Easy Easter Tidbits – WIF Holidays

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 Easter  is

More Interesting

Than Just

Chocolate

As holidays go, Easter is a strange one. We’re here today to look at Easter’s origins, and how it’s celebrated around the world. Just make sure to keep some chocolate on standby in case of cravings.

10. The Name

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We know that Christmas is a combination of “Christ” and “Mass,” and we also know that Halloween comes from “All hallow-even.” But where does Easter come from?

By far the most prolific explanation comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility known as Eostre. The goddess had 10 variants of her name, including Ostara, Eostur and Austron — which made adding her as a contact on your phone a nightmare — but it’s agreed that the root of her name comes from “eastre,” meaning “spring.” This was adopted and used as a Christian celebration. Despite the fact that this is one of the top explanations, there’s a lot of debate over whether Eostre was even an actual goddess worshipped by people. You know, just to confuse you further.

9. The Rabbit

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Out of all the animals to be designated as the one who delivers chocolate eggs, why a rabbit? The tradition definitely has a back story, but which story you get depends on who you ask. There have been several claims for the origin of the iconic rabbit, and they span different religions and traditions.

One theory states that the Easter Bunny originated from our friend Eostre. The story goes that, once upon a time, Eostre stumbled upon a bird dying from the cold in the snow. She turned the bird into a hare, so that its fluffy coat kept it warm and safe. Because it was once a bird, it still laid eggs, so the rabbit decorated them and left them as gifts to Eostre for saving its life. This is also an explanation for the Easter egg hunt — looking for the eggs that the bird-rabbit hid. Although stealing gifts from a goddess is probably not the best idea.

Another story states that the Easter Bunny came about because, once upon a time, people believed that rabbits were hermaphrodites, making them able to give birth without losing their virginity. This has strong ties to the virgin birth of Jesus from Mary, so people began to relate rabbits to them. Some churches even sport a three hare motif, consisting of three hares connected by their ears running in a circle, a potential symbol of the Holy Trinity. However, these have been found all over the world, and their true meaning is unknown.

A third story points a finger to the first record of the Easter Rabbit in De ovis paschalibus, a German book that translates to About the Easter Egg. It states that the tradition had existed in the Christian-dominated Alsace, carried over to America with German immigrants in the 1700s, and sparked the annual chocolate gluttony ever since. There’s been no historic record yet that says people waited a day later to get eggs much cheaper, though.

8. Semana Santa

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Now that we’ve tackled the myths and legends behind Easter, we can look at the events that take place around the world leading up to, and on, the holy day. One is Semana Santa, held within cities across Spain.

Semana Santa means Holy Week, the period leading up to Easter Sunday. In it, all shops and stores except restaurants close, and the entire city is transformed.55 different churches take part in the festival, parading large floats that resemble Jesus in some way. The floats make their way from their church of origin to the cathedral, and then back again. While a sombre celebration, it’s one that draws tourists from all over the world to see its magnificence.

7. The Epitáphios Threnos

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The Epitáphios Threnos is a tradition in Greek Orthodox religions that’s held on Good Friday. It means Lamentation at the Tomb, and is in essence a funeral service to respect the death of Jesus by re-enacting the way he was buried after his crucifixion. The Epitáphios Threnos takes place in churches, where an epitaphios is placed atop something representing the tomb of Christ. The epitaphios is a highly-adorned piece of cloth that represents the shroud Jesus was wrapped in. The tomb is decorated with flower petals and rosewater before hymns are spoken. Interactions with this tomb vary depending on tradition — some will hold it over the church entrance so that believers pass under it, a symbol of entering the grave alongside Christ.

6. Easter Ham

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A prolific theory behind the Easter ham resides in Christianity. The story states that a wicked queen named Ishtar gave birth to a son called Tammuz. This son would become a hunter, but his career was cut short when he was killed by a wild pig. Presumably out of spite, and maybe with a love for bacon mixed in, Ishtar designated a Sunday on which people consumed pig.

Another theory states that, while lamb was usually the go-to dish for its symbolism with Passover, ham would be used because pigs were considered a symbol of good luck. Killing and eating symbols of good luck seems to be a bad idea, but at least it got ham on the table.

Another source gives a more practical approach. Before the invention of refrigeration, pigs were slaughtered in the fall and preserved during winter. Should some of the meat not be consumed during the winter months, it would be cured so it could be eaten during springtime. When did the curing finish?Around Easter, making it an ideal dish for the season. It’s a less exciting origin, but it makes good sense.

5. Maundy Money

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In the United Kingdom, a select few people are given money the day before Good Friday. These coins, known as Maundy Money, have a long history. It began when Jesus gave the command “that ye love one another” after he washed the feet of his disciples, who probably felt they could get used to that sort of treatment. This became a fourth century tradition where the poor have their feet washed and are given clothes. This stopped around the eighteenth century, and was replaced by an allowance to give the poor the chance to buy food and clothing. Thus was born the Maundy Money.

Today, a selection of elders receive a red and white purse. The red one contains legal currency, while the white one contains special symbolic Maundy coins. These people are selected by the amount of Christian service they have performed, so if you see some senior citizens suddenly taking a great interest in the church and goodwill approaching Easter, now you know why.

4. Pysanka Eggs

Mixed Eggs

Painting eggs on Easter is always fun. But it doesn’t have to be child’s play — the Ukrainian Easter tradition of Pysanka eggs are a craft all by themselves. These highly-decorated eggs have been made during Holy Week for generations. Even when Easter is nowhere near, people can’t resist making them. While people once made eggs to ensure fertility and avoid fires and nasty spirits, today they take to the art form for the aesthetic allure.

How do Pysanka eggs differ from regular ones? The preparation, mostly. After designing a pattern on an uncooked or empty egg, it’s then dipped in a colored dye. Between the dyeing stages, the craftsman draws patterns on the egg with wax, so as to seal the color currently on the egg and create the intricate patterns you see on the final product. In short, if the rabbits you paint on Easter eggs end up looking like the one out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, perhaps consider purchasing Pysanka eggs instead.

3. Haux Omelets

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After a busy Easter, it’s easy to imagine that people are sick to death of anything based around eggs. It would be a good idea for them to stay away from Haux in France, whose Easter traditions are just dying to have egg-based puns written about them. Every year on Easter Monday, the residents create a large omelet. This isn’t the kind of large omelet you get when you drop a box of eggs on the floor — it’s not unheard of for the final result to come in at three yards wide to feed 1,000 people. One year’s omelet saw 5,211 eggs, 21 quarts of oil, and 110 pounds of bacon, onion and garlic, which sure beats what you get at Denny’s. You could even call it eggstreme, if you wanted us to come over there and smack you.

2. Passion Plays

Vilagers take part in an Easter Passion Play re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at Gantang Village near Magelang, in the province of Central Java

One of the longest running traditions of Easter is the Passion Play. Because a lot of people in medieval times couldn’t read, plays were a great way to educate the masses about the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There are passion plays held all over the world, but one of the most famous is the Oberammergau Passion Play. Its roots began during the black plague, when the residents of Oberammergau were on high alert to keep the disease out. A farmer coming home from a nearby village brought the plague back with him, which killed one-fifth of the town. With the disease ravaging the town, the elders declared that the church would hold a passion play every 10 years in exchange for God’s blessing and protection (you’d think they’d try every 10 days considering the circumstances, but whatever). The play has been performed every 10 years since 1633, with only a ban in 1770, World War I, and World War II stopping three shows. Thankfully, no outbreaks of plague happened on those years.

1. The Britannia Coco-Nut Dancers

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If you’re discussing what you do on Easter with a friend, and they reveal that what they love most about it is the part where people with blackened faces perform a folk dance down the streets, you may have just met someone from Bacup, England. Every Easter, The Britannia Coco-Nut Dancers, or Nutters, perform a folk dance from one town boundary to the other. What makes these dancers unique is their blackened faces, but no one is sure of their origins. It might be from medieval times to hide the faces of those who participated to stop evil spirits from getting their revenge, or it may have ties to the mining industry. Either way, the custom has come under fire for its potential racist nature, with the Nutters swearing that the blackened faces have no racial aspect whatsoever. Like every dispute around Easter, we hope this one can be solved with chocolate.


Easy Easter Tidbits

WIF Holidays

Strange Lake Guide Handbook – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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Strange Lakes

From Around

the World

Image result for lake painting

Mallards Lake by Doug Kreuger

10. Gafsa Lake, Tunisia

Pretty early on in life, most of us learn that things don’t just appear from nowhere. Apparently, Gafsa Lake in Tunisia never got the memo. One day in 2014, a group of Tunisian shepherds were making their way to a familiar patch of land. Imagine their surprise when they got there and found a giant freaking lake where their meadow used to be. A lake that just happened to be the most-inviting shade of azure.

 Gafsa is an area that has seen lots of mining in its past, much of it unregulated. Scientists think that some rupture in the rock above the water table resulted in the sudden appearance of Lake Gafsa, as below-ground water was sucked up onto the surface. Whatever the cause, it happened quickly. One local resident said he’d passed the remote area only three weeks beforehand and it had been dry as a bone.

Although Gafsa Lake started out a cool, inviting blue, it quickly became full of algae, and possibly toxic to humans. Not that that stopped locals from bathing in it. In the heat of Tunisia, even a lake full of green sludge is better than no lake at all.

9. Roopkund Lake, India

There are certain things you never want to find in any body of water. Piranhas is one. The decaying remains of hundreds of humans who’ve died a terrifying death is another. Yet that’s exactly what British troops found in Roopkund Lake in the winter of 1942.

