Stuckie

Loggers with the Georgia Kraft Corp. were cutting down a chestnut oak in southern Georgia in the 1980s when they discovered the mummified remains of a dog inside the hollow trunk. Experts determined that it was most likely a hunting dog that had pursued some quarry up through the hollow tree sometime in the 1960s. The dog had wedged itself into the narrowing trunk and, unable to turn around, eventually perished 28 feet above ground level. But chestnut oak contains tannin, a natural desiccant that stopped microbial activity, and the dog’s position and a natural updraft through the trunk prevented other animals from scenting or reaching it. So it just remained there for 20 years, waiting to be found.

The mummified dog, now known as “Stuckie,” is on display at the Southern Forest World museum in Waycross, Georgia.

River of Gold

For about two weeks each February, the last rays of the setting sun set Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall glowing orange and red.

The effect is best seen from a clearing close to the picnic area on the north road leading out of the valley east of El Capitan.

Detour

During the 1974 English Amateur stroke play championship at the Moortown Golf Club in Leeds, businessman Nigel Denham’s approach shot on the 18th fairway struck a path in front of the clubhouse and bounced up the steps, through the open door, off a wall, and into the bar.

Denham was allowed inside, having first removed his golf shoes as required by the club. Local rules showed that the clubhouse was not out of bounds, so it followed that the ball lay within an obstruction from which no relief was available. He could move a chair or a table, but once this was done there was no interference with his stance or the intended area of his swing. He reasoned that he must play the ball as it lay.

So he opened the window and shot the ball neatly through it. It traveled 20 yards and finished 12 feet from the hole, to an ovation from the bar patrons. He even completed the subsequent putt for par.

“In the fulness of time the details of this daring stroke were conveyed to the Rules of Golf Committee at St Andrews for adjudication,” writes Peter Dobereiner in The Book of Golf Disasters. “The commitee ruled that Denham should have been penalized two strokes for opening the window. Chairs, tables, beer mats and sundry impediments could be cleared aside with impunity as movable obstructions but the window, as an integral part of the immovable obstruction of a clubhouse, should not have been moved.”

The clubhouse has since been declared out of bounds.

Arrh

https://track-adventure.squarespace.com/our-adventure/

In May 2017, brothers Ollie and Harry Ferguson launched a plastic pirate ship, the Adventure, into the North Sea at Peterhead, Scotland. It carried a message asking anyone who found it to record their location and return it to the sea. After the ship had visited Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, the crew of a Norwegian ship volunteered to launch the Adventure in new waters, and on Nov. 8 released it 100 miles off the coast of Mauritania, hoping that it would cross the Atlantic westward to the Americas.

It nearly ran aground in the Cape Verde Islands but had made it past Barbados by mid-May. You can track its progress here.

(Via MetaFilter.)

The Death Valley Germans

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In July 1996 a family of four set out from Dresden for a holiday in the American Southwest. Architect Egbert Rimkus, 34, his son Georg, 11, his girlfriend Cornelia Meyer, 27, and her son Max, 4, arrived in Los Angeles and visited Las Vegas, then traveled to Death Valley National Park. Their names appear in the logs of several visitor sites, and it appears they spent their first night camping in a canyon near Telescope Peak.

When they failed to return as planned on July 29, Rimkus’s ex-wife began to make inquiries. When their travel agency learned that the rented van had not been returned, it notified Interpol. Temperatures in the park had topped 120 degrees on the week of the disappearance.

In late October, a helicopter search pilot spotted the van on a closed road in a remote part of the park known as Anvil Canyon. It had been driven at least 200 miles, and the tracks showed that it had run on flat tires and bent wheels for the final two miles. More than 200 search and rescue workers combed the area; under a bush a quarter mile away they found a beer bottle that appeared to have come from a package in the van.

The search was called off on Oct. 26, but 13 years later, in 2009, hikers discovered the skeletal remains of a man and a woman several miles south of that spot, near a photo ID belonging to Cornelia. Authorities said they were fairly sure the bones belonged to Egbert and Cornelia, but the remains of the children have never been found.

(Thanks, Tom.)

Podcast Episode 208: Giving Birth to Rabbits

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In 1726 London was rocked by a bizarre sensation: A local peasant woman began giving birth to rabbits, astounding the city and baffling the medical community. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the strange case of Mary Toft, which has been called “history’s most fascinating medical mystery.”

