The Beginner’s Guide To Becoming A Frequent Flier

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Frequent flier miles are a magical thing. If you collect them the right way, and spend them the right way, it opens up all sorts of travel possibilities. Free trips, free nights, free car rentals — they’re all possible with frequent flier miles.

Here’s how you can start working toward that free trip.

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There are three big airlines alliances in the world — OneWorld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance — and as long as you have a frequent flier account with one airline in each alliance, you’ll be able to earn miles almost anywhere you go.

Start by signing up for an account with these airlines:

American Airlines (Oneworld)
Delta Airlines (SkyTeam)
United Airlines (Star Alliance)

For instance, when you fly American, just input your frequent flier number when you book, and you’ll earn miles. But if you fly another airline in Oneworld — like, British Airways or Qantas — you can also use your American number, and you’ll earn American miles on that flight, too!

There are a handful of big airlines that don’t fit into one of those alliances. You may want to sign up for an account with some of these airlines, too:

Southwest Airlines
JetBlue Airlines
Virgin America

(And if there is another regional airline that you fly a lot — like Alaska, Frontier, or Hawaiian — sign up for a frequent flier number there, too.)

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You can choose to earn airline miles with nearly every hotel stay or car rental. But it’s also worth getting a frequent traveler number with these companies, too — hotels often run big promotions where it’s easy to rack up free nights, and they’re also more likely to give you status upgrades (bigger rooms, bigger cars) for frequent travelers.

Hotels (though there are dozens of programs, these four should be a good start)

Car Rentals (same here — lots of options, but start here)
Enterprise (if you’re under 25, Enterprise is often the only one that will rent you a car)

If you ride Amtrak, you should also have a frequent traveler number with them, too.

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AwardWallet is this amazing tool to help you keep track of all your points. You give it all your frequent flier information, and it keeps track of how many points you have — and most importantly, when your points are about to expire. AwardWallet makes it really easy to keep track of everything.

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So how many miles does it take to fly somewhere?

The short answer: It totally depends.

For a domestic round-trip (in coach) within the United States, it will usually cost you at least 25,000 miles. For Europe or South America, expect to use 50,000 or 60,000 miles. Asia will require 70,000 to 90,000 miles.

But beware: If you’re flying during peak travel times, it could cost more.

For hotels, a free room could cost anywhere from 7,000 to 50,000 points a night. Some hotels have a “cash + points” deal, where you spend a few thousand points and then pay a greatly reduced room rate. Those can be a really good deal.

The key here: Try to pick one airline and one hotel, and stick with them. It’s nice to have 5,000 points here and 10,000 miles there, but that won’t earn you free travel. Try to earn all your miles/points in just a few places.

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Airlines miles expire — sometimes after only 18 months — if you don’t keep earning additional miles. So it’s possible that you flew with an airline a few years ago, earned a few thousand miles, but then they expired.

So this is my favorite secret airline trick: Call the airline and see if you’ve got expired miles. If you do, ask them what you can do to reactivate those miles.

Once, I managed to reactivate 45,000 miles on American just by making a call, paying a $30 fee, and then flying American a few weeks later on a trip home. You might be able to strike a similar deal.

How many miles can you earn? Probably nothing, but possibly thousands.

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Your new favorite website is It’s a search engine to show you which frequent flier accounts you can earn points on when you’re shopping. (They also have a helpful bookmarklet.)

Before you shop, search on Evreward for the store you want to buy from. Then decide what airline you want to earn points through, and log in with your frequent traveler info. Then they’ll send you to the online store to shop.

Whenever you buy, you’ll also earn points/miles for every dollar spent.

For instance, if you’re buying flowers for Valentine’s Day, you should absolutely do it through Evreward. For every dollar you spend at FTD, you’ll earn 30 points with either American or United.

How many miles can you earn? Depends on how much you spend! If you dropped $50 on flowers next week, that’d be 1,500 miles. All in all, if you spent $1,000 online this year, that could bring you anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 points — depending on where you shopped.

Plus: When you buy something through a shopping portal, it extends the life of your miles. Miles never really expire — just as long as you’re earning miles every so often. That could mean taking a flight, or it could be as simple as buying something online once a year.

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Many restaurants/bars near you have deals with an airline dining program, and will give you free points every time you eat/drink there — anywhere between 1 and 5 points per dollar spent, depending on the program.

You don’t have to do anything extra — just use your credit card when you eat out, and you’ll earn easy points.

Here’s where you go to sign up for those programs (but FYI: you can only sign up for one):


You’ll also earn 1,000+ bonus points after you spend $30 in the first month after signing up.

How many miles can you earn? 2,000—3,500 a year, including that sign-up bonus.

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The absolute fastest way to earn a free trip somewhere is by getting a credit card tied to an airline or hotel. After signing up and spending a certain amount on the card — it varies depending on the card — you’ll earn points and miles that you can apply to future trips. The cards also make it easier to rack up bonus points when you’re traveling on that airline or staying with that hotel.

This is a good guide to some of the top frequent traveler credit cards. But a warning, as always: Credit cards aren’t for everyone. Run a credit report before applying to any cards to make sure a credit card makes sense for you.

How many miles can you earn? Many airline credit cards offer between 15,000 and 50,000 miles for signing up. Hotel credit cards are usually similar in terms of bonuses, but sometimes go as high as 70,000 miles. (With all of these, you have to hit a minimum spend first.)

One other rule to remember: The bonuses change constantly — so always be on the lookout for the best deals.

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Hotels especially love to offer promotions for frequent travelers. Before you book, search to see if the hotel you’re staying at is offering any deals for free nights or bonuses.

A handful of blogs are great at staying on top of the latest promotions, including:

Frugal Travel Guy
The Points Guy
Million Mile Secrets

How many miles can you earn? Totally depends on the bonuses. Some flight promotions will offer double miles. At hotels, just staying for a weekend could get you a free night.

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19 Questions New Yorkers Ask When Visiting Los Angeles

1. First of all: WHERE EVEN AM I?

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What is this tropical wonderland of joy? Why is it so spacious? Why is no one mad at me for existing?

2. Why can’t I find a bagel place that’s not a chain restaurant?

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And why aren’t you putting the cream cheese on for me? What do I look like, a cream cheese CHUMP?

3. How am I going to get home from after-work drinks?

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Seriously, does this rental car have autopilot?

4. How in god’s green earth is this a “deep dish pizza”?

Am I supposed to eat it or use it to soak up my tears?

5. How have I managed to eat a burrito for every meal today?

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And how come I’m fine with it?!

6. Why is everyone wearing a coat in 65 degree weather?

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Is this a joke? It’s a joke, right? You’re making fun of us or something. Ha-ha-ha.

7. How come no one told me palm trees are so goddamn tall?

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Are we all just ok with this? They’re HUGE.

8. Why is everyone wearing yoga pants but never doing yoga?

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Am I just to assume you all came to this bar straight from your yoga classes?

9. Are people seriously using umbrellas in FOG?

BuzzFeed / Matt Bellassai

I get that the air is a little moist, but it’s not even raining! Rain is when water falls from the sky and soaks through your socks and ruins your day, if you weren’t sure.

10. Why does everything come with a salad?

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And what does LA have against french fries? Fries are just like a salad except they taste good.

11. Why is everyone drinking green goop?

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And why is it so…sticky.

12. Does anyone here understand the functionality of a scarf?

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Hint: it’s for keeping your neck warm, so if you’re wearing a t-shirt, you probably don’t need a scarf.

13. Are you guys for serious with this jaywalking nonsense?

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Listen, I’m going to walk out in the middle of traffic like I own the place and there’s nothing your disapproving looks and blaring car horns can do to deter me.

14. Does literally everyone skate?

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I’m pretty sure I saw a toddler in a diaper shredding at Venice.

15. Is it state mandated that every grandma has to wear a tracksuit?

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I mean they DO look fly. But how much running are they really doing?

16. How come everyone I meet is either a writer, an actor, or both?

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And why is their office a Starbucks?

17. When are you guys getting a subway?

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Or do you derive some kind of sick sadistic pleasure from traffic? Ya freaks.

18. Is it ever not perfect out?

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How am I supposed to work all day when there is glorious, shimmering SUN out there? HOW?

19. Why do I still live in New York?

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Just mail me all the bagels and pizza that can fit into one box and this place would paradise.

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27 Reasons We Should All Be Moving To Japan

1. Japan is a magical place. Filled with beautiful wonders like cherry blossoms….

2. …golden pavilions…

3. …and Pokémon planes!

4. In Japan, no expense is spared.

5. Pets are treated like royalty.

6. … Or just a regular old dog.

7. Fashion and food are friends.

8. As is food and technology.

9. In fact, let’s just go ahead and say Japanese food is the best. LOOK AT THIS RAMEN.

10. Look at these Doritos!

11. Such strangely wonderful Doritos.

12. Have you ever had Aristocat-themed Disney milk tea before?! Because you can have it in Japan.

13. In Japan you can eat EVERY flavor of Kit Kat.

14. And eat hot food 24 hours a day…FROM A VENDING MACHINE.

15. Most importantly, your food is always insanely adorable.

17. Everyone is happy in Japan.

Well most people…

18. Because everyone expresses themselves constantly.

19. Because why wouldn’t you want to dress up as Darth Vader and play baseball?

20. Or drink beer and eat sushi on the subway?

21. There’s a FUCKIN’ SALE happening at all times in Japan.

22. Where you can buy things like jean thongs.

24. Bored? Why not make your own candy and eat it out of a tiny toilet.

25. Speaking of toilets, here’s a children’s book about the life cycle of a dog poop.

26. And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you to move to Japan — just remember — THEY HAVE A POKÉMON CENTER.