It being wartime and all, the Brits naturally assumed that they were at the scene of a Japanese massacre. The truth was far, far stranger. When the bones were examined, it turned out that they all dated to around 850 AD. On top of that, they’d all been killed in a similar way: with a blow to the head that cracked their skulls. The injury matched no known weapon. So what could have caused 200 people to die in this way? The eventual answer scientists came up with was hailstones. Really, really big hailstones.

 There’s an old song from the region around Roopkund, about a mountain goddess who smote a bunch of travelers with a titanic hailstorm. It’s now thought this is a folk memory of a real event, and a freak hailstorm that dropped baseball-sized chunks of solid ice killed all 200 pilgrims in the valley when they couldn’t reach shelter. Over time, the valley filled with water, eventually becoming the skeleton-haunted Roopkund Lake.

8. Lake Nyos, Cameroon

Picture the scene. You arrive home from a weekend away, to find your neighborhood full of corpses. Bodies lie in the streets, an expression of fright etched on their dead faces. You wonder what could have killed all these people. Was it a terrorist attack? A virus? The answer could be even weirder. They could’ve been killed by a nearby lake.

In 1986, this is exactly what happened in Cameroon. As locals lay in bed, Lake Nyos quietly released a gigantic bubble of CO2, like the Earth was exhaling. The effect was immediate and horrific. A cloud of deadly gas settled over the region, suffocating anyone in its path. Up to 25 kilometers away, people and animals suddenly fell to the ground, coughing and gasping for air. Flames extinguished. Children died in seconds. Within minutes, 1,746 people and 3,500 animals had died. Entire villages had been wiped out. It remains one of the world’s weirdest natural disasters.

That it happened at all is down to sheer bad luck. Lake Nyos was formed from a CO2 rich volcanic crater. While similar crater lakes usually released small doses of CO2 over a long period of time, Nyos was so freakishly still that the gas became trapped. It wasn’t until something – a landslide, a heavy rainstorm on one side of the lake – agitated the water that its deadly payload was released, ending nearly two thousand lives.

 7. Lake Peigneur, Louisiana

Unlike Lake Nyos, we know for certain what caused the freakish Lake Peigneur disaster. Texaco were drilling for oil when they accidentally punctured the roof of a mineshaft below the lake. Not that knowing the cause makes what happened next any less bizarre or terrifying.

The collapse of the mineshaft created a whirlpool. A whirlpool that became a powerful vortex. A vortex that grew and grew until it became the biggest, scariest sinkhole in human history.

The entire lake was sucked down into a swirling mess of mud and terror. The drilling platform was pulled in. 11 barges on the lake at the time went under. Landslides started, bringing surrounding forest and countryside tumbling down into the sinkhole. The canal flowing out the lake actually reversed, pulling the Gulf of Mexico up into the former-lake. Imagine pulling the plug out your bathtub and having not only your entire house, but half your neighborhood go swirling down the drain. That was Lake Peigneur.

Incredibly, this muddy vortex of horror didn’t kill a single human being. 50-odd people all managed separate, miraculous escapes from what should have been certain death.

6. Baotou Toxic Lake, Inner Mongolia

The lake at Baotou, China, is so new that it doesn’t have a real name. Instead, reports simply refer to it as the ‘Baotou toxic lake’. That the word ‘toxic’ is in its title should be telling enough. Baotou is a manmade lake, created by the mining and refining processes that give us the minerals to power our shiny iPhones. As such, it is one of the most-polluted lakes anywhere on Earth.

Coming face-to-face with it is like stepping into a dystopian nightmare. The surface is almost entirely black, a giant swathe of sludge that’s unremittingly bleak. Nothing can grow here. The shores are all dyed as black as the lake itself. The result is a nightmarish, monochrome world. A place that’s as surreal to set eyes on as it is horrifying.

Perhaps the strangest part of the Baotou Lake is why it exists. Most modern technologies use specific minerals in their running, such as cerium, which gives us touchscreens on our phones. Many of these minerals are also used in ‘green’ technologies, like wind turbines. Minerals for such technologies are one of Baotou city’s biggest exports. That’s right: Perhaps the most-polluted lake on Earth was created thanks to our love of eco-friendly tech.

5. Lake Natron, Tanzania

It sounds like something out of a fairy tale, or maybe some haunting Disney story. A lake that magically turns anything that touches its surface into a frozen statue. Yet Lake Natron in Tanzania is far from being fictional. Hidden deep in east Africa, it is surrounded by the creepy stone statues of animals that strayed too close to its deadly waters.

Of course, Lake Natron isn’t magical, or cursed, or anything like that. Instead, its waters are filled with natron, a naturally-occurring compound that contains a lot of sodium carbonate, and a bit of sodium bicarbonate. They’re also dangerously hot and have an alkalinity of around pH 10. The result is that anything that tries to drink from the lake usually dies, quickly, and gets immersed in the waters. The natron then does its thing, calcifying the bodies and essentially turning them into stone.

For visitors, it represents a spectacularly horrible sight. All around the lake are dead statues, often of birds that died when attempting to land on the water’s surface. As a result, visiting is like walking through the most-gruesome department store in history, one where all the mannequins used to be living things.

4. Kawah Ijen Crater Lake Java, Indonesia

At first sight, Kawah Ijen Crater Lake in Indonesia looks almost inviting; the kind of lake you’d like to take home to meet your folks. But this sky-blue lake at the top of a volcano has a fiery underbelly… literally. The whole thing is so full of sulphur that it periodically bursts into neon-blue flames that are both hypnotic to look at, and so deadly that even getting close can cause you to keel over and die from inhaled fumes.

 While the shores of the lake burn and rage, the lake itself is basically one great big bath full of hydrochloric acid. Remember the chemical vat Michael Keaton’s Batman knocked Jack Nicholson’s Joker into, like, three Bat-decades ago? Well, that’s Kawah Ijen Crater Lake. The thing’s got a pH of 0, and could melt anything you chuck in it as quickly as a pool of car battery acid. Speaking of acid, the air around the lake is so full of the stuff that its almost essential to wear a gasmask while visiting. Unless you want your lungs to resemble those of a lifelong, six pack-a-day smoker, that is.

The craziest part of this weirdo lake? Some people actually choose to work here, dodging streams of flickering blue fire to mine chunks of Sulphur from the volcano itself.

3. Pitch Lake, Trinidad

Pitch Lake may have the most-apt name of any lake on Earth. It is a lake made entirely from pitch asphalt, the same stuff we use to surface roads and so-on. You better believe the result is weird. Pitch Lake is so thick in places that you can walk across it… and so dangerously-thin in others that you can slip through its surface, vanishing forever into the murky depths below.

 The lake’s surface ranges in texture from being as thick and solid as rock, to as springy as an eraser, to as squidgy and terrifying as quicksand. Trees, boulders and other bits and pieces that fall into its embrace often get stuck to the surface, where the pitch hardens around them, effectively turning them into stone. This means Pitch Lake is a lake that you walk across while surrounded with the statues of dead trees and other lifeforms. We’re betting that’s not a sentence you hear very often.

Word to the wise if you’re planning a visit: While some tourists brave the lake’s clearer waters for a swim, this is about as dangerous as the idea of swimming in pitch sounds. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

2. Lost Lake, Oregon

As we saw with Gafsa Lake, it is possible to have a lake just spontaneously appear from nowhere. But what about one that disappears? Lost Lake in Oregon is such a lake. Every summer, the nine-foot deep, 85-acre lake quietly vanishes. Every fall, it reappears again, as if nothing ever happened.

We don’t mean ‘most of it dries up’ or anything. It utterly vanishes. In its place, a pretty little meadow appears that has no trace of water in it at all. The reason this happens: Lava tubes.

Lava tubes are… well, tubes in rock that are left over from ancient lava flows. They can be less than a foot across, or big enough to walk into. There are two small ones in Lost Lake, constantly draining water off from the surface, ensuring the lake doesn’t flood in winter. In summer, however, the streams that feed Lost Lake dry up. As a result, the lava tubes completely drain the lake dry, until the fall rains come and the two little tubes can no longer keep up with all the water flowing in, and the lake reappears.

 1. Yellowstone Lake, USA

Literally everybody reading this has heard of Yellowstone Lake. Famously vast, calm, and beautiful, it’s about as far from a ‘strange’ lake as you’re likely to get. At least, it is on the surface. Go diving in its placid depths, and you might just notice an odd dome growing on the bottom. This is the current topmost point of what’s been termed the Yellowstone Supervolcano. One day it’s gonna burst. When it does, you can say goodbye to life as we know it.

Think of the lake as your teenage face, and the dome as a gross little spot that’s just starting to swell under the skin. Over time, that spot is gonna swell up and up and up, until it’s ripe and ready to pop. Only it won’t be a little jet of pus that comes out. Instead, the bottom of Yellowstone Lake leads into a gigantic magma chamber that contains enough lava to fill the Grand Canyon more than 11 times over.

If it one day erupted, it would be a catastrophe. Although a relatively-small number would die for such a gigantic blast (estimated in the region of 90,000), the Midwest would be buried under a layer of ash, and massive crop failures would plague the US for the next decade or so. If you thought Lake Nyos up there was deadly, just wait till Yellowstone Lake blows.


Strange Lake Guide Handbook

WIF 10 Cent Travel

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 32

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 32

…the United Korean Peninsula has been and continues to be blight upon the family of nations that makes up the rest of Earth…

The foreboding posture of the United Korean Peninsula is a troubling stain on the world at large.

The planet Earth is cut in half by an imaginary, yet quantifiable, line called the equator. In geography, latitude (φ) is a geographic coordinate that specifies the north-south position of a point on the Earth’s surface. Latitude is an angle which ranges from 0° at the Equator to 90° (North or South) at the poles. Lines of constant latitude, or parallels, run east-west, circles the run parallel to the equator.

