exhibit where they shared some of the most famous documents with journalists.

8. North Sentinel Island Has a Tribe Isolated From The Outside World

North Sentinel Island is off the coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal. Marco Polo mentioned the island in his book, claiming that the Sentinelese people were cannibals. In the 1800s, a ship crashed on the island, and almost all of the crew was killed by the natives. Its reputation has made this island off-limits from the outside world. As the years went on, only about 150 native Sentinelese people are believed to be left alive.

In the 1970s, National Geographic attempted to film a documentary on the island, but the director was impaled by a spear. Since then, access to the island has been strictly prohibited, and it has been well-known that no one should go there. But it didn’t seem to stop a missionary from going to the island in 2018 in an attempt to convert the native people to Christianity, and he was killed after illegally stepping foot on the island.

7. Surtsey Island Is An Active Volcano

In 1963, an underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Iceland, forming a small island that is just one mile wide. It was given the name Surtsey, after the Norse jotunn Surtr, who brings fire and brimstone upon the Earth and is a key player in Ragnarok. It has continued to remain active ever since. You may remember in 2010, the volcano on the island erupted and spread an ash cloud so large airplane traffic was suspended until it dissipated.

As of right now, the only people who have visited the island are scientists who have permission from the government of Iceland. It is important for them to study what naturally occurs on the island. They want to figure out which animals and vegetation make their way there naturally. Maybe some day tourists will be able to visit, but as of right now, the island is still off-limits to the general public.

6. The Pine Gap Facility in Australia Houses American Spies

Alice Springs, Australia is home to an American military based called the Joint Defense Facility Pine Gap. It was first built in 1966 as a space research laboratory. According to the US National Security Agency, the base is now used to control satellites that track nuclear weapons, locate airstrikes, and gather other types of information. Roughly 600 US citizens live in the base, and they integrate with the rest of Australian society. However, no one is allowed inside without the necessary security clearance.

However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are some Australian citizens who aren’t too happy with the Americans coming in to use their land. The secret base has become a target for anti-war protesters who want it gone. Many Australians have actually tried to break into the base, claiming that they want to show the visiting Americans all about peace and love, only for them to be arrested. Anyone who tries to break into the facility face prison sentences up to seven years.

5. World Leaders Will Escape to Mount Weather At The End of the World

During the Cold War, the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center was built by the US government’s FEMA program as a place for world leaders to run to in case of a nuclear apocalypse. The 600,000 square foot underground facility sits safely nestled 48 miles away from Washington DC, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has its own fire and police force, as well as its own laws, and plenty of supplies to restart society, just in case we ever end up in a Fallout situation. Of course, the nuclear apocalypse has been avoided (for now, at least), and all of those DIY fallout shelters from the 1960s have gone to waste.

But Mount Weather still exists today as the go-to-safe space for politicians. After the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, some of the most important government officials in the country were rushed to Mount Weather. Average people are not allowed to visit the facility, though, so we’ll just have to leave it in our imaginations.

4. If You Step Foot on Queimada Grande Island, You Will Probably Die

The Isle of Queimada Grande is just off the coast of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It is also known as “Snake Island,” because it is mostly inhabited by — you guessed it — thousands upon thousands of snakes. The Golden Lancehead Viper, which only exists on that one island. Its venom is five times more powerful than any other snake, and if someone is bitten by one, they will be dead in less than an hour. It has been dubbed one of the most dangerous places in the world.

No one is even sure how the snakes got there in the first place. Rumors have spread that pirates buried a treasure on the island, and that they brought these snakes there to make sure no one could ever reach the gold. But that, of course, is just a legend. For years, no one lived there, except a lighthouse keeper and his daughter. However, they were both killed by the snakes. Now the Brazilian navy only visits the island once a year to make sure the fully automated lighthouse is still working. Vice News decided to film a documentary on the one day of the year that they could actually go together with the navy officials. So, they were able to get extremely rare footage of the island and, of course… the snakes.

3. You’ll Catch Your Death From Gruinard Island

Off the coast of the Scottish Highlands, Gruinard Island was bought by the British government to test deadly diseases. The first trials began by exploding bombs riddled with diseased powder over top of flocks of sheep, and scientists would later inspect the damage. In the wake of World War II, the Brits thought they may need to use Anthrax as a weapon of war. Since they had purchased the island for these life-threatening experiments, they had to make it clear to everyone not to travel there anymore.

There’s even a massive sign on the island that says: “This island is government property under experiment. The ground is contaminated with Anthrax and dangerous. Landing is prohibited.” In the 1980s, the government sent scientists to clean the island, and by 1990, they declared that it was safe to visit. However, even years after the experiments have been completed, many people believe that there are still plague spores in the ground, and that you would be foolish to ever go there.

2. Technological Secrets are Hiding Inside Area 51

Nearly everyone has heard of Area 51, which is a secret American military base in the middle of the Nevada desert. There are dozens of wild rumors and conspiracy theories about the base, mostly claiming that they hold evidence of UFOs and alien life, including the wreckage of the famous Roswell incident in 1947.

Technically, there are plenty of people who work there, so people come and go from the base all the time. But members of the public are not allowed inside. In fact, if you even get too close to the entrance, a white pickup truck will chase you down until you leave. The facility is heavily guarded, with security cameras and sensors. In reality, the base was established during the Cold War, and it is used to test experimental aircraft. Its high level of security is to ensure that no foreign nations can access new technology.

Even though the rational explanations have been published as to the history of Area 51’s existence again and again, people still want to believe it’s really all about hiding little green men. The surrounding area has become a tourist attraction for UFO enthusiasts.

1. Poveglia Island is Probably Haunted

Okay, so maybe you don’t believe in ghosts. But plenty of people believe that Italy’s Poveglia Island is actually haunted, due to its long, horrible history. It was once a hospital for people who were quarantined with the plague. Then, it was used as a hospital for the criminally insane. According to legend, a doctor was performing torturous experiments on the patients, which is why the souls of the suffering are still present on the island.