27. Now excuse me while I go fall asleep in my capsule hotel.

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10 Real-World Entrances To Mythical Locations

World mythology is full of fantastic kingdoms and realms that exist alongside our own. Many of them are said to have entrances in the real world, meaning that it’s possible to at least stand on the doorstep of some pretty amazing places. Now, if only we knew the passwords to open those doors . . .

10The Fairy Kingdom


Knockma Woods is located in the western wilds of Ireland, and it’s associated with a couple of major legends. The legendary warrior queen Maeve is said to be buried in a cairn on Knockma Hill, and the hill itself is supposedly the entrance to one of Ireland’s fairy kingdoms. Ruled by Finnbheara (or Finvarra), the Fairy King of Connacht, the kingdom is said to exist just beyond one of the many stone circles and fairy rings that dot the hill.

According to legend, Finvarra once abducted the beautiful bride of an Irish lord and carried her back to his kingdom. The lord followed Finvarra and his bride to the hill and ordered his men to start digging, but every night as the men slept, their work was repaired by Finvarra’s fairies. To keep them from repairing the entrance, the lord threw salt over the hill and eventually dug his way into the kingdom to retrieve his wife.

Finvarra is also mentioned in family legends of the 18th and 19th centuries, said to protect the nearby Castle Hacket, keep the family wine cellars stocked, and ensure their horses’ victories in whatever race they entered. Knockma isn’t just a place of legend, either: Archaeological excavations have found a number of Neolithic sites in the woods, and cairns on the hill date back to around 6000–7000 B.C.

9The River Styx

The River Styx is the primary entrance to the Greek netherworld. It’s said to flow around the realm of Hades seven times, and its water is corrosive, poisonous, and deadly. The river was rumored to ultimately flow between two massive silver pillars, guarded by the nymph for whom the river was named. It’s also reportedly real, and its deadly waters are now thought to be what killed one of the greatest leaders in world history.

According to legend, the waters of the River Styx functioned as something of a polygraph test for the gods when Zeus forced them to drink it. If they were lying, they would lose their voices and the ability to move for a year. These symptoms are eerily similar to those suffered by Alexander the Great before his premature death due to an unidentified sudden illness in 323 B.C. The Greek leader suffered stabbing pains in his internal organs and joints, high fever, and voice loss before he slipped into a coma.

Those symptoms are also very similar to those experienced by a person who has ingested calicheamicin, a toxin produced by bacteria found in limestone, which is found in high concentrations in the Mavroneri River. Also known as Black Water, the river flows out of the Peloponnesian mountains and has long been thought to be the real-world entrance to the River Styx. Ancient tradition states that the water was so corrosive and so deadly, like its mythical counterpart, that the only things it couldn’t dissolve were a boat and raft made from horse hooves.

If the theory about Alexander the Great is true, it suggests that he died not from malaria or typhoid, as previously suspected, but that he was poisoned by someone who had taken water from the mythical River Styx.

8The Lost City Of Z

The Lost City of Z is a mythological city nestled in the wilds of South America. Supposedly, it was a massive, advanced civilization strangely inspired by ancient Greek cities and full of treasure and riches. According to the writings of a 16th-century friar, it was populated by white natives and female warriors. As far as mythical cities go, this one didn’t seem too unlikely. There were huge, unexplored areas of South America that were so deep and dense that there wasn’t really any way of knowing what was buried in the jungle.

One of the most famous people to go in search of the city—and disappear in the process—was Colonel Percy Fawcett. The colonel, who kept his intended route a secret to keep rival explorers from beating him to the mythical city, vanished in the Amazonian jungle in 1925. His expedition and disappearance are shrouded in mystery, and his cryptic writings and deliberately misleading coordinates offer few answers. One theory that some researchers have adopted is that the famed explorer wasn’t actually going into the jungle to find his lost city but to found a new one based on the worship of his young son, who accompanied him on the trek.

While these theories are far-fetched, the one thing that isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds is the city itself. Modern satellite imaging has captured what Fawcett was looking for, not far from where he said it should be. Fawcett believed that the entrance to the mythical city was somewhere in Amazonian Basin between the Xingu and Tapajos tributaries of the Amazon River, and more than 200 earthen structures stretching along the Brazilian border of Bolivia suggest that there was something to the theory. It’s been estimated that some of the structures date back to A.D. 200, while others originated as recently as the 13th century. The entrance to Fawcett’s massive, glittering city appears to be just a little farther southwest from where he was last seen.

Before this new information was uncovered, it was long thought that the Amazonian jungle wasn’t capable of supporting widespread agriculture, much less a giant city of these proportions. However, estimates suggest that the city was once home to somewhere around 60,000 people. The city isn’t just small buildings, either—some of their monuments are larger than the Egyptian pyramids.


Shambhala is perhaps better known in the Western world as the fictional paradise it inspired, Shangri-la. According to Buddhist tradition, Shambhala is a hidden kingdom where Buddhist values and traditions rule. The utopian realm is also home to the Great Warrior Gesar, who leads hordes of the righteous who will eventually ride into the human world to combat our demons.

Many accounts of visiting Shambhala have been published. It’s said that Shambhala can be entered from long-forgotten outposts established by Alexander the Great, Russia’s Belukha, Afghanistan’s Sufi Sarmoun settlement and ancient city of Balkh, the border of Tibet in the Himalayas, and the Sutlej Valley in India. Heinrich Himmler was convinced that Shambhala was home to an Aryan race like the one the Nazis wanted to create and orchestrated seven expeditions to find it.

Entering Shambhala is more difficult than it seems, though. According to the Dalai Lama, the entrance will not appear to you until you’ve attained a state of purity on par with the mystical city. Many people believe that means the entrance is not a physical location but a state of mind, which means that all of the above entrances could be real.

6Yomi No Kune


Yomi No Kune is a part of Japanese mythology that predates the widespread belief in Buddhism. According to the myth, all of creation was the product of a god named Izanagi and his goddess sister-wife, Izanami. After Izanami died giving birth to fire, her heartbroken husband journeyed to the underworld to retrieve her.

In striking similarity to other myths, the determined husband discovered a dark and gloomy place where souls who retain their mortal bodies are condemned to rot for all eternity. Izanagi was forbidden to look at his wife until they reached the surface, but like his many mythological counterparts, he caught a glimpse of her rotting, maggot-ridden body. Enraged that he dared to look at her in that condition, Izanami sent ghoulish demons to chase him back into the underworld forever, but he escaped and sealed the entrance to Yomi No Kune with a giant boulder. In response, Izanami promised to take 1,000 lives to the underworld every day, and Izanagi promised to make 1,005 new ones.

Today, visitors to the Matsue area of Japan can visit the boulder that Izanagi is said to have used to seal off the underworld. Yomotsu Hirasaka, the official name for the entrance, is allegedly located behind one of the boulders near the Iya Shrine. It’s not clear exactly which boulder hides the entrance, which might be for the best. Izanami’s grave is also nearby, along with a shrine to her.



At the height of its power, the Mayan Empire sprawled across Mexico and Central America, and its people’s belief in the otherworld was powerful. Their final resting place was Xibalba, which could only be entered by the dead and only after the soul faced a series of challenges, from crossing rivers of scorpions and pus to passing swarms of bats to following a dog that could see in the dark.

As we’ve mentioned before, there are several different entrances to Xibalba, and researchers have recently uncovered another one in the Yucatan Peninsula. The underground and partially underwater ruins are a massive maze of caverns that contain some grim indicators of what the Maya thought waited at the end.

Archaeologists have uncovered 11 different temples in the caves, along with evidence of human sacrifice. There are a number of artifacts that were left as offerings to the dead, including pottery, stone carvings, and ceramics. Archaeologists excavating the caves have also found massive stone columns and structures that were built underwater, a testament to the time, effort, and dedication it took to create the shrine. While it’s not clear whether the myth of Xibalba was constructed around the discovery of the caves or if the caves reinforced the myth, it’s certain that the two were connected.

4The Gates Of Guinee

According to voodoo tradition, the Gates of Guinee have something to do with the passage of the spirit from life into death. Since the traditions of voodoo vary wildly, so do descriptions of the gates. In the voodoo of New Orleans, the guinee are spirits that exist in the afterlife who are often consulted as one is passing from one life to the next. The Gates of Guinee are portals into that afterlife, comprised of seven gates. It takes seven days to pass through all of the gates, and if the spirit fails, they may return to Earth as a zombie.

Some voodoo practitioners believe that the seven gates are located in seven different cemeteries in New Orleans, although the exact location and numerical order of the gates is a closely guarded secret. Clues have allegedly been spread throughout the city and its cemeteries, left for those who are knowledgeable enough to decipher them, often taking the form of voodoo deities’ sigils.

The gates are supposedly the easiest to find and open around holidays like Mardi Gras and All Saints’ Day, but finding them is only the beginning of the problem. Gates have to be approached and opened in the correct order, and each one has a guardian who requires a suitable offering. Opening the gates in the wrong order or displeasing the guardians is said to allow angry, dangerous spirits to leave the otherworld and enter ours.

3The Garden Of Hesperides

According to Greek mythology, Gaia gave Hera a wedding gift of trees that bore golden apples, which were kept in the Garden of Hesperides for safekeeping. Hercules was tasked with stealing one of the apples as his eleventh labor, which he accomplished by taking the place of Atlas and holding up the Earth while the Titan fetched one of the golden fruits.