The Korean Peninsula is a peninsula in East Asia. It extends southwards for about 684 miles (1,100 km) from continental Asia into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the east, and the Yellow Sea to the west, the Korea Strait connecting the first two bodies of water. It is situated between the 34th and 40th degree of parallel longitude in the northern hemisphere.

Once Upon a Time in Joseon (A Korean Tale)

In a happier age, back when Baby Boomers roamed the Earth, there were two kingdoms, each named Korea (or the peninsula titled by its neighbors: Joseon). The country to the South was a friendly kingdom, a land where its people were free to prosper and participate in the beautiful planet called Earth. The country to the North was a belligerent kingdom, where its people were purposely forbidden to know the truth about their beautiful planet. The two kingdoms had to be separated by a barrier, manned by great warriors to keep the peace. But the peace was fragile and the kingdom to the North did not keep the same rules as the rest of the world and they dared to use a mighty weapon to subdue their neighbors to the South. The other kingdoms of the world could not put things back the way it was before. And so it was that the United Korean Peninsula came to be and it was bad. 

THE END

To this day, the United Korean Peninsula has been and continues to be blight upon the family of nations that makes up the rest of Earth. With undeserved impunity, they have managed to spoil some of the most progressive projects in the world’s history. Space Colony 1, the prime example, was permanently sabotaged, resulting in the stranding of Sampson & Celeste McKinney, as well as squelching any sustained appetite to replace it.

Even worse than that, they were the first nation, since the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the year 1968, to use offensive nuclear weapons. To label them as “rogue” is a gross understatement.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 32


page 36

Pope City / Vatican Secrets – WIF Confidential

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Dark Secrets

About the Vatican

Walled off in the city of Rome, Vatican City is an independent city-state that is just one-eighth the size of Central Park in New York City, and is the home of the Pope. However, the Vatican can also refer to the Holy See, which is the governing body of the Catholic church. These are the five darkest facts about the Vatican.

6. Pop(e) Secret

I apologize for this hint of irreverence (my Readers, Religious leaders or Theater feeders). I actually like popcorn and love God.

5. Exorcisms

With advances in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and biology, it’s hard to believe that exorcisms are still performed by the Catholic Church. However, according to former exorcist Gabriele Amorth, who apparently performed 70,000 exorcisms in his office in the Vatican, there are around 300 exorcists worldwide and four working in Rome.

Besides priests performing exorcisms, at least two modern-day Popes have performed exorcisms in the Vatican.

The first one was performed by Pope John Paul II in March 1982, on a young woman named Francesca Fabrizi from the Umbria region of Italy. During the exorcism, she writhed on the ground and cried out. The Pope said he would say mass for her the next day, which apparently cured her. She went on to live a normal life, getting married and having kids.

Pope John Paul’s second exorcism was in September 2000, when a woman with a history of possession was sitting in the front row of the Pope’s weekly audience. She flew into a rage and needed to be restrained, but was too strong and fought off the security. When she was finally restrained, Pope John Paul talked with her, hugged her, and then performed an exorcism. However, it didn’t work and Father Amorth had to do a follow up exorcism session that lasted two hours the next day.

Then in May 2009, Benedict XVI performed an exorcism on two men who were howling during the weekly audience. Apparently, when Pope Benedict blessed the men, they flew back nine feet and were cured.

4. Retiring Popes

For most Popes, it’s a job they have until they die. It’s part of Catholic Dogma; it would be like a parent giving up his or her kids. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to. It’s just very rare that they resign or retire. In fact, over the past 1,000 years there have been 123 Popes and out of all of them, only five have abdicated.

The first one to resign was Benedict IX, who was one of the youngest Popes, and was probably about 20 when he first sported that amazing hat. He was also the only person to have served multiple terms as Pope. He was forced out of the Papacy in 1036, but returned just months later and became Pope again. However, he had a problem – he wanted to get married. So he ended up selling the Papacy to the man who became his successor, Pope Gregory VI, in May 1045. However, Benedict soon regretted doing that because it turned out the woman he wanted to marry wasn’t interested in marrying him. Oops. He was able to reclaim the title of Pope in November 1047, but he only lasted a year before he was excommunicated.

The second Pope to resign was the man who bought the Papacy, Pope Gregory VI, who stepped down at the urging of the Bishops. He denied he did anything wrong, but resigned nevertheless in 1046.

The next Pope to resign was Pope Celestine V in 1294. He decreed that if the Pope wanted to resign, then he should be allowed to do so. He did that very thing a week later, after five months of being Pope. After retiring, he lived like a hermit for two years. Unfortunately, his predecessor was worried that Celestine might try to reclaim the Papacy or oppose him, so he had him imprisoned, and he died after 10 months.

The next one was Pope Gregory XII in 1415. At the time, due to a schism in the Catholic Church, which started in 1378, there were two Popes: one in Rome, and one in Avignon. Gregory chose to step down so that the Pope in Avignon could be excommunicated and the Catholic Church could get a fresh start.

The final Pope to resign was Pope Benedict XVI in 2013; he did it citing health reasons. However, there is a conspiracy theory that he was forced out, or undermined so much that he was forced to resign. Proponents of this theory point out that he retired after the “Vatileaks” scandal, which was the leaking of documents that showed Pope Benedict’s struggle to be more transparent with the public about things like priests and sexual abuse, but interior politics thwarted his plans. The Vatileaks scandal showed that Benedict was an ineffectual manager and he chose to retire.

3. The Banco Ambrosiano Scandal

The Vatican bank is officially known as the Institute for Religious Works, and from 1971 to 1989, the President of the bank was Archbishop Paul Marcinkus from Cicero, Illinois. Before that, the 6-foot-4 former rugby player worked as a bodyguard for Pope Paul VI. However, he’d be remembered for a scandal that broke in 1982.

The scandal started with the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, which was one of the biggest private banks in Italy, with $1.4 billion in debt. Shortly afterwards, Roberto Calvi (pictured above), who was the general manager of the bank and friend of Marcinkus, was found dead, hanging from a bridge in London, England. Originally it was considered a suicide, but it was later ruled a homicide. Five people were tried in connection to his murder, but they were all acquitted.

That brings us to Marcinkus and the Vatican bank. It turns out that the main shareholder in the bank was the Vatican, and they had funneled a billion dollars from the bank into 10 shell companies. Other rumors that surrounded the scandal was that other shareholders with the bank were involved in organized crime and some were even members of a secret Masonic lodge.

When Italian investigators tried to interview Marcinkus about the scandal, he was very uncooperative. He refused to leave the Vatican, and even refused to answer questions, citing diplomatic immunity. Marcinkus ended up being indicted, but he never went to trial because the charges against him were dismissed. He continued to head the Vatican bank for seven more years.

The scandal has even led to some conspiracy theories. The most famous one was used in the plot of Godfather Part III, and it’s that Pope John Paul I was assassinated by the Mafia in August 1978. John Paul I was pope for only 33 days in 1978 before he was found dead sitting up in bed. The official cause of death was a heart attack, but no autopsy was performed. According to the conspiracy theory, he was assassinated because he wanted to put end the relationship between the church and private bank.

2. The Apostolic Penitentiary

Catholic priests have some pretty awesome powers when it comes to granting absolution for committing crimes. This includes forgiving people for things like murder, or mass murders and even genocide. That’s right: if you’re Catholic and you chop up the family next door and eat them, you could go to a priest, and ask for forgiveness and he could forgive you. Not only that, but the priest could never tell the police.

Yet, there are five sins that are so grave that priests can’t absolve them. Instead, inside the Vatican, they have a secret tribunal called The Apostolic Penitentiary, which looks at cases involving these sins.

The tribunal was established by Pope Alexander III in 1179 and the type of cases that they examine has been a secret for much of its history. However, in 2009, the Catholic Church made a huge step towards transparency and revealed the nature of these sins.

Two of them can be committed by anyone. The first is desecrating the Eucharist, because Catholics believe that it is the actual body and blood of Christ. The second is attempting to kill the Pope.

The other three sins can only be committed by a priest, or men trying to become priests. One is if a priest reveals a sin (and the person who committed the sin) that they hear in confession. Second, they can’t have sex with someone and then offer confession to their sexual partner. Third, a man who wants to be a priest or a deacon can’t directly be involved with an abortion, such as paying for the procedure.

1. The Vatican Bank and Nazi Gold

According to a 1946 document from the Treasury Department, the Vatican may have both held and smuggled Nazi gold during World War II, despite being a neutral entity.

The document, which was brought to the attention of the public in 1997, said the Vatican bank held 200 million francs, which is about $254 million in 2016, for the Nazis. According to a rumor cited in the document, that money was later funneled through something called the “Vatican pipeline” to Argentina and Spain, where it was given to Nazis who fled prosecution for war crimes.

The Vatican bank also apparently funneled money that was stolen from Serbs and Jews by the Utashe, who were a Nazi puppet regime in Croatia. At the end of the war, the Utashe started plundering from the victims of their ethnic cleansing campaigns and then smuggled 350 million Swiss francs, which is worth about $440 million, out of Yugoslavia through the Vatican. The money was then used to support the murderous Ustashe organization while they were in exile.

In 2000, a lawsuit was brought against the Vatican over this issue, but the suit ultimately failed.


Pope City / Vatican Secrets

WIF Confidential

Not Your Mother’s China – WIF Around the World

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Incredible Facts

About China

China is crazy-big. How crazy-big? Let’s just say if they were having a contest for ‘biggest, craziest nation on planet Earth’, the Middle Kingdom would not only win hands down, it would leave all the other countries scratching their heads and saying “whoa, get a load of that guy.”

