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Archive for July, 2011

Medical Firsts: The Story of Phineas Gage

The year was 1848, and 25-year-old Phineas Gage was earning wages as a railroad worker in Vermont. His task was to blast rock to clear the way for new railroad tracks. On September 13th, one blast detonated prematurely and shot a 4-foot metal rod through Gage’s skull. Miraculously – and without the benefit of medical technologies we have today – he survived and managed a full recovery.  Read more…

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Hotel that took 25 Years to Build: The Ryugyong

North Korea has not historically been known for progress or leading the world in anything. In the mid-1980s they wanted to change that by building something massive, something that would be world-renowned. The project would symbolize progress for North Korea and introduce new, Western investors. It was decided to build a hotel – taller than any in the world  – and in 1987 construction on the Ryugyong Hotel began.

It was intended to be completed in 1989 in time for the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, but developers would face nearly every conceivable hurdle and by 1992 the project was abandoned. Read more…

Abandoned coal mining town in Siberia: Kadykchan, Russia

Deep in the Magadan region in remote Siberia, a coal mining town named Kadykchan was built by Gulag prisoners during World War II. At its peak, the town housed nearly 11,000 residents. By the early 1990s, the decreased demand for coal and the fall of the Soviet Union would see the town start to decrease in importance. A mine explosion in 1996 killed six people and prompted ownership to shut down the mines altogether.

Today, there are fewer than 200 people left in this remote town.  There are no services, winters are extremely harsh, and the only way into town requires traveling on a ghost highway. Read more…

Biggest Vehicle in the World: Bagger 293

Exactly how big does a land-based vehicle need to be to qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records as largest in the world? How about 315 feet tall, 740 feet long, and weighing over 31 million pounds?

The Bagger 293 is a giant bucket-wheel excavator built in Germany in 1995. It requires a crew of five to operate and can move over 8.5 million cubic feet of earth per day. To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of digging a hole the length of a football field and over 80 feet deep in a day. Read more…

Abandoned Mediterranean Resort: Varosha Quarter in Famagusta, Cyprus

In the early 1970’s the Varosha quarter in Famagusta, Cyprus was one of the Mediterranean’s most glamorous and popular tourist destinations. The bright blue waters and beautiful sandy beaches were draws for such celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, and Brigitte Bardot among others. Population grew to about 39,000, but by the end of 1974 the town would be conquered by Turkish troops, fenced off completely, and have a population of zero.

Today the former millionaire’s playground resort still stands vacant and fenced off, guarded by Turkish soldiers and unlikely to re-open anytime soon. Read more…

The Coldest Inhabited Place on Earth: Oymyakon, Russia

Oymyakon, a small village of about 500 people in the Sakha region of Russia, holds the claim to fame as being the coldest continually inhabited place on Earth. Located approximately 20 miles northwest of Tomtor on the Kolyma Highway in Siberia, it is not easily accessible.

Situated in an area known as Stalin’s Death Ring, Oymyakon set the record for the lowest temperature ever recorded by a permanently-inhabited settlement in 1924 when a Russian scientist endured a frigid -96° Fahrenheit (-71 C). Read more…

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