Tag Archives: society

Unalaska: The Town Full of Bald Eagles

The bald eagle may be America’s national bird, but for the small Alaskan town of Unalaska, this majestic bird is little more than a pest. They lurk above telephone poles and stop lights, watching for potential victims to sweep down upon, litter through trash, and steal grocery bags. But mostly they wait for the fishing boats to return with the day’s catch.

Located far out in the Aleutian Islands, this fishing town of 4,700 processes more fish than any other port in the country. And fish is the bald eagle’s staple food. So during the fishing season, hundreds of eagles come to scavenge and nest in the area, creating a nuisance for the local people. The eagles guard their nest fiercely and anybody appearing even remotely … Read the rest

Peary Land, The Land of Extremities

The northern tip of Greenland, despite being situated a little over 700 km from the north pole, is entirely ice free and has been for the last 8,000 years since the glaciers retreated. It is the most northerly ice-free region in the world. The climate is high arctic with a relatively warm summer of less than two months and long winters. Precipitation levels are so low that this region has been dubbed a ‘polar desert’.

This region, a peninsula, is called Peary Land—named in honor of Robert Peary, who first explored it during his expedition of 1891 to 1892.

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Peary Land contains the most northerly ice-free region of the world.

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Why Do Many Historic Buildings in The UK Have Bricked Up Windows?

There was a time in Great Britain when having windows in homes and buildings were prohibitively expensive.

That time began in 1696 with the introduction of the much-despised window tax, that levied tax on property owners based on the number of windows or window-like openings the property had. The details of the tax kept changing with time, but the basic premise was that the more windows the house had, the more tax the owner had to pay.

In the eyes of the legislature the window tax was a brilliant way to put the burden of tax on the shoulder of the upper class. The rich usually had larger houses with more windows, and so were liable to pay more taxes. Poor people, on the other hand, … Read the rest

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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Anna Creek: A Cattle Station Bigger Than Israel

In Australia, cattle stations—which is the equivalent of an American ranch—tend to be unimaginably large, so large that some of them are bigger than some European and African countries.

Take Anna Creek Station, a well known cattle station in South Australia, near Simpson Desert between Coober Pedy and Lake Eyre. This station covers nearly 24,000 square kilometers. By comparison, Israel is barely 21,000 square kilometers, and the biggest ranch in America is just over 3,300 square kilometers. In fact, there might be close to a hundred cattle stations in Australia that are bigger than the biggest American ranch.

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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

That Time When America Banned Sliced Bread

Modern life is full of conveniences but few things are as convenient as sliced bread.

Just think about it. To make a sandwich all you need to do is open a bag and remove the required number of pre-cut slices. No need to take out the whole loaf, find a knife and saw into it resulting in uneven slices and broken edges. It’s almost funny that it took humans more than two thousand years to figure that out. Now imagine someone trying to take away this great invention.

The United States Government attempted to do that in 1943. The Second World War was in full swing, and America, like most Allied countries, was trying to conserve resources for the war effort. Food was one of them. … Read the rest

The Frost Fairs of River Thames

Between the 13th and the 19th centuries, the northern hemisphere was in the grip of a “Little Ice Age”. Temperatures dropped worldwide as summers became cold and wet while winters became colder, long and harsh.

In the Swiss Alps encroaching glaciers destroyed farmlands and villages. Canals and rivers in Great Britain and the Netherlands froze up frequently hampering navigation. Greenland was largely cut off by sea ice for three hundred years. With failing crops, many Norse colonies in Greenland starved to death and disappeared.

While famine and death became common across Europe, people also started taking advantage of the cold weather. Frozen ponds and rivers became impromptu ice skating rinks, and outdoor winter sports became popular pastime activities.

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A Frost Fair on the River Thames in Read the rest