The entrance to the gardens was said to be located in modern-day Lixus, a coastal city in Morocco. Once a bustling Roman port, the walls and buildings of Lixus are now ruins. They include the remains of one of the city’s biggest industries, the manufacture of paste made from fermented fish guts. The location of the gardens is mentioned in a nautical text dating back to Hellenistic Greece, but other locations have also been proposed for the gardens, including Cyrene and one of the islands off the coast of Libya.



Newgrange is a massive tomb that was built in Ireland’s Boyne Valley more than 5,000 years ago. It’s not only an impressive display of astronomical know-how but also one of the entrances to the Celtic otherworld. According to Celtic mythology, the gods traveled back and forth between the earthly realm and their own worlds through properly prepared and sanctified mounds like Newgrange.

Thought to be the entrance to a magnificent feasting hall for the so-called Lords of Light, Newgrange was said to lead to a land where no one ever died, aged, or grew sick. There was an infinite supply of food and drink as well as magical trees that continuously bore fruit. The oldest mythology surrounding Newgrange makes it the otherworldly home of the personification of the Boyne River and home to a well that was the source of all wisdom in the world. Trees near the well dropped their nuts into the water, which released the knowledge they contained into the human realm.

The next inhabitant of the otherworld associated with Newgrange was the Dagda, one of the oldest of the Irish gods, who is associated with knowledge, the Sun, and the sky. His son, Oengus, is closely tied to Newgrange, being born after a single day that was extended by the power of the mound to last nine months. Later, Oengus tricked the Dagda into giving him the portal tomb, which he is said to guard to this day.

1The Scholomance

The Scholomance is a mythical school whose existence was only passed down through Romanian folklore until it was recorded by an English author named Emily Gerard. According to Gerard, the Scholomance accepts 10 pupils at a time, who were taught by the devil himself. They learned all of his spells and tricks, including communicating with animals and controlling the weather. After the curriculum was completed, only nine students were released. The last one was kept by the devil as payment for the class, who sent him away to an infinitely deep lake where he lived until the devil needed him to make more thunderbolts.

Gerard’s version of Scholomance is slightly different from the traditional Romanian one, which is chalked up to a mistranslation. In Romanian folklore, it’s called the Solomanari, and it’s located in a world that exists parallel to our own. After reading Gerard’s work, Bram Stoker used the idea of the Scholomance in Dracula to explain how Dracula’s family learned their demonic skills.

The lake where the devil’s dragon-riding aide sleeps and the school where he teaches is said to be high in the Carpathian Mountains near Hermanstadt, which is allegedly plagued by daily thunderstorms. Those looking for the lake will know they’ve found it when they see the cairns that line the shores of the lake, markers where hapless travelers were struck down by the devil’s bolts.


Luilekkerland, otherwise known as Cockaigne, was a utopian mythological city. Those fortunate enough to gain entry would find everything they could possibly want, especially when it came to food. Wall were made of great slabs of bacon, roofs of tarts and pancakes, and fences of sausages. Wine ran in all of the fountains, the rivers flowed with milk instead of water, and trees in Luilekkerland bore meat pies and fruit tarts instead of pinecones. Even the weather was made of food: Snow was made of sugar, and hail rained down in the form of sugared almonds. You could also literally make money in your sleep.

Unlike many mythical places, Luilekkerland wasn’t accessible only to those who were particularly good and righteous—you just had to be extremely hungry. In order to get there, you were told to head to North Hommelen, a city near northern France, and look for the gallows. The entrance, a massive mountain of porridge, would be unmistakable. Those who seek the city must eat their way through the mountain to get there, so a big appetite is required.

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10 Awesome Things We Have – Thanks to Sweden

Scandinavian technology has come a long way since the Viking raids. Despite being beautiful, blonde, and tanned, Swedes also direct films, write books, and distill vodka. The land of the midnight sun has contributed a diverse array of ingenuity to world culture, from a troublesome pirating website to a unique troubled heroine with a punk mohawk. Read on to learn about some things you are most likely familiar with, but weren’t exactly aware of their Swedish origins. Perhaps these tidbits will help you keep an inebriated conversation going next time you meet a bewitching Swede.


‘Viking’ originally meant ‘to go on an expedition’ or ‘to go raiding.’ The word immediately conjures up pigtails, horned-hats, and longships with dragons carved in the prow. However these familiar images are more myth than truth. In the 19th century renewed interest in the Vikings resulted in a Romanticized version of the Viking. This renewed interest was known as the Viking Revival. Painters Sir Frank Dicksee, Albert Goodwin, Henryk Hector Siemiradzki, and Robert Gibb depicted Viking funerals and raids. Later, Nazi Germany adopted the Viking as a symbol of the master race and aspects of Viking paganism were applied to Nazi mysticism.

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This Swedish novel became a bestseller in the United States after it was published posthumously and was turned into a major film directed by David Fincher (director of Fight Club) and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. The movie also featured a soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. Written by Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally titled “Men Who Hate Women” and was inspired by Larsson’s guilt over not helping a friend whose assault he witnessed when he was 15. Most of the novel takes place in real and fictional locations in Sweden like Stockholm and Uppsala.

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This 6’4 former Swedish Marine gained recognition for his role as Eric Northman in the popular HBO series True Blood. He also had a small part in Zoolander in 2001 as one of Zoolander’s male model roommates. Since then Skarsgård has also starred in Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. Recently he has been seen promoting his new fragrance “Encounter” for Calvin Klein and he is rumored to play Christian Gray in the upcoming film version of the popular 50 Shades of Grey book series written by E.L. James.

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While largely usurped by Strawberry Shortcake, some may still remember Pippi Longstocking’s t.v. series and films. She was created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Like another popular Swedish character, the adorable overalled Bamse bear, Pippi has superhuman strength. Stieg Larsson has stated that Lisbeth from his Millennium series was based an an adult version of Pippi Longstocking.

IKEA has become the largest furniture retailer in the world. The company was founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad. Kamprad was part of the New Swedish Movement, which supported Nazi Germany during WWII and promoted Swedish nationalism and fascism. Some of IKEA’s malevolence continues: throughout the last decade IKEA has been criticized for offending the Goth subculture and Denmark. A controversial bedding packaging read “Brightens up your grad’s dorm. Unlike a creepy gothic room-mate, who can be a bad influence.” They also named all their cheap rugs after places in Denmark while they named all of their most expensive furniture after places in Sweden.


H&M is the world’s second largest clothing retailer, behind the notorious Zara and ahead of GAP Inc. The style of clothing is meant to mimic current runway trends and is promoted through advertising campaigns featuring well known figures like David Beckham and Sasha Pivovarova. H&M has also hired designers such as Versace to design its seasonal lines. Earling Persson founded the company in 1947 and H&M’s headquarters are now in Stockholm. The company has over 200 stores in the United States. Locations such as Las Vegas are multilevel and decorated with suspended disco balls and mannequins in jumping poses.


Everyone is familiar with “Dancing Queen.” ABBA was formed in 1972 and Dancing Queen was released in 1976. The single became one of the most popular songs of the 1970s. The band influenced musicians such as Lady Gaga, whose song “Alejandro” is similar to the ABBA song “Fernando.” ABBA’s eccentric stage costumes often featured capes, space boots, jumpsuits, robes, and swimsuits. The band broke up in 1982.

Absolut Vodka Family

Swedish spirits manufacturer Lars Olsson Smith created Absolut in the 1877. Absolut is the most internationally distributed alcoholic spirit in the world, popularized by its 1980s ad campaigns. Absolut commercials target a variety of audiences, featuring things like a large-scale pillow-riot, a drag show, and fractal reassembly of the distinctive Absolut bottle. Smith became known as “The King of Spirits” in Sweden, where he overthrew Stockholm’s monopoly on alcohol. Recently Swedish House Mafia featured Absolut vodka in the music video for their single “Greyhound.”

Ingmar Bergman 01

Anyone who’s been to art or film school knows Ingmar Bergman. Woody Allen has called him the greatest film director of all time. Sweden provided the setting for the majority of his films which often focused on mortality, madness, and betrayal. His best known films are The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. The Seventh Seal is the origin of the familiar scene of a human playing chess with a personification of death.

The Pirate Bay

Perhaps you might not have been aware that the “.se” at the end of urls refers to Sweden. The Pirate Bay is a Swedish file-sharing website, used to search for BitTorrents, and one of the largest facilitators of illegal downloading in the world. Many countries and websites such as Facebook have blocked access to the Pirate Bay as well as distribution of its links. An anti-copyright organization headed by Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Kolmisoppi, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundström created the website and launched it in 2003. In 2006 Stockholm police officers raided their headquarters and confiscated their servers, but they were soon back in action. The newest technology added to the downloads section are “Physibles,” objects that could be copied using a 3-D printer. In September 2012 co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm was placed in solitary confinement.

On the advice of our Facebook fans we realised that we had left out a vital Swedish contribution to our lives – the Swedish Chef! How could we forget him? Most of us are probably familiar with his chop-happy antics in the kitchen. I will leave you with a great clip of his from The Muppet Show.

The author of this list, Jenna, can be found on Twitter here.

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30 Moments That Could Only Ever Happen In Texas

1. These loyal Sonic patrons.

Level of Texas-ness: Saying “How ‘bout them Cowboys?” when conversations get awkward.

Level of Texas-ness: Feeling nostalgic when watching Friday Night Lights because that was your life in high school.

3. This inventive truck bed.

Level of Texas-ness: Forgetting to take your shotgun out of your car for school Monday morning after going skeet shooting that weekend.