There are 1.357 billion people living in China today, a whole billion more than there are living in the USA. The nation is big geographically, too; only Russia and Canada cover a larger land area. And you better believe all this bigness leads to craziness. Craziness so big and bigness so crazy that it’s impossible to fit it all into a single top ten list. But, by gum, we’re gonna try.

10. They Have a Dam So Big it Slowed the Earth’s Rotation

Forget the Eiffel Tower, the Forth Bridge or the Hoover Dam. The Three Gorges Dam is the only true engineering marvel on this planet deserving of the title ‘mind-blowing’. The largest dam yet built, it created a reservoir the size of the Kingdom of Bahrain. It holds back some 39.3 cubic kilometers of water. But the truly crazy part? The dam is so big that its construction slowed the rotation of the entire planet.

Time for a quick science lesson. There’s something called the moment of inertia, which basically describes how fast an object can rotate about its axis. If the object is wider, it can rotate less-quickly, which is why Olympic divers curl up into a tight little ball when doing those crazy flips. Raise a whole load of river water 175 meters into the air, and you’re gonna affect the moment of inertia for the entire planet. The end result? Earth itself slows down.

Now, we should point out that the effect is microscopic. As in, the Three Gorges Dam adds only 0.06 microseconds to the length of the day. But to look at it another way: holy cow, that dam is so big it adds a measurable amount to the length of each day!

9. 30 Million Chinese People Still Live in Caves (and enjoy it)

Imagine being so poor you were forced to move into a cave. It’d suck, right? Like, that’s the sort of thing that nobody has done outside of a warzone in centuries. Well, not quite. Even as you read this, there are currently 30 million people in China still living in caves (equivalent to the entire populations of Australia and New Zealand combined). The craziest part? Most of those 30 million freakin’ love their living arrangements.

The majority of China’s cave dwellers live in Shaanxi province, where the porous soil and limestone cliffs make for easy excavation. Most have been wired up to the mains, many have plumbing, many come with multiple rooms and a lawn, and some even have mod-cons like refrigerators and TV. More importantly, in a country where people still earn low wages, you can rent a big cave for about $30 a month. That’s if it’s not for free. Some families have been passing down ‘luxury’ caves for generations. And the majority of these caves are bigger, nicer, and quieter than Beijing’s apartments.

The LA Times even managed to interview city workers and Communist Party officials who wanted to retire to Shaanxi caves. We’re betting 90 percent of overcrowded New Yorkers would happily do the same, too.

8. Millions of Kids Have Names that Sound Like Hashtags

Remember last time tragedy struck, and you showed your solidarity by retweeting a hashtag? China’s parents laugh in the face of your low-level commitment to good causes. In the People’s Republic, citizens don’t merely use hashtags to show support on social media. They name their children after them.

In mid-2008, a huge earthquake shook the province of Sichuan, killing nearly 70,000 people. In the weeks after, the BBC’s China service reported a wave of new parents naming their children things like ‘Hope for Sichuan’. Noble as this is, it’s also pretty bizarre. Imagine meeting a couple with a kid called ‘Black Lives Matter’ or ‘Je Suis Charlie’ and you’ll get some idea of how kooky this trend is.

But then people are always naming their kids after slogans in China. Also in 2008, 4,104 babies were registered with the name ‘Olympics’, in honor of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The BBC found records of kids called everything from ‘Defend China’, to ‘Build the Nation’, to ‘Space Travel’, and ‘Civilization’. That last one, by the way, was so popular nearly 300,000 babies wound up with it. And you thought your name was uncool in junior high.

7. The Army has an Official Division of 10,000 Pigeons

In 2011, Chinese State media made a surprise announcement. No, not the unveiling of Beijing’s first stealth fighter (though well done for remembering that. We knew you were a clever sort of a guy). No, the announcement concerned the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) latest recruits. 10,000 of them had just been assigned to the Chengdu division. They’d been tasked with “special military missions” along the nation’s borders. Oh, and they were all pigeons.

That’s right. China’s PLA has a 10,000-strong official division of birds whose only discernable skill is pooping on statues of famous people. All snark aside, the reasoning here is actually pretty sound. Beijing is way paranoid about a nuclear or cyber attack knocking out their communications systems. In the event this happens, the pigeons would be tasked with delivering messages at high speed between the country’s military installations, especially along the remote stretches of border where keeping in touch is hard enough as it is. There’s even some precedent for this. When Japan invaded in WWII, messenger pigeons were a vital part of China’s defensive effort.

6. On-the-Go Organ Harvesting and Executions

You don’t want to commit a capital crime in China. While plenty of countries still have the death penalty, none kill criminals with the speed, efficiency or sheer gusto of the People’s Republic. China executes more people each year than every other executing country combined, a number that’s even crazier when you realize it includes Iran, Saudi Arabia, and North freakin’ Korea. And this bloodlust has led to some bizarre and unsettling innovations, the most-unsettling of which has to be the ‘Death Bus’.

 First reported in 2009, China’s death buses are essentially mobile execution vans that travel from village to village snuffing out the lives of local prisoners. Even more morbidly, the buses have a surgeon on standby so the dead prisoner’s organs can be quickly harvested after they kick the bucket, and sold on for profit. The key word here is “quickly”. These vans can rock up in villages and knock off 2-3 criminals in a single morning. That’s death row efficiency even the state of Texas would balk at.

5. There’s Only One Time Zone (and it’s crazy)

Before we can do this entry justice, we need to reiterate again just how big China is. It’s roughly the same size as the US. It’s over twice as big as the entire European Union. It dwarfs Australia. Each of those comparative nations/unions has at least 3 time zones, and as many as five. China, on the other hand has only one: Beijing time. And it applies everywhere.

This means Chinese time tends to make sense in Beijing, and is completely mad elsewhere. In the far western province of Xinjiang, for example, the sun doesn’t rise until 10 a.m. in winter, and sets after midnight in summer. That might make sense in Norway or Siberia, but China is way south of either of those places. In effect, locals at the extreme western points of the country have to put up with a timescale that makes zero sense for their circumstances.

As an additional headache, various ethnic groups in China refuse to recognize Beijing time, seeing it as cultural imperialism on the part of the Han Chinese majority. So a doctor’s appointment made for 3 p.m. in Tibet or Xinjiang may mean 3 p.m. Beijing time, or 3 p.m. on illegal Tibetan or Uighur time, and you probably won’t know until you get there and find the place shut.

4. You Must Have Official Permission to be Reincarnated

Let’s say you’re religious and believe in reincarnation. Now, let’s say that you wind up shuffling off this earthly plane in China. What do you think happens next? According to the governing CCP, the answer should be ‘depends on if I filled in the correct forms or not’. Since 2007, Beijing has required citizens to get official permission before reincarnating.

The law, issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, states that anyone intending to return to this mortal coil must follow a strict set of procedures, including informing the Communist Party of who they intend to come back as. Those who fail to do so will… well, we’re not sure, to be honest. Powerful as the Chinese government is, it seems doubtful even they have the ability to stop transmigration of the soul from taking place.

Of course, the real reason China brought in this hilariously odd law is to scupper the Dali Lama’s plans to get reincarnated and keep campaigning for Tibetan autonomy. The Dali Lama responded by saying he’d simply choose to reincarnate outside Chinese-controlled territory.

3. Books are Sold by Weight

The key to selling a book in the west is its title or author. A slim classic novel or a mega-blockbuster by a famous writer will go for far more than a bigger book by a total unknown. Not so in China. Go shopping for books on the streets of Shanghai, and you’ll find yourself paying not according to how good or famous a book is, but according to how much it weighs.

In practical terms, this means a 1,000 page tome by a guy who writes in crayon and can’t string a sentence together is considered far more valuable than a short book like, say, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. Mad as this sounds, it’s actually kind of useful for students. A short, glossy volume of common Spanish phrases, for example, will attract a mid-range price in the US. In China, you can have it for pocket change.

Before readers in China flood the comments section to point out our bone-headed ignorance, we should note that selling books by weight isn’t standard across the entire country. It’s mainly prevalent around Shanghai and the eastern provinces. But since this includes some of the biggest, busiest cities in the whole of China, we’re gonna go ahead and include it here.

2. Censorship is Even-Crazier than You Think

Quick: what do time-travel, cleavage, The Big Bang Theory, South Korea, and ‘Western lifestyles’ all have in common? The answer is that China censors every single one of them (“they’re all awesome” is another acceptable answer, depending on your level of tolerance for the weekly antics of Sheldon Cooper). These are only a fraction of the innumerable things Beijing feels the need to block its citizens from ever encountering.

Some of the things China considers beyond the pale are crazy even by the standards of authoritarian regimes. Until April 2016, one of the nation’s top-rated programs was ‘Dad, Where are We Going?’, a travel show where fathers took their little tykes on trips around China’s historical landmarks. Then party functionaries suddenly banned ‘celebrity children’ and the show had to be canceled. Other recent bans have included shows featuring gay people, and shows that depict smoking, drinking, South Korea, ghosts, reincarnation, or “feudalism”. We’d guess there probably aren’t that many primetime shows about feudalism out there, but then again, what do we know?

We could go on. China has officially banned talking animals in movies, depictions of online dating when it involves army personnel, and anything starring Brad Pitt. At least they didn’t have to suffer through Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

1. One in Five Humans Alive Today are Chinese

If you need any proof that China is the planet’s future, this amazing statistic is it. It’s one thing to hear that China has a population of 1.357 billion people. It’s quite another to see it put down in such blunt terms. 20 percent of all human beings alive today are Chinese. By way of comparison, Americans account for less than 4.5 percent of the global population.

The only country that comes even remotely close to this mind-boggling figure is India. India has a population of 1.252 billion; still several million short of China, but at least within the same ballpark. After that, it’s a long, long drop to the US, in 3rd place, with a comparatively tiny population of 325.3 million. China’s Pearl River Delta urban conurbation alone has a population of around 42 million, more than the entirety of Poland, Canada, or Australia.

