Soyuz Tree Planting Ceremony on May 22, 2013 (photograph by Victor Zelentsov/NASA)
Yesterday in preparation for their May 29 departure for the International Space Station, the crew members of Soyuz TMA-09M each planted saplings as part of a tradition of cosmonauts going back to the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin.
These plantings were in a grove located on the Avenue of the Cosmonauts behind the Cosmonaut Hotel in Kazakhstan, which was built for space travelers who were departing the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Two long rows of trees are all marked with the name and year of the crew member who planted them, from Gagarin's tree which looms the tallest to that of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. While it started out as a ceremony for Soviet cosmonauts, now that missions for the International Space Station depart from the Cosmodrome, NASA astronauts and space travelers from around the world plant trees.
The ceremony always takes place very shortly before take off, leaving a simple, living tribute in the earth to those intrepid voyagers who are about to shoot beyond our atmosphere. Below are more images from this cosmonaut grove:
Jogging on the Avenue of the Cosmonauts (via European Space Agency)
Tree planted by Yuri Gagarin (via nox-am-ruit/Flickr)
NASA astronaut Joe Acaba plants a tree on May 10, 2012 with Expedition 31/32 (photograph by Victor Zelentsov/NASA)
Wallace Hartley's violin (via the Bournemouth News)
As passengers frantically piled into the lifeboats or gazed down at their doom in the icy waters, the Titanic band continued to play on the tilting deck. Bandleader Wallace Hartley led the string group on his rosewood violin until the last moment and then packed it cafeully into his luggage that he strapped to himself, hoping for the best. His body was found floating 10 days later, the violin still clutched to his body.
Dedication to Wallace Hartley from his fiance Maria (photograph via the Bournemouth News)
The instrument had been a gift to Hartley from his fiance, and it was to her that it returned after the Titanic sank. After her death in 1939, it disappeared, turning up in 2006 in an attic in England. It took seven years to confirm its authenticity, according to the Telegraph, and now it's finally on display to the public.
Wallace Hartley (via Daily Record)
Despite some warping from the water, the instrument is in remarkable shape, although unplayable. It was first exhibited in Belfast, the Titanic's point of departure, for the anniversary last year, and it's arrived this month in the United States. Its first stop is the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge Tennessee, a museum contained in a half-scale recreation of the Titanic in the Smoky Mountains. Then it will travel to its sister museum in Branson, which, incredibly, is also shaped like a giant replica of the ocean liner. Finally, this October it will be auctioned by Henry Aldrige & Son in England, but no matter where the well-traveled instrument finally ends up, it will be a haunting reminder of that last harrowing serenade.Read More
Relic Chapel in the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in New York (photograph by Elizabeth Harper)
As an eight-year-old Catholic, I was already disillusioned with my faith. My perverse interest in the many lepers of the Bible sustained my attention in religion class for a while, but my request for more information resulted in a well-intentioned, but crushingly disappointing, book on leopards. In the days before Wikipedia, that was a dead end. The boredom returned. I felt doomed to a lifetime of sunny parables and chirpy gospels until the day Father Don walked into church with a piece of decomposing human liver in a filigree box.
The liver was a relic: a piece of the corpse of a saint. Our parish was a stop on the liver’s world tour to give more parishioners the opportunity to venerate. According to the Catholic process of veneration, praying to a saint's body part might stir the saint to intercede on your behalf with God. While I may not have venerated in the most orthodox way, I studied it intently. For me, the liver was the best thing since lepers.
From that time on I was fascinated with the lives of saints and the pieces of their bodies strewn about in shrines all over the world. Their biographies matched the macabre beauty of their bones in these wildly ornate boxes. They were princes and queens, warriors and beggars in disguise. It wasn’t uncommon for the hero or heroine saint to be beheaded, burnt at the stake, or flayed alive at the end of their story. In fact, if you looked closely, some of their bones still bore the marks of martyrdom.
