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A lot of people lately seem to be finding the lost city of Atlantis. Back in June a researcher said he located it off the southern coast of Spain by studying satellite images. Then last month US researchers said they found the city off the coast of Cyprus by using sonar technology. But my favorite is the discovery of Atlantis announced yesterday by the Hawaiian Phonics tutor Dennis Brooks. He's studied the issue deeply and has concluded that Atlantis is, in fact, Tampa, Florida. He points out that the dimensions of Atlantis as described by Plato pretty much match up with the dimensions of Tampa and Harbor Island (in Tampa Bay). So there you go. Mystery solved.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, History, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 10, 2004
Comments (9)
America Looks Beyond is the name of a visionary new project jointly funded by the PEW Charitable Trusts and the Gates Foundation. Armed with a budget of over $1 billion a year, this is what they plan to do: "Starting in 2005, every high school student in America is going to be offered a six-week trip to a third world country. To broaden their horizons. To gain a more intimate understanding of the world. And to fight the global War on Terror in a positive way, through education and first-hand knowledge of how so much of the world struggles to survive." That would be great, if it were real. But, of course, it isn't real. As Glassdog points out, the site isn't registered to either the Gates Foundation or the PEW Charitable Trusts. It's registered to the media activist group AdBusters. So in other words, the site is a spoof... showing what people could be doing, but aren't.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 23, 2004
Comments (8)
image Three and a half years ago Larry and Sean disappeared from their home in Norfolk. Larry and Sean were ornamental sheep. Plywood cutouts covered with a woolly coat. About a week ago they reappeared, much to the delight of their owner, and they brought back with them a letter marked 'Larry and Sean's Holiday Photos,' showing the adventures they had in India. Turns out that Larry and Sean had been sheep-napped by a local man, Joe Claydon, who saw them one night while stumbling home from a late-night party and decided to make off with them. Years later Claydon felt guilty and took the sheep on an Indian holiday before returning them to their rightful owner. A small gallery of their vacation photos can be seen here. I think this prank (sending ornamental garden figures, usually gnomes, on foreign vacations) has become quite popular after it was featured in the movie Amelie. It was also the theme of a Travelocity ad campaign.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 22, 2004
Comments (3)
This is probably not a hoax. Just a really bad idea. Croatia is hoping to strike it rich by luring in tourists curious to see what it would be like to spend a couple of days in a hard-labor camp. So they're considering reopening a communist-era prison on a barren island in the Adriatic Sea, and offering it as a tourist destination. They envision "tourists being issued convict uniforms, pounding large stones with a sledgehammer and hauling the pieces on their backs to quarries around the prison." Sounds like fun.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 18, 2004
Comments (8)
image Here's an odd product from Samsung-Italia. It's the Fidobag. The site explaining the Fidobag is in Italian, but apparently it's a suitcase that will respond to the voice of its owner and come at their command (that would be useful for finding a bag in an airport). Also, if someone tries to steal your bag, all you need do is call out and the Fidobag will start to 'bark' at an intensity of 197.5 decibels, thereby stunning and exposing the would-be thief. Gizmodo offers a more complete translation of the site. Although the Fidobag does seem like it would be useful, it just seems way too odd to actually be real.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Technology
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 01, 2004
Comments (8)
While browsing through the alt.folklore.urban usenet group, I noticed a debate raging over the question of how deep American roads are. Apparently (so the urban legend goes) American roads can only be built to a fairly shallow depth in order to make the land under them more easily reclaimed for farming. By contrast, European roads are built to a much deeper depth. As a consequence, European roads are much more durable than American roads and need fewer repairs. The usenet group didn't appear to have reached any conclusion about the validity of this claim, but I can't imagine it's true. I think the frequency of road repairs is mainly a function of weather conditions (does the ground freeze and thaw a lot) and the amount of traffic on the road. I can't find any references on Google to American laws stating that roads have to be kept shallow for the benefit of future farmers.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 19, 2004
Comments (13)
Hicham Dequiedt claims that the reason he had to drive 125 miles at 120 mph, weaving in and out of traffic and speeding down the hard shoulder, was that the cruise control got stuck. Somehow, miraculously, he managed to stop the car just before he would have smashed into a toll booth. His story sounded a little fishy to me the first time I saw it two days ago. And apparently other people think it's fishy as well. Renault, the manufacturer of his car, says that they've examined his vehicle and can't find anything wrong with it. Perhaps Dequiedt just felt like going on a joyride. Or perhaps Renault is trying to get off the hook. Hard to know. I can understand the cruise control getting stuck, but usually the brakes would still work. (Oh, and Slashdot has a pretty lively thread going about this incident).
Categories: Exploration/Travel
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 07, 2004
Comments (5)
I've finally made it back to San Diego. The vacation was great, but it's good to be back home. I'm also glad to see that the site wasn't completely overrun by spammers in my absence. Here's a few snapshots from the trip:

Posing with Nessie in Drumnadrochit.

