Tag Archives: Atlas Obscura

How a Museum Cares for a Giant Chunk of Dried-Out Fat

Andy Holbrook first laid eyes on the fatberg in October 2017, the day before his birthday. A collections care manager with nearly two decades of experience under his belt, he’d been dispatched by his colleagues at the Museum of London to pay a visit to “a slightly baffled but quite amused” team at Thames Water, the local sewage utility, to see about harvesting a slice of the congealed behemoth to display at the museum. “It felt like the most bizarre birthday present ever,” Holbrook says.

This fatberg, allegedly the largest ever hauled from any sewer, threw a famously putrid roadblock in London’s subterranean infrastructure in 2017. Fatbergs are often comprised of a slurry of used napkins, diapers, and other squishy detritus. This particular gloopy mess of … Read the rest

A Mustache Guard to Help You Drink Like a Victorian


Whisker Dam

$19.99, Amazon

Back in the Victorian era, protecting one’s mustache was an important concern for high society tea drinkers, which led to the invention of the “mustache cup.” These were tea cups or mugs with a thin strip of ceramic just inside the rim that acted as a guard for the drinker’s facial hair.

Mustache cups are not the hot trend they may once have been, but facial hair is as popular as ever. Enter the Whisker Dam. Place one on the rim of nearly any standard glass or mug, and suddenly you’ve got your very own Victorian mustache cup. This particular brand of mustache guard also features a rugged, heritage look that pairs well with a cup of coffee or a pint of … 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

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

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

What Would It Take to Make Nepal the Next Great Ski Destination?


In 2014, Dachhiri Sherpa placed 86th out of 87 athletes who completed the 15-kilometer cross-country skiing race at the Sochi Winter Olympics. He didn’t go to Russia with any illusions about winning gold, or even placing in the top 50. As Nepal’s only Winter Olympian, Dachhiri just wanted to represent his country. In an interview with NBC Sports, he said “the placing is not important if I can teach young people in Nepal about the Olympic spirit. This spirit is in my heart.”

Sochi was Dachhiri’s third and final Olympics and, for now, the end to Nepal’s participation in the quadrennial event (another skier competed in 2002 as well). The country that holds eight of the 10 tallest mountains in the world doesn’t have anyone … Read the rest

Rediscovering the Blazingly Bright Colors of Ancient Sculptures

In 1811, a group of English and German scholars happened upon the Aphaia Temple, on the Aegina Island, in Greece. The temple dated from around 500 BC, and despite the centuries that had passed, at the time the site still held the remains of marble sculptures from the temple’s east and west pediments. These figures depicted scenes of the Trojan wars, and although weathered and partly broken, they also contained an intriguing detail: visible signs of red and blue paint.

In 2006, the German archaeologists Vinzenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann examined one of these figures more closely, using raking light and ultra-violet photography. What they found was that the Aphaia’s Trojan archer, crouched low, bow taut and barefoot, was actually once painted in an array of … Read the rest