There is no complete list of saints, nor for that matter, their relics (at least that’s available to the public; who knows what lurks in the Vatican Library). Saints are sometimes taken off the official calendar of feast days if their legends become too suspect, but they cannot be “un-sainted” and their relics, if they exist, often remain on display even under the most suspicious circumstances (like the four skulls all claiming to be St. John the Baptist). As an adult, I began seeking out churches all over the world to document saint’s relics and legends myself because the disorder and relative lack of information on relics lent itself to a sort of treasure hunt.
As I loaded my laptop with photos of crypts and cadavers, I became hesitant to share these vacation photos. Frankly, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for centuries-old disembodied limbs and skulls wearing crowns. I started my blog All the Saints You Should Know last year as a way to organize and share the photos and stories I collected with like-minded people. Recently, I’ve started adding some of my favorites to the Atlas in the hopes of getting more people interested in and documenting relics. Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve highlighted so far:
SANTA FRANCESCA ROMANA
St. Francesca Romana (photograph by Elizabeth Harper)
One of the best side effects of viewing relics is the quiet serenity of crypts. The day I went to see the relics of St. Francesca Romana it was almost 100 degrees in Rome. The basilica her relics are kept in is in the middle of the loudest, most touristy part of the city. I had to slip past a bunch of guys in plastic gladiator costumes waiting in line for porta-potties just to get in. But then… silence. Cool marble. Incense. It was an oasis within some circle of hell reserved for badly behaved tourists in fannypacks. And of course, there was a full skeleton dressed in a white nun's habit, boney fingers still clutching her prayer book.
CHURCH OF THE MOST HOLY REDEEMER
New York City, New York
Relics of St. Datian (photograph by Elizabeth Harper)
But of course, you don’t have to go to Europe just to see relics. For a similar experience sans-jetlag, you can head to the East Village in New York City and view the complete relics of St. Datian, an obscure Roman martyr. St. Datian was the first complete body of a saint to be brought to America and he rests here along with smaller relics from over 150 other saints. The relics are encased in a lifelike (or rather, deathlike) wax sculpture of the martyr’s body in repose. The art of wax sculpting is employed all over the world to give relics a less frightening, more peaceful look. Today some contemporary saints like Padre Pio have perfectly lifelike silicone faces and hands to shield their corpses from direct view.Read More
Bayside Cemetery in Ozone Park (photograph by Randall Tilson)
Most New Yorkers only view Bayside Cemetery in a glimpse from the A train on the way to JFK or the Rockaways, the overgrowth of trees and other plants shrouding the whole place in an urban forest. Yet the cemetery in Ozone Park, Queens, is one of the city's significant cornerstones of the history of Judaism in New York in the 19th century. However, for years, almost since it was first opened in 1865, the cemetery has been a victim of neglect and vandalism. Volunteers are working to return peace to the burial ground, including Anthony Pisciotta who has dedicated himself to preserving and repairing the cemetery. Earlier this month, Pisciotta led the Obscura Society on an exploration of Bayside and shared his extensive knowledge of its history.
Bayside Cemetery, with a view to the A train tracks (photograph by Randall Tilson)
Around 35,000 people are buried in Bayside Cemetery, representing a strong Jewish community from all walks of New York life, from religious leaders to veterans going back to the Civil War to a Titanic victim to a woman lost in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Their diversity is reflected in their memorials, which often reflect their identifications with being German or a citizen of the Victorian era, with elaborate mausoleums and ornate markers, rather than just their religion.
Andy Schultz of CAJAC and tour guide Anthony Pisciotta with the Obscura Society visitors (photograph by Randall Tilson)
Joining our visit was Andy Schultz, the executive director of the Community Association for Jewish At-Risk Cemeteries (CAJAC), which has also been organizing volunteers to clear the layers of dead leaves, fix up broken mausoleums, and generally help get the cemetery on its way to being a welcoming place for those who come here to remember and to honor those who rest in its earth.