4. This patriot.

Level of Texas-ness: Learning to two-step before you could walk.

5. These die-hard performers.

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Level of Texas-ness: Saying “It’s SO NICE outside!” anytime it’s under 85 degrees.

6. This regal True Value mascot.

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Level of Texas-ness: Bringing a cowbell to a football game.

7. These girls filled to the brim with school spirit.

Level of Texas-ness: Accidentally reciting the Texas State pledge instead of the Pledge of Allegiance.

8. This thought-provoking sign.

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Level of Texas-ness: Knowing queso and ranch dressing go well with everything.

9. This majestic waffle.

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Level of Texas-ness: Owning a belt buckle bigger than the size of your fist.

10. This cheerful gathering.

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Level of Texas-ness: Starting all of your insults with “bless your heart.”

11. This necessary wardrobe staple.

Level of Texas-ness: Having your entire town shut down on a Friday because there’s a football game.

12. This precious package.

Level of Texas-ness: Burning your hand on your truck handle on a summer day.

13. This glorious food truck.

Level of Texas-ness: “Why wouldn’t you eat tacos for breakfast?”

14. This unconventionally awesome monster truck.

Level of Texas-ness: You can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

15. This costume, which you will undoubtedly attempt to replicate this year.

Level of Texas-ness: Winning a cow in the calf scramble at the county fair.

16. This necessary sign.

Level of Texas-ness: George Strait.

17. These guys who know how to properly tailgate.

Level of Texas-ness: Parking farther away from the store because there’s a spot in the shade.

18. This proud flag that knows its place in the world.

Level of Texas-ness: Stopping whatever you’re doing to go to Sonic happy hour.

19. This stately sandwich cutter.

Level of Texas-ness: Knowing conversational Spanish before you take a single class.

20. This sign that knows its audience.

Level of Texas-ness: Asking your mom if your homecoming mum could be bigger.

21. This cowboy just trying to get his caffeine fill.

Level of Texas-ness: Using “rodeo” as a verb.

22. This business that knows what’s up.

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Level of Texas-ness: Drinking more sweet tea than water.

23. These guys enjoying their redneck hot tub.

Level of Texas-ness: Schlitterbahn.

24. This concerned fashionista.

Level of Texas-ness: Cringing when people call Taylor Swift country music.

25. This glorious combination of all things that are good in this world.

Level of Texas-ness: Having multiple friends with dual names (e.g., Maricarolyn, Sarabeth, Loriann).

26. This use of public tax dollars.

Level of Texas-ness: Getting irrationally upset at any mention of Oklahoma.

Level of Texas-ness: Owning a pair of work boots and dress boots.

Level of Texas-ness: Saying you want a Coke, then ordering a Dr Pepper.

Level of Texas-ness: Not being able to start your day until you’ve had a Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit.

Level of Texas-ness: Getting excused from school because you’re showing your animals.

30. This business that’s just trying to maximize its resources.

16 Of The Weirdest Themed Restaurants In The World

1. The Magic Restroom Cafe (City of Industry, CA)

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Theme: Toilets.
Cuisine: Food that looks like stuff that belongs in a toilet (and is actually served in toilet “bowls.” Eater LA recommends the stinky tofu.

Location: 18558 Gale Ave Ste 222, City of Industry, CA 91748

2. Dinner in the Sky (various locations)


Theme: Regular dining, except higher up. Dinner in the Sky is a Belgian based service that utilizes a crane to lift its diners 150 feet into the sky.
Cuisine: Varies depending on the chef. Dinners have been hosted in 17 nations.

3. Robot Restaurant (Tokyo, Japan)

Theme: Neon-hued chaos.
Cuisine: Traditional Japanese fare. Also strobe lights and scantily clad performers. And robots. Lots of robots.

Location: 1 Chome-7−1Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo

4. The long since abandonded Red Sea Star Underwater Restaurant and Strip Club (Eilat, Israel)


Theme: The sea. The restaurant itself is submerged 16 feet below the Red Sea.
Cuisine: Their website vaguely advertises a “wide variety of exotic dishes in a magical atmosphere of beauty and peace.” Of course, the restaurant served nothing currently, as it stands empty and eerie.

5. The Trailer Park Lounge (Manhattan, New York)

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Theme: Americana Charming white trash stereotypes.
Cuisine: Burgers and the like. Also awesome margaritas.

Location: 271 W 23rd St (between 7th Ave & 8th Ave), New York, NY 10011

6. Hospitalis (Riga, Latvia)


Theme: Hospitals. Waitresses put you in a strait jacket and feed you. How sweet.
Cuisine: Traditional Latvian fare.

(Unfortunately, the restaurant closed after slow business. Can’t imagine why…)

7. The Lockup (Tokyo, Taiwan)

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Theme: Serving hard time, but with better food.
Cuisine: Japanese food and drinks served in vials.

Location: 33-1 Udagawacho | B2, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture 150-0042, Japan

8. The Hello Kitty Dream Restaurant (Beijing, China)


Theme: Sanrio’s Hello Kitty Franchise.
Cuisine: Food shaped like cartoon kittens.

Location: 4F, Shimao Department Store, No.13 Gongti North Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China (Beijing Workers’ Sports Complex)

9. The Airplane Restaurant (Colorado Springs, CO)


Theme: Aviation. The restaurant rests inside a converted Boeing KC-97.
Cuisine: Burgers, soup, and sandwiches—and probably better food than what you get on an actual flight.

Location: 1665 N. Newport RD, Colorado Springs, CO 80916

10. The Ninja Restaurant (Manhattan, New York)

Theme: Ninjas! Food is served by wait staff in ninja garb, who periodically jump out of nooks and crannies to scare you. Apparenly ninjas love pranks.
Cuisine: Traditional Japanese food and sushi.

Location: 25 Hudson St, Manhattan, NY 10013

11. The H. R. Giger Bar (Gruyères, Switzerland)

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Theme: The bar is attached to the H. R. Giger Museum, devoted to the Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor, and set designer famous for his work on Alien.
Cuisine: As it’s a bar, the cuisine is alcohol. The interior is definitely a visual feast, however.

Location: Comercialstrasse 23, 7000 Chur, Switzerland

12. Heart Attack Grill (Las Vegas, NV)

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Theme: Obesity and heart disease. Larger patrons eat free and those who don’t finish their meals are spanked by waitresses dressed as nurses.
Cuisine: Fatty burgers. And if you don’t finish, humiliation.

Location: 450 Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101

13. Buns and Guns (Beirut, Lebanon)

Theme: War. Guns. Sandwiches. The restaurant is decorated with militaristic motifs and plays prerecorded gun sounds.
Cuisine: Sandwiches, with named like Tyfoon, Torpedo, and Viper.

14. Japanese Cat Cafes

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Theme: Pure unbridled happiness. For about 10 bucks an hour, you can lounge around and play with cats. Heavenly.
Cuisine: Tea, beer, and small snacks, depending on location. Cat cafes are popular across Japan and each one is different.

15. The Disaster Cafe (Lloret de Mar, Spain)

Theme: DESTRUCTION. The entire restaurant shakes with the force of a simulated earthquake. Patrons are not warned beforehand.
Cuisine: FEAR.

16. Opaque (Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco)


Theme: Darkness. Patrons are led into a pitch black dining room and served food they can’t see.
Cuisine: High end prix fixe menus consisting of pasta and meat dishes. At least that’s what they tell you.

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10 Great Atlantic Ocean Liners

Throughout much of the 20th century, giants plied the waters of the north Atlantic, bringing immigrants to the New World and ferrying wealthier passengers between New York (and other eastern ports) and Europe. A handful of these great liners still exist, while most are memories, found only in old photos or in fancy restaurants that salvaged a portion of a great ship’s interiors. Below are some of the greatest in terms of length of service, luxuriousness, reputation and overall amenities. Most of these at one time held the Blue Riband, a coveted prize given for the fastest Atlantic crossing.

Please note: There is a huge difference between an Atlantic liner and a cruise ship. The latter are made for calm seas and pure entertainment. The former were made to tackle rough north Atlantic weather and purpose-built to carry ocean-going passengers. For more information, read Thomas Maxtone-Graham’s magnificent “The Only Way to Cross.” Also note that the years correspond to launch date, not service-entry date. For example, Queen Mary went down the quays in 1934 but didn’t enter service until two years later.

Queen Marry 2 In Southampton

For almost 30 years, it seemed as if the Queen Elizabeth 2 was to be the only thread to the bygone era of the superliners, but the QE2’s continual transatlantic and cruising success convinced Cunard to build another one. Queen Mary 2 holds the record as the largest Atlantic superliner ever built (although one Caribbean cruise ship, the Freedom of the Seas, is bigger, and the first Queen Mary actually weighed more). QM2 looks like a cross between an Atlantic liner and a cruise ship, but she was built primarily for Atlantic crossings in mind, even though she can—and does—go practically to any sea in the world. Hey, if you have about $2,000 (about 1,000 pounds), you can hitch a ride on the QM2 and check it out for yourself. (And if you’re wondering why QM2 is #10 instead of #1, it’s because she hasn’t been around that long.)

800Px-B-17S Flyby Rex

The pride of the post-WWI Italian fleet, the Rex and her sister ship, the Conte de Savoia, were Italy’s answer to Germany’s new greyhounds. (See #6.) After an embarrassing start, Rex would capture the Blue Riband in 1933 and hold it for two years. She is remembered today for a famous “interception” in 1938 by American YB-17 bombers while the liner was still far out to sea. The Italians laid her up during the war, but the Allies sank her in September 1944 to keep the Germans from using her to block the harbor at Trieste.