 It’s worth remembering that all this comes after decades of a crazy one child policy that saw the country’s birthrate plummet. If the CCP hadn’t dreamed up its oddball family-limiting plan, probably even India’s population figures wouldn’t be within touching distance. Believe it or not, crazy-big as China’s population is, it could be even crazy-bigger.

Not Your Mother’s China

WIF Around the World

Wisconsin ~ My Home – WIF Geography & Humor

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Wisconsin ~ My Home

If Gwen can spell O-C-O-N-O-M-O-W-O-C, that proves she is from Wisconsin.

This is hysterical Wisconsin, according to Jeff Foxworthy:

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from September through May, you may live in Wisconsin.

If someone in a Home Depot store offers you assistance and they don’t even work there, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you’ve worn shorts and a jacket at the same time, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you’ve had a lengthy telephone conversation with some…one who dialed a wrong number, you may live in Wisconsin.

If “vacation” means going anywhere North of Milwaukee for the weekend, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you measure distance in hours, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you know several people who have hit a deer more than once, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you have switched from ‘heat’ to ‘A/C’ in the same day and back again, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you can drive 75 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you install security lights on your house and garage, but leave both doors unlocked, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you carry jumpers in your car and your wife knows how to use them, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you design your kid’s Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit, you may live in Wisconsin.

If the speed limit on the highway is 70 mph, you’re going 80 and everybody is passing you, you may live in Wisconsin.

If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you have more miles on your snow blower than your car, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you find 10 degrees “a little chilly”, you may live in Wisconsin.

If you give directions and tell someone you live 30 miles East of Milwaukee, you are living on a boat and may be on the run from the Wisconsin State Police.

If you actually understand these jokes, repost this so all of your Wisconsin friends and others can see, you definitely do live – or have lived – in Wisconsin.

Gwendolyn Hoff currently lives in Illinois, but her heart remains in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin ~ My Home

WIF Geography & Humor

Not Your Boston Celts – WIF Geography

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Fascinating Facts

About the

Celtic People

Celtic history is steeped in mystery. You’ve no doubt heard of the Celts, but because they left behind no written records, what we know about them can often be chalked up to myth and legend. Contemporaries and frequent enemies of the Roman Empire, these warriors were quick to fight, and vicious in attack.

 But like we said at the beginning, despite what we think we might know about the Celts, much of it has been skewed and twisted throughout history, many of the tales having been told by people, such as Herodotus, who were on the outside looking in. Still, Celtic culture was, and remains, fascinating to delve into. Here are 10 things you should probably know about the Celts.

10. They Probably Didn’t Originate in Ireland

Your mind has just been blown, right? Over the years we’ve come to associate the term “Celtic” with Ireland (thanks in large part, in recent history, to the NBA team the Boston Celtics, whose logo is a leprechaun covered in shamrocks). But historians have concluded that the Celts almost certainly didn’t originate in Ireland – or Scotland, or Wales, or even England, for that matter.

Instead, their roots have been traced back to central Europe, with Austria being the likeliest point of origin. Emerging from the late Bronze Age along the Danube River, Celtic tribes are believed to have initially lived throughout continental Europe. Eventually, these tribes expanded north and did settle in the United Kingdom. But when you think of ancient tribal warriors from Ireland, the odds are pretty strong you’re not thinking of the Celts; you’re thinking of the Gaels. Of course, even  that is a little more complicated than it sounds, so we’ll come back to that later.

9. The Romans Had Nothing On Their Roads

While Romans often get credited for being the road-builders of Europe, there’s substantial evidence to suggest that the Celts beat them to the punch. Not that the history books would ever tell you that, because as we all know, history is written by the winners. And for the bulk of early recorded history, the winners resided in the Roman Empire. When you’re the biggest, baddest dude on the block, you can take what you want, including credit for things others have done.

And according to some, that includes the building of roads. Archaeological evidence now suggests that it was the Celts, and not the Romans, who were the first to build roads. Remnants of these roads would seem to indicate that they were constructed before the Roman conquest reached the British Isles. These roads were constructed largely out of wood, which was carbon dated to the Iron Age – an indication that they predated the Roman Empire expanding that far north. And speaking of the Iron Age…

8. They Were Among the First to Utilize Iron Weaponry

One aspect of Celtic culture you’re no doubt aware of is their reputation as fierce warriors. They were also technologically ahead of their time, which gave them a pretty giant leg up on their enemies. After all, this is the group that invented the exact chainmail that was later adopted by the famous Roman Legions. That obviously flies in the face of old rumors that the Celts fought naked, since we can’t imagine chainmail would feel particularly great clanging against your junk.

But it wasn’t just superior armor that gave the Celts an advantage in battle; it was superior arms, as well. The Celts are believed to be among the very first to forge iron into swords, replacing the flimsier bronze swords most had been using up until sometime around 800 BC. They also began to utilize smaller, lighter swords and daggers, also made of iron, around 600 BC. These were far less cumbersome than broadswords, enabling the Celts to be more agile and quicker to strike on the battlefield.

7. The Celts Were Hugely Wealthy

While history often paints the Celts in broad strokes as being somewhat barbaric, savage warriors, that’s not exactly the case. Sure, they did participate in some acts of barbarism, and many practiced ritual human sacrifice. And yes, we’re going to get to that in just a bit. But that aside, they were also massively wealthy, thanks in large part to being highly active in trade of the time. Being among the first to utilize iron certainly helped fill their coffers as well.

Gold was so abundant among the Celtic regions that they used it in their armor, weaponry, and art. Silver and bronze were also widely used, and they became renowned for their finely crafted and ornate jewelry. Their artistry was among the best in the world at the time, and their scientific and technological prowess was a big part of that. Through their art, their wine, their vast quantities of gold, and their advancements in technology, the Celts were able to line their pockets very nicely indeed.

6. They Had Slavery… Kind Of

Now, to be sure, the Celts did indeed practice a form of slavery. But – and not that this is justification or makes it even remotely better, in principle – it was much closer to the serfdom of Medieval times than the actual slavery we’re most familiar with from history books. And as usual when you’re talking about tribes prone to war, many of these slaves were prisoners of war who were held within the tribe’s region and forbidden traditional rights and privileges of anyone actually from that tribe.

 When a prisoner was taken, or a criminal offered to the victim’s family as restitution for his crime, he was bound to that person or family for life. He had no right of inheritance, was forbidden from taking up arms, and was more or less simply the lowest rung of the sociological ladder. Most of what we know of slavery in Celtic society comes from remnants of law texts from places like Ireland and Wales, so obviously there are pretty massive gaps in the information we’ve got. That said, while you were afforded virtually no rights as a slave held by one of the Celts, the consensus seems to be that treatment was still more humane than slaves of many other cultures throughout history.

5. They Had Progressive Views on Gender and Sexuality

While we can’t exactly call the Celts progressive in terms of their views on slavery, we absolutely can when it comes to women and sexuality. Now, don’t get us wrong: even in a somewhat progressive tribal society, it was still patriarchal. But that doesn’t mean women didn’t have a say, or couldn’t rise to power, or even become warriors or dignitaries. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Particularly before the Roman conquest, Celtic women could lead tribes, as was the case with Boudica.

Obviously, Boudica represents far from the norm, but was one of a few Celtic women to rise to power and lead her people before her death circa 60 AD. She was the queen of her tribe, and led her warriors into battle against the Roman Empire.

And speaking of gender and sexuality, one element of Celtic culture that’s become widely believed is that not only could women hold positions of power, but that Celtic men often preferred the, ahem, “company” of other men. It was commonplace for men to seek out sexual companionship with their fellow male warriors, and likewise, women practiced free love in Celtic culture, according to historical records from their contemporaries.

4. They Weren’t Savages But They Did Hunt Heads

As we’ve mentioned a few times at this point, the Celts were far from the barbarians history has often painted them to be. They were an advanced society, took great care and pride in their appearance, and were wise enough to know it was an affront to wine connoisseurs everywhere to water the stuff down like those simpletons in the Greek and Roman Empires. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t participate in at least a few practices that might qualify as barbaric and savage.

Chief among those practices – other than ritualistic human sacrifice, which we’ll get back to shortly – was headhunting. As with ritualistic sacrifices, Celtic headhunting was driven by religion, for the most part. You see, the Celts believed that the head contained a warrior’s soul, so by taking his head you are, in fact, capturing that soul. At least, that’s one popular theory as to why they hunted heads, though the exact reason is not known, and likely varied from tribe to tribe, and warrior to warrior, particularly since the practice continued even after most Celtic tribes had converted to Christianity.

3. The Number Three Had a Huge Significance

We’ll be delving into the religion of the Celts in just a moment, but a substantial part of their belief system was the concept of “triplicity.” While that may sound like a knockoff travel website, in reality it has to do with the number three. Specifically, things coming in the form of ‘triplets’, so to speak. That means three realms (Sky, Land, and Sea), and three types of gods (personal, tribal, and spirits).

Now, the Celts didn’t just have three gods, mind you. They had many. When we talk about the Celts worshipping three types of gods, we’re talking about the kinds that guide you when you’re alone, the kinds that are with you when you’re in groups, and those that protect your home. To put it simply, triplicity refers to three things that come together to form a whole. It’s an important part of cosmology and astrology, which were integral parts Druid paganism. Which leads us to…

2. For Most of Their Existence They Were Polytheistic

Eventually, some Celtic tribes adopted Christianity as their preferred spiritual path. But for the bulk of Celtic existence, they practiced polytheism; the worship of many gods. It’s not unusual that they’d have worshipped numerous gods, considering the same was true of their contemporaries, like the Greeks and Romans. And the chief purveyors of Celtic polytheism, or Celtic paganism, were the Druids.

