Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Castillo de Bellver, South Africa, 1983 – 79 million gallons oil spill

The Castillo de Bellver was carrying 252,000 tons of crude oil to South Africa on August 6, 1983. Once the ship was about 70 miles off of Cape Town, it suddenly caught fire, which caused the ship to drift and then break into two separate pieces. The stern, which may have been carrying about 100,000 tons of oil, was capsized about 24 miles from the South African coast. Once the flames died down and no more explosions were expected, the ship’s bow was towed away from the coast and then explosive charges were used to sink it. 50,000-60,000 tons of the oil may have sank into the sea or burned during the fire.

Thankfully, the oil never reached the coastline. It was headed towards the coast but a wind shift changed the direction of the oil back away from the coast. There wasn’t much clean up with this oil spill though dispersants were used. The impact wasn’t as serious as it could have been and wildlife seemed to be able to cope.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Olduvai Gorge

An Ancient lake basin in northern Tanzania, the Olduvai Gorge has yielded the remains of more than 60 hominids as well as the two earliest stone tool traditions ever found (Oldowan and Acheulian). The gorge was discovered by German entomologist Wilhelm Kattwinkel in 1911 when he fell into it while chasing a butterfly. This inspired Hans Reck to lead an expedition there in 1913 but his work was ended by World War I. Excavations of Olduvai began in 1931 by Lois Leakey and his wife Mary. Three separate species of hominids have been found at Olduvai over the years, including Australopithecus boisei, Homo habilis and Homo erectus. Animal remains have also been found at the site including large antelopes, elephants, hares, guinea fowl, giraffes and hipparions (extinct three-toed horses).


The Olduvai Gorge contains the longest sequences of cultural remains ever found and the discoveries there have strengthened the argument that the origins of humanity are in Africa. These finds also give us an insight into how these hominids lived. For example, Mary Leakey found hominid footprints in 1975, which proved that they walked on two feet- one of the greatest paleoanthropological discoveries of the past century.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


These highly intelligent squid cousins get an early start as predators; their eggs are transparent, and both their brains and their sophisticated eyes are well developed long before they hatch. This allows the tiny baby tentacle-monsters to carefully observe other animals while still in the egg, and studies have shown that this period heavily influences their hunting style and preferred prey for the duration of their lives.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

47 storey fall

According to the NY Daily News, the Moreno brothers, Alcides and Edgar, were working on a window-washing platform attached to a skyscraper on E. 66th St., New York, when the platform collapsed on December 7, 2007. The 16-foot-long aluminum swing to the roof failed. Alcides Moreno cheated death after falling from the 47th story of the building, but Edgar didn’t survive.

The doctors performed at least 16 surgeries, because Moreno broke his ribs, both legs and right arm, badly injuring the spine. The medical staff described the victim’s recovery as “miraculous” and “unprecedented.” Doctors predicted that Moreno’s recovery would be complete in one, two years.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Great Tibetan Marathon

The Great Tibetan Marathon is held each year in northern India on the Tibetan Plateau where runners are able to enjoy the surrounding view of the Himalayan Mountains. Throughout the race runners get to experience the scenery within the Indus Valley. This marathon is especially different because it takes place in Buddhist surroundings at an altitude of 3,500m. At such a high altitude, runners have to learn how to deal with low oxygen levels which makes the race even harder to run as it is definitely much more of a challenge than a marathon at a normal altitude. Participants must spend time at 3,500m to allow the body to get used to the conditions before they can compete in the race. Also a day before the race, a 3km run is put into place so that runners can really get a grasp of the change in altitude. Athletes of all types can join into the marathon as they offer a half marathon, a 10km, and then a full marathon run.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Neptune Memorial Reef

The Neptune Memorial Reef (also known as the Atlantis Memorial Reef or the Atlantis Reef) is the world’s first underwater mausoleum for cremated remains and the world’s largest man-made reef. Opened in 2007, off the coast of Miami Beach, the Neptune Memorial Reef is the perfect final resting place for those who loved the sea.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Clinic bar

Located right in the heart of Clarke Quay, downtown Singapore, The Clinic is a hospital themed bar. Just as the name implies, its décor and ambience resemble a medical clinic. Hospital beds separated by hanging white curtains, surgery room lighting, wheelchairs and wheelchair tables, syringes, drips, test-tubes and paraphernalia will catch your attention for sure. Cocktails are served in blood bags attached to a drip or in large syringes.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sani Abacha

Sani Abacha was a military leader who became President of Nigeria in 1993. During his 5 year regime, he and his family managed to siphon out of the country’s coffers a total of £3 billion. Abacha is listed by Transparency International as the world’s fourth most corrupt leader in recent history. He died suddenly in 1998 at the age of 54 years and was buried immediately without any autopsy, fuelling rumors that he’d been poisoned.