The land where Bayside Cemetery is located actually has three cemeteries, with Acacia Cemetery on the east and Mokom Sholom on the west. You know when you enter Bayside as you're suddenly the shadows of slender rising trees that cast dappled light on dirt paths. It was once as orderly as the better-preserved Acacia, yet incidents including the opening of mausoleums and revealing of remains, even the setting on fire of corpses and mausoleums, left Bayside in a horrific state of disarray. It may still look like it's in a bad state, but just compare the photos here to these Citynoise photos from 2008 and you'll see the vast improvements made by Pisciotta and CAJAC. A group of volunteer undertakers also replaced remains in simple coffins before wrecked mausoleums were sealed with layers of cinderblocks. Graffiti tags have been cleaned off the marble and granite tombstones, and just recently Pisciotta pieced together a delicate statue of an angel that marked a child's grave.
Allison Meier from Atlas Obscura with our tour guide Anthony Pisciotta (photograph by Randall Tilson)
As Pisciotta explained, he's not Jewish, nor does he have family buried in Bayside, yet we should all feel a universal need to give respect to the dead. Below are some more photographs from the Obscura Society's afternoon in Bayside Cemetery:
Cassius celebrates his birthday (photograph by Jemma Craig, courtesy Marineland Melanesia)
On the small teardrop of a landmass called Green Island on the Barrier Reef of Queensland, Australia, the population of crocodiles rivals that of humans. And among the 50 reptilian residents who dwell at the Marineland Melanesia crocodile habitat is a colossus known as Cassius, who holds the hefty title of the world's biggest crocodile.
This month, the 17-foot-long Cassius celebrated his 110th birthday with a celebration capped by a giant cake of chicken necks, the Herald Sun reported. "He destroyed it in about 30 seconds," Billy Craig, Marineland Melanesia crocodile wrangler, noted to AAP.
Cassius the crocodile (via ABC)
Cassius was caught back in 1984 when he was creating a nuisance by chomping on some motorboats. No one wanted the massive crocodile, so the family-owned Marineland Melanesia took him in. According to his Guiness World Record tribute, he's "thought to be a man-eater," but no evidence is presented.
He's held the title of biggest crocodile in captivity since 2011, but was briefly dethroned by a proven man-eater: Lolong in the Philippines. Lolong was captured in 2011 after a schoolgirl's head was bitten off and a fisherman was devoured, the Telegraph reported. Yet that scaly behemoth died of an unexplained illness earlier this year, leaving Cassius, who is indeed named for the famed boxer, to again stand victorious.
George Craig feeding Cassius (via AFP)
Of course, this is likely all the same to Cassius as long as he gets his next meal, and while there was grand celebrating with the raw meat cake and a hearty singing of happy birthday, no one can be quite sure how old the crocodile is. But his caring keepers thought it was about time for the aging crocodile, who is definitely over the century, to have a birthday. And he's in great shape for his age with all of his teeth. As Craig said to the Cairns Post earlier this year: He might outlive us all."
One of the Anatomical Machines in Naples (photograph by Joanna Ebenstein/Morbid Anatomy)
For numerous travelers, Naples is the darkest gem of the Old Continent, concealing in its streets countless artifacts of a macabre nature. With skulls, bones, petrified saints, and holy blood, the iconography of death seems to have spread everywhere. Moreover, Naples is paved with obscure legends. Behind every door, under each alcove, vivid tales linger on, tangling together the Italian aristocracy, exalted quests for knowledge, and, of course, cold blooded murders. Included in these is the story of the Anatomical Machines.
Located in the basement of the Sansevero Chapel in the historic district of Naples, the bodies of two people, a man and a woman, stand in an elaborate display. Their skin and their muscles are gone, leaving them open and naked. Yet they proudly present their vascular systems, their skeletons, and some of them inner organs.
It's evident that our couple is not an object of devotion, so their dramatic internal nudity in one of the most sumptuous chapels in town is paradoxical. Who are these two people and why is their anatomy displayed in this sacred place?
Werner Herzog's "Death for Five Voices" (1995) (The gate keeper scene and the visit to the chapel are at the beginning of the extract.)
I remember encountering the Anatomical Machines for the first time in Death for Five Voices, Werner Herzog's documentary on Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa, a late Renaissance composer famous for his haunting madrigals and the gruesome murder he committed on his wife and her lover. Caught in flagrante delicto, the unfaithful Donna Maria d'Avalos and her paramour were hacked in bed by several sword hits in the Palazzo Sensevero. In Herzog’s film, a gate keeper of this very palace described Gesualdo as "a demon and an alchemist" who, after the murder, embalmed the guilty couple. His "original sin" tableau was then installed in the Sansevero Chapel.