Ss France Hong Kong 74

One of the most famous of the last great Atlantic superliners, The France was her namesake country’s flagship for almost 15 years. She was literally the pride of France, and the nation mourned when she was laid up in 1974. She was then sold to Norwegian Cruise Line and renamed the Norway, under which she sailed from 1980 until about 2001. As Norway, she experienced many troubles, but managed to remain popular on the Caribbean circuit. She was then sold and resold with designs for either refitting or scrapping, but the liner was laid up today over environmental concerns. She was finally scrapped in 2008.

800Px-Rms Queen Mary 2008

The first Queen Mary was designed to recapture British glory on the seas, and also replace the aged Mauritania and Aquitania. While very traditional in her appointments, she was more popular than the more-modern looking Normandie. Like her sister ship (loosely defined) the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary was a highly sought prize by German U-Boats in WWII. They never caught either. In the post-war years, the two Cunard queens ruled the seas as originally designed. Today, the Queen Mary is gutted and laid up in Long Beach, Calif., as a hotel and tourist attraction, while her sister ship was burned to a hulk in the 1970s during an attempt to make her a floating university.

Bundesarchiv Bild 102-11081, Schnelldamper "Bremen"

After losing her pre-WWI fleet of liner giants to war reparations, Germany again reclaimed a prized place on the seas with the Bremen and her sister ship, the Europa. This modern ship started the “express liner” craze of the 1930s, where ships were sleek, fast, luxurious, “wet” (Prohibition made European ships more popular over the “dry” American ships) and modern in all details. Bremen was a highly popular ship, but like most liners, the next war ended her career. The German military turned the Bremen into a barracks until she was burned and gutted in 1941, a victim of arson. She was scrapped in 1946.

Rms Mauretania

Along with her sister ship, the ill-fated Lusitania, the Mauretania was the first Atlantic Ocean greyhound. Steam turbines powered this mighty and luxurious ship, and she remained a favorite for three decades. Mauretania held the Blue Riband for 20 years before the Breman took it away. She was scrapped in 1935, over protests from ship aficionados, including Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Near the beginning of the blockbuster movie Titanic you’ll hear the insufferable Cal say, dripping upper-crust snobbery, that Titanic is “over a hundred feet longer than the Mauritania and far more luxurious.”)

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If you have ever seen old posters of 1930s-era travel, you might have seen ads of a looming Normandie profiled head-on with her sleek, clipper-like bow. She was ultra-modern, with a steam turbo-electric power-plant, a clean upper deck and luxurious appointments throughout. Yet the celebrated ocean liner struggled to consistently make a profit during the 1930s. When war began anew in 1939, Normandie wound up in New York, and stayed there after the fall of France. (A great picture taken in 1940 shows the Normandie, the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth berthed side by side in New York for the first and only time.) U.S. officials seized her after American entry into the war and renamed her USS Lafayette. But she never sailed again. She caught fire in early 1942 during her refitting, and the lopsided nature of the firefighting efforts caused her to capsize. Despite an expensive salvage operation, she was scrapped in 1946.

Ss United States Postcard

So fast that her top speed was a state secret, this last of the old greyhounds is still around today, slowly rusting at a Philadelphia pier. She was built with both passenger service and military use in mind—many liners scrapped in the mid-1930s would be missed a few years later when WWII began—hence the secrecy about her true speed. In the 1960s, all of the ocean-going palaces fell on hard times as the speed of the jumbo jet replaced the comfort and leisurely travel of the ocean liner. SS United States still holds the westbound Blue Riband, and awaits her ultimate fate after being purchased in 2004 by the Norwegian Cruise Line.

Olympic 1911

The glorious Olympic far outlasted her sisters, the infamous Titanic and the unfortunate Britannic (the later never entered passenger service and was sunk by a German mine off Greece while serving as a hospital ship). She was nicknamed Old Reliable, and remained in continuous service (except for brief periods) from 1911 until 1935. She was notorious for striking other ships, but one occasion was actually deliberate. Under British law, she was designated an auxiliary cruiser, and in 1918, when crew spotted U-103, Olympic turned and rammed the submarine, causing the Germans to scuttle the boat. She retained her popularity well after the war, despite her age. She was laid up in the mid-1930s and scrapped in 1937.

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At the twilight of the golden age of Atlantic steamers came the QE2, launched upon the retirement of the first Mary and her sister ship. From the late 1960s until 2004, the QE2 was the only way to cross in luxury (aside from the Norway, before she became a cruise ship). She sailed more than just the Atlantic, though, and came to port in Sydney, Australia, among other places. This gorgeous superliner finally retired in 2008, and will soon become a floating hotel in Dubai.

Notable omissions: Majestic (ex-Bismarck), Aquitania, Berengaria (ex-Imperator), Nieuw Amsterdam and the Kungsholm/Sea Princess/Victoria/Mona Lisa.

Contributor: STL Mo

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10 Man-Made Structures Taken To Huge Extremes

Mankind often stretches the boundaries of preconceived norms with creations so extraordinary that they become more than the sum of their parts. The Eiffel Tower is a cultural icon of France and, although not warmly received at first, its beauty has since transfixed people the world over.

So it might come as a surprise to learn that, from 1925 to 1936, French automobile manufacturer Citroen essentially utilized this extraordinary structure for the mundane task of advertising their brand. In fact, the very thing that saved the Eiffel Tower from demolition was its role as a radiotelegraph communications tower in World War I, hardly a glamorous occupation for one of the most romanticized structures in the world.

Despite having a functional purpose, the Eiffel Tower still remains extraordinary, but what about things mankind has created that are ordinary, even mundane in their very creation and essence? Let’s take a look at 10 man-made things that are so extraordinary, they deserve to transcend their ordinary origins.

10The Niesenbahn Funicular Service Stairway

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It would be fair to assume that the longest stairway in the word is in an extraordinarily tall building, but that title actually goes to the service stairway running alongside the Niesenbahn Funicular railway near Spiez, Switzerland. At 11,674 steps, it claims the Guinness World Record for longest staircase in the world. To put 11,674 steps into more relatable terms, the stairway covers a distance of 3.5 kilometers (2.2 mi) and rises 1,669 meters (5,476 ft) in elevation along that distance.

Before you enthusiastically venture out to conquer this Everest of stairways, you must first register to do so. It’s only open to workers, excluding the annual stairway run—in which you can pay to run on stairs for over an hour. Admittedly, that sounds terrible, but since it’s in Switzerland the views are probably gorgeous.

9The Cleveland Federal Reserve’s Vault Door

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From its installation in 1923 to its retirement in 1996, the 1.5-meter-thick (5 ft) door at the Federal Reserve of Cleveland served as the largest vault door installation in the world. At a weight of 100 tons, the swinging section of the door alone is akin to the weight of a Boeing 757 before fueling and loading, and its 5.5-meter (18 ft) hinge adds an additional 47 tons to the total weight. Yet it’s so perfectly balanced that one person can open and shut it with ease.

The door is so large and heavy that, when the time came to transport it to Cleveland, Ohio from York, Pennsylvania, the largest railcar in the United States was required to carry it, and the route had to be carefully planned to avoid bridges, because the sheer weight of the cargo threatened to collapse anything that wasn’t solid Earth. Once the car arrived in Cleveland, it took two full days just to unload the door from the railcar. No crane existed that was strong enough to lift it, so massive hydraulic jacks were used instead. If that wasn’t enough, once unloaded from the railcar, it took a total of four days to travel from the rail station to the bank, a distance of merely 1.6 kilometers (1 mi).

8Wartsila-Sulzer RTA96-C

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The world’s longest ship, Emma Maersk, is astounding in its own right, with a size comparable to the height of the world’s tallest skyscrapers at 397 meters (1,302 feet). It’s been the record holder for the world’s longest ship since 2007, but it’s the heart of this mighty beast that’s truly staggering. It’s befitting that the longest ship on the planet be powered by the largest reciprocating engine in the world—the Wartsila-Sulzer RTA96-C, an engine roughly the size of a small three-story apartment building.

Without getting too technical, an engine of this size generates 110,000 horsepower and weighs 2,500 tons; compare that to the average horsepower and weight of an automobile engine at 150 horsepower and 160 kilograms (350 lb). Despite being so immense, the Wartsila-Sulzer RTA96-C is incredibly efficient, but nonetheless it still consumes 39.5 barrels of fuel every hour and costs $46 a minute to run.

7The Delaware Aqueduct

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Many of us reading this have the luxury of instant access to clean water in the comfort of our homes, but we usually don’t think of the unseen engineering marvels put in place so we can do something so simple as fill a glass of water. Most modern cites aren’t blessed with the foresight of the founders to settle near an adequate water supply, and New York City is one of them. Early settlers dug the first permanent well in 1677, and the first reservoir delivered water to 22,000 residents via hollow logs nearly 100 years later in 1776. Aqueducts became the solution to New York’s growing population and their increasing thirst all the way up until 1944, when the Delaware Aqueduct was constructed.

As of today, it still delivers 50 percent of the metropolis’s drinking water. At 137 kilometers (85 mi) long, it is the world’s longest continuous tunnel, and its deepest point lies 450 meters (1,500 ft) underground—nothing short of incredible, considering that it was constructed by drilling and blasting through solid rock. The aqueduct is also incredibly efficient—95 percent of its water is delivered by gravity alone, which is no small feat considering it delivers 1.9 billion liters (500 million gal) of water per day. Unfortunately, the fact that it leaks up to 130 million liters (35 million gal) of water daily—and has been since 1988—makes it one of New York’s biggest current problems. Plans are underway to spend $1.2 billion on diversion tunnels by 2019.

