In the twelfth century, Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a tale about Merlin traveling to Ireland and stealing the ‘Giant’s Dance’ — a magical stone circle. Merlin then rebuilt it in England as a memorial for the dead. While the story seems more of a myth, there has been increasing evidence that there may be some truth in it.
A century ago, a geologist called Herbert Thomas reached the conclusion that the ‘bluestones’ of Stonehenge were originally from the Preseli Hills of western Wales, 140 miles from Salisbury Plain. …
In 1941, the British and Russians were on the same side against the Nazis. Their submarines patrolled the Arctic circle, and the British often used Soviet ports for repairs. In a bizarre act of diplomacy, a fully grown reindeer was presented as a gift from the Soviet Union and ended up living on a British submarine for six weeks. It adapted well to life onboard — a little too well as it turned out.
The captain of the HMS Trident, Commander Geoffrey Sladen, was invited to dinner with a Russian admiral while his vessel underwent repairs in a Soviet port.
In 1987, work began on the Ryugyong Hotel in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The hotel name means ‘capital of willows’, which was also one of the historical names for Pyongyang. It was to be over 1000 feet high, have 3000 rooms, a bowling alley, nightclub and five revolving restaurants at the top. It was also due to open in 1989.
That didn’t happen.
Cut to 2021 and the hotel has yet to be finished and its nickname has become the ‘Hotel of Doom’ as well as the ‘Phantom Hotel’ and the ‘Phantom Pyramid’. …
John Daniel was a young gorilla who was adopted by an English family in 1918 and brought up as a human boy in the village of Uley. He had his own room, went to school, and was fond of tea and cider.
His remarkable story came to prominence when Uley archivist, Margaret Groom, published John’s pictures in a recent book about the village.
But how exactly did this come about? And was he really just like another kid? (Spoiler for the latter question — obviously not, but more so than you would think.)
The gorilla was bought from a London…
Raccoons are cute as hell. They also have a reputation for rascally behaviour. It was precisely these qualities that gave rise to their popularity in Japan, prompted by a 70s TV show.
Unfortunately, Japan now has something of raccoon problem. And it is spreading. They have already become naturalized in 44 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. They are proving to be major pests, eating crops and indigenous species such as the Japanese crayfish and the Ezo salamander. The raccoons have even damaged 80% of Japan’s temples.
Given that raccoons aren’t native to Japan, how did so many get there?
On the 10th May 1940, the British invaded the island nation of Iceland. The invasion itself was slightly shambolic and there were fears of heavy resistance from the Germans both on the island and at sea. What actually happened was quite different.
The main reason was to keep it from the Germans. The Axis had just launched Operation Weserübung and had invaded and taken over the neutral countries of Norway and Denmark. The fear was that Iceland was next.
Iceland had previously been ruled by Denmark but in 1918 had become an independent state. It was, however, still in a…
It has been 25 years since the Roslin Institute in Scotland announced the birth of Dolly the sheep. She was the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. It was an incredible achievement, but many couldn’t see the point beyond just exploring the science.
However, in the quarter of a century that followed, cloning has been finding new niches. Cloning companies have been springing up across the globe offering a variety of services.
Scientists have cloned a growing number of animals including mice, cattle, deer, horses, pigs, goats, rabbits, cats and dogs. This is just the start. Around…
The world is definitely going through an odd phase. The terms Orwellian and Kafkaesque are frequently bandied about as conspiracy theories run rampant, riots erupt, people are locked down and our daily lives are observed, recorded and judged.
So I thought I would add another book to the mix.
The City & The City by China Mieville is undeniably interesting and its central premise is fascinating. Strange things are afoot and there are bigger forces involved than seem apparent at first. Added to this is the fear of being constantly monitored with possible punishment minutes away. …
In 1512, Pope Julius II held a special vespers service. It was an evening event that was held to inaugurate the Sistine Chapel after Michelangelo had finished four years of toil painting frescos on the ceiling. It is now the most visited room in the world.
If you have ever visited the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, you will have heard the guards saying, at regular intervals, “No photo! No photo!” There are signs everywhere forbidding both photography and video and this is enforced every few seconds by the staff.
Ildefonso Graña Cortizo, better known as Alfonso Graña, was the first white man to meet the infamous headhunting Jibaros tribes and live. Not only was he not killed immediately, but he ended up as the king of the Jibaro (or Jivaro) peoples. For 12 years, he ruled over 5000 subjects and a huge swathe of the Amazon equivalent in size to half of Spain.
The remarkable story of King Alfonso I of the Amazon has been largely forgotten.
Alfonso Graña was born in northern Galicia (Spain