We’ll also ponder some pachyderms and puzzle over some medical misinformation.

See full show notes …

Confidences

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When workers took up the floorboards of a French alpine chateau in the early 2000s, they found penciled messages on their undersides. “Happy mortal,” one read. “When you read this, I shall be no more.” Elsewhere the same hand had written, “My story is short and sincere and frank, because none but you shall see my writing.”

It appears that the carpenter who had installed the floor, Joachim Martin, had written 72 message in pencil to be read by a future generation. “These are the words of an ordinary working man, a man of the people,” Sorbonne historian Jacques-Olivier Boudon told the BBC. “And he is saying things that are very personal, because he knows they will not ever be read except a long time in the future.”

The messages concern events in the rural community of Les Crottes, outside the walls of the Château de Picomtal, whose parquet floor Martin had laid. Among other things, he reveals that he overheard the mistress of one of his friends giving birth in a stable one midnight in 1868. “This [criminal] is now trying to screw up my marriage. All I have to do is say one word and point my finger at the stables, and they’d all be in prison. But I won’t. He’s my old childhood friend. And his mother is my father’s mistress.”

Unfortunately, almost nothing is known about Martin. He lived from 1842 to 1897, he had four children, and he played the fiddle at village fetes. But he found a way to avoid being forgotten.

Nowhere Man

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

The greatest Czech citizen is a man who doesn’t exist. Jára Cimrman was dreamed up as a modest caricature of the Czech people for a 1966 radio program, but he’s been adopted as a sort of fictive national hero. By general agreement he’s an accomplished author, detective, poet, inventor, mathematician, playwright, sportsman, philosopher, traveler, teacher, and composer; in a 2005 television competition he would have been voted “The Greatest Czech” but was disqualified for not existing. No one quite knows what he looks like, but his accomplishments are listed on an immortal Wikipedia page:

  • He proposed the Panama Canal to the U.S. government while composing a libretto for an opera about it.
  • Fleeing arctic cannibals, he came within 7 meters of reaching the North Pole.
  • He invented yogurt.
  • He created the first puppet show in Paraguay.
  • He corresponded with George Bernard Shaw for many years, without receiving a response.
  • He constructed the first rigid airship using Swedish steel and Czech wicker.
  • He reworked the electrical contact on Edison’s first light bulb and found a sublet for Gustave Eiffel.
  • He suggested that Mendeleev rotate his first draft of the Periodic Table.
  • He devised the philosophy of externism, the opposite of solipsism. In solipsism, the observer exists and the outside world does not. In externism, the outside word exists but the philosopher does not.

When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he found three missed calls from Cimrman.

Related: Germans pretend that the city of Bielefeld doesn’t exist. The tradition began in 1993 as a satire of conspiracy theories (“Do you know anybody from Bielefeld? Have you ever been to Bielefeld? Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld?”), but it’s taken on a life of its own. Referring to a town hall meeting she’d attended in Bielefeld, Chancellor Angela Merkel added, “… if it exists at all,” and the city council once released a press statement titled Bielefeld gibt es doch! (Bielefeld does exist!) … on April Fools’ Day.

(Thanks, January and Bryan.)

Local Color

In May 2008, when roommates Ben Kinsley and Robin Hewlett learned that Google would be sending a camera car down their Pittsburgh street, they decided to greet it in style. After the car’s visit, anyone who typed “Sampsonia Way Pittsburgh” into Google Maps would see a high school marching band showered in confetti, two 17th-century swordsmen doing battle, a woman escaping a third-story window using knotted sheets, and a love ray uniting fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns.

The images have since been replaced as Google has updated its records, but the “Street With a View” project became Kinsley’s master’s thesis project at Carnegie Mellon University. And they made this film:

Dedication

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Confined since age 15 in Surrey’s Earlswood Asylum, autistic savant James Henry Pullen spent seven years building a 10-foot replica of the iron steamship Great Eastern. Completed in 1877, it included brass anchors, copper paddles, 13 lifeboats, hundreds of individually molded planks, 5,585 rivets, and more than 1 million wooden pins made in a specially constructed pin mill. The upper deck could be hoisted to reveal state cabins and furniture inside. It’s now on display at the Museum at the Langdon Down Centre in Teddington.

Below is the sectional plan of the actual 692-foot steamship, for comparison.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SS_Great_Eastern_diagram.jpg

(Thanks, Charlie.)