Amount Laundered: Estimated US$3 billion.

Punishment: None.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient, mostly Hebrew manuscripts that were found at several sites on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Between 825 and 870 different scrolls have been found in 11 caves from 1947 to 1956. Most of the texts are biblical and include fragments of every book of the Old Testament except the book of Esther as well as the earliest known Book of Isaiah and never before seen psalms attributed to King David and Joshua. Some non biblical texts were found as well, and are commentaries on the Old Testament, rule books of the community, war conduct, hymnic compositions and benedictions to name a few. The Scrolls are believed to be the library of a Jewish Sect, written by the Essenes and hidden in the caves around the First Jewish Revolt (66-70 AD).


The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is widely considered the greatest manuscript find of all time. The scrolls predate the next oldest Old Testament manuscript by 1000 years and prove that Christianity was rooted in Judaism. They also give us a clear insight into Jewish life at the time.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Most Super Superfluid

Superfluidity is a state of matter (like solid or gaseous) that occurs at extremely low temperatures, has high thermal conductivity (every ounce of it is always exactly the same temperature), and no viscosity. Helium 2 is the “most” example of this. A cup of He2 will spontaneously flow up and out of a container, as if it just decided to leave. It also seeps right through otherwise solid materials because its complete lack of friction allows it to flow through otherwise invisible holes that would not allow regular helium (or water for that matter) to flow through. He2 did not wind up at number 1 just because of its ability to act like it has a mind of its own, though, it is also the most efficient thermal conductor on earth; several hundred times that of copper. Heat moves so fast through Helium 2 that it moves in waves, like sound (and is fact known as “second sound”), rather than dispersion, where it simply transfers from one molecule to another. Incidentally, the forces governing He2’s ability to crawl walls is called “third sound”.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Amoco Cadiz, France, 1978 – 69 million gallons oil spill

In 1978, the Amoco Cadiz, a very large crude carrier, was on its way from the Persian Gulf to Rotterdam with a stop in Great Britain. During this stop the ship experienced very unsettled water due to unstable weather conditions. The morning of the stop, a very heavy wave crashed into the ship’s rudder. The rudder was damaged and efforts to repair it failed. The ship sent out messages stating that it was unable to move, but no one on the ship called for assistance from a tug until hours later. A German tug eventually responded to the call but the high seas made assistance difficult. A tow line was eventually attached, but it broke, and a successful line was not put on until 8:55 that night. In efforts to stop the drifting, the Amoco Cadiz dropped its anchor, but the strong winds and mass of the tanker were too strong. At about 9:00PM, the ship ran aground, which then caused the engines to flood, which then ripped the hull and allowed oil to escape.

The next morning, the ship split in half and 69 million gallons of oil washed into the English Channel. Thankfully, everyone was rescued by French Naval Aviation troops, so no one died during the incident. Eventually the French Navy would sink the ship. None of the oil was able to be pumped out of the tanker due to the horrible weather. The oil eventually reached beaches, 76 in total, and spread 200 miles along the coastline.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Water allergy

Whether it’s taking a hot bath, brushing your teeth, cleaning the house, or simply quenching your thirst, water is an essential part of our daily routine. We just cannot live without water! That is why it is a wonder to us that people can be allergic to water. Believe it or not, some people suffer from extremely rare physical forms of urticaria known as Aquagenic Urticaria and Aquagenic Pruritus – both of which are ‘allergic’ reactions to water. They are so unusual, that only about 30 or 40 cases are documented worldwide.

Ashleigh Morris (21, Australia) and Michaela Dutton (23, England) developed a one in 230 million skin disorder – Aquagenic Urticaria. If their skin comes in to contact with water, itchy red welts, lumps and blisters appear all over the body. Showering is a really painful experience for both of them. Michaela cannot drink water, coffee or tea, she cannot even eat fruits because they trigger the burning rash on the skin and make her throat swell up, but her body seems to tolerate Diet Coke. Ashleigh tries to avoid water as much as possible – she stopped doing sports and any other physical effort that makes her sweat. Aquagenic Urticaria is so extremely rare, that even doctors don’t fully understand the complex mechanism behind the bizarre skin disorder.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Merry Cemetery

Cemeteries are often sad places, but they can also be amusing and entertaining. S?pân?a, in Northern Romania, is worldwide famous for its Merry Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. What is so unusual about this cemetery? Well, to begin with, the atypical design of the tombstones, which are painted by hand in vivid colors, such as red, blue, green, and yellow. The tombstones are big crosses sculpted from oak wood, engraved with funny epitaphs briefly describing the life or the circumstances in which these persons passed away:

Under this heavy cross

Lies my poor mother in law.

