Tag Archives: usa

Michigan’s Massive Copper Boulders

In the early 17th century, fur traders traversing Lake Superior in North America heard tales of a fabulous boulder lying on the banks of the Ontonagon River. The boulder was said to be five tones in weight and as large as a house. And it was made of solid copper.

Stories about such a prize lying unclaimed in the wild set off many prospectors in the hunt, and it wasn’t long before the boulder was located. It really was made of solid copper. Curiously, no effort was made to relocate the treasure until nearly two centuries later. In 1766, when trader Alexander Henry laid eyes on the rock he was so excited that he grossly overestimated the weight of the boulder to be ten tons. Henry … Read the rest

How The London Bridge Was Sold to America

For centuries, children and kindergarteners have sung and danced to the tune of London Bridge is falling down, but when engineers discovered that the London Bridge was actually falling down in the early 1900s, it was no laughing matter. The stone bridge was just over a century old, and was the busiest point in London crossed by 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles every hour. Surveyors found that the bridge was slowly sinking—about one third of a centimeter every year. When measurements were taken in 1924, they found that the bridge’s east side stood some 9 cm lower than the west side. Another four decades had passed before the City Council could arrive at a decision.

Council member Ivan Luckin suggested that instead of demolishing the … Read the rest

Robert Peary’s Meteorite And Minik

Many historical figures are celebrated for achieving great things but conveniently forgotten of all the terrible things they did to other people. Christopher Columbus is one prime example. A quick Google search will reveal dozens of beloved characters with shady personalities, but one story that is not told often is that of Arctic explorer Robert. E. Peary who is widely believed to be the first person to have reached the North Pole in 1909. This story, however, begins a lot earlier.

About 10,000 years ago a large lump of extraterrestrial rock veered too close to the earth and got sucked into the planet’s gravitational field. As it slashed through the dense atmosphere, the intense heat generated weakened the structure of the iron meteorite and it exploded … Read the rest

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

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

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

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

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