Category Archives: geography

How Seattle Is Winning the War on the Car Commute

Seattle is among the fastest growing cities in the U.S., thanks largely to Amazon’s addition of 35,000 employees since 2010. For all the economic benefits that come with growth, it has also created a variety of civic headaches, crippling traffic chief among them.

But thanks in part to considerable efforts by the region’s largest employers, the share of commuters driving solo into downtown Seattle is on a dramatic decline.

Just 25 percent of workers traveling into the center city drove themselves, according to the results of the latest annual commuter survey by the Seattle Department of Transportation and nonprofit partner Commute Seattle. This is the lowest share since the city started keeping track in 2010.

The number of cars is also trending downwards, according to … Read the rest

5 Unique South Korean Foods You Can Order Online

Just because you can’t make it to Pyeongchang for the Olympics doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the food. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and local specialty markets, people cheering their countrymen on from outside Korea can toast a figure skater landing a triple axel with a 2,000-year-old rice wine or fortify themselves for a long night of curling with a war-era stew—all without getting on a plane.


Acorn Jelly

Prepared Food

To make this traditional Korean appetizer and side dish, chefs soak peeled acorns in water for up to a week, then grind them into a powder that they cook with water and sugar. The end result is dotorimuk, a light brown jelly with a silky texture and mild, savory flavor when eaten … Read the rest

London Wants Its Hedgehogs Back


If you happen to spot a small hole in the bottom of a fence or brick wall in Barnes, a neighborhood in South West London, there’s a good chance that you’ve stumbled upon a hedgehog crossing, and that Michel Birkenwald is responsible for it.

A jeweller by trade, Birkenwald has become one of London’s most enthusiastic engineers of infrastructure for animals. He founded and self-financed Barnes Hedgehogs around four years ago. The group drills the holes for free and generally advocates for the welfare of wild hedgehogs. Once Birkenwald has crafted a passage, he usually affixes a sign reading “Hedgehog Highway,” with the creature’s spiky silhouette.

Even with a diamond drill tip, the work can be slow going. Victorian bricks are tough, and it … Read the rest

What Are Snow Rollers?


In Canada, a rare wind is blowing up cylindrical “snow rollers”—a phenomenon that occurs only when wind, snow, and moisture synchronize in a rare confluence of conditions.

When the wind is strong—but not too strong—and the snow is light—but not too light—and sticky, a steady wind can roll snow into neat, spiral cylinders. They dot a field of snow like icy bales of hay. They start small but can grow around two feet in diameter.


In the past few years, snow rollers have appeared in Ohio, Idaho, and Scotland. They’re most likely to be found in place with a slope, which can help the snow roll.


Snow rollers can be kind of cute as they skate across a field—but just imagine if … Read the rest

A Mexican Village Where Aztec-Era Agriculture Remains

As twilight hits the southern edge of Mexico City, campesinos (peasant farmers) glide through narrow canals between pastures as they make their way over the water to deliver crates of produce. It’s January, the middle of the dry season, and through the slopes of the surrounding hills and volcanoes, desiccated lettuce and spinach fill the fields amid the lagoons of Xochimilco.

San Gregorio Atlapulco, in Mexico City’s Xochimilco municipality, is the last bastion of the once great chinampa economy. During Aztec times, it functioned as the motor for the sustenance of up to 1.5 million people in the Valley of Mexico. Tenochtitlan, the island capital of the Aztecs, is where the Mexica built their pyramids in the Lake of Texcoco. It was intimately integrated Read the rest

Found: Eggs From a Butterfly Last Seen in Scotland 130 Years Ago


The white-letter hairstreak, a brown butterfly with a distinctive white “W” marking on the underside of its hindwings, was last seen alive in Scotland in 1884—until last summer, when Iain Cowe from the nonprofit Butterfly Conservation spotted an adult flitting around wych elms near Lennel, in the southeastern part of the country. This year brought more evidence—in the form of minuscule eggs—that the white-letter hairstreak is back in Scotland for good.

“Last year was an impossible find, but this year’s egg discovery is beyond anything we thought possible,” Cowe said in a statement. The eggs, which are smaller than a grain of salt, were spotted by volunteers Ken Haydock and Jill Mills under the branch of an elm tree. Among them was an old, hatched … Read the rest

How Structural Racism is Linked to Higher Rates of Police Violence

The question that typically pops up when black people are killed by police is whether racism had anything to do with it. Many studies do show that racism plays a part in causing police to pull the trigger more quickly on black suspects. That’s usually because of the implicit racial biases of the individual police officer involved. Law enforcement officials often try to rule out racism by arguing that you can’t tell what’s in a officer’s heart when these killings happen.

But what a team of researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health recently endeavored to find out was whether the kind of racism that’s woven into laws and policies also informs racial disparities in police violence. Their findings were released in the Read the rest

The Best Things Found Between the Pages of Old Books


What secrets hide among the pages of old books? There might be a lock of George Washington’s hair, the story of an forgotten luminary of American literature, or a centuries-old manuscript full of mystery. We asked Atlas Obscura readers to send us their stories about the most amazing items they found in books, and you sent us hundreds of responses—from the gross and macabre to the utterly charming and deeply surprising.

We heard about dried bubblegum, boogers, lint, tiny book scorpions, dead head lice, and other unsavory discoveries. Six different correspondents wrote to us with stories about finding strips of fried bacon. (Can someone please enlighten us as to why anyone would use bacon as a bookmark?) Many people use books as hiding … Read the rest

Life Lessons From the Helmeted Honeyeater


If you need post-Valentine’s Day inspiration this year, look no further than the helmeted honeyeater. The endangered Australian species—whose population once fell as low as fifty birds—is having a great breeding season this year. As the Australian Associated Press reports, 36 helmeted honeyeater couples—a new record—have welcomed 61 new fledglings into the bird’s largest wild population, at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve. And it’s all down to a judiciously applied mixture of love and fear.

There are about 170 known species of honeyeater in the world. All are unique to Australia, New Zealand, and the neighboring Pacific islands, and most eat nectar, which they get by sticking their long tongues into flowers or between pieces of bark. The helmeted honeyeater, a subspecies distinguished … Read the rest