Grab Bag: Odds and Ends About Oddities
I like oddities from all areas of science, history, and technology. A lot of the oddities you find on the internet and in books are fabricated, misinterpreted, or hard to verify.
What got me on this topic today was seeing FaceBook posts on a weird, very loud sound nicknamed Julia, which NOAA recorded in the Southern Ocean in 1999. The story that keeps being repeated is that NASA’s Apollo 33A5 mission photographed a gigantic shadow in the water there. While the sound – ascribed to an iceberg rubbing against the seafloor – IS weird, the story immediately falls apart because no NASA mission or experiment ever had a number anything like 33A5 or operated in 1999 (there were 17 numbered Apollo missions, and they ended in 1972. Anyone with an internet account can falsify it in about 30 seconds. For some reason, that doesn’t work.
No, there was not a Canadian “Eskimo village” whose population disappeared: that seems to have been inspired by the movie The Deadly Mantis. (Watch it, it’s a hoot.) I once wrote to the RCMP to double-check.
No, there are not fossils/remains of American giants hidden away by "science" Some 19th-century newspaper articles and photos have never checked out as anything but hoaxes.
A farmer named David Lang did not vanish as he was crossing his Tennessee field in 1880. He didn’t exist.
Because a phenomenon is famous, that doesn’t make it real. Spook Hill in Florida is a real place, but the terrain tricks the eye: nothing pulls your car uphill. Board Camp Crystal Mine in Arkansas draws attention because the owners, who host tourists, claim strange lights circulate while rocks levitate. Geologist Sharon Hill explains things here.
An interesting example of a proper investigation of an oddity is how Lawrence Kusche demystified much of the “Bermuda Triangle” story by checking weather records and determining that many disappearances were in bad weather even though authors repeated each other as saying the weather had been good.
So what oddities are worth pondering?
In my favorite oddity topic, cryptozoology, the Nicoll / Meade-Waldo “sea serpent” sighting of 1907 remains a puzzle. There are other hard-to-explain sightings of such things, but if this one was explained, I’d be more willing to dump the subject. The “yeti” tracks from Eric Shipton and Michael Ward is in this category. There’s no evidence of a hoax, except that no one has since found tracks as good (or the Yeti), but I’d like to know. Wilson’s whale, painted from like in Antarctica in 1902, hasn’t been explained. No one’s found the weird screw-like colonial invertebrate (I assume that’s what it is) photographed by underwater camera on an oil rig and nicknamed “Marvin.”
Some things that are lost to history are interesting, although not “odd” in the fringe/paranormal sense. I write space history, and I learned the Soviet Union had a well-placed spy in Wernher von Braun’s German rocket organization. Stalin read the spy’s reports personally. Who was he, or she? Seventy-five years on, no one knows.
The Voynich Manuscript remains undecoded. It has been claimed to be a hoax, although it would be an elaborate and pointless one. Claims of partial translations are, so far, not very convincing. Even if we knew what it said, we wouldn’t know what long-dead hand wrote and illustrated it. https://coolinterestingstuff.com/is-the-voynich-manuscript-a-hoax
I’ll do more Grab Bags in the future. Just getting this one off my brain. I hope you enjoy it.