If she had lived three more days,

I would be lying here and she would be reading.

Burn in hell, you damn taxi

That came from Sibiu!

As large as Romania is,

You couldn’t find another place to stop,

But in front of my house to kill me?

Spâna is a unique cemetery and a major touristic attraction. The man behind this concept is Romanian craftsman Ioan Stan Patras, who started sculpting the crosses in 1935. The ancient culture of the Dacians, the Romanian’s ancestors, viewed death as liberation and the soul as immortal. Spâna preserves this positive attitude towards death and welcomes it with a smile.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Meyer Lansky

Meyer Lansky is recognized as the father of the modern form of money laundering. In the 1930s, he was the first to use the Caribbean to hide the criminal proceeds that had been laundered through Casinos in Las Vegas, before moving to Cuba where he oversaw gambling concessions. Later in life, Lansky would hold untold millions in Swiss bank accounts and in banks and corporations in Hong Kong, Israel and throughout South America. He was an expert at exploiting flexible governments and their officials and was never convicted of any charges brought against him.

Amount Laundered: About US$1 billion.

Punishment: None.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dans le Noir

Looking for an unbelievable, unique experience? What about eating or having a drink in the pitch dark? Dans Le Noir will literally leave you in the dark. This French bar concept is quite innovative and even if it seems strange at first, you don’t have to worry about messing around or getting the food and drinks all over your clothes. According to Dans le Noir, their blind guides are carefully trained to ensure visitors’ welfare and will provide you with guidance. You will rely on your sense of hearing, smell and touch. London, Paris, Barcelona, and Bangkok are some of Dans le Noir’s locations.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Bridge to Paradise

The Bridge to Paradise, in the Xcaret Nature and Cultural Park, is quite an intriguing Mexican cemetery. Its structure is based on the Gregorian calendar: the cemetery simulates a hill with seven levels representing the days of the week and 365 colorful tombs on the outside depicting the days of the year. The main entrance is a stairway with 52 steps that represent the weeks of the year.

Each grave is different from the others in design and building materials. One might look like a replica of a famous cathedral, while the next one looks like a sofa or a bed with headboard and pillows.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Polar Circle Marathon

Just by the name, you can guess that the Polar Circle Marathon is definitely a little bit chilly. In fact, in many cases, runners have to make their trek in 14 °F temperatures. The race is held in Greenland every year, in October. Runners have the option to run the half marathon or run the entire length, but no matter which race one chooses, it is most definitely not an easy one. Those who opt for the full race must finish within 7 hours and those with only half should finish in no more than 4 hours. Not only is the temperature enough to slow someone down, there is plenty of tough terrain to go over including tundras, glaciers, and of course the ice cap which really makes the course slippery. While gravel and snow often cover the ice cap, the committee that hosts the marathon warns runners to be careful. Along with a very slippery surface, runners will also come across a few slippery slopes as the ice cap has varying levels of height throughout the race and is said to be very hilly.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gulf War, Kuwait, 1991 – 520 million gallons oil spill

The Gulf War oil spill was not an accident; the oil was spilled purposefully during wartime. During the Gulf War in 1991, Iraqi forces, in hopes of thwarting the arrival of American Marine soldiers as well as lessening American oil supplies, unsealed and opened the valves located at an offshore oil terminal named Sea Island. They also dumped oil from many different tankers into the Persian Gulf. The media first reported that airstrikes from the Americans had blown up two oil tankers. In the end this wasn’t the case, though the Americans did eventually destroy the pipelines to avert more oil spilling into the Gulf.

By the end of it all, about 172 million gallons of oil poured into the Gulf. The oil covered over 4000 square miles and some of it was 5-inches thick. A study conducted after the oil spill found that the spill probably did very little damage in the long-term due to the fact that most of the oil evaporated and millions of barrels were able to be recovered. In the short-term, the impact on wildlife living in Kuwait and Iraq was devastating.