Believe it or not, much of what we know of the Druids and Druidism comes from, of all people, Julius Caesar. Obviously, that’s part of what renders our knowledge of the Druids information that should probably be taken with at least a small grain of salt, considering Caesar and his Empire were frequently at war with the Celts. Still, Caesar relayed that the Druids were teachers and priests, and also rendered judgement and penalties resulting from crimes and squabbles within their tribes.

As alluded to in the previous entry, the stars played a significant role in the Celtic religion and Druidism. They also practiced ritual sacrifice to appease their gods (with the burning of Wicker Men – sacrificial victim or victims inside – which will send a shiver down Nic Cage’s spine should he read this), and believed in reincarnation.

1. The Celts Weren’t Really, Well, “Celts”

Confused? Don’t be. It’s a lot simpler than the header probably makes it sound. You see, the group you think of as the “Celts” isn’t really the Celts, at least not in the sense that the Romans were the Romans, or the Greeks were the Greeks. That’s because the Celts weren’t just one group; they consisted of many, including the aforementioned Gaels, the Britons, the Gauls, and the Galatians, among others. See, “Celtic” really referred to language, and the somewhat similar dialects these various tribes used.

That said, grouping all of those tribes together under one umbrella – which, again, was done by contemporaries like the Greeks and Romans, since the Celts themselves didn’t keep written records – is probably misleading. Some historians suggest that the languages were different enough, and the groups so spread out (as far east as Turkey, all the way west to the Atlantic Ocean) that it’s highly unlikely most of the tribes were remotely united. In fact, it’s believed part of the reason they were ultimately defeated by the Romans was because of their lack of unification. In essence, calling a Gaul “Celtic” would be akin to calling a German “European.” Technically correct, but highly generalized.


 Not Your Boston Celts

– WIF Geography

Do You Hear What I Hear? – WIF Mystery

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Bizarre/Mysterious

Noises No One

Can Explain

Best Sound Waves GIFs | Gfycat

Mysterious sounds trigger something primitive in our brains. They take us right back to our hunter-gatherer days, when deciphering a weird ‘bloop’ in the jungle might have helped us survive (as it may be a new type of predator). While that’s hardly the case anymore, that part of the brain still works the same way.

Mysterious sounds still pique our interest in a way that other senses don’t. There’s something plain creepy about a sound whose origins you can’t completely ascertain, made even creepier by just how many sounds there are nowadays; from classified radio signals to industrial machines most of us haven’t even heard of. Most of them, however, could be explained by ‘everyday things making everyday noises you just hadn’t noticed before’.

It gets weird, though, when a sound is heard multiple times by multiple people, and none of them can establish where it’s coming from. Some of the most bizarre sounds we’ve ever heard still remain unexplained.

10. The Upsweep

In case it’s not clear from the world map, the Pacific Ocean is humongous, so much so that we still find new islands there we had no idea existed. That’s why any mysterious sound emanating from any part of it is even creepier, as we just don’t know what all lies in its vast, uncharted depths.

The Upsweep – as it’s informally known – is one such sound coming from somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, though we have no idea where. It was first discovered in 1991, and sounds like a long chain of random bursts of frequency. What makes it even weirder is the strength of its source, as the sound could be heard throughout the Pacific. While we do know that it’s coming from a region with a lot of seismic activity, its precise source remains unknown.

9. The 52-Hertz Whale

In 1989, America’s underwater system of microphones meant to detect submarines – also known as SOSUS – accidentally caught a mysterious sound that was strikingly similar to the sound of a whale. Except that it wasn’t like any whale we know of.

For one thing, the frequency of the sound was measured at 52 hertz, which doesn’t match any known whale species. More importantly, though, in all of the readings, the geographical location of the source has never been the same, suggesting that it’s a whale that has been roaming the oceans around the world since at least 1989.

For those who don’t know, individuals from every whale pod sing at a unique frequency and pitch, which is how they identify their own. The fact that we’ve only heard one source of this sound suggests that this whale isn’t just unique in its singing frequency, but it’s also alone. That is, of course, if it’s even a whale and not some deep sea creature we haven’t yet discovered.

8. JULIA

First recorded in 1999, JULIA is a name given to yet another sound caught by American hydrophones meant to detect submarines and other suspicious underwater vehicles. The recording sounds like a muffled scream in the ocean to us, though it was apparently so strong that it could be heard across the Pacific Ocean.

According to the team that analyzed it, it sounds a lot like a broken-off iceberg grinding against the ocean floor, which is a fairly common occurrence, especially toward the poles. That’s just a guess, though, as we’ve never been able to confirm the exact location of its source, and that’s what makes it so mysterious.

7. UVB-76

First reported in 1973, UVB-76 is the name of a shortwave radio station a bit north of Moscow. That would be it – as the USSR was full of towers transmitting coded messages throughout the Cold War – except this one didn’t stop doing so even after the dissolution of the empire. What’s more mysterious is the fact that the sounds haven’t stayed the same throughout its history.

It started with beeps at regular intervals until 1992, when it changed to buzzes. Occasionally, it would be interrupted by a Russian male voice narrating a series of random words or numbers. All of that was until 2010, when the continuous beeps and buzzes just stopped one day, though they still come back for short durations every now and then. Since then, casual listeners have caught other seemingly-unrelated voices on the transmission, like Russian folk songs, random knocks and shuffles, and series of numbers and letters that seem to have nothing to do with each other.

Of course, it may just be an active military transmission, though that’s only based on the guess that the sound is, in fact, coming from a military base and not something else entirely.

6. The Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon are two statues of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor. They depict the pharaoh seated in a resting position and facing the river Nile, though we’re not sure why there are two of them (they look the same!).

The statues are also the center of one of the most enduring mysteries of sound of all time. According to records by quite a few reliable and unrelated sources, the statues started making a peculiar sound around 27 BCE, usually at dawn. It only started after they were damaged by an earthquake, leading many to believe that the newly-formed cracks were somehow contributing to it. However, that was hardly enough to explain the wildly different sounds mentioned in the records; from a loud bellowing of some sort of an animal to the sound made by the breaking of a lyre string (an ancient Greek instrument).

5. The Lincolnshire Poacher

The Lincolnshire Poacher is an informal name given to another possible shortwave numbers station from the Cold War era that refused to die down after the dissolution of the USSR. Unlike UVB-76 – which is almost sure to be located somewhere around Moscow – the exact location of this one is unknown, though observers suspect that it’s a British-controlled base in Cyprus.

Throughout the duration of its continuous transmission every day – starting some time in the 1970s and ending in 2008 – the signal would begin with the first verse of the English folk tune of the same name, followed by unique messages that went on for exactly 45 minutes. Unlike robotic signals from other stations, though, this one sounded like it was narrated by a live voice every time it aired, making it even creepier.

4. Saturn

Most people may not realize that a huge part of the background static we hear on Earth is actually the sound of space, as there are many asteroids, planets and other huge bodies that make a lot of noise. The loudest of them, however – at least in our immediate vicinity – has to be Saturn.

Unlike most other planets in the Solar System, Saturn emits a mysterious routine burst of radio waves known as the Saturn Kilometric Radiations. First recorded in detail by Cassini, the burst seemed to be normal radiation coming from the planet’s rotation at first, except that the waves coming in from both of its poles are not consistent with each other. That suggests that both of the planet’s hemispheres are spinning at a different rate, and that’s impossible. Moreover, the position of those waves changes throughout the day, moving from north to south and then back to north as the day comes to end. That means that the two halves of the planet aren’t just spinning at a different rate, they’re also doing so interchangeably and regularly, which just doesn’t make sense.

3. The Taos Hum

Taos is a small town in New Mexico that also serves as a popular skiing destination. It’s also the site of one of the most peculiar continuous sounds ever reported, though much like all of the other weird sounds on this list, no one has ever been able to pinpoint its exact source.

Simply known as the Taos Hum, it was first discovered in 1992. Residents have reported it in a variety of seasons, times of the day and locations around the town, and eerily, no two accounts describe the same sound. A study even installed recorders in the homes of the people who had claimed to have heard it, though it couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

2. Mysterious Booms Across the USA

It’s weird enough when you hear a mysterious sound around your house no one can explain, though it’s plain creepy when multiple people in multiple towns across the country hear the same sound. That’s exactly what’s been happening in small towns across the USA for the past few years. Quite a few people from different states have reported hearing loud booms that seem to be similar in description, though their source still remains a mystery.

What’s surprising is that the affected states – such as Colorado, Michigan, California, New Jersey – are spread out across the country, with seemingly no connection to each other. Possible explanations range from exploding asteroids to a top-secret military experiment, though none of them are confirmed yet.

1. Aurora Borealis

Anyone who has had the chance to see the Aurora lights for themselves knows that they’re one of the most spectacular natural occurrences that can be witnessed on Earth. Caused by solar winds abnormally charging up particles in the atmosphere, they’re only found in high-latitude regions near the poles, like Scandinavia and Canada in the north, and Chile, New Zealand and Argentina in the south.

That’s just about the visuals, though, as according to some recent research, Aurora lights make a distinct sound, too. It’s like a hiss, except we don’t really know what causes it. Researchers think that it has something to do with the charged up particles that cause the lights in the first place, though honestly that would be our first guess, too. Other than that, it’s not clear what the sounds are, or even how they’re able to travel hundreds of miles through the atmosphere to reach the ground.


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Places Where

People Have

Rarely Been

Through technological advancement and good old-fashioned human stubbornness, much of the Earth has been mapped and human boots have touched down on virtually every continent, island, desert, forest, and icy plain… or have they?

