Tag Archives: landmarks

Offa’s Dyke: The 1,200-Years-Old Dyke Separating Wales From England

In south-west England, there runs a great earthwork from the mouth of River Dee near Chester, to the estuary of River Severn near Chepstow, traversing through more than 150 miles, although the earthwork is not continuous. This is Offa’s Dyke, and for centuries it has marked the boundary between England and Wales.

Offa was the king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia during the second half of the 8th century. He controlled large swathes of land in the lowlands of Britain to the east and south-east of what was to become England, but the land to the west was divided into a number of kingdoms free from Anglo-Saxon rule. These kingdoms, ruled by the Romano-Britons—a culture that evolved after the fall of the Roman Empire—eventually become … Read the rest

Morocco’s Abandoned Movie Sets in The Desert

In the early 1960s, movie director David Lean was scouting for locations to shoot his upcoming movie Lawrence of Arabia when he learned about Ouarzazate. This large desert town, nestled at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, in southern Morocco had exotic scenery, clear skies and friendly locals, providing an attractive location for movies involving ancient, desert-based story lines. Lean eventually shot most part of the movie in Spain, but many key scenes were also shot in Jordan and in Ouarzazate, such as the massacre of the Turkish Army in the town of Tafas.

Over the last fifty years, countless movies and TV series have been shot in Morocco, and in Ouarzazate in particular. These include The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Last Read the rest

The Lighthouse That Wrecked More Ships Than it Saved

For more than forty years a lighthouse stood on a large anvil-shaped peninsula jutting into the Tasman Sea near Jervis Bay, in southern Australia. It stood at a place where it shouldn’t have, luring ignorant ships into the very rocks they were trying to avoid.

The cliffs around Cape St George just south of Jervis Bay was notorious for shipwrecks, and so in the mid-19th century, it was decided that a lighthouse was needed for the safe navigation of coastal shipping.

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Photo credit: John Eggers/Wikimedia

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Britain’s Giant Hillside Chalk Figures

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The Westbury White Horse carved on the hillside near Westbury in Wiltshire, England. Photo credit: tipwarm/Shutterstock.com

A large portion of Southern England is made up of chalk. This white limestone are the shells of tiny marine organisms that lived and died in the seas that once covered much of Britain some 90 million years ago. As time progressed, layers of calcium carbonate built up and got compacted into a solid layer of rock. Later, tectonic movements lifted the sea floor out of the sea and these became the magnificent downland in south of England.

Much of this chalk is hidden by a thin layer of soil and vegetation, except on the edges where the chalk is exposed to the sea, leading to such dramatic headlands as … 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

The Mountain That Japan Hid From The World

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Photo credit: 663highland/Wikimedia

Inside the Shikotsu-Toya National Park, in the island of Hokkaidō, not far from the active stratovolcano, Mount Usu, there is a 400-meter tall volcanic peak called Shōwa-shinzan. Shōwa-shinzan is Japan’s youngest mountain. It appeared on 28 December 1943 out of a wheat field accompanied by strong tremors and hot lava. As the molten magma broke through the surface, it uplifted the field and over the following two years the lava dome continued to rise until it reached a height of 398 meters.

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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