Tag Archives: landmarks

John Cleese’s Rubbish Dump in Palmerston North

Just outside the city of Palmerston North in the North Island of New Zealand is a rubbish dump named Mt Cleese.

It’s perhaps the first time in history that a landfill has been named after somebody. But who is Mr. Cleese and what had he done to bring upon himself such a misfortune?

Mr. Cleese is none other than the British comedian John Cleese, of Monty Python fame.

18 months prior to the historic renaming, Cleese had delivered a backhanded remark to the North Island city of Palmerston North. While on a tour of the city performing shows, Cleese reported that he had such a bloody miserable time that he was very happy to get out.

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The Eufala Oak The Owns Itself

There once stood a huge oak tree near the center of Eufala, a small city in Alabama, the United States. The 65-foot-tall tree was the city’s landmark and a favorite place for local children to play under. In 1919 a violent tornado lashed through the city, but the oak tree survived. Later, the tree also survived a fire. The locals thought it was a divine sign and petitioned the city council to deed the tree to itself.  

In 1936, a “deed of sentiment” was granted which reads in part: “I. E. H. Graves, as Mayor of the City of Eufaula, do hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey unto the ‘Post Oak Tree,” not as an individual, partnership nor corporation, but as a creation and gift of … Read the rest

Beechey Island And Franklin’s Lost Expedition

On the southwest corner of Devon Island in the Canadian Archipelago of Nunavut, lies a small desolate island—the island of Beechey. For more than a hundred years, this windswept and barren island was a favorite landing site for Arctic explorers. Beechey Island’s relatively flat beach allowed for easy landing, while the small hill behind the narrow beach provided the needed shelter. Many crews from Arctic expeditions wintered here over the years.

Beechey Island’s claim to fame lies in its association with one of the most tragic episodes in arctic exploration history—the Franklin expedition.

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Illustration of Franklin’s two ships, H.M.S. Erebus and H.M.S. Terror.

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Fort Blunder: The Fort That America Mistakenly Built in Canada

During the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, between Great Britain and the United States, the border between British Canada and upstate New York saw some of the fiercest fighting, much of which took place around Lake Champlain. This freshwater lake situated across the US-Canada border provided the British a direct invasion route into the heart of America. Had this important travel corridor from the mighty Saint Lawrence to the Hudson fell into the hands of British troops, the results of the American Revolutionary War could have been very different.

Anxious to prevent another invasion attempt, immediately following the War of 1812, America decided to fortify the shores of Lake Champlain. A small sandy spit called Island Point was chosen as the site for … Read the rest

The Ruins of Western Xia’s Imperial Tombs

About 30 kilometers to the west of the modern city of Yinchuan, lies the enormous burial complex of the Western Xia dynasty. Spread over 40 square kilometers on the eastern slope of the Helan mountain range, these tombs are proudly called "the Pyramids of China” by the locals.

As anybody can see, these tombs look nothing like the majestic stone pyramids of Africa. Instead, the Western Xia Tombs are earth and brick structures having the appearance of a giant pile of mud and dirt. But in the heydays, they must have been truly something to behold.

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Photo credit: BabelStone/Wikimedia

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Riverside: The Future Birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk

James Tiberius Kirk—Star Trek fans will recollect—was the youngest captain in the Starfleet history, who boldly lead the starship USS Enterprise and its crew into new worlds where no man had gone before.

Going by Star Trek’s timeline, James T Kirk won’t be born for another two hundred years. Yet, a small town south of I-80 on the eastern side of Iowa, United States, is already basking in the glory of the legendary captain’s exploits.

Riverside is a sleepy little place with a population of less than a thousand. Nothing much of anything happens here, which is why in 1985, Steve Miller, a member of the Riverside City Council, suggested that the council declare Riverside the future birthplace of Kirk.

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Photo credit: Peter Zillmann/Flickr

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THUMS: California’s Secret Oil Islands

Not too far off the coast of Long Beach, California, are a set of four artificial islands containing towering white buildings set amidst palm trees and shrubs and waterfalls, all dramatically lit by colorful lights at night. From the nearby shore, the man-made islands appear to be occupied by some sort of high priced condos or resorts. But truth is—they are just a façade camouflaging huge oil-drilling operations in the bay.

Disguising industrial infrastructures so that they blend with the environment is nothing new. The city of Toronto has been dressing up electric substations into quiet little houses for more than a century. Similarly, cities such as New York, Paris and London hide ventilation shafts and railway tracks behind phony walls and faux buildings. These fakeries … Read the rest

Why Dogs Can’t Stand ‘The Cave of Dogs’

In the west of Naples, Italy, is a large volcanic area called Phlegraean Fields filled with craters of old, extinguished volcanoes. Lying mostly underwater, the area is still volcanically active as evidenced by the numerous boiling pools of mud and fumaroles from which copious amount of steam can be seen rising at any time of day or night.

Centuries ago, travellers who could afford to travel came to Naples to see the famous volcano that buried the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under magma and ash. They also made a visit to Phlegraean Fields, where tour guides took them to a small cave called “Cave of Dogs”, or Grotta del Cane, for a gruesome little experiment.

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A guide shows a suffocated dog to two Read the rest

The Library That Stands On Two Countries

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House has two different addresses. If you are American, you’ll say the library is located at “93 Caswell Avenue, Derby Line, Vermont”, and if you are Canadian, you’ll insist its located at “1 rue Church Street, Stanstead, Quebec”. Both addresses are correct, and either one will take you to the same building. The only thing that matters is from which way you are approaching.

You see, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House is located astride the US-Canada border. One half of the building stands in Derby Line, which is an American town, and the other half stands in Stanstead, a Canadian town. Being border towns, Derby Line and Stanstead share many peculiarities—which we will come to shortly. But first, … Read the rest

The 30,000 Keys of Baldpate Inn

In 1913, American novelist Earl Derr Biggers penned a comedic mystery novel titled “Seven Keys to Baldpate”, that became so famous that it inspired as many as seven film adaptation, and a smash Broadway stage play of the same name. It also inspired Gordon and Ethel Mace to borrow the catchy name, as well as the theme of the story, for their mountain hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

“Seven Keys to Baldpate” is a story about a writer who attempts to write a novel within 24 hours. Seeking some peace and seclusion, the novelist travels to remote summer mountain resort named Baldpate Inn, in the dead of winter, and locks himself in, believing he has the only key. But all throughout the night, visitors keep barging … Read the rest