6KVLY-TV Television Mast

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Before Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was built in 2010, the record for the world’s tallest man-made structure belonged to the KVLY-TV antenna in North Dakota. It took just 33 days and 11 men to assemble the antenna to a dizzying height of 628.8 meters (2,063 ft). The tower is so tall that if one of those 11 workers dropped his wrench at the top, it would be traveling at 400 kilometers per hour (250 mph) by the time it reached the ground—fast enough to ruin your day in a hurry if it happened to land on your toes.

If you’re feeling brave, there’s a small, two-man service elevator that takes you 594 meters (1,950 ft) up the tower, but the last 275 meters (900 ft) or so—the actual antenna—are only accessible by climbing. The gusts up there can reach 112 kilometers per hour (70 mph) and the tower sways up to 3 meters (10 ft), so maybe it’s best just to visit the Burj Khalifa’s air-conditioned observation deck instead.

5The Australian BHP Iron Ore Train

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How would you like to be stuck behind a train that is 7.3 kilometers (4.6 mi) long? While it might not seem that impressive at first glance, know that the amount of cars in this record-breaking run was a staggering 682 cars with a combined weight approaching 100,000 tons, making it both the longest and heaviest train to ever move. This becomes even more impressive when you learn that the entire train was under the control of a single driver harnessing the power of eight massive General Electric Diesel locomotives spaced evenly throughout the train to increase traction and braking forces.

BHP Iron Ore is no stranger to long trains, however, and routinely operates trains at half this size, meaning that they are regularly the largest trains on the planet at any given time. If you ever find yourself blocked at a railroad crossing by one of these beasts, it might be best to just head back the way you came.

4The Luxor Sky Beam

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No matter how common lightbulbs are these days, it’s hard to overlook the light mounted on top of the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. This light is the second brightest man-made light in the world. While its setting is anything but ordinary, there’s no trickery or magic behind the “sky beam,” as it’s called in Las Vegas. It uses 39 xenon-powered lamps and the aid of simple reflector shields. Granted, these aren’t your average consumer-grade lightbulbs, as each one costs a hefty $1,200 and uses 7,000 watts. When combined as a unit, they make 40 billion candlepower. It’s so bright that it has reportedly been seen at night by airline pilots 430 kilometers (270 mi) away in Los Angeles, and the air temperature around the lamps reaches 260 degrees Celsius (500 °F).

This might sound impressive, but the world’s brightest light used to be even brighter when it was first installed in the 1990s. The hotel once claimed that American astronaut Daniel Brandenstein remarked that the light was so bright that it would awaken his comrades on the space shuttle. While that story was revealed to be a hoax, the Luxor sky beam is still powerful enough to use as a navigational landmark, as more than a few Las Vegas residents have admitted to doing.

3Large European Acoustic Facility

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The Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF) is so loud it can kill you. Glossing over how the scientists behind it found that out, let’s try to put one of the world’s most powerful artificial sound systems in more relatable terms. At its base, the LEAF isn’t much more than a juiced-up sound system pumping sound waves into an acoustically optimized room, similar to a loud stereo system playing into a hard-walled closet. The only difference is, the room is 15 meters (50 ft) tall and the system is fueled by nitrogen to produce sounds just 40 decibels quieter than a TNT bomb.

The device is used to test whether satellites and other electronics can withstand the decibels produced at takeoff. As some of the loudest man-made sounds on the planet, rocket blasts sometimes damage the sensitive equipment being launched into space. And yes, the LEAF can kill you—because of this, the designers engineered a fail-safe that doesn’t allow the system to be turned on unless the door is closed.

2The Aerium

Businesses fail all the time, and the more ambitious ones usually leave behind large facilities in their wake. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to sell a standard office building than it is to sell, say, an aircraft hangar 210 meters (688 ft) wide and 107 meters (350 ft) high. That’s the predicament German airship company CargoLifter AG found itself in in 2002 when they declared insolvency. Fortunately for tourists in Europe, the Malaysian company Tanjong had the extravagant plan to convert the world’s largest freestanding building into an indoor water park and resort.

The result is nothing short of astounding. While the structure is nothing more than a clever aircraft hangar, and the resort is standard fare for tourists and business moguls alike, the two combine to create one of the most fascinatingly odd man-made attractions in the world. Just how big is the world’s largest freestanding building? The Aerium can fit the Statue of Liberty standing up or the Eiffel Tower lying on its side; the floor space alone can fit eight American football fields. With all that space available, it’s barely surprising to learn that it holds a 2,700-square-meter (9,000 sq ft) pool with 180 meters (600 ft) of sandy shoreline. It also contains the world’s largest indoor rainforest with 50,000 trees.


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Submarine telecommunication cables are the unsung heroes when it comes to connecting the world. It seems that in our modern age of increasingly advanced technology and rapid development, the majority of communications would be delivered via satellites, but the reality is that most of our data circumnavigates the globe the same way our computers connected to the Internet 10 years ago—with really long cables. Most people don’t even know they exist, and SEA-ME-WE-3 is the world’s longest at a staggering 39,000 kilometers (24,233 mi). Completed in 2000, the cable runs from England to Australia and has 39 landing points in 33 countries and four continents.

What’s even more incredible than the sheer scale is how mundane and simple these cables are. Modern submarine fiber optic cables like SEA-ME-WE-3 are little more than 6.8 centimeters (2.7 in) in diameter, which accounts for a rubber shell, protective synthetic bedding, copper insulation, and the optical fibers themselves. The difference between your household Ethernet cords and submarine fiber optic cables isn’t that great in principle, and everyone who’s had a data cord break on them knows how frustrating it can be. As it turns out, this exact thing can happen to data cables as well.

A miscalculation by a ship’s navigator or even a curious sea creature can sever a cable, resulting in millions of users without Internet access. Even the mighty SEA-ME-WE-3 isn’t immune to the risks—this exact thing happened in 2005, resulting in Pakistan essentially being isolated from the rest of the world for weeks.

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15 Interesting Places and Events in New Zealand

New Zealand is an island country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It geographically comprises two main landmasses, the North and South Islands. In 1250-1300, Polynesians settled New Zealand and developed a distinctive Māori culture. Europeans first made contact in 1642. The culture of New Zealand is largely inherited from British and European custom, interwoven with Māori and Polynesian tradition. European and Māori remain the two largest ethnicities, but the large Polynesian population in Auckland has prompted the observation that Auckland is now the largest Polynesian city in the world.

In fact, Auckland is the most remote city in the world with a population in excess of one million. The country of New Zealand is currently the 122 most populated in the world. During its long isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity. It is a marvelous place to visit and holds many unique experiences. This article will examine 15 interesting places and events in New Zealand.


The Kawekaweau is an extinct Giant Gecko unique to New Zealand. It is by far the largest of all geckos with an overall length of at least 600 mm (around 2 ft). The only recorded account of a living Kawekaweau is from 1870, when a Māori chief killed one he found under a dead rata tree in the forests of the Waimana Valley, which are now protected as part of the northern section of Te Urewera National Park.

The lizard is described as being “brownish with reddish stripes and as thick as a man’s wrist.” In 1986, a single stuffed museum specimen of a Kawekaweau was discovered in the basement of the Natural History Museum of Marseille. Nobody is quite sure how the specimen got to France. In 1990, the Kawekaweau was given to the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, which is the national museum and art gallery of the country. “Te Papa Tongarewa” is broadly translated as “the place of treasures of this land.”


Pounamu (greenstone) is several types of hard, durable and highly valued nephrite jade, bowenite, or serpentinite found in New Zealand. Pounamu almost always refers to nephrite jade and is found in specific rivers on the South Island. When searching for the rock, it can be difficult to identify because it hides in large boulders that often need to be cut open. The Māori people have recognized four main types of pounamu. They are kawakawa, kahurangi, īnanga, and tangiwai. Kahurangi pounamu is the rarest variety and is highly translucent in color.

Pounamu plays a very important role in Māori culture and is considered a treasure. It is valued for its beauty, strength, and durability. In 1997, the Crown gave back the ownership of all naturally occurring pounamu to the South Island tribe Ngāi Tahu. Today, greenstone continues to be popular among New Zealanders and is often presented to visitors and people moving overseas.

Zuiyo Maru

For centuries, large unidentified sea animals have been reported off the coast of New Zealand. In 1968, a carcass washed ashore at Muriwai, on the west coast of North Island. The body was measured at 30 ft (9.1 m) long and 8 ft (2.4 m) high. After examining the bizarre carcass, the chairman of the Zoology Department at the University of Auckland said: “I can’t think of anything it resembles.” The body was photographed and looks like a big hairy blob. Other than a few sentences, very little information has been written about the case.

In 1977, the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyō Maru discovered the Zuiyo-maru carcass off the coast of New Zealand, east of Christchurch. The crew was initially convinced that the body was an unidentified animal, but Captain Akira Tanaka decided to dump it back into the ocean. Before it was lost, a collection of photos, sketches, and samples were taken of the creature. The discovery resulted in a “plesiosaur-craze” in Japan. Analysis of the tissue indicated that the creature was most likely the carcass of a basking shark. However, the carcass holds some bizarre characteristics. It had a long neck, four large, reddish fins, a long tail, and lacked a dorsal fin.