Scientific studies have shown that so many bodies were buried on the island, 50% of the soil is made of human ash. The Italian government wasn’t sure what to do with it, so they put it up for auction, and sold a 99-year lease to an Italian businessman named Luigi Brugnaro for €513,000. So, basically, Brugnaro gets to use it as his private property, and it will be decades before it returns to the custody of the Italian government.


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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

Conquering a New World – WIF Into History

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Why the Conquistadors

Were in

the New World

When Christopher Columbus arrived at Hispaniola (the island now split down the middle between Haiti and the Dominican Republic), he could hardly believe his eyes. With its extraordinary lushness and biodiversity, mighty rivers flowing with gold, and abundance of honey and spices, it was the embodiment of Heaven on Earth, Paradise, the Garden of Eden especially compared to back home.

Even the human inhabitants went about in the nude, with only leaves to cover their genitals. They were also unusually innocent, being entirely without greed. Appearing to lack any concept of property, they shared freely with their alien arrivals?and were overjoyed to receive old broken pottery fragments in return.

Columbus was astounded. If this wasn’t the biblical Garden, he wrote to the King and Queen of Spain, then it must be somewhere nearby. This wasn’t hyperbole either; he was absolutely certain of his claim: Some 5,000 years after God kicked us out, Man had found his way back to Eden.

His plan? To ruin it.

True to form, Columbus immediately set about plundering Hispaniola for its wealth. He built mines, military forts, cities, and farms no doubt devastating forests in the process. Worse, he enslaved the friendly natives to do it for him, threatening to send many back to Europe in chains.

Although he was eventually arrested by the Spanish for his appalling governance of the island, Columbus was far too powerful to lock up. In any case, it did nothing to change human nature. His treatment of the Tano people proved a horrifying portent of the conquest yet to come. Before long, thousands of Europeans followed him across the Atlantic, every one of them hungry for adventure, wealth, and prestige whatever the human cost.

What’s interesting is that while the conquistadors called this strange new continent the New World, they saw everything in terms of the old filtering their understanding and perceptions through Bible stories, classical myths, and outmoded maps and ideas.

Before he stuck a flag in the Garden of Eden, for example, Columbus thought that Cuba was Japan. He even made his crew take an oath on pain of a hundred lashes and having the tongue slit never to contradict his assertion, so insistent was he on imposing the old world on the new.

Likewise, when he came across Antillean manatees, he saw not an exciting new species to classify but a shoal of legendary mermaids (although he did concede they weren’t half as beautiful as in pictures).

Ferdinand Magellan also appealed to mythology when he called the Tehuelche (A’nikenk) of Patagonia giants. Sure, they may have been taller than average, but his encounter reads like a fairy tale: Seeing the first of them singing and dancing on the shore, he and his crew went up to greet them with gifts, cleverly tricking two of the giants into handcuffs and charting a course back to Europe?only for the specimens to die in terror en route.

According to Antonio Pigafetta, a scholar along for the ride, the giants had deep, booming voices and a fear of their own reflection; and they were so tall that even the tallest among the crew only came up to their waists. These giants were later depicted on maps of the New World, alongside mermaids, sea monsters, dragons, and UFOs even though Sir Francis Drake made it clear that they didn’t exist. Having gone looking for the giants himself, Drake concluded they must be a myth and suggested the Spaniards, who probably did not think that ever any English man would come hither to Patagonia to reprove them, had simply made the whole thing up.

But virtually all the conquistadors?Spanish or not were guilty of fanciful projections, imposing time-worn ideas on every square inch of new land, scrutinizing the wide open Western hemisphere through the old narrow lens of the past. Hence they didn’t see the natives as people, they saw them as savages and monsters; and they didn’t see the Aztecs as civilized but as a blasphemous affront to their God.

Basically, the conquistadors were in a world of their own and an often absurd one at that. For hundreds of years they interacted not so much with reality as with a mythological nowhere realm in which nothing was too extraordinary to believe.

El Dorado

In particular, the idea of rivers flowing with gold and other precious metals and gems became a tantalizing trope for the conquistadors?culminating most famously in their obsession with El Dorado.

Spanish for the golden or gilded one, El Dorado originally referred to a man, a fantastically wealthy ruler covered from head to toe in pure gold. The myth most likely originated with the Muisca tradition of crowning a new leader by covering his body in gold dust and rowing him to the middle of a sacred lake surrounded by fires and priests. For the Muisca, the alluringly shimmering metal was a symbol of spiritual power and their connection to the divine. But the conquistadors weren’t interested in ethnology; they were dazzled by the prospect of gold. Hence the legend of the gilded one quickly turned into a city, and the city became an obsession, inspiring boatloads of Europeans to find it.

Among the first to go looking, in 1529 and then again in 1531, was Ambrosius Ehinger, the ambitious German governor of Venezuela. He was aided in his search by hundreds of men including captured Indians and trailed by pigs and dogs. Together, they crossed marshes, rivers, and mountains deep into unknown territory. But in the end, having no qualms about killing or torturing the natives that he came across, Ehinger was slaughtered in return.

Later, in 1541, Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Orellana mounted their own quest from Quito, enslaving natives along the way to help them carry their gear?only to meet with disaster in the end. The same happened to Pedro de Ursa, who was mutinied by his men in 1561.

Even Sir Walter Raleigh was taken in by the myth and twice went in search of the city. Scouring the highlands of Guiana, he ended up battling with the Spanish and losing his son in the process. When he finally returned to England in disgrace, by now an old man, he was beheaded by King James I.

Expeditions for El Dorado were hopelessly open-ended, called off only when they ran out of food (or men) to keep going. After all, they were chasing a mirage across a vast, uncharted continent so there was really no other end in sight. Of course, it didn’t help that any natives they interrogated barely understood what they were looking for, let alone where on Earth it might be, and usually just pointed to the next tribe with a shrug.

Ironically the conquistadors did actually find El Dorado, in one of the first places they looked. In 1536, Gonzalo Jiminez de Quesada conquered the Colombian Cundinamarca plateau, home of the Muisca, and drained their sacred lake. Naturally he found plenty of gold religious offerings from generations of priests and new leaders, but not nearly as much as he wanted. So the conquistadors took their search elsewhere, far from the origin of the myth, and continued to pursue El Dorado until at least 1800, when Alexander von Humboldt finally declared it a sham.

