A Land-Dwelling Blue Whale

In 1878, paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope discovered the partial vertebra of a new species of dinosaur near Morrison, Colo. It was in poor condition but enormous, 7.8 feet high.

If it really existed, that would make Amphicoelias fragillimus the largest dinosaur ever discovered, up to 200 feet long and weighing as much as 185 tons, the equivalent of a land-dwelling blue whale.

Cope packed up the vertebra and sent it by train to a New York museum, but apparently it crumbled into dust on the way. All that remain are Cope’s description and a line drawing. Oh well.

The Beale Ciphers

A secret hoard of $20 million in gold and silver lies buried somewhere near Roanoke, Va. That’s according to a coded message left by adventurer Thomas Jefferson Beale in the 1820s:

I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number “3,” herewith:

The first deposit consisted of one thousand and fourteen pounds of gold, and three thousand eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited November, 1819. The second was made December, 1821, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight pounds of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at US$13,000.

The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number “1” describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.

Unfortunately, no one has been able to decipher paper “1” or “3”, and a hundred years’ digging has turned up nothing. Is it a hoax? Who knows?

San Francisco Earthquake Photo, 1906


San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Photographer George Lawrence mounted a camera on a kite and flew it 2,000 feet over the ruins.

Of the city’s 400,000 residents, the quake killed 3,000 and left 225,000 homeless. For a time, Bank of America founder Amadeo Giannini met customers at a plank set across two barrels.