It might surprise some people to learn that there are still vast areas of the Earth left uninhabited, explored, or even mapped properly. While it is true that much of the Earth has been surveyed, vast portions of wilderness in Chile haven’t been, a handful of mountain summits remain untouched, countless cavern systems have gone unexplored, and the ocean floor remains a vast, alien world left unmapped by humans.

Here are the top 10 places where people have never been. (Except Photographers)

10. Muchu Chhish, Pakistan

In 2003, Bhutan banned all climbing, but some expeditions have been able to obtain permits. In 2014, English mountaineer, Pete Thompson, attempted to scale the mountain, hoping to reach the summit. Thompson expected to have to climb the final 1,453 meters without ropes, but the presence of hard ice derailed his plan to reach the top, forcing him to turn back at the 6,000-meter mark.

Prior to Thompson’s attempt, a Spanish team was rumored to have made it all the way to 6,650 meters and remains the highest point on the mountain anyone has reached.

Pakistan is home to 108 peaks taller than 7,000 meters, and many of these peaks belong to the Karakoram mountain range, of which 40 to 50 percent is covered in glaciers. This mountain range is so large that it borders China, India, Pakistan, and even extends to Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The Karakoram range is also one of the world’s most geologically active areas, as the range was created by the interaction of the Indo-Australian plate and the Eurasian plate.

9. 90% of the Ocean Floor

Earth’s ocean floor is a vast, alien world, which remains almost entirely unexplored by humans. While satellites have managed to map almost 100 percent of the ocean floor at low resolutions, more than 80% of it has yet to be explored or mapped at higher resolutions.

James Cameron famously explored a portion of the Pacific Northern Valley, known as Challenger Deep with a one-man submersible. Challenger deep is thought to be the deepest known point in the Earth’s seabed, reaching a depth of 10,920 meters. Cameron’s dive managed to reach an impressive depth of 10,908 meters, setting the world record.

One of the main reasons why so much of the ocean floor has yet to be mapped is due to the difficulty of developing vessels which can survive the immense pressures and conditions present in the deepest parts of the ocean floor. The deepest portions of the Mariana Trench experience a pressure of eight tons per square inch, enough to crush the human body into a messy pulp.

Before the first divers made their first journey into Challenger Deep more than 50 years ago, it was thought that the bottom of the ocean was a muddy, lifeless desert. But since then, we’ve learned that the reality is quite the opposite. Life thrives in our oceans, and if we could explore these seemingly alien worlds, we might find new extremophiles and unknown lifeforms. A prospect that has many scientists excited.

8. Northern Forest Complex, Myanmar

The Northern Forest Complex in Myanmar remains one of the largest areas of uninterrupted wilderness in South Asia, extending across lowland forests, and wetlands filled with coniferous trees (meaning they have scale-like or needle-shaped leaves). And just above the Northern Myanmar tree line are the majestic, jagged snow-covered mountain peaks.

The region boasts some of the greatest biodiversity in South Asia, many areas remaining virtually untouched by human explorers. It’s believed that numerous species of tigers, elephants, and birds make up a significant portion of that biodiversity.

The heart of the forest is nearly 13,679 kilometers and is the world’s largest tiger reserve.

Despite the relative scarcity of human life in the forest, about 1 million people live around the forest’s borders, living both inland and on the adjacent coast.

Though much of the forest remains under environmental protection sanctions, many of those sanctions are expiring, which some experts suggest could lead to disaster for the future of the forest complex’s continued biodiversity. Illegal animal tracking continues to be a problem, China being a major player in the trade of exotic animals taken from the area.

7. Namibia Desert

The Namibia Desert is one of the most hostile places to life on Earth, and it’s currently thought to be the world’s oldest desert. Because of the extreme heat and arid conditions, the region remains almost entirely uninhabited.

The Skeleton Coast is as deadly as it is beautiful, with white sprawling sands and shipwrecks from bygone eras littering its shores as if warning of the dangers the desert might contain should it be visited by unwary travelers.

Despite this, the Namib Desert and the Skeletal Coast are home to a surprising array of wildlife, such as baboons, leopards, cheetah, and brown and spotted hyena, and hippos have been spotted from time to time wading in the waters of the Skeleton Coast.

The only real traffic the area experiences is due to important trade routes.

6. Hang Son Doong Cave, Vietnam

Hang Son Doong Cave was first discovered in 1990 by a local farmer named Ho Khanh, who was seeking shelter from a passing storm in the jungle. Ho Khanh noticed that clouds and the sound of a rushing subsurface river was coming from a massive hole in the limestone in the jungle. He survived the storm but got lost making his way out of the jungle, and the location of the cave was thought to have been lost for 18 years.

Fortunately for us, he rediscovered the entrance to the cave in 2008 while hunting. The cave is now thought to be one of the largest in the world, stretching an impressive five kilometers long and reaching heights of 200 meters. The first expedition to the cave, led by a group of UK divers, was unable to map the entire cave system, due to lacking the proper equipment to continue.

The cave is home to an impressively unique eco-system, featuring its own localized weather system. Extremely rare limestone cave pearls remain scattered throughout the cave, resting in dried pools, and it’s also home to the largest stalagmite ever discovered, measuring in at a staggering 80 meters.

Because of the delicate eco-system, people are not allowed to enter Son Doong Cave, and much of it remains unexplored. It is thought that the system could be even larger than original estimates suggested.

5. Sakha Republic, Russia

Despite being the largest administrative subdivision in the world, and the largest part of the Russian Federation, the Sakha Republic is a frozen wasteland, where ancient, extinct animals have long been preserved in permafrost. It gets as cold as -43.5 degrees Celsius in the winter, and only 19 degrees in summer. It’s one of the least populated places in the world, home to less than 1 million people despite being large enough to fit several countries inside of it.

Russian folklore tells that God flew over this immense expanse of frozen land, carrying Earth’s treasures, and because of the extreme cold, his hands froze, causing him to drop those treasures all throughout the Sakha Republic. The region is home to some of the richest deposits of natural resources, making up 82% of diamonds, 17% of gold, 61% of uranium, and 5% of iron ores in Russia.

Vast portions of wilderness in the Sakha Republic have been left completely unexplored by man.

4. Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan

Considered to be the world’s tallest “unclimbed” mountain by many, Gangkhar Puensum’s peak has never been scaled, and it’s unlikely that anyone ever will if the government has anything to say about it. The peaks of Gangkhar Puensum are sacred to the people of Bhutan, and it’s considered an extreme taboo for anyone to attempt to scale its slopes and peaks.

But ordinances and taboos can’t stop everyone, and since part of the mountain extends across the Chinese border, the first and only attempt to assail it was led by a Japanese climbing team in 1998. They were stopped short of their goal to explore the uncharted mountain by political fueled outrage from Bhutan.

The mountain remains untrodden by humans.

3. Karjiang I, Tibet

When viewed from a distance, Karjiang mountain looks like a taller, icy mountain was smashed in by an asteroid, creating a large crater around which the sharp, frozen peaks point inward. Like most mountains in Tibet, it’s an incredible sight. With a height of 7,221 meters, Karjiang’s first peak remains one of the tallest unclimbed peaks in the world.

The Karjiang mountain rests near the Bhutan-China border in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The last serious attempt to reach its summit was by a Dutch expedition in 2001. At some point in their climb, the Dutch explorers had to turn back due to harsh weather conditions, though they did manage to reach an elevation of 6,820 meters, climbing Karjiang III, before retreating.

While Karjiang I remains indominable, Karjiang II’s summit was reached in 1986 by a party of Japanese explorers led by N. Shigo.

The difficult with Karjiang I is that its slopes are prone to avalanches and the ever-shifting weather patterns make it nearly impossible to predict what conditions will be present during an expedition.

2. Greenland Northern Islands

Greenland is the world’s largest island, and it’s home to stunning glaciers and ice covered mountains which stab up from the Earth like jagged blades. The country is recognized as an autonomous part of Denmark, and most of it is uninhabited, featuring less than 58,000 residents. Greenland’s untamed landscapes tell a story dating back nearly 3.8 billion years and the few travelers that are able to venture there tell of how geological time seems uniquely evident when looking upon the country’s vast glaciated peaks and immensely diverse landscapes.

In 2005, melting polar ice revealed new islands, which escaped categorization when Greenland was first mapped nearly a century prior. The discovery of new lands connected to the immense island is just one of many secrets which could be revealed if climate change continues unimpeded. Scientists are very concerned that global warming could lead to the melting of the glaciers which cover most of the island’s interior.

The country’s largest geological feature, the Jakobshavn Glacier, moves at an incredible speed of 30 meters a day, faster than any other glacier on Earth.

It’s thought that this ice sheet was the source of the iceberg which sunk the Titanic.

1. Northern Patagonia, Chile

The vast wilderness of Northern Patagonia is home to temperate rainforests, glaciers, fjords, and hot springs, and it’s one of Chile’s least populated regions. While the Los Glaciares Park in Argentina and Torres del Paine National Park in Chile continue to be tourism hubs, outside of that area the wilderness remains largely unexplored. As many of the tourist sites touting the desirability of the area for its appeal to outdoorsmen attest, the safety of the average hiker depends greatly on which trails they choose to take. There are vast regions so inhospitable, that even the toughest explorer might have issues navigating the terrain.

The Aysen Region features hanging glaciers, immense fjords which take on complex patterns, stunning blue caverns, and steaming, dangerous rainforests.

The area is only accessible by the Carretera Austral, the name given to Chile’s Route 7 highway.

The ice fields are so vast, in fact, that they’re comparable to those found in the arctic circle and prove incredibly difficult to map properly.