The Seven Cities of Gold

But El Dorado wasn’t the only golden city; there were said to be seven more.

Shipwrecked on an expedition to Florida in the late-1530s, two men (of only four survivors) found themselves wandering the wastes of New Mexico. One was the Franciscan friar and missionary Marcos de Niza and the other a North African slave by the name of Estevanico. Having already been captured by natives and escaped (perhaps explaining the distance they covered), they were keen to avoid any further contact until they reached the nearest safe haven.

But something caught their eye.

Situated on the brow of a roundish hill, de Niza claimed, once he’d made it back to Mexico, was a very beautiful city, the best that I have seen in these parts.? In fact, it looked to be made out of gold. But when Estevanico got too close, he was killed by the native inhabitants and de Niza was forced to run.

It was an irresistible tale. For some, it meant only one thing: The long lost Cities of Gold had been found. Unlike El Dorado, however, these were from the folklore of Spain. When King Roderic lost Hispania to the Muslims in 711-712 AD, he is said to have sent seven of his bishops to found a new one. Sailing across the Atlantic to Antillia one of a number of early phantom islands that was probably the American mainland they each built a city to govern. And then they burned their ships and navigational equipment to ensure they could never go home.

Needless to say, if the legend was true and any of these cities remained, the gold would belong to the Spanish. In 1541, the conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado boldly retraced de Niza’s steps back to the site of the city, accompanied by hundreds of other men and backed by some hefty investments.

Unfortunately, it was only a pueblo, an adobe Zuni settlement that, to a distant observer at sunset, might look a little like it had a kind of glow. It definitely wasn’t made out of gold, though. Plus it had only five neighboring settlements?one short of the fabled seven in total.

The expedition had failed and its financial investors were ruined. It did, however, open up a route to the north, since de Coronado and his men pressed on all the way to Kansas before finally giving up on the search.

The Fountain of Youth

De Niza could hardly be blamed. He was primed to see fantastical things. After all, the shipwrecked expedition that stranded him in the desert in the first place had been in search of the Fountain of Youth a wild and ultimately ruinous goose chase led by Pnfilo de Narvez. Evidently, they’d all been taken in by a rumor about Juan Ponce de Len, who never really looked for the Fountain. Instead, the myth is thought to have been spread as a smear against Ponce de Len’s manhood his quest for eternal youth being a search for an impotence cure.

The Fountain was also mentioned by Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, a contemporary Spanish historian who seems to have believed it was real. In his Decades of the New World, he even gave rough directions:

Beyond Veragua the coast bends in a northerly direction, to a point opposite the Pillars of Hercules  Amongst these countries is an island  celebrated for a spring whose waters restore youth to old men.

This placed it somewhere in the Bay of Honduras, on the island of Boinca or Aganeo. Meanwhile, the Ponce de Len smear pointed more toward his own land of Florida. In truth, though, anyone looking for it, wherever they were, was always on the verge of its discovery. Because whenever the natives were asked for the whereabouts of this miraculous restorative spring, they would have just pointed to water.

The Amazons

Place names were another way for the conquistadors to impose their own version of reality onto the New World. Venezuela (Little Venice), for example, got its name because the stilt houses on Lake Maracaibo reminded Amerigo Vespucci of Venice (Venezia). And it was grouped with other proto-countries (like Colombia, from Columbus) under the Viceroyalty of New Granada, after the city in southern Spain. Indeed, all conquered territories in the New World were collectively branded New Spain.

The Amazon, meanwhile was named for the legendary Amazons, the ancient female warriors from Themiscyra in modern-day Turkey.

Why? Because the conquistadors imagined they lived there.

In 1542, having blustered through the rainforest for almost a year looking for El Dorado, Pizarro and de Orellana’s expedition was in shambles. They’d eaten all their pigs and many of their horses and dogs, and were now facing sickness, starvation, and death. They couldn’t ask the natives for help (on account of all the torture they’d put them through), but they could probably steal something to eat. Desperate not to die in the jungle, Pizarro sent de Orellana and 50 of his men along a wide open river they’d discovered, urging them to come back with food.

But they never did. Evidently the men were a little disgruntled with Pizarro and refused to return upriver to save him, especially from a fate that he probably deserved. (It?s unclear whether de Orellana was in agreement, but he made them all sign a declaration to say that he wasn’t and continued downriver regardless.)

On their meandering way to the sea, they continued to seek El Dorado and the natives kept shrugging their shoulders or more often bracing for attack, having had just about enough of the Spaniards and their conquest. In fact, as they pressed on, de Orellana and his men were shocked to find even women firing arrows from the river bank.

Surely these were no ordinary women, they thought; these women could fight! They were also nude, fair-skinned, and exceptionally skilled with a bow and arrow. They were nothing like the women they knew.

So they had to be the legendary Amazons.

De Orellana assumed their capital must be a few days inland and the riverside villages they passed were outlying vassal states. Of course, when he tortured natives for intel, they only confirmed his suspicions?saying just about anything to make him go away.

In any case, de Orellana and his men were in no mood to go trekking through the jungle in search of this mighty queendom, particularly if it meant certain death. So they sailed on to the Atlantic, returned to New Spain, and got royal backing to settle the region by force. Obviously they never found Amazonia, but they gave it the name all the same. Otherwise, it might have been called New Andalusia, after the region in southern Spain.

The Devil and Prester John

The conquistadors were obviously nuts; that much can be said for sure. But they were really just children at heart vicious, out-of-control, lunatic children, but children nevertheless.

Interestingly, many of their fruitless pursuits?be it for mythical warriors, immortality, untold wealth, or even Paradise itself can be traced to just one earlier myth: the legend of Prester John?s kingdom.

