The Diving Horses of Atlantic City

For nearly half a century, Atlantic City, in New Jersey, United States, was home to an attraction almost too fantastical to believe—an apparently fearless horse with a young woman on its back would leap off a tower some 40 feet high into a pool of water below. The stunt took place at Atlantic City's popular venue Steel Pier, where trained horses took the plunge up to four times a day and seven days a week.

The idea of the diving horse was invented in Texas by ''Doctor'' William Frank Carver, a 19th century sharpshooter who toured the wild west organizing shows with trained animals and shooting exhibitions. The story goes that in 1881, Carver was crossing a wooden bridge over Platte River in Nebraska when the … Read the rest

The Double-Barreled Cannon of Athens

In front of the City Hall of Athens, in Georgia, United States, stands an unusual cannon from the American Civil War. It’s a double-barreled cannon, but unlike other multiple-barrel cannons of the past, the double-barreled cannon of Athens was designed to fire two solid cannonballs connected together by a length of iron chain. The two barrels pointed slightly away from each other, so that when they are fired together the cannonballs would spread to the full length of the chain and mow down enemy soldiers like a scythe cutting wheat on a field, or so was the idea.

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Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn/Flickr

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The Art of Mediaeval Book Repairing

In the early Middle Ages, books were made from animal hides known as parchment, rather than from paper. Preparing the parchment was a delicate business. The freshly skinned hide is first washed to remove blood and grime, and then soaked in a strong alkali solution to loosen out the hairs. After staying in the de-hairing solution for more than a week, the skin is attached to a wooden frame and stretched tight like a drum. While the skin is drying, the parchment maker would take a sharp knife and scrap the skin to remove the last of the hair and get the skin to the right thickness. This was the most delicate part. Too much pressure during the scrapping process or a slip of the knife … Read the rest

Signal Hill: The Birthplace of Modern Communications

Overlooking the harbour of St John's, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, is a massive piece of rock towering 140 meters above the Atlantic Ocean. The rock, known as Signal Hill, stands on St John's eastern shore across a narrow waterway that leads into the harbour. To the north lies Quidi Vidi Lake, and to the west lies the city towards which the hill descends gently in ridges and valleys. It was on top of this hill, in December 1901, that Guglielmo Marconi stood to receive the world’s first wireless transatlantic transmission.

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Cabot Tower on Signal Hill. Photo credit: Michel Rathwell/Flickr

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London’s Cabmen’s Shelters

Scattered throughout the streets of London, often overlooked, are small green sheds that have been offering shelter and hot food to the city’s cab drivers since 1875.

In those times, cab drivers rode horse-drawn carriages where the passengers sat inside while the poor cabbie had to sit on the top, exposed to the elements. But the drivers couldn’t just park their cabs by the side of the road and grab a quick drink at a public house, because the law forbade them to leave their carriages unattended. Some cabmen therefore employed young lads whose job was to look after the cab while they were away, as well as help carry the luggage and do other menial jobs.

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A Cabmen's shelter at Russell Square, London. Photo credit: Read the rest

The Devil’s Corkscrews

In the mid-1800s, ranchers across Sioux County, in the US state of Nebraska, began unearthing strange, spiral structures of hardened rock-like material sticking vertically out of the ground. The spirals were as thick as an arm and some of them were taller than a man. Not knowing what they were, the ranchers began calling them “devil’s corkscrew.”

The puzzling structures first came to the notice of the scientific community through geologists Dr. E. H. Barbour in 1891, when he was asked to investigate a nine-foot long specimen that a local rancher had discovered on his property along the Niobrara River. Barbour found that the spirals were actually sand-filled tubes with the outer walls made of some white fibrous material. Barbour knew they were fossils but of … Read the rest

Iligan, The City of Majestic Waterfalls

The city of Iligan, in the Northern Mindanao region of Philippines, is one of the country’s major city and the industrial center of the south. It has many heavy industries producing steel, tinplate, and cement. It also produces hydroelectric power for the entire Mindanao region. It’s surprising hence, that an industrial city such as Iligan should be known for its natural beauty.