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By the Sea, By the Contentious Sea – WIF @ War

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Largest Battles

Ever Fought

at Sea

The fate of nations and empires have depended upon control of the high seas throughout civilization. From well-populated coastlines to the most remote ocean depths, sunken vessels lie dormant in a vast watery graveyard, serving as a reminder of the countless battles waged.

Here’s a rundown of some largest and most decisive naval battles that not only changed the tides of war but altered the course of world history.

8. Battle of Lepanto

Long simmering tensions between the Ottoman Empire and Catholic states in the Mediterranean reached a boiling point when Muslim forces captured the Venetian island of Cyprus in 1570. This following year, roughly 500 ships clashed at the Battle of Lepanto, marking the last major engagement powered mostly by oar-driven vessels in the Western world.

Viewed by both sides as a religious mandate, the conflict saw the formation of the Holy League, a coalition assembled by Pope Pius V, consisting of Spain, Venice and the Papacy. Although they would face a battle-tested Turks led by Ali Pasha, command of the alliance was handed to John of Austria, an ambitious tenderfoot with a checkered past.

As the illegitimate son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and half-brother, King Philip II of Spain, “Don Juan” led a charmed life as a member of the House of Habsburg. The 24-year-old playboy was not the Pope’s first choice to lead the Holy League’s fleet, but when Phillip agreed to finance the righteous rumble, the young admiral received the nod. Miraculously, he exceeded all expectations.

The Ottomans sailed westward from their naval station in southwestern Greece near Lepanto (today Nafpaktos) into the Gulf of Patras. There, they collided with the Christian fleet equipped with more than 200 galleys and bolstered by 44-gun Venetian galleasses (much larger galleys).

By the time fighting ceased, the Holy League had captured 117 Turkish galleys and liberated around 12,000 enslaved Christians. Moreover, the victory effectively thwarted Ottoman military expansion into the Mediterranean.

7. Battle of Jutland

Big, bloody, and befuddled is one way to summarize the First World War‘s biggest sea skirmish. ‘Stalemate’’ is another. Fought over 36 hours beginning on May 31, 1916, the Battle of Jutland involved more than 250 ships and 100,00 men and produced the only instance in which British and German ‘dreadnought’ battleships directly engaged each other.

Under the command of Admiral Reinhard Scheer, the German High Seas Fleet attempted to cripple the Royal Navy by luring Admiral Sir David Beatty’s battlecruiser force out into the open. However, the British caught a whiff of the plan and quickly dispatched Admiral Sir John Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet that had been stationed at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.

The two belligerents then tangled northwest of the Danish peninsula, where the outgunned Germans managed to inflict severe damage, sinking the HMS Indefatigable and HMS Queen Mary, which exploded when enemy shells hit their ammunition magazines. Although the British lost more ships and twice as many men, both sides claimed victory. Fittingly, the muddled outcome mirrored the same futility found on land in trench warfare.

The German fleet was forced to return home, having failed to break the Royal Navy’s blockade of the North Sea. The retreat reaffirmed Britain’s stranglehold on vital shipping lanes, a critical factor that contributed to Germany’s eventual defeat two years later.

6. Battle of the Masts

In one of the first major naval engagements between Muslim forces and the Christian Byzantine Empire, the Battle of the Masts unfolded off the coast of southern Anatolia in 655 CE. The fight for control the Mediterranean saw both sides suffer heavy casualties, resulting in what has been hailed as “The first decisive conflict of Islam on the deep.”

The Rashidun Caliphate, having recently conquered Egypt and Cyprus, then set its sights on bringing Byzantium under Muslim control. Led by Abu’l-Awar, 200 Arab boats sailed north towards the harbor of Phoenix (modern day Finike), where they encountered the 500-ship Byzantine navy, commanded personally by Emperor Constans II.

Fuelled by hubris and a vast numerical superiority, Constans (Constantine the Bearded) didn’t bother to bring his fleet into formation and instead plowed straight into the enemy. Big mistake. The blunder created heavy congestion, nullifying the Byzantine advantage as a clutter of masts flying either a cross or a crescent would give the battle its name. Constans barely escaped the carnage by switching uniforms with one of his officers. The result also marked the beginning of significant Muslim influence on the Mediterranean.

5. Battle of the Philippine Sea

Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan is credited with discovering a previously uncharted body of water that he named ‘Pacific’ for the calmness of the water. Ironically, the exploration soon led to his violent death, slain by natives in an archipelago that came to be known as The Philippines. Some 400 years later, the same area saw more mayhem with the largest aircraft carrier battle in history.

The Battle of the Philippine Sea began on 19 June 1944 and rapidly progressed in favor of the Allies. A total of fifteen aircraft carriers from the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s Fast Carrier Task Force (T.F. 58) flexed plenty of muscle as part of the most extensive single naval formation ever to give battle. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) quickly became overwhelmed, losing three aircraft carriers and 395 carrier-based planes. American airmen described the action as a “turkey shoot” that included six confirmed kills in eight minutes by Navy pilot Lieutenant Alexander Vraciu.

By comparison, U.S. losses were light in comparison with one battleship damaged and 130 aircraft destroyed. The Japanese not only lost one third of its carriers but nearly all of its carrier-based aircraft. Remarkably, the depleted Japanese forces would continue fighting to the bitter end for another 14 months.

4. Battle of Actium

The stakes couldn’t have been any higher as opposing naval forces led by Mark Antony, and Octavian squared off for control of the Roman Republic on September 2, 31 BCE. The evenly matched sea battle involved 800 ships, colliding near the Greek peninsula at Actium.

The assassination of Julius Caesar some 13 years earlier still weighed heavily on both sides, adding to the high drama. The famed general was Octavian’s great-uncle, and Antony formed a personal and military partnership with Cleopatra of Egypt, who just happened to be Caesar’s former flame.

According to historian Plutarch, the fighting quickly took on the characteristics of a land battle in which the two sides launched flaming arrows and heaved pots of red-hot pitch and heavy stones at one another’s decks. Antony’s large, well-armoured galleys were equipped with towers for his archers, large battering rams, and heavy grappling irons. Octavian counter-attacked with a fleet of smaller vessels provided greater speed and maneuverability, tactics that ultimately won the day.

The conquering hero would take the name “Augustus” to become Rome’s first Emperor, launching a prosperous reign that lasted 40 years. As for Antony and Cleopatra, things didn’t end well. The star-crossed lovers fled back to Egypt, where they committed suicide. The tragic romance later spawned a Shakespeare play and slew of big-budget Hollywood flicks. Reviews were mixed.

3. Battle of Salamis

Centuries of fighting between the Greeks and Persians produced one of the more spirited rivalries in ancient warfare. Following their victory at Battle of Thermopylae and the sacking of Athens, forces led by King Xerxes I of Persia looked to expand further with an amphibious invasion in 480 BCE. Historians have long debated the size of the Persian armada, but some accounts list a surplus of well over 1,000 ships.

Facing total ruin, the Greeks hatched an ingenious trap by luring the enemy into a narrow and winding strait between the island of Salamis and the Greek mainland. The defenders occupied a position next to an inlet perpendicular to the entrance with a fleet of 370 triremes and began ramming and boarding Persian vessels in the congested waterway.

As panic ensued, the numerically inferior Greek force sank more than 300 of Xerxes’ ships. The defeat forced the Persian to put the invasion on hold — a significant turning point in the Greco-Persian war that saved Hellenic culture from annihilation.

2. Red Cliffs

In the waning days of the Han Dynasty in China, a classic battle occurred featuring a smaller force overcoming tremendous odds to defeat a much larger navy. A trio of warlords had been vying to seize power in the winter of 208 AD, before finally erupting in one of the more spectacular naval engagements in ancient history.

Troops under Cao Cao prepared to invade the southern territory surrounding the Yangtze River Valley with a massive armada and 250,000 men. In response, Liu Bei and Sun Quan hastily formed a coalition with a combined force of 50,000 troops. However, the undersized alliance relied on a cunning battle plan based on deception — a ruse that worked to perfection.

While feigning surrender, the defenders floated several dozen ships filled with oil and straw towards Cao Cao’s fleet, which had been bunched together in a narrow space near an area known as the Red Cliffs. A favorable wind helped propel the ‘defectors’ ships’ forward as fire quickly spread throughout the invader’s entire formation, resulting in chaos and panic among Cao Cao’s men. The Southern allies exploited the advantage, unleashing the bulk of its navy to destroy the retreating enemy.

The outcome determined new borders of the Three Kingdoms period. Red Cliff would also inspire countless works of art, including a 2007 blockbuster film directed by John Woo.

1. Battle of Leyte Gulf

Considered by many historians as the largest naval battle of all time, the Battle of Leyte Gulf involved a series of engagements between the United States, and Japan fought off the Philippine islands of Leyte, Samar, and Luzon. The Americans’ plan was designed to achieve two main objectives: liberate the Japanese-occupied Philippines while regaining strategic bases in the Pacific to hasten the end of World War II.

By October 1944, the once-mighty Imperial Japanese Navy had been severely weakened from previous campaigns. Nonetheless, they still managed to assemble a formable array of heavy-gun warships as well as the first use of organized kamikaze attacks. The Allies countered with the full juggernaut of the U.S. Third and Seventh Fleets with a combined total of about 200,000 personnel.

The battle stretched over three days in which the Japanese suffered catastrophic losses, crippling its ability to fight as an effective naval force for the remainder of the war. Twenty-six Japanese ships and around 300 planes were destroyed — either by anti-aircraft fire or kamikaze attacks — and more than 12,000 Japanese sailors and airmen died. During an interrogation after Japan’s surrender, Admiral Mitsumasa Yonai, the Navy Minister, said of Leyte, “I felt that that was the end.”


By the Sea, By the Contentious Sea

WIF @ War