Sometime in the 1160s, long before anyone heard of the ?New World,? a mysterious letter arrived at the court of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus. Purporting to be from one Prester John, a descendant of the Three Magi, it described a vast and otherworldly empire with 72 tributary kingdoms and a strange assortment of inhabitants, including vampires and dog-headed men. It also had a Fountain of Youth, which Prester John claimed could revert anyone to the age of 32, no matter how old they were at the time. He himself had supposedly lived for more than half a millennia by drinking from its waters. There was also a tremendous river, filled with gold and precious gems, that flowed directly from the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, this being a Christian empire, it was entirely free of sin and its people had plenty to eat.

Pope Alexander III, seeing in Prester John a formidable ally for the Crusades, dispatched an envoy to seek out this land. At first, it was thought to be in India, then in Central Asia or possibly Africa. For a while, everyone assumed it was Abyssinia (Ethiopia), which was already a Christian country. Europeans even started addressing the Abyssinian ruler by the name of Prester John, despite his attempts to correct them. They also altered maps of the African kingdom to depict various elements from the letter, including Mount Amara, where Prester John?s sons were allegedly held in captivity.

The real location of his kingdom (if it had one) was never found, but there?s every reason to suspect the New World revived these old hopes.

Obviously, the natives weren’t Christians but neither were they thought to be evil?not entirely. Although Hernan Cort’s described one indigenous leader as a Satanic monster: huge, fat, with hands drenched in blood and blackened with smoke, and a striped black-red face with red mouth and teeth, spilling blood,? this wasn’t the general consensus. The Spanish preferred to see the natives as playthings of the Devil as opposed to the Devil himself, or in other words as souls crying out for salvation.

The existence of the Devil in the New World justified its conquest by the Spanish. So it came to be seen as the Devil’s playground, a New World in mockery of the old. It was the world turned upside down,world inverted by the Devil.

Hence the Aztecs were the inverse of the Israelites, as Satans chosen people against Gods. It wasn’t a New World so much as a black mirror for the old one, a bizarro realm where nothing was new, just darkly topsy-turvy.

This doesn’t excuse their behaviour, of course, but it explains the conquistador mindset.


Conquering a New World –

WIF Into History

The Alaska Triangle – WIF Did You Know?

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The Alaska Triangle

We’ve all heard of the Bermuda Triangle, but surprisingly there is also an Alaska Triangle. This mysterious triangle is the location of countless disappearances of people, planes and boats that have never been found or heard from again. There are many theories regarding the explanation of so many missing people, such as the land being located on a vortex, and of course we have to mention that mythical creatures are said to cause some of these disappearances.

It is a huge area full of unsolved mysteries that nobody can explain, and that’s why the Alaska Triangle is such an interesting and complex location that many people haven’t even heard of. This article will detail the top 10 interesting facts about the mysterious Alaska Triangle.

10. The Location Of The Alaska Triangle

The Alaska Triangle covers a huge area of the state, from the southeast area close to Juneau and Yakutat, to the northern region of the Barrow mountain range and also to the city of Anchorage. Inside of the triangle there is a huge amount of unexplored wilderness which includes mountain peaks, large forests, and isolated barren tundra.

The area has a large amount of local people who live there, as well as tourists visiting the location who inexplicably go missing each year. There have also been numerous planes that have disappeared or crashed without any explanation. As a matter of fact, since 1988, there have been approximately 16,000 people who have vanished seemingly into thin air in this mysterious Alaska Triangle.

9. Alaska Monsters

There was even a television series based on the Alaska Triangle and its dangerous animals that live in the area. The show is called Alaska Monsters and it’s about a team of six experienced frontiersmen called the “Alaska Midnight Sons” (or AMS for short) who explore the vast wilderness in hopes of finding dangerous creatures lurking through the forests.

Since many people believe that there are dangerous and mysterious creatures living in the huge forests of Alaska, AMS’ job is to investigate the Triangle area by area to find evidence of these beasts they believe are the reason for the disappearances of thousands of people. These frontiersmen are responsible for investigating leads, conducting interviews with locals, and even tracking footprints. One common theory is that Bigfoot lives in the remote areas of the wilderness.

8. Is Bigfoot To Blame?

With huge amounts of forests and uncharted wilderness, Alaska is certainly a perfect location for Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) to hide out. There are numerous reports of Bigfoot sightings throughout the entire state. Some reports include evidence of nesting sites, a possible Bigfoot skeleton, and unidentified hair samples. Some witnesses have even reported seeing a swimming Sasquatch during their encounters.

Some villages have even relocated as a result from terrifying encounters with Bigfoot, which is surprising because the common understanding is that the creature prefers isolated areas and is in general quite peaceful. If Bigfoot is as confrontational as people in Alaska claim it to be, it’s a possibility that this creature is perhaps the reason why some people go missing especially in the wilderness if they come face to face with it.

7. Theory Of The Otterman

There are many different theories regarding all of the disappearances in the Alaska Triangle and one of them includes the evil spirits associated with the native Tlingit people who live in the area. These people are said to have origins dating back to 11,000 years ago. Their name, Tlingit, means “People of the Tides.”

These people believe that there is a shape-shifting demon named Kushtaka who is a cross between a man and an otter. It is said to lure people to their impending doom by attracting lost people to the water by portraying children or women who are screaming for help. It is also said that when the Kushtaka (also known as the “Otterman”) captures these lost people, it then steals their souls. It is a folklore that has never been proven, but it’s still a frightening thought to say the least.

6. A UFO Flew Right Through The Triangle

In 1986, a Japanese plane was flying from Iceland to Anchorage, Alaska when it came across three UFOs. The three unidentified flying objects followed the airliner for approximately 400 miles right through the Alaska Triangle. One of the objects was said to be twice the size of an aircraft carrier while the other two were smaller in size.

The crew reported seeing flashing lights following their plane and air traffic controllers also witnessed something unidentifiable on their radar that was reportedly as close as five miles away from the plane. The pilot claimed that one point the two smaller ships appeared directly in front of the plane at pretty close range. He described the “two small ships and the mother ship” disappearing and reappearing quickly, moving fast and stopping suddenly, which is impossible for a normal airliner to do. In order to escape the UFOs, the pilot received permission from the ground crew to fly at a lower altitude while making several turns to elude the objects, but nothing he did could escape them. After about 32 minutes, the UFOs disappeared, although the pilot claimed that he thought the entire encounter lasted much longer than that.