William Trubridge is a record setting free-diver from New Zealand. He is the first human to break the 100m barrier in an unassisted dive. In 2011, Trubridge won the World’s Absolute Freediver Award (WAFA) naming him best all around free-diver in the world. On December 16, 2010, Trubridge set a new world record and dove to a depth of 101 m (331.36 ft) on a single breath of air with only his hands and feet for propulsion.

During the dive, William didn’t use any swimming fins, weights, and required no heavy sled. He also didn’t use any inflatable airbag to reach the surface. In total, Trubridge held his breath for 4 minutes, 10 seconds, from start to finish. He made the record breaking dive at Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas, which is the world’s deepest known blue hole with seawater.

On April 10, 2011, on the third day of completion in Vertical Blue, William Trubridge reclaimed his world record in Free Immersion and dove 121 meters in a time of 4:13. Free immersion is a bit different in that the diver can use a rope to help themselves in the decent and ascent. William Trubridge is an Apnea Academy instructor and operates a free-diving school and annual competition (Vertical Blue) at Dean’s Blue Hole. Over the last couple decades, New Zealand has become known for famous divers. Another great free-diver from New Zealand is a man named Dave Mullins.

David Gray (Murderer)

The deadliest criminal shooting spree in the history of New Zealand occurred on November 13, 1990 in the small seaside township of Aramoana. On the day in question, resident David Gray, a 33-year-old unemployed man, began indiscriminately shooting people with a scoped semi-automatic rifle. In the attack, Gray shot neighbors and members of the town killing thirteen people, including local police Sergeant Stewart Guthrie. After the massacre, Commissioner of Police John Jamieson authorized the Special Tactics Group (STG) to travel to Dunedin and locate Gray. After a long day searching from house to house, the STG found Gray in a house on the north-eastern side of the township.

At around 5.50 pm, David Gray ran out of the house, shooting from the hip and shouting “Kill me!” He took several steps before being shot and knocked down by STG gunfire. He died on the way to the hospital. Police fired between 50 and 60 shots, and at least 150 police officers were involved in the operation. Three days after the incident, Gray’s house at 27 Muri Street in Aramoana was deliberately set on fire and burned to the ground. The shooting directly resulted in an amendment to New Zealand’s firearms regulations, tightening gun control laws in the country.


Barry Smith was a Christian preacher and author from New Zealand. During his lifetime, Smith traveled around the world and spread the word of Jesus. He was also a conspiracy theorist who wrote eight books about the end of times prophecy. Smith was highly concerned with the New World Order, One World Government, and the Mark of the Beast. He wrote that the Mark of the Beast would be achieved by some form of modern technology, such as barcode tattoos, or a chip used to replace money. Many of Barry’s predictions are said to have come true over time.

He predicted the development of the subcutaneous RFID implant, the rise of terrorism, and the Middle East Conflicts. He was a proponent of the 9/11 conspiracy theories, and claimed the attacks were orchestrated by the US federal government. Shortly before his death in 2002 (age 69), Smith forecast an imminent worldwide financial and economic “collapse.” He said the Bible indicated that the trade of the world would be moved from America to Europe. “Under the reign of the Antichrist, the American dollar will give way to the Euro dollar.” He also said that the New Zealand dollar would probably give way to an Asian dollar.

Barry Smith is quoted: “I also discovered that the AIDS virus was created in a laboratory in America, which has been proven by a Jewish fellow called Leonard Horowitz. We even have the cure for AIDS. I’m a friend of the President of Kenya and they are using it there. That’s how wicked and mixed up everything is.” Kenya has experienced a notable decline in HIV prevalence in comparison to other African nations, attributed to behavioral change and increased access to medication. Barry Smith also had some harsh words for Henry Kissinger and thought he was possibly the “Antichrist.”


New Zealand is situated some 1,500 kilometers (900 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea. Because of its remoteness, the land is noted for being one of the last areas settled by humans. The isolation has also given rise to a distinct biodiversity. New Zealand has one of the most varied and unique biodiversities on earth.

Birds comprise the most important part of New Zealand’s vertebrate fauna and the islands are known for a large number of endemic species, which means species that are unique to this part of the world. Of the estimated 20,000 fungi species in New Zealand, only about 4,500 are known. New Zealand also has two sub-species of endemic cetaceans, Hector’s Dolphin and its close relative Maui’s Dolphin.

The Kakapo, also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot unique to New Zealand. It is the world’s only flightless parrot and the heaviest parrot in the world. The Kakapo is also one of the world’s longest-living birds and has a lifespan of over 60 years. Its anatomy typifies the tendency of bird evolution on oceanic islands and follows the concept of Island gigantism. The Kakapo is critically endangered. Like so many island species, the birds lost their ability to fly in the absence of mammalian predators.

When humans settled New Zealand and introduced predators such as cats, dogs, rats, ferrets, and stoats, the Kakapo was almost wiped out. As of February 2012, only 126 living individuals are known, most of which have been given names. In 2009, surviving Kakapos were moved to two predator-free islands, Codfish (Whenua Hou) and Anchor islands, where they are closely monitored. Similar to other parrots, the species has been noted for their intelligence.


Sports are very popular in New Zealand, and despite New Zealand being a very small nation, it has enjoyed great success in many sports, most notably rugby, cricket, sailing, netball, motorsport, climbing, and other extreme sports. New Zealand first participated at the Olympic Games in 1908, and has since sent athletes to every Summer Games. New Zealand athletes have won a total of 86 medals at the Summer Games, but only one at the Winter Games (alpine skier Annelise Coberger, 1992).

Let’s take a look at some of New Zealand’s greatest Olympic champions. In 1912, Malcolm Champion became New Zealand’s first Olympic gold medalist, and the first swimmer to represent New Zealand at an Olympic Games. Yvette Williams was the first woman from New Zealand to win an Olympic gold medal (long jump, 1952). Peter Snell was a world class runner that came to international fame in 1960 when he won the gold medal in Rome and set a new national record for the 800m. In 1964, Snell won two more gold medals. He was voted New Zealand’s “Sports Champion of the 20th Century.”

A man named Ian Ferguson (canoeist) is New Zealand’s most successful Olympian. He competed in K1, K2, and K4 kayak events and won a total of four gold medals. Horseman Mark Todd was voted Rider of the 20th Century by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports. He won gold medals at Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988). Danyon Loader is another famous athlete from New Zealand that won multiple gold medals. In 1996, he set World Records in the short course 200 butterfly and 400 freestyle. Loader was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2003.

Let’s run through a quick list a notable rugby, cricket, and football stars from New Zealand. Famous rugby players include Fred Allen, Don Clarke, Sean Fitzpatrick, Grant Fox, Dave Gallaher, Michael Jones, Ian Kirkpatrick, John Kirwan, Sir Brian Lochore, Jonah Lomu, Sir Colin Meads, Graham Mourie, George Nepia, and Wilson Whineray. Some famous New Zealand cricketers include Stephen Fleming, Martin Crowe, John Richard Reid, Richard Hadlee, Lance Cairns, Chris Cairns, Danny Morrison, and Daniel Vettori.

The current captain for the New Zealand national football team is defender Ryan Nelsen. Arguably the best football player in the history of New Zealand is Wynton Rufer. Rufer was named the Oceania Footballer of the Century. Some other great players include Steve Wooddin, Shane Smeltz, and Ivan Vicelich.


A hot spring is a spring that is produced by the emergence of heated groundwater. There are currently hot springs on all continents and in many countries around the world. Places with an abundance of hot springs include China, Costa Rica, Iceland, Iran, Peru, United States, Taiwan, Japan, and New Zealand. The world’s largest hot spring is located in New Zealand and named Frying Pan Lake. Frying Pan Lake sits in the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley and has a surface area of 3.8 ha (9.3 acres), also reported at 38,000 square meters.

The average depth of the hot spring is 6 meters (19.6 feet), but it reaches the depth of 20 meters (65.6 feet) in places. It is a wonderful place to visit and a marvelous example of volcanic activity. You might wonder what geological event created the massive hot spring. On June 10, 1886 the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley was created by the eruption of Mount Tarawera, on the North Island. The lake is currently fed by numerous acid springs and sits at a temperature between 45 and 55°C (113-131°F).

The 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption also created the Waimangu Geyser, which was located near Rotorua in New Zealand. Rotorua is a famous city on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua. The Waimangu Geyser was the most powerful geyser in the world from 1900 to 1904. It was created after the eruption opened a 14km-long (8.75 miles) fissure down the mountain and through Lake Rotomahana.

The geyser was first seen erupting in 1900 and the explosion of water was observed reaching up to 460 meters (1,500 ft) in height. The geyser attracted worldwide interest in the early 1900s and was a popular tourist destination. On November 1, 1904, the Waimangu Geyser became extinct as the result of a landslide which changed the water table in this area of New Zealand.


Due to the mild maritime climate of New Zealand, the land is covered with lush forest. The country also has giant mountain peaks, which were formed by the tectonic uplift and volcanic eruptions. For this reason, many areas of New Zealand are extremely remote and isolated. For centuries, the people of New Zealand have reported some unusual creatures on the islands. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular crypids of New Zealand.

Since the late 1990s, several big cat sightings have been reported in parts of New Zealand, on both the North and South Islands. There have been unverified panther sightings in Mid-Canterbury near Ashburton and in the foothills of the Southern Alps, but no physical evidence has been discovered. The Kumi Lizard is a cryptid reptile, possibly a giant monitor lizard, which allegedly once lived in New Zealand. The Kumi Lizard is said to be 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and is similar to the giant extinct Australian lizard, Megalania.

