The joy of editing Atlas Obscura is seeing each new place come that’s added to the site, and learning something new and strange every day. I think it really is true that if you look hard enough, even places that don’t seem that odd can end up having crazy histories you might never have guessed.
Thanks to everyone who’s been adding their obscure knowledge to the Atlas!
Here are a few favorite recent additions:
Woolaroc monoplane - image via Flickr
Survivor of a cursed air race
In the summer of 1928, ten small planes prepared to race from Oakland, CA to Honolulu, Hawaii. In the days before the official start, two crashed, killing all on board. On race day, of the eight remaining planes, only four made it off the ground. Only two eventually landed in Hawaii - the other two were never seen again. If that weren’t enough, the search plane that went out looking for them disappeared as well.
The winner of that ill-fated air race across the Pacific was a WWI veteran and Hollywood stunt pilot named Art Goebel, and the plane he flew was a single engine monoplane called the Woolaroc, which has come to rest at the ranch it was named for, where you can visit it in good company with an eclectic collection of Wild West memorabilia and exotic taxidermy.
The extinct Schomburgk’s Deer, photograph by Allison Meier
Last chance to see a Tasmanian tiger
Years ago I read a wonderful book called Last Chance to See, written by Douglas Adams about his travels to visit the last remaining examples of several endangered species. It was heartbreaking, but at the same time inspiring and funny, mostly because Adams was an amazing writer.
By all accounts, the Salle des Espèces Menacées et des Espèces Disparues (The Room of Endangered and Extinct Species) at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris is more somber. The room houses 257 rare specimens of disappearing or extinct animals. The space is kept cool and dark, with just enough light to view the displays, which seems an appropriate atmosphere in which to absorb the enormity of loss. Although I suspect it would make for a haunting day I’m adding it to my Paris file for the next time I visit.
There’s no such thing as a normal sea fort
Ok. I wrote this one. But I’m including it in my editor’s picks anyway, because I discovered it based on once being told by an intrepid English explorer-type I met on the road that there’s “no such thing as a normal sea fort.” And it seems he was right.
I love the pirate radio stories behind SeaLand and the HG Wells-esque rusting hulks off of the shore of Kent, so I went searching for more. I picked this one at random, and started digging into the stories.
As it turns out, this behemoth of Victorian engineering has had no shortage of incarnations, from military overhauls for both World Wars to a conversion into a supremely odd Dr. Evil-approved luxury hotel in the 1990s. Then, just recently, the land developer who had purchased it barricaded himself inside to prevent it being sold out from under him, while the luxurious appointments went rather south to the point of horror-film set decay. It just changed hands yet again last year, and no one seems to know what it’s next incarnation will be.
No Man’s Land Sea Fort, off the coast of Portsmouth, England
As always, I’m looking forward to the new entries, so keep them coming.