5. Energy Vortexes

Some believe that the Alaska Triangle is located in vile vortices, which means that it has extreme electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic anomalies in addition to energy vortexes, which are electromagnetic currents. One great example of vile vortices is the Bermuda Triangle. However, several other places on the planet are also said to have it, such as the Hamakulia Volcano in Hawaii, the “Devil’s Sea” in Japan, and the north and south poles. Other famous destinations that are said to lie on vortexes are Easter Island, Stonehenge, and the Pyramids of Egypt. In fact, some people believe that the reason why these monuments were built in the first place was because they are located on a vortex.

Energy vortexes are said to cause different effects on people’s bodies, such as affecting their mental, physical, and emotional health, as well as causing hallucinations and visions, confusion, and disorientation. In addition, these people have even showed signs of healing powers. And sometimes electrical instruments can malfunction, such as compasses.

Another belief is that vortexes can open doorways to the spiritual world or another realm which could possibly explain why so many people disappear in those regions.

4. Vast Wilderness

The state of Alaska has huge amounts of wilderness. The rigid landscape includes hazardous terrain and dangerous wild animals, in addition to the harsh weather. It is also home to approximately a hundred active volcanoes. Needless to say, it’s dangerous to camp or hike there since it’s very easy to get lost in the wilderness with the added threat of the dangerous animals that lurk in the forests. Surviving the Alaskan wilderness isn’t easy and unfortunately for those who get lost, getting found is next to impossible. The search and rescue teams have a very difficult time locating people with the complications from the vast wilderness, inaccessible locations on the mountains, and unpredictable weather. For example, some areas can get as low as -40 degrees in the winter.

Perhaps this makes the most sense of all the theories; however, the majority of the disappearances are located inside of the Alaska Triangle, so that’s yet another unanswered question.

3. Astonishing Numbers Of Missing People

Alaska has more missing person reports each year than anywhere else in the United States. In fact, it’s twice the number of the national average. What’s even more eerie is that this state also has the largest number of missing people who are never found again.

For example, in 2007, there were 2,833 people who were reported missing in Alaska. And at that time, the entire state only had an overall population of approximately 670,000 people. That averaged out to a frightening statistic of 4 people in every 1,000 who went missing. That’s an incredibly high number of disappearances considering the relatively low number of people living in the state. For comparison, just the city of San Francisco alone has a higher population than the entire state of Alaska.

2. The Vanishing Plane of 1972

One of the most famous disappearances in the Alaska Triangle happened in October 1972 when a plane vanished while carrying two very important politicians – the House Majority Leader Hale Boggs and Representative Nick Begich. Aboard the plane was also an aide named Russell Brown, as well as their pilot Don Jonz. The airplane, described as a Cessna 310 aircraft, disappeared while flying from Anchorage to Juneau.

After their plane went missing, there was a huge search for them which lasted 39 days and included more than 400 aircraft and numerous boats, with help from the Coast Guard. But even after all of that searching, there were no signs of the missing plane or the passengers. There was a conspiracy theory circulating for a while claiming that the crash was intentional and it was covered up by the FBI, specifically J. Edgar Hoover, who was said to be involved in a power struggle with Hale Boggs.

1. It’s Still A Popular Tourist Attraction

Despite the endless reports of people disappearing in Alaska, that’s obviously not a worry for travelers because according to reports the tourism industry is at an all time high. The state has become a very popular tourist destination and while the visitor sector has continued to grow in the past several years, it is predicted to grow another six percent this year in 2018.

In conclusion, it’s safe to say that the Alaska Triangle is a very mysterious area with a staggering number of people, boats, and planes that have gone missing throughout the years, never to be seen again. While there are many theories as to what the causes these disappearances, from mythical creatures such as a half-man-half-otter creature, to Bigfoot, to even UFOs and aliens, there may also be a natural explanation such as a vortex. No matter what you believe, the Alaska Triangle is definitely one of the greatest unsolved mysteries to this very day and many people continue to visit this beautiful state, which is riddled with unanswered questions and secrets.


The Alaska Triangle –

WIF Did You Know?

Caves and Water Beware! – WIF Geography

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Unearthly

Underwater

Cave Systems

Tourist Traps

Underwater caves are alluring, fascinating, and also a no-go zone for most explorers. While the subterranean zones known as caves capture our imagination, those that are underwater go a step further and significantly raise the danger factor. Not just flooded tunnels or inundated sea caves, many underwater cave systems extend for hundreds of miles, emerging in the middle of rain forest surrounded by land, but connecting to distant waterways. In this account, we discover the most spectacular and sometimes deadly subterranean aquascapes our world conceals.

10. Sac Actun Cave System

Mexico is known to harbor some of the most remarkable ruins, beaches and forests on the planet, but it is also a land of truly monumental Cuevas submarinas, underwater caves. Underwater cave systems in Mexico include watery labyrinths so large and extensive that they have yet to be fully explored. In one dramatic case, two cave systems were found to be an enourmous single system when a connetion was discovered.

Determined to be the largest cave system on the planet, the Sac Actun Cave System was discovered to be one giant cave system totaling 215 miles in passageway lengths when connections between a smaller existing cave system, the Dos Ojos and the larger Sac Actun system were discovered. The cave system known as a cenote is filled with large quantities of fresh water that flow and rise to the surface like a strange river below the surface. Such a vast and complex cave must be explored with extreme caution due to the difficulty in finding one’s way back to the entrance if disoriented.

9. Boesmansgat Sinkhole

One of the creepiest and most deadly underwater caves on Earth, a sinkhole in Africa turns a rugged farm landscape into a rather unexpected and out of place portal to a watery hell. Vertical in shape, about 889 feet deep and 328 feet across, the potentially lethal Boesmansgat Sinkhole is a greenish, eerie water filled cave that plunges straight down into the depths of eroded and dissolved dolomite rocks. Nested amongst craggy rocks, the entrance to the cave would appear just to be an awkwardly placed farm pond, but its moderate size holds horrific secrets.