The relatives I was staying with in Gloucester had a weird, mutant goldfish swimming around in their backyard pond. I dubbed it Nessie. Later we learned that the poor fish was suffering from dropsy and had to be put down before it popped and infected all the other fish in the pond.

image  image I was amazed by the meats they sold in French supermarkets. On the left is lapin, otherwise known as rabbit meat. Since the rabbits were already skinned, I couldn't tell if one of them was Bernd. On the right is pigeon meat, which isn't really very shocking, though you'd still be hard-pressed to find it in any American supermarket.

image Here I am posing in front of the Piltdown Man Pub located in the town of Piltdown. Unfortunately the pub was closed when I was there, so I didn't get a chance to go inside. Plus, it was raining when this picture was taken, so I didn't stick around for very long.

Finally, here's an odd advertisement that was painted on a wall next to the hotel I was staying at in York. I had no idea if 'Bile Beans' were ever a real product, and no one I asked knew either.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Sun Sep 26, 2004
Comments (19)
In late July an essay appeared in the Australian literary journal Meanjin written by Azhar Abidi. It was titled 'The Secret History of the Flying Carpet'. The essay described the discovery of 13th-century Persian scrolls that suggested there was some truth to the old legends of flying carpets. Ancient Persian artisans had apparently discovered a process of boiling fibers in a magnetic clay before weaving them into a carpet. These magnetized fibers then floated above the ground, repelled by the Earth's own magnetism. According to the scrolls, the fledgling flying carpet industry was driven out of existence by horse and camel breeders worried about future competition. This all sounds pretty fantastic, and it obviously is. But nevertheless, Abidi's essay was presented as fact, complete with footnotes, so it shouldn't be any surprise that some people have taken it seriously. According to The Weekend Australian, "Two Iranian websites have published his essay, prompting internet exchanges on the finer technical points of piloting carpets and how to turn and land them."
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 10, 2004
Comments (6)
image About a week ago I posted a picture of a 'Big Hairy Fanny' bus that supposedly operates in Finland. I suspected the picture was a fake, and it turns out that my suspicion was correct. Quite a few people commented that they had seen other pictures of the same bus with the name 'Fücker' painted on the side, and today Iain Cartmill sent me a picture of this bus. A quick google search turned up lots of other images of it, as well as the website of the Fücker travel company, based in Germany (click on the 'Die Busflotte' button to see pictures of the bus in question). So the Fücker Bus is real, but the Big Hairy Fanny Bus is fake. The mystery is why anyone photoshopped the picture to read 'Big Hairy Fanny,' since the actual name is funnier than the hoax name.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 13, 2004
Comments (17)
imageThis image may have been circulating around for a while, but I just got it in my email for the first time today. It purports to show the 'worst named bus company in Finland.' That would be the 'Big Hairy Fanny' Bus Line. I've come across oddly named bus lines before (specifically the Lamers bus company that operates in Wisconsin), but I refuse to believe that there's really a bus company in Finland calling itself Big Hairy Fanny. My suspicion is that the picture was photoshopped (it's pretty easy to insert text into pictures). Or perhaps there really is a bus touring around somewhere with 'Big Hairy Fanny' plastered on its side... though it would probably be some kind of joke, or something created for a movie. The final option (which, as I said, I seriously doubt) would be that a clueless Finnish bus company really did name itself 'Big Hairy Fanny'. But if that's the case, then why the umlauts over the two a's? Until I found out what the reality is behind this mystery photo, here's a poll:
Update: The picture is fake, but the real name of the bus is even better than the fake name. It's Fücker Bus Lines, based in Germany. More details here. Of the 366 people who responded to the poll (which I've now deactivated since the mystery is solved), 46% guessed the right answer, but 54% of you guessed wrong and thought the picture was real.
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Photos/Videos
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 06, 2004
Comments (9)
image A month or two ago a woman named Elena posted a travelogue on the web about her solitary motorcycle ride through the deserted area around Chernobyl. With all the eerie pictures she took of the abandoned, irradiated 'ghost town,' her travelogue quickly became one of the most linked-to sites on the net. Now there are accusations that her travelogue wasn't completely honest. Apparently she didn't go around alone on a motorcycle. She went in a car with her husband and a friend. Elena defends herself, admitting that much of her story was 'more poetry' than reality, but noting that most of it was still reality. I'm inclined to side with her. The pictures of Chernobyl, and what it's become, were real. How much does it really matter that she made them more interesting by wrapping them in a tale about a solitary motorcycle ride? (via
Categories: Exploration/Travel, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri May 21, 2004
Comments (43)
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