This same myth also appears in a painting by American visionary artist Joe Coleman that retraces the epic life of Gesualdo. The Macchine Anatomiche are visible in the center, on the left side of the iconic murderer portrait:
Joe Coleman, "Tebebrae for Gesualdo" (2004) (via JoeColeman.com)
But digging a bit into the historical realities of Naples' past cuts short the Gesualdo myth. Notary deeds enabled researchers to trace the origin of the Anatomical Machines to 1763, more than a century after Gesualdo’s death. In fact, the embalmed bodies were commissioned by Raimondo di Sangro, Prince de Sansevero, the same nobleman who also sponsored the reconstruction of the Sansevero Chapel. This reconstruction gave the sanctuary a new layout and the glorious appeal it has today. And also, the two anatomical preparations.
The goal of these "anatomical machines" (Macchine Anatomiche) made in the Enlightenment was to unveil the mechanics of the body, highlighting how organs function in interaction with each other. Therefore the "machines" were meant to show how the heart, as the center of the vascular system, distributed blood everywhere in the body through a network of veins and arteries. Something which, at the time, was invisible unless you attended an actual autopsy.
Raimondo di Sangro, Prince de Sansevero, Artist Unknown (via Atlas Obscura)
Raimondo di Sangro, Prince de Sansevero, is an iconic figure of Naples wrapped in an aura of mysteries. Described as “the Napolitaen incarnation of Doctor Faustus,” the prince was an indefatigable inventor and scientist obsessed by mechanics, physics, chemistry, and anatomy. But his hermetic mind also turned him to alchemy and Freemasonry, which explains some of the symbolic elements adorning the chapel today. He's acknowledged for a plethora of inventive devices like an "Eternal Flame" of colored fireworks, and an amphibian coach that could travel over both land and sea.
The anatomical machines are at the crossroads of all his interests. As an 18th century guide stated, Di Sangro is said to have worked hand-in-hand with anatomist Giuseppe Salerno. In his laboratory, the Prince is said to have found an alchemic process to materialize the vascular system by injecting a mercury-based substance that would allow a “metallization” of blood vessels. The stupendous technique could be celebrated as a predecessor of Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds plastination if the “black legend” of Di Sangro didn’t complicate this tale a bit ...
One of the Anatomical Machines (photograph by Joanna Ebenstein/Morbid Anatomy)
What is this black legend? Well, according to popular story, Di Sangro allegedly got a pregnant servant and her lover murdered so that he could experiment with his metallization process on vivisected bodies. He then kept his models in his personal Apartment of the Phoenix in the palace, until being relocated to Sansevero Chapel. Other stories assert that he killed no less than seven cardinals in order to use their bones and skin to make seven chairs, and that he arranged his own resurrection through a post-mortem alchemic process in which he had to be sliced in pieces and placed in a chest.
The Anatomical Machines, as they are presented in the Sansevero Chapel (via Atlas Obscura)
Nowadays, several contemporary scholars consider the possibility that the Di Sangro himself was the origin of theses rumors, building his own mythology to gain eternal notoriety. In 2008, UCL-London researchers Renata Peters and Lucia Dacome analyzed samples of the Anatomical Machines from the artery networks. What they found was stunning: the veins were manufactured out of beeswax, pigments, and silk fibers, all articulated on iron wire. No mercury was found, and nothing organic remained. Nothing expect the skeletons belonged to a real human.
The Anatomical Machines were artificially fabricated by Salerno. If it tames their incredible story, it still shows the incredible craftsmanship that went into copying nature’s complex engineering. If our modern science has deciphered a trick of history, it has also shifted the Anatomical Machines from the realm of myth to the realm of the sublime.
All the secrets of human consciousness may be embedded somewhere in the squishy brains nestled in our skulls. This drive to find out what's hidden in our mental anatomy has resulted in medical specimen collections of brains all over the world. The Wilder Brain Collection in Ithaca, New York, has around 70 brains; the Cushing Brain Collection in New Haven, Connecticut, has around 550. But this is nothing compared to the around 3,300 brains kept at the Brain Museum in Lima.