Located on a farm in South Africa, the watery pit is often completely engulfed in pond plants, making its surface appear an alien green. The rocky sides of the sinkhole rise as cliffs well above the water line, standing out amongst the surrounding vegetation. And are some of the nutrients to grow the floating pod plants and algae provided by bodies remaining in the water? Possibly. Unfortunately, a number of grisly deaths have occurred as divers, some of them recognized as experts in the field, failed to return from the impossibly deep, stagnant water filled pit.

8. Ordinskaya Cave

Russia may be known as a land of taiga, icy roads and tundra, but the country is diverse and contains some remarkable underwater subterranean assets. And one of the most famous is characterized by not only crystal clear water, but actual crystal composition consisting of gypsum, together with an incredible underground extent. Located in Russia close to the Kungur River in the Perm region, Ordinskaya Cave is a popular cave diving destination and an All-Russia National Monument.

Stretching for over 3 miles, the mysterious, cold and dark cave is the most significant gypsum cave under the Earth, where water combines with tunnels of the Calcium Sulfate Di-hydrate crystals known as gypsum. In this cave, the waters are clear to the point where explorers can see up to 150 feet ahead. Enlarged by the eroding action of the water, the soft gypsum is fragile but mysterious and extraordinarily dramatic in appearance. Eroded chunks in crystalline shapes form blocks, pyramids and spires, coupled with the cold water, which may reach minus 9 degrees Fahrenheit at water depths of over 50 feet.

7. Bahamas Caves

The Bahamas may be seen as an idyllic getaway destination, but the Bahamas Caves actually represent one of the most dangerous submerged cave networks on the planet. Filled with sharp hazards, dark and disorienting and contaminated with toxic natural chemical deposits, the site demands great care. Sharp mineral deposits could deliver a puncturing injury, while hydrogen sulfide accumulations require a wary approach. Known as inland blue holes, the Bahamas Caves are hydro-geologically connected to the ocean.

Yet, tidal flow is sharply reduced, causing saltwater in the cave to be covered with a thin layer of freshwater. Tropical environments, combined with a lack of air circulation, accumulation of organic material and a highly limited level of water inflow and outflow creates the “perfect storm” of underwater, subterranean biochemical noxious hazards. In this stagnant and oxygen deprived environment, anaerobic activity causes the proliferation of bacteria. And these bacteria release the hydrogen sulfide that frequently sickens explorers of the caves and could kill a diver. Symptoms of disorientation from even moderate levels of exposure certainly go a long way to increasing the risk of getting lost in the underwater passages and drowning.

6. Plura

Norway is known for its breathtaking fjords, but a deadly, dramatic and strange underwater cave and waterway system that is lesser known but cold and convoluted also presents great intrigue in this Nordic country. In the centrally located Plurdalen Valley, a bizarre pond is located, known as the Plura. But it is actually not a normal pond, but the sudden exit of an underwater river. Diving into the pool takes you into a 1,640 foot passage that exits into a long cave with a water floor and airy ceiling.

After this point, a passage known as a sump, which is also considered to be the deepest sump cave on the planet appears in the cave, descending in a sharp U-shape until it is 443 feet below the surface. The sump rises up into Steinugleflaget cave, and then above Steinugleflaget, an exit is located in a cracked hillside 295 feet above the cave. Unfortunately, deaths have occurred due to the treacherous nature of the cold and lonely passages. In one case, a death sparked a highly dangerous yet ultimately successful body recovery effort in the most challenging sections of the cave system.

5. Eagle’s Nest Spring

Florida is a land known for the Everglades, but the area contains much more than swampy surrounds stocked with prowling alligators. Florida is also a land that conceals water filled tunnels, naturally occurring and snaking their way below the surface of the Earth. Located in Florida, the caves of Eagle’s Nest Spring descend around 300 feet below the Earth’s surface, twisting into scarily narrow and dark passageways entirely filled with water. Despite its appeal, the exotic cave system has claimed lives due to its treacherous nature that still appeals to intrepid explorers willing to take the ultimate risk.

Since 1981, the snakelike maze that defines the layout of the underwater cave system of Eagle’s Nest has taken 10 lives to a watery grave. The sinkhole derived cave system has the shape of a kitchen sink pipe, descending down and up in a U-pattern. Alluring, the underwater cave system is concealed at its entrance by a deceptively normal looking pond, surrounded by dreamy looking trees, and a water body through which the cave must be accessed. However, the ability of the cave to disorient and entrap makes it a genuinely risky adventure, even to experienced divers.

4. Grotto Azzurra

While many of the most notorious caves described in this account are dungeon-like and known to be potential death traps, certain caves are less akin to demonic legends and more strongly associated with angelic accounts of folklore. An iconic sea cave, the Grotto Azzurra of Italy in the Capri area is beautiful, almost perfectly hidden yet absolutely spectacular once accessed.

The Grotto Azzurra is entered through a mere 3.2 foot entrance that is reached directly from the sea. Upon entry, the cave extends with an arcing roof and spectacular blue water, giving the cavern the appealing name. So spectacular is this location, which remained known to local fisherman but unknown to the rest of the world for centuries, that it served as a shrine to a sea nymph in Roman times. The cave system has been formed through focusing of the forces of erosion over time, giving rise to a mysterious yet iconic form that mixes the subterranean with the oceanic in its composition.

3. Chaudanne Spring Cave

Switzerland might be most famous for its towering mountains, but it is also a land of subterranean lakes and underwater cave systems. In Switzerland, a cave system plunges far below the ground into portions of the Earth’s crust in a lesser known valley. Located in the “Vaudoise” Alps, the Chaudanne Spring Cave is located close to the town of Rossinière and was first explored in 1960. The depth of the system has so far been measured to a depth of 525 feet.

Known to be the deepest cave in the entire country of Switzerland, the spring-fed waters of the cave conceal mysterious passageways that have been explored in some daring attempts making use of rather makeshift means. Homemade equipment was used by pioneering explorers, including Michael Walz, to dive to 160 meters in 2006, while an exploration group dedicated to further mapping and documentation of the cave is active and well organized to plumb new depths as the exploration of the system advances.

