The strangest town in Alaska: Whittier, the one-building city

There’s an unusual town in Alaska, along Prince William Sound, where everyone lives under a single, 14-story roof. Built in 1957 by the military, the building — now called Begich Towers — contains 150 studio, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, a hospital, a post office, a grocery store, and city government offices. It even connects, via underground tunnel, to a school. So residents never even have to leave the building, if they don’t want to — convenient given that they can expect an average of 22 feet of snow each year.

Check out CNN’s video-essay about Whittier, Alaska (and read the corresponding article here):

Only about 220 people live in Whittier year-round, working in commercial fishing, recreation and tourism or for the state ferry and railroad. Most of them have homes in the tower, as though they were occupying separate bedrooms in one huge house. About their isolation together, they say: “We’re all family here.”

You can also check out some photos of Whittier below:

View post on imgur.com

Fascinating!

Share

Here are some weird facts about leap years.

Happy Leap Day, everyone! One of the rarest holidays of them all (though not nearly as rare as Thanksgivukkah), February 29 only shows up every four years. Lucky for us, this happens to be one of them! To celebrate, here are Five Weird Facts about leap years, courtesy of about.com.

A sampling:

3. Leap Year Capital of the World
In 1988, the town of Anthony, Texas, with a population of 8000, declared itself to be the “Leap Year Capital of the World.”

Its justification for this title was that two members of its Chamber of Commerce were born on leap year days. But in a moment of honesty a member of the Chamber also admitted that, “We just voted arbitrarily to name this as the leap year capital of the world because no one else has.”

As of 2016, the town of Anthony continues to pride itself on being the Leap Year Capital, with festivities planned for February 29.

I’m also partial to the notion of re-envisioning Leap Day as a “day out of time.”

Share

Why are there so many medieval paintings of people battling large snails?

I never knew that giant snails featured so prominently in medieval paintings, but now that I do, this is the first question on my mind. They do, it turns out.  According to Sarah J. Biggs of the British Library, “images of armed knights fighting snails are common” in 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts, “especially in marginalia.”  Check out a sampling below:

View post on imgur.com

One theory about the snails, Biggs goes on, is that they represent the Resurrection; others suggest they are a symbol of the Lombards, a group “vilified in the early middle ages for treasonous behaviour”;  still others have described the ‘knight v snail’ motif as “a representation of the struggles of the poor against an oppressive aristocracy, a straightforward statement of the snail’s troublesome reputation as a garden pest, a commentary on social climbers, or even as a saucy symbol of female sexuality.”

As /r/AskHistorians puts it, in other words, there are “as many explanations as there are scholars”; fundamentally, we just really don’t know. Redditor /u/TheAlaskan relates another plausible account:

“I’m partial to the explanation of Medievalist Lisa Spangenberg, who suggests that the snail is ‘a reminder of the inevitability of death.’
To understand that reference, you have to refer to Psalm 58 (Wycliffe translation) . We’re looking here at verses 7-8:
7 They shall come to nought, as water running away; he bent his bow, till they be made sick. (They shall come to nothing, like water running forth; and when they go to bend their bows, they shall be made feeble, or weak.)
8 As wax that floateth away, they shall be taken away; fire fell above, and they saw not the sun. (Like a snail that melteth away into slime, they shall be taken away; like a dead-born child, they shall not see the sun.)
Like the snail, even the best-armored knight will melt away.”

Fascinating and bizarre stuff.

Share

Bizarre “spaghetti monster” discovered 4000 feet underwater

One never knows what sort of strange life forms the ocean will churn up next.

According to livescience, “workers at the oil and gas company BP videotaped this strange-looking animal while collecting video footage some 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) under the sea with a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV).” Check out the footage below:

The creature, it turns out, is Bathyphysa conifer, a colonial animal similar to jellyfish and corals: “the spaghettilike B. conifer is made up of many different multicellular organisms known as zooids. These organisms are a lot like regular, solitary animals, except that they’re attached to other zooids, forming a more complex organism.”

Share

Look at this abandoned Indonesian church shaped like a giant chicken.

Our loyal reader Donna sends word of an impressive godly monument shaped like a familiar variety of domesticated fowl. Rising high above the tropical canopy in Magelang, Central Java, Gereja Ayam (which translates literally as “chicken church,” and is not to be confused with a similarly-named fast food chain) was “originally built as a prayer house by 67-year-old Daniel Alamsjah after he received a divine message from God.” While the building more closely resembles a chicken, it was actually intended to look like a dove. You can read and see more here — and in the meantime, check out the video below:

Share

British prime minister calls for “big conversation” about seagull attacks

Following an admittedly-Hitchcockian series of gull maulings, UK Prime Minister David Cameron offered a statement to his panicked nation. Okay, the headline exaggerates, but it’s largely unvarnished truth. From The Guardian:

David Cameron has flown into the debate about culling seagulls, calling for a “big conversation” about the issue. The prime minister’s call follows an attack on a pet tortoise in Cornwall this week. Liskeard resident Jan Byrne said that gulls swooped on tortoise Stig, who died two days later from his injuries.

“They turned him over and were pecking at him. We were devastated,” she told the BBC. There have been two reports of seagulls attacking and killing dogs in England in the past three months.

Cameron told BBC Radio Cornwall: “I think a big conversation needs to happen about this and frankly the people we need to listen to are people who really understand this issue in Cornwall, and the potential effects it is having.”

You can read the original article here.

Share

It’s raining spiders in Australia

Australia, the Land Down Under, the place where everything is poisonous, just got even more terrifying. You read the headline right: it is raining spiders in Australia:

Millions of tiny spiders recently fell from the sky in Australia, alarming residents whose properties were suddenly covered with not only the creepy critters, but also mounds of their silky threads. But that’s not where the frightful news ends: Experts say that such arachnid rains aren’t as uncommon as you might think.


Of course the question, then, is why is it raining spiders in Australia? (Tautological answers will not be accepted.) The answer is just as unsettling as the phenomenon itself. According to Rick Vetter, a retired arachnologist at the University of California, Riverside, witnesses

likely saw a form of spider transportation known as ballooning. “Ballooning is a not-uncommon behavior of many spiders. They climb some high area and stick their butts up in the air and release silk. Then they just take off,” Vetter told Live Science. “This is going on all around us all the time. We just don’t notice it.”

Next time I travel to Australia, remind me to bring an umbrella.

Share