Wilder Brain Collection in the 1950s (via hastinggraham/Flickr user)
The Wilder Brain Collection at Cornell University was actually once much larger, with more than 600 brains having been amassed from corpse craniums between the 19th and 20th centuries by Dr. Burt Green Wilder, whose own brain even became part of the collection after his passing. Unfortunately, brains are fragile things, and years of neglect and poor storage resulted in only about 70 surviving.
Cushing Brain Collection (courtesy Cushing/Whitney Medical Library)
A grid of about 400 delicately-lit jars line the walls of the Cushing Brain Collection at Yale's medical school library, with another 150 in storage in states of conservation. The collection was created by Harvey Cushing at the beginning of the 20th century, an impressive brainiac himself who was both a groundbreaking neurosurgeon and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. While it spent the time between its donation in 1939 and 2010 hidden away, and also suffered from disrepair like the Wilder Collection, renewed interest driven by student enthusiasm brought it to its new home.
Brain Collection in Lima (via unboundedmedicine.com)
While the Wilder and Cushing collections have some staggering mental mass, the Brain Museum in Lima has an unrivaled holding of about 3,300 brains. The collection started in 1947 and under the current direction of Neuropathologist Diana Rivas it continues its growing focus on diseases of the brain. From the impact of strokes to tumors to the human strain of mad cow disease, the accumulated brains show just how delicate our neural center is to our stability and sense.Read More
The abandoned Teufelsberg in Berlin (via dasalte.ccc.de)
If science and research run into a problem too large or too difficult to solve in the lab, the next logical step is often to build a bigger, or stranger, lab. The grandest scientific endeavors work to part the veil of the material world and tear the secrets of the universe from the ignorant darkness in order to discover new truths about our very existence. And when they are done, we drop them like a bad habit.
While most large-scale science projects and facilities around the world are eventually repurposed or evolve to meet the needs of ongoing research, some facilities are too unique to use or too expensive to destroy, and are thus simply abandoned, leaving space guns to rust in tropical ruin and turning top-secret listening posts into well-known make-out points. Be it through institutional mismanagement, lack of funding, or simple obsolescence, many of civilization's grandest attempts to understand our world and beyond remain abandoned, sitting ominously dormant as a beacon to the transience of scientific ambition.
Here Atlas takes a look at some record-setting and awe-inspiring scientific ruins that seem too unbelievable to have been built, much less forgotten.
SUPERCONDUCTING SUPER COLLIDER
Digging the Super Collider tunnels (via physicstoday.org)
Well before the completion of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the United States began work on what would have been the world’s largest particle accelerator. Built beneath Texas, the Superconducting Super Collider was an immense underground complex that would have produced more than three times the power of CERN’s project.
Unfortunately, the project’s costs quickly ran over-budget by billions of dollars and Congress pulled the plug shortly after construction began in the early 1990s, with a scant 14 miles ever being dug. The above-ground buildings still stand empty in the middle of the Texas desert, empty save for some rotting office furniture and an increasing number of weeds. The tunnels themselves were filled with water to preserve them for future use and although small entry portals to the underground network can still be found on the site, the water level is currently too high to gain access.
Inside the tunnels (via homodiscens.com)
Aboveground at the Super Collider (via Wikimedia)
One part of the 14 miles of Super Collider tunnels (via lh4.ggpht.com)
PROJECT HARP SPACE GUN
Seawell Airport, Barbados
Project HARP Space Gun (via Wikimedia)
Breaking through the Earth’s atmosphere is not as easy as simply aiming a payload at space and shooting it like a bullet from a giant gun, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t tried.
Enter Project HARP and its giant space cannon in Barbados. This US-Canadian effort to use ballistic technology to send a projectile to space produced a massive 100 caliber gun in the 1960s that was unable to break orbit, but did set the world record for gun-fired altitude in its time. The project produced other similar guns at sites in Highwater, Canada, and Yuma, Arizona, but after HARP’s dissolution these were broken down leaving only the original cannon to rust in the rich Barbados flora. The huge barrel has fallen on its side, but can still be reached via lush, overgrown trails along the coast.