2. Caves of Nanumanga

Polynesia is not only a place of islands, but a location where noteworthy underwater cave systems exist to capture the imagination of explorers. Among the most mysterious caves on Earth are underwater labyrinths that combine history and Earth science into a mysterious fusion of archaeological intrigue with and ancient geological events defined by more than a small degree of oddity. Descending 121 and 151 feet below sea level, the Caves of Nanumanga are remote underwater caves located in Nanumanga in Tuvalu, western Polynesia.

While newly known, the history of the caves is some of the most ancient and puzzling. Recently discovered by divers exploring the area in which they are located in the year 1986, the caves may have been used by ancient inhabitants at a different time, as indicated by what looked like burn marks. While exceedingly unusual as an underwater discovery, the burn marks from ancient combustion in what are now submerged geological formations clearly indicate dramatic events, such as apparent sea level changes that now leaves the caves below the surface.

1. Daxing Spring

Karst is not unique to Germany, though the limestone forms of spectacular height and oddity define the Karst region, China is a world center of excellence when it comes to stunning Karst environments. Located in Du’an county, Guanxi Province, People’s Republic of China, the caves of Daxing Spring are formed out of the subterranean portions of the spectacular and exceptionally exotic Karst landscapes of eroded limestone that constitute the unusual geography of the region.

Amongst the eroded and pitted structures are caves descending under the Earth, many of them carved and expanded by flowing water. Water movement erodes limestone by pressure but also dissolves limestone chemically, increasing the size, length and depth of cave systems over time. Due to the amount of water in the porous subterranean landscapes, many of the caves are flooded, forming aquatic tunnels that can only be reached by divers. Diving in this spectacular, but potentially hazardous and geologically complex area requires careful safety measures include ample decompression due to the depths of the winding and watery cave system.


Caves and Water Beware! –

WIF Geography

Christopher Columbus Bio – WIF Confidential

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Fascinating

Facts About

Christopher Columbus

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

 The elementary school lyrics were the first exposure most students had to the Italian explorer. The line would prove to be some of the only truth told to students about Christopher Columbus and the nature of his explorations into the New World. Was he out to prove that the world wasn’t flat? Was he, in fact, the first man to discover the New World? And how exactly does one discover a place that has millions of inhabitants? Sit back and let the TopTenz team give you the 10 facts about Christopher Columbus that you may not know…

10. Did He Care if the Earth was Flat?

Do you remember being in elementary school and your teacher telling you that Columbus was out to prove the Earth wasn’t flat? We do. For many schools around the United States, teachers used the Flat Earth theory to engage students about the heroic expeditions of Columbus. However, the idea that Columbus was out to prove the Earth was round is just a myth.

Yes, for a period, human beings believed that the world was flat; however, ancient philosophers like Pythagoras came to understand that the world was round in the 6th century BC. You might remember Pythagoras from the Pythagorean theorem… or don’t remember him or geometry much at all. Nonetheless his work, authenticated by Aristotle centuries later, made it very clear that the world was, in fact, round.

What is true is that Columbus underestimated the circumference of the Earth, thinking that Europe was much wider than it was and that Japan was farther from the coast of Asia than it actually was. As a result, Columbus had the false belief that he could reach Asia by going West – a massive miscalculation that led to his discovery of a “New World.”

9. He Struggled Finding Funding for his Voyage

The more one learns about Christopher Columbus, the more his presence in the annals of history seems like a massive insult to the great explorers and thinkers of earlier periods. However, he was persistent. Columbus lobbied European Monarchs and was denied, lobbied, and was denied. That process continued for nearly a decade, with advisers to the Kings and Queens of Europe remarking that Columbus’s math was not just wrong, but embarrassingly wrong. However, Columbus remained steadfast in his beliefs and he was rewarded.

Finally, with the Spanish wars against the Moors coming to an end, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella agreed to finance the voyage. Columbus would sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships… which we know by now he commanded with misguided maps and calculations. Who could have guessed that this man would make a discovery that would reshape the world?

8. He Wrecked his Ship

The Santa María was the largest of the three ships that embarked on Columbus’s voyage to… ahem, ‘Asia’. And even then, records show that the Santa María was not a particularly large ship, comparable today to a cruising yacht. The Santa María was only about 100 tons with a single deck and three small masts. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean proved fine for Columbus and his men, but the return journey was where tragedy struck.

As children, we probably all asked our parents to hold the steering wheel. How hard could it be? We’d beg and plead and almost always be met with a resounding “No!” That wasn’t the case on the Santa Maria. On the Christmas Eve, 1492, a cabin boy took the wheel and crashed into a coral reef on the northern coast of Hispaniola, close to present day Haitien, Haiti. After two sleepless nights, Columbus had decided to sleep and the crew followed, thinking that the calm night could bring no trouble. They couldn’t have been more mistaken.

Christmas was spent salvaging the remaining cargo, leaving Columbus to return to Spain aboard the Nina. Before leaving, Columbus instructed the crew to build a settlement on the remains of the ship which, they named “La Navidad.” Nearly 40 crew members were left behind at La Navidad, the first European settlement in the New World.

In the fall of 1493, Columbus returned to the settlement and found that none of the crew were alive, describing the La Navidad settlement as being “ burned to the ground.”

7. He Returned to Spain in Shackles

Unfazed by the destruction of his former crew members’ settlement, Columbus decided to rebuild the settlement in a different location. Promising riches to crown and crew member alike, Columbus and his brothers would rule the new settlement with savage cruelty. Believing the island had  great quantities of gold, Columbus forced the native workers into slavery, exploring and mining for gold and rebuilding the settlement. Failure to comply was met with death or the chopping off of limbs.