The city is situated by the Bohol Sea which curves into the northern coast of Mindanao Island forming a small bay called the Iligan Bay. The bay lies to the west. To the east of the city lies flat cultivated coastal land which gives way to steep volcanic hills and mountains. These mountains are home to numerous cold springs and waterfalls. Officially, there are … Read the rest

Rocamadour—The Vertical Village

Since medieval times, the village of Rocamadour in the Occitanie region of southwestern France has attracted pilgrims from across Europe for its historical monuments and its sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is said that Saint Amator—thought to be the Biblical tax collector of Jericho, Zacheus—had lived and died here, shortly after he left Jerusalem. Legend has it that after St Amator's body was discovered, several miracles started to happen, and as the healing powers of Amator's remains became known, the site began attracting pilgrims and donations from French kings and queens allowing the site to grow into a village with several shrines and places of worship. Eventually, Rocamadour became an important stop on the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Campostela.

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Photo credit: dynamosquito/Flickr

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The Witness Trees of The American Civil War

Across the United States there are hundreds and thousands of trees that have stood around for many centuries and bore witness to the history in that area. Some of these trees were present during key events in American history like the Civil War battles. Historians call these trees “witness trees”. They were present when soldiers marched on to the battlefields and they stood silently as the soldiers fell. Many Civil War witness trees took bullets along with thousands of men. Many of them still hide bullets within their trunks.

In the early 1930s, the United States War Department thought some of these “witness trees” were important enough to mark and sometimes, protect. Small brass tags were placed in some of the trees, and lightening rods were … Read the rest

Old Sarum of Salisbury

Old Sarum in Salisbury, England, is a historically important archeological site consisting of an Iron Age hillfort and what little remains of an 11th century royal castle and cathedral. Located about two miles to the north of the city center, this is where the history of Salisbury began. The site has been occupied successively by the Romans, the Saxons, and the Normans before the foundation of New Sarum, or Salisbury, in the thirteenth century.

Old Sarum was settled as early as 3000 BC. However, the protective hill fort was constructed only around 400 BC. It’s an impressive earthwork consisting of an outer ring of defensive wall and an inner rampart rising at an angle. The oval-shaped hill measures 400 meters by 360 meters across. Shortly after … Read the rest

Hill of the Buddha

The Hill of the Buddha is a giant Buddha statue located atop a small hill near a cemetery in the Japanese island Hokkaido. The statue was built some 15 years ago, but it was only in December 2015, that the landscape around it was sculpted to highlight the massive figure.

“The aim of this project was to build a prayer hall that would enhance the attractiveness of a stone Buddha sculpted 15 years ago,” explains architect Tadao Ando. “The site is a gently sloping hill on 180 hectares of lush land belonging to a cemetery. The statue is 13.5 meters tall and weighs 1500 tons. It is made of fine, highly selected solid stone. Until now, the Buddha statue has stood alone in the field, giving … Read the rest

Underwater Mailboxes Around The World

Remember the last time you were diving underwater and suddenly remembered an important letter that you had to post that very instant? Yup, it has happened to all of us. Fortunately, these five places has us covered.

Hideaway Island, Vanuatu

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The underwater post office off the coast of Hideaway Island in the island nation of Vanuatu is one of the most famous in the world. It was established in 2003 and is located in 3 meters of water. The post office provides special waterproof postcards that tourists can drop into the submerged post box with their own hands, or ask the staff to do so.

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The Dolerite Columns of Coastal Tasmania

The coastline of the southern Tasmania, in Australia, is composed of stunning rock columns that protrude up to 300 meters from the sea level. These rocks are what geologists call dolerites, with its distinct elongated shape and hexagonal columns.

Dolerites form when molten rocks pushed up from the deep underbelly of the earth cools quickly and crystallizes to form small visible crystals in the rock. When the rate of cooling is just right, the rocks shrink in volume, causing the creation of cracks. The cracks allow the rocks in the interior to cool, resulting in more cracks. At the end, you get a large block of rock with long vertical and symmetrical cracks creating five or six sided columns. The columns can be just a few … Read the rest