Firing the space gun (via Wikimedia)
Remains of the space gun in Barbados (photograph by LesPaulSupreme/Flickr user)
ATOMIC SURVIVAL TOWN
Yucca Flats, Nevada
Atomic explosion at Yucca Flats (via Wikimedia)
The science of mass destruction, by its very nature, requires grandiose methods.
Such was the case when America needed to test the effectiveness of nuclear weapons on inhabited areas. Since nuclear blasts don’t exactly scale down for observation, the military engineers of the 1950s simply built an entire town complete with mannequins and appliances in Yucca Flats, Nevada. The simple, boxy buildings were set at varying distances from the blasts and the frozen smiles of the wooden inhabitants were routinely wiped from existence in over a dozen factually-productive nuclear hellstorms.
Now referred to as Survival Town (or Doom Town), the Nevada Test Site holds radiation-free tours of the scrub desert expanse where some of the remaining wooden buildings from the colossal experiment in annihilation remain.
Remnant of the Atomic Survival Town (via Wikimedia)
Atomic town family pre-detonation (via thesoftanonymous)
Empty building in the Atomic Survival Town (via)
Teufelsberg (via andberlin.com)
Built on an artificial hill made of World War II-era building rubble, the Teufelsberg listening station in Berlin may be the least-secret secret listening station in the world.
The facility was constructed by the US to spy on the Communist half of the then-divided Berlin. The complex features three geodesic radar domes atop its main building and a smattering of smaller buildings fill out the complex. What really makes the station special is its reported inclusion in the ECHELON intelligence network, a top-secret listening network used by a conglomerate of nations during the Cold War to listen in on the Soviet Union and its allies. This linked system was said to be capable of intercepting global radio, satellite, and telephone communication on an unforeseen scale. While ECHELON is not recognized as having officially existed, those who do acknowledge it agree that the Teufelsberg location was part of the system, and the only one that is currently abandoned.
The buildings still lie vacant and vandalized and, on last report, a local group of toughs were charging "admission" to explorers looking to poke around and take some photos.
Exterior view of the listening station (via Wikimedia)
Abandoned Teufelsberg (via narratingwaste)
Aerial view of the Berlin listening station (via)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
ATLAS-1 (via Wikimedia)
Not all nuclear science is about blowing stuff up. ATLAS-1 (Air Force Weapons Lab Transmission-Line Aircraft Simulator) located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was created in the late 1970s to test the effects of electromagnetic pulses generated from nuclear blasts on aircraft in flight.
But how do you test this without dropping millions of dollars worth of military aircraft from the sky? Why by building the world’s largest all-wood structure to rest the planes on, of course! The ATLAS facility’s main structure consists of a towering wooden scaffolding held together with nothing but woodworking joints and wooden bolts since any metal would interfere with the EMP monitoring results. Even without any metal joiners, heavy bombers and cargo planes would be placed atop the rickety structure and an EMP would be detonated from below to simulate flight. While this massive scientific work-around was inventive, it was quickly made obsolete by computer modeling and the “Trestle” was left to the termites.
ATLAS-1 remains on an inaccessible military base, increasingly a giant fire hazard as the wood dries out under the Nevada sun.
Remains of ATLAS-1 (via BoingBoing.net)
Aerial view of ATLAS-1 (via thelivingmoon.com)
Vozrozhdeniye Island, Kazakhstan
Boat on the dry Aral Sea (via)
The so-called “Aral Sea” in Kazakhstan is a bit of a misnomer, as the sea that used to exist there has been depleted to two large lakes by the interference of the surrounding civilization.
Once the fourth largest sea on the planet, the body of water was quickly used up by aggressive Soviet irrigation, and while the environmental impact is frightening, it is not as frightening as the discovery of formerly isolated Vozrozhdeniye Island, or in further misnomers, "Rebirth Island."