The Moehau is reported to be a large, hairy hominid living in the Coromandel-Moehau ranges of New Zealand’s North Island. The most common explanation for the Hairy Moehau is that it is a gorilla that escaped from a ship in the 1920s. Toangians is the name of another ape-man that has been reported in New Zealand. The Waitoreke is an otter/beaver-like animal said to live on the South Island.

Probably the most intriguing cryptid from New Zealand is the Poukai, which was a monstrous bird that is said to have eaten people. According to Sir George Grey, an early governor of New Zealand, Hokioi (Poukai) were huge black-and-white predators with a red crest and yellow-green tinged wingtips. If the Poukai was related to the Haast’s Eagle, then it is possible that the legends could be true. The Haast’s Eagle was a species of massive eagles that once lived on the South Island of New Zealand.

The species is the largest eagle and true raptors ever known to have existed. The total length of the bird was estimated to have been up to 1.4 m (4 ft 7 in) in females, with a standing height of approximately 90 cm (2 ft 11 in). Haast’s Eagles preyed on large, flightless bird species, including the moa, which was often fifteen times the weight of the eagle at 300 pounds (140 kg). It is estimated that the Haast’s Eagle attacked at speeds up to 80 km/h (50 mph) and could have easily killed an adult human. The birds did not officially become extinct until around 1400.

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New Zealand is known for its extreme sports, adventure tourism, and strong mountaineering tradition. Outdoor pursuits such as cycling, fishing, swimming, running, tramping, canoeing, hunting, and surfing are popular. The Catlins Coast comprises an area in the southeastern corner of the South Island of New Zealand. If you enjoy scenic beauty, hiking, and the freedom of isolation, this is the place for you. The Catlins Coast is a rugged area that features a scenic coastal landscape and dense temperate rainforest, both of which hold many endangered species of birds, most notably the rare yellow-eyed penguin.

The coast is exposed to wild weather and large ocean swells, which often attract big-wave surfers. Due to the weather, the Catlins Coast has been home to numerous shipwrecks, which has intrigued divers and treasure hunters. The relatively isolated location of the Catlins Coast is a delight for surfers who can find undiscovered hot spots. The area has been described as a “treasure trove of uncharted wave formations.” Some noted locations are Kaka Point, Nugget Point, Cannibal Bay, Long Point, and Catlins River Mouth.

Be sure to visit the cliffs of Slope Point if you are on the Catlins Coast. There is no road to Slope Point and it must be reached by a 20 minute walk following dilapidated yellow markers. The rugged, scenic coastline of the Catlins features sandy beaches, blowholes, a petrified forest at Curio Bay, and the Cathedral Caves, which visitors can reach at low tide. The caves are only accessible 2 hours either side of low tide and are one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand.

The Catlins Coast consists of high cliffs, up to 200m (660 ft) in height. For this reason, many of the area’s rivers cascade and form large waterfalls, most notably the iconic Purakaunui Falls on the short Purakaunui River. The falls are isolated by native bush and fall 20m (66 ft) in three tiers. The landscape of the Catlins is featured in many poems by celebrated poet Hone Tuwhare and is like nothing found in other parts of the world.


During World War II, the people of New Zealand felt safe in the fact that they were isolated and a long distance from the war in Europe. However, in the summer of 1940, the German merchant cruiser Orion was ordered to place 228 mines in four separate areas around New Zealand. At this time in history, the RMS Niagara was an ocean liner that maintained a service from Auckland, New Zealand, to Suva and Vancouver, Canada. The vessel was initially launched on August 17, 1912 and given the nickname of “the Titanic of the Pacific,” but after the RMS Titanic sank, it was renamed “Queen of the Pacific.” RMS Niagara was just 55m shorter than Titanic.

On June 19, 1940, the RMS Niagara was hit by a mine near Auckland and sank in 121 meters (397 feet) of water. No lives were lost, but a secret and large consignment of gold and weapons from the Bank of England sank with the ship. Also, the passenger’s valuables were lost. In the early 1940s, a series of recovery attempts were made to locate the gold. In one case, the Claymore successfully recovered more than eight tones of gold. In all, 555 gold bars were found by the Claymore. As of 2011, five gold bars remain in the wreck, estimated to be worth $1.2 million New Zealand dollars. People have attempted to recover the gold, but it remains lost.

New Zealand is officially recognized as an island country, but it sits on a massive submerged continent known as Zealandia. The New Zealand continent is a nearly submerged fragment of land that sank after breaking away from Australia. New Zealand is the largest part of Zealandia above sea level, followed by New Caledonia. The sunken continent is larger than Greenland or India, and almost half the size of Australia. It is unusually slender, stretching from New Caledonia to beyond New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands. Zealandia supports inshore fisheries and contains New Zealand’s largest gas field, near Taranaki.

In 1768, Captain Cook received specific instructions to find the fabled land of Terra Australis Incognita, the great southern continent thought to be hiding somewhere in the South Pacific. History says Cook failed, finding only the finger of New Zealand. However, GNS geologist Hamish Campbell says Cook might have succeeded and found the sunken land of Zealandia. This is a controversial claim because it says that the entire continent of Zealandia and New Zealand was once underwater. To support his theory, Campbell used evidence from the Ruahine Range, which used to be submerged.

The theory would disprove important facts surrounding the creation of New Zealand. It would help answer the question of what happened to the mammals absent from New Zealand’s native fauna. “What we’re saying is that it is possible that New Zealand’s native flora and fauna is derived from ancestral stock less than 25 million years old.” Many people have dismissed the theory for a number of reasons. Some have cited the history of the tuatara, which is a reptile alive in New Zealand, thought to be a rare remnant of the dinosaur age.


In 1977, Air New Zealand decided to offer an Antarctic sightseeing flight from Auckland Airport to Antarctica and then back via Christchurch. The flight gave individuals the opportunity to view unexplored portions of Antarctica. Many people in New Zealand and around the world saw TE-901 as a great opportunity and quickly signed up for the voyage. On November 28, 1979, the fourteenth flight of TE-901 collided with Mount Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica, killing all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board.

The initial investigation into the accident concluded that it was caused by pilot error, but it was later determined that the flight crashed after its coordinates were adjusted and the crew was not informed. Had the pilots been informed of the changes, the crash could have been avoided. The unexpected flight plan adjustment caused the aircraft to be manually re-routed into the path of Mount Erebus. After a long search, both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder were discovered. The voice recorder indicated that the crew believed they were flying over McMurdo Sound, well to the west of Mt Erebus, when in reality they were flying directly at the mountain.

A collection of pictures were taken seconds before the collision that show the mountain with clear visibility and well beneath the cloud base. This fact has confused some people, as the pilots of the aircraft should have been well aware that they were in danger. A conspiracy has evolved around the case and some people in New Zealand feel the government has kept important facts secret. After the crash, the phrase “an orchestrated litany of lies” entered New Zealand popular culture. Stories emerged of passengers who won tickets to the ill-fated flight or received them as gifts. The accident remains New Zealand’s deadliest peacetime disaster.

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When searching for the most famous person born in New Zealand, Edmund Hillary stands out. In 1919, Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand. While in secondary school, he became interested in mountaineering and made his first major climb in 1939, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier. On May 29, 1953, Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest and survived. The feat propelled Hillary to international stardom and he was named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

Following his ascent of Everest, Hillary devoted most of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal. He funded many schools and hospitals in the area. In his career, Hillary scaled ten other peaks in the Himalayas. He also reached the South Pole and was the first to reach the Pole overland since Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912. Despite the danger of climbing enormous mountain peaks, Hillary’s most notorious near-death experiences have come from plane crashes.

Edmund Hillary narrowly missed becoming a victim of the 1960 New York air disaster, having been late for his flight. Between 1977 and 1979, Hillary commentated aboard several Antarctic sightseeing flights operated by Air New Zealand. He was scheduled to commentate on the November 28, 1979 flight that crashed into Mount Erebus, but was instead replaced by his close friend Peter Mulgrew, who died in the accident.

In 1992, Edmund Hillary appeared on the New Zealand $5 note, making him the only New Zealander to be on a banknote during their lifetime. In 2006, Edmund was highly critical of the decision not to try to rescue David Sharp, an Everest climber who died on the mountain, saying that it is unacceptable to leave another climber behind. On January 11, 2008, Edmund Hillary died of heart failure in Auckland City Hospital. He was 88-years-old.


Baldwin Street, in Dunedin, New Zealand, is considered the world’s steepest residential street. It is located in the suburb of North East Valley, 3.5 kilometers (2.2 mi) northeast of Dunedin’s city centre. Baldwin Street runs east from the valley of the Lindsay Creek up the side of Signal Hill towards Opoho. The road has an average slope of slightly more than 1:5 at its maximum. The slope of Baldwin Street rises about 1:2.86 (19° or 35%), which is an elevation change of 1 meter for every 2.86 meters traveled. The street was developed in the middle of the 19th century as part of a wider grid system.

Baldwin Street is the venue for a collection of annual events in New Zealand, including the Baldwin Street Gutbuster, which involves running from the base of the street to the top of the hill and back down. Since 2002, Baldwin Street has been the site for an event which involves rolling over 30,000 Jaffas (little chocolate balls) down the hill. The road has become an area for thrill-seekers and dangerous stunts. In March 2001, a 19-year-old University of Otago student was killed when she attempted to travel down the street inside a wheelie bin. The bin collided with a parked trailer, killing her instantly. On January 2, 2010, Cardrona stuntman Ian Soanes rode down Baldwin Street on a motorcycle on one wheel.

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