The Forgotten Castle on the Hudson

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On a lonely island fifty miles north of New York City, the bricks of a once-proud castle slowly return to the earth. The crumbling fortress is one of several remaining structures on tiny Pollepel Island, an abandoned six-and-a-half acre crag hugging the east bank of the Hudson River.

The 100 year-old Bannerman’s Castle was originally built as an arsenal, and has been abandoned for the last forty five years since a fire ravaged the island in the summer of 1969. It was the creation of a nineteenth-century businessman and served as an advertisement for the era’s largest military surplus empire.

When the castle’s namesake passed away, the island was forgotten. It’s brief resurrection was cut short by a fatal fire. For half a century the building has been losing battles against nature. Absent intervention in the very near future, it may lose the war.

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Abandoned Industrial Icon: Armour Meat Packing Plant

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The Armour & Company meat packing plant in National City, Illinois is a window into a bygone era, a time capsule with late-19th century technology still on display. During its heyday the busy stock yards of East St. Louis were the largest in the world, and known around the U.S. as the “Hog Capital of the Nation.”

Advances in technology and labor disputes ultimately drove the meat packers out of National City. The obsolete Armour plant had become expensive to operate and was eventually shut down by the company in 1959.

Unused since Armour & Co. left nearly 55 years ago, the 110 year-old structure still sits in East St. Louis today.

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Concrete Arrows and the U.S. Airmail Beacon System

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Scattered across the United States is a network of mysterious concrete arrows. They are often found in remote locations or areas difficult to access. Some will be accompanied by a small shack, a few have a metal tower affixed to their base. Many are in good condition while others have succumbed to nature. The shape and direction of the arrows vary, but it is clear they served the same purpose.

The purpose was important: helping early pilots navigate U.S. transcontinental flights at night.

In a era before radar, pilots used ground-based landmarks for guidance. This solution worked for flight during the day, but grounded pilots at night. Before long, a system of beacons was established across the United States to guide airmail pilots around-the-clock. When radar and radio communications made the beacons obsolete years later, most were torn down and abandoned.

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Casualties of Copper: The Berkeley Pit, Montana

Walter Hinick, AP

Tales of gold rushes and silver booms are often recounted from a nostalgic perspective, driven by tall tales of adventures into the lawless Wild West. Perhaps less sentimental is the story of copper, a metal with less value but more significance to the growth of infrastructure. Copper was a major component of industrialization and essential for everything from electrifying the world to fortifying nations during war.

Few mining operations could match the lifetime output of the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, Montana. For nearly a century, mining in Butte Valley sacrificed the earth to build and defend America. Today the legacy of Anaconda’s enterprise is the Berkeley Pit, a large open pit mine collecting billions of gallons of toxic groundwater.

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Rescuing The Citarum River

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Forty miles east of Jakarta, a river over 186 miles (300km) long winds across the island of Java. For thousands of years the Citarum River has been an important resource for the Indonesian people. Today it continues to support fishing, agriculture, electricity generation, and sewerage for nearly 30 million residents.

When Indonesia experienced a manufacturing boom, little attention was paid to key components of infrastructure. Proper framework for waste disposal was largely neglected. As a result, manufacturers and residents abused the river, leaving the Citarum one of the most polluted waterways in the world.

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Hottest Inhabited Place on Earth: Dallol, Ethiopia

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The Afar Region of Africa, named for the people who call it home, encompasses Djibouti, Eritrea, and the northeast corner of Ethiopia. A notable trait of the Afar Triangle is the Danakil Depression, the lowest point in Africa. The territory is one of the hottest on the planet, and features everything from earthquakes and volcanoes to geysers and salt canyons. It is also home to Dallol, a remote mining camp accessible by camel.

The now-abandoned town of Dallol was once a busy site, mining potash, sylvite, and salt during various times throughout its history. When U.S. mining companies were conducting geological surveys in the early 1960s, they recorded the hottest average temperature for an inhabited location on Earth.

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