Convinced that he had found the outer islands of China, Columbus left the encampment for Spain. On his return, he would find the settlement in disarray. Colonists had become embittered with the management of Columbus’s brothers – with some Spanish colonists even being executed at the gallows. The lack of gold and riches also led to many believing that they had been lied to. As a result, colonists complained to the monarchy and a royal commissioner dispatched to the new colony arrested Columbus and brought him back to Spain in chains.The arrest would not hamper Columbus’s explorations, as he would not only be granted his freedom, but also the finances for a fourth voyage.

6. An Eclipse was his Savior

If finding uncharted territory by accident wasn’t enough for you, Columbus would be the beneficiary of even more good fortune while stranded in Jamaica.

 On his fourth and final journey, Columbus promised King Ferdinand the gold that he had so far been unable to fully deliver. In 1502, Columbus set sail, traveling along the eastern coast of Central America – again believing that he was close to find a route to the Indian Ocean. That, he would not find. What he would find was devastating winds; gusts that would wreck one of his ships. Columbus and his men became stranded on the island of Jamaica, where the men’s demands of gold would irritate the natives and lead to their refusal to feed Columbus and his men. Left with little options, Columbus consulted his almanac, realizing that an eclipse was on the horizon. He sought out the natives’ chief and warned him that his God was angry at the lack of food provided for him and his men. He told the natives that a sign would soon come that displayed his God’s anger.

On February 29, 1504, an eclipse would terrify the native population into providing food and trading with Columbus and his party. Months later a rescue party would arrive and Columbus and his men were taken back to Spain.

5. First to Discover New World?

It seems that our Genoese explorer has gotten more credit than he is due. Researchers have confirmed that Christopher Columbus was not the first man to lead a voyage to the Americas. That distinction goes to a Viking, by the name of Leif Erikson.

The exact date is unknown, but scholars put Erikson’s voyage around the year 1000 AD. Son of Erik the Red, Leif Erikson sailed to what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland, but didn’t settle in the area deemed “Vinland.” After staying for a few years, Erikson and his party returned to Greenland, where he described his travels. Proof of the voyage was uncovered by Norwegian Helge Instad and Anne Stine Instad, who found an ancient Norse settlement.

Less plausible theories suppose that an Irish Monk in the 6th century was the first to discover the Americas in a wood-framed boat covered in animal skin. Another theory holds that in the 15th century, Zheng He, a fleet Admiral who had explored Southeast Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, and the East Coast of Africa had also visited the Americas 71 years before Columbus. The best piece of evidence for this claim was the discovery of an old Chinese map that displays an understanding of the world that predates European knowledge of the Americas. Since the map has been revealed, scholars have questioned its authenticity while others remain convinced that Zheng He did, in fact, explore the “New World” before Columbus. It’s not hard to imagine that in some schools in Far East Asia, it was Zhen He “who sailed the ocean blue.”

4. His Adventures After Death

Although we have questioned his mental acumen, what cannot be questioned is Columbus’s adventurousness in his pursuits and explorations. Those qualities would seem to continue into death, as the deceased bodies of Columbus and his son, Diego, were shipped across the Atlantic to Hispaniola (on the request of his daughter-in-law). They were to be interred in a Santo Domingo cathedral.

Nearly 200 years later, when the French captured the island, the Spanish dug up the bodies of both Columbus and his son and shipped them to Seville via Cuba. Upon further examination, a box with human remains and Columbus’s name was discovered at his original resting place in Santo Domingo in 1877. The finding led to the DNA testing of the remains in Seville, which confirmed that some of the remains were those of Columbus. What are we to make of the box in Santo Domingo bearing Columbus’s name, containing human remains? The Dominican Republic has refused to let their findings be tested, so it is entirely possible that parts of Columbus are spread across the Old and New World.

3. Columbus – Slave Trader

“Only a few hundred were left.” That’s all that remained of the Taino population 60 years after first contact with Columbus. Conservative estimates hold that more than 250,000 inhabited the Dominican Republic before his arrival. It’s a startling figure to consider when contemplating the impact of Columbus on the native populations of the New World.

On Columbus’s first trip, he ordered six of the natives to be seized, stating in his journal that he believed they would be good servants. Other accounts depict Columbus and his men riding on the backs of natives like they were horses. Unable to find large quantities of gold, Columbus enslaved many of the native population, brutalizing them in his quest for the riches of the island. Any form of rebellion led to massive bloodshed – with Columbus even ordering their dismembered bodies to be paraded through the streets. Ultimately, it was the disease brought on by the Spanish that killed off most of the population. However, the Taino people live on in their language: Words like “canoe, hammock,  barbeque, and hurricane” have their origins in the Arawak tribe’s tongue.

2. Columbus was Very Religious

Despite his cruel and inhumane acts, Columbus was a fervent Christian. He believed that his voyages were God’s will, and consequently he would go on to name many of the lands he “discovered” biblical names.

The voyages across the Atlantic were not without biblical influence, as Columbus made sure the crew observed religious rites. Every time they turned the half-hour glass, they exclaimed “blessed be the hour of our Savior’s birth/blessed by the Virgin Mary who bore him/and blessed by John who baptized him.” It is also alleged that despite the crude manner of ship life, Columbus never cursed.

His religious feeling were so strong that upon landing on the American mainland and seeing four rivers flowing from the landmass, he was convinced that he had encountered the Garden of Eden.

1. Columbus Brought Syphilis to the New World

Recent reports have come to suggest that Columbus had an even greater impact on world history than we’ve given him credit for. According to skeletal evidence, Columbus and his crew not only introduced the Old World to the New World, but to syphilis as well. It appears that like Vegas, what happens in the New World will stay in the New World… except for venereal disease.

The sexual nature of the syphilis epidemic made it especially contentious in finding its origins.The first known epidemic of syphilis took place in the Renaissance era (1490s). One of the most notable initial cases was its infection of the army of Charles the VIII after he invaded Naples. The disease would go on to devastate Europe, resulting in 5 million deaths.

While still just a widely held theory, scientists believe they were able to prove the disease’s origin by comparing 26 strains of treponemes from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. The results were that the “strains that caused the sexually transmitted disease originated recently, with their closest relatives being germs collected in South America. In other words, it seems to have come from the New World.”


Christopher Columbus Bio

– WIF Confidential