As the Aral Sea receded, the island rejoined the mainland and it was discovered to have been home to early and wide-reaching bio-weapons research by the Soviet Union, which had been attempting to weaponize such deadly agents as smallpox and anthrax. It was thought that the remoteness of the island would keep the research secret and safe, but as the sea dried up and the site was abandoned with the fall of the Soviet Union, the leftover bio-weapons were simply left to rot through their containers.
Despite reported clean-up efforts, the major town on the island was similarly abandoned and there have been reports of looting as late as 2005.
1950 plane crash in Canda (all photographs by Dietmar Eckell)
German photographer Dietmar Eckell has long been drawn to abandoned locations around the world, from former Olympics sites to forgotten technology to empty billboards, and his latest project is centered on plane crash sites. Called Happy End, it centers on decayed hulks of aviation in remote locales from the Arctic Circle to Papua New Guinea, all where each and every passenger hurtled from the skies survived. Eckell is currently having an Indiegogo campaign to turn the images into a book.
There's a haunting quiet to all of Eckell's photography that belies the extreme effort he goes to in order to find his subjects, left to isolated decay for 10 to 70 years. Most of the plane crash sites he tracked down on Google Maps and through interviewing local pilots, and in one of the most intense trips he went to the rebel-controlled Western Sahara and convinced a local leader to take him across the country to a spot he only knew as a location on Google Earth.
The Happy End title refers directly to there being no fatalities, but he also sees it as "happy end" for the planes themselves. They've found a place to "rest in peace" out in the remoteness of our planet rather than be scrapped.
Eckell shared some of the Happy End photographs with Atlas Obscura:
1994 plane crash in the Western Sahara
2004 plane crash in Mexico
1993 plane crash in Australia
Fiji mermaid in Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle
Part fish, part... something else
c. 1920s, origin unknown
Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, Seattle, Washington
"...I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”
― T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The beautiful mermaids of legends and lore lured men to a watery grave with their siren songs and fishy wiles. Described since antiquity by sailors, pirates, and fishermen, the stories date back at least a thousand years and span cultures around the globe from ancient Assyria to Norman England and beyond.
Perhaps surprisingly, first hand reports are abundant, including in 1493 when a trio of frolicsome mermaids were spotted off the coast of Hispaniola by Christopher Columbus and his men, described by the disappointed-sounding crew as simply "not as beautiful as they are represented."
In 1610, Henry Hudson reported seeing a mermaid off the coast of Greenland. He wrote a more alluring account of the encounter: "One of our company, looking overboard, saw a mermaid and, calling up some of the company to see her, one more came up and then she was close to the ship's side looking earnestly on the men. Soon afterward a sea came and overturned her. Her back and breasts were like a woman's, her body as big as one of us, her skin very white and long black hair hanging down behind. In her going down they saw her tail, like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like mackerel."
Mermaids have stood for longing and loss, been the embodiment of the loneliness of sailors far from home, and a symbol of the danger of both women and the sea. Their beauty is always a trap.
John William Waterhouse, "A Mermaid" (1901)
Mermaid-inspired fiction, poetry, and artwork flourished in the Victorian era, appearing as a staple in Pre-Raphaelite paintings, described as self-absorbed mean girls in J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and, most famously, as the innocent lover the tragic fable The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen, published in 1836. An eager public was primed in this, the last great era of exploration and the modern era of scientific discovery, for a true specimen to be discovered and caught at last... which is exactly what happened in New York in the spring of 1842.
Mummified mer-creatures had been kicking around sideshows and fishing villages — particularly in Japan — for generations, some more impressive than the diminutive beast that appeared in New York City. But none of those were backed up by the creativity of Phineas Taylor Barnum.
The story goes like this: P.T. Barnum came across the remarkable tale of an eminent British naturalist by the name of Dr. Griffin who had obtained the remains of a real mermaid. Barnum approached this man of science and attempted to convince him to display this wonder, but came away empty handed until an eager public demanded their opportunity to inspect this curiosity of the seas.
Barnum and this Dr. Griffin ultimately capitulated to public enthusiasm and opened the doors for one week in New York City, and the crowds descended.
But for those expecting to see the lovely creatures depicted in the advertisements (shown above), there was bound to be some disappointment.