Monday, June 30, 2014

Ixtoc I, Mexico, 1979 – 138 million gallons oil spill

The Ixtoc I incident in Mexico is one that did not involve a tanker. Instead, the spill of 138 million gallons of oil was caused by a faulty offshore oil well. Pemex, a Mexican petroleum company, was attempting to drill an oil well when an unexpected blowout occurred on June 3, 1979. In no time the oil ignited, the drilling rig collapsed and oil began to freely flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Officials predicted that 10,000-30,000 barrels of oil a day were going into the Gulf. The horrible part is that it took almost a year to stop the leak. It was successfully capped in 1980, only after millions of gallons of oil had polluted waters.

Thankfully, Mother Nature helped with the Ixtoc I oil spill. Westerly winds and storms were able to keep the oil away and off of beaches near southeastern Texas and eastern Mexico, although some of the oil did reach South Padre Island. Beaches were soiled, but the outcome could have been much worse if the weather did not cooperate.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mall of America

This massive mall has a theme park and a wedding chapel, where more than 5,000 couples have been married since its opening. Mall of America opened in 1992 and is the third largest mall in North America.

The mall has a gross area of 4,200,000 sq ft available as retail space. That's enough to fit seven Yankee stadiums inside of it! Mall of America is the most visited shopping mall in the world with more than 40 million visitors annually (or roughly eight times the population of the state of Minnesota). Spending 10 minutes in every store would take a shopper more than 86 hours to complete their visit to Mall of America. The mall includes a cinema, Nickelodeon Universe theme park, aquarium, adventure golf, flight simulators, and a comedy house

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Guácara Taina

Located in the Dominican Republic, Guácara Taina is the only underground bar/club built inside a natural cavern. It lies sixty feet below the earth’s surface and has a capacity of 3,000 people. Guácara Taina is spread over three floors, naturally decorated with stalagmites and stalactites.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Phlebonotus Pallens

Cockroaches suffer one of the worst reputations in the animal kingdom, but far from deserved; of the thousands of species known, only a handful ever could or ever would invade your kitchen, they play integral roles in ecosystems around the world, they’re much more sanitary than you think, and some of them are even highly devoted parents. How devoted? Phlebonotus pallens, an amphibious cockroach from India, carries her young under her wing cases, specially shaped for this purpose and useless to actually fly. Nestled under this protective shield, the young chew tiny holes in their mother’s back and feed on her hemolymph (insect “blood”) using special fang-like mandibles they will lose as they grow older.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Butterfly Children

The sad story of Sarah and Joshua Thurmond started when doctors diagnosed them with Epidermolysis bullosa (EB), another rare genetic disorder that cause the skin to be extremely fragile. Erosions and blisters occur because the skin layers lack a fibrous protein that is responsible for anchoring filaments to underlying tissues.

Joshua suffers from one of the most severe types of EB, Epidermolysis bullosa dystrophica. Unfortunately, his sister too, but she passed away on Oct. 8, 2009. The disease took her at the age of 20. According to medical studies, people born with EB have a life expectancy of about 30, maximum 40 years.

“Cotton Wool Babies”, “Crystal Skin Children” or “Butterfly Children” are the terms often used to describe the fragile condition of younger patients. Their skin is as fragile as a butterfly’s wings. The slightest rub can cause painful wounds. Brave Sarah and Joshua learned to live with extreme and constant pain. Special bandages help lessen the pain and prevent infections, but currently, there is no cure for EB.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fall of the Aztec Empire

Hernan Cortes was born in 1485 in Medellin, in what was then the Kingdom of Castile in Spain. He went to the University of Salamanca when he was fourteen but soon grew tired of his studies and returned to Medellin, just as news of Columbus’ discovery was reaching Spain. Cortez left Spain for the New World in 1504 where he planned to be a colonist of the island Hispaniola (a large Caribbean island, now the location of Haiti and the Dominican Republic), he registered as a citizen when they arrived. Cortes took part in the conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba in 1506 and was rewarded with a large estate and Indian slaves. In 1518 he led an expedition into Mexico. When the governor who sent him on the expedition changed his mind (because of a rivalry between them), Cortes went anyway. He left in February 1519 with 11 ships, 500 men, 13 horses and a handful of canons. When he arrived in the Yucatan Peninsula he burnt his ships, thus committing himself to the conquest. Cortes moved inland to the city Tenochitlan, befriending thousands of Indians who were tired of the Aztec domination of the area along the way. When he reached the city, Cortes was welcomed by the Emperor Montezuma II, who believed that Cortes was the returning god Quetzalcoatl (this eventually led to his imprisonment). The conquest was short lived, and when Cortes heard that a group of Spanish forces from Cuba had come to relieve him of his command, he left Tenochitlan with a captain and rode off to defeat his opposition. When he returned victoriously, the city had revolted and he led his forces away from the city. He returned in 1521 and this time conquered not only the city, but the entire Aztec Empire.

The Guides

When he first landed in Mexico, Cortes met Geronimo de Anguilar, a Spanish priest who had survived a shipwreck and captivity in a Mayan village. It was during his captivity that he learned Mayan and he became a translator for Cortes. After winning a battle at Tabasco, Cortes was given 20 young women, one of which, La Malinche, would become his mistress and bear him a child, Martin. But La Malinche was more than just his lover, she knew both the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs and Mayan, and became his interpreter and counselor.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Maharaja Express - 1

The Maharaja Express boasts a beautiful interior design, running water, toilet and shower with a tub in each compartment

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Highway to Hell

Located in Kansas, this cemetery has gained the reputation as one of the world’s most haunted cemeteries. Some people even consider it to be one of the seven gateways to Hell. There are so many legends, stories of witchcraft, ghosts and supernatural happenings surrounding it that even Pope John Paul II allegedly ordered his private jet not to fly over Stull while he was on the way to a public appearance in Colorado in 1995. The Pope considered Stull “unholy ground”.

But just how terrifying is this place? There aren’t many places as controversial as Stull Cemetery. My favorite tale is that the devil’s only half-human son is buried there with his mother. Perhaps that’s why the devil himself has been visiting the Stull Cemetery at least once (some legends report twice) a year since 1850. However, Tracy Morris, author of the Tranquility series of paranormal humor mysteries, asks a legitimate question: “Presumably, Mrs. Lucifer and little Luci Jr. would go to hell upon death, where the Prince of Darkness reigns supreme. So if they’re in hell with him, why visit their graves at all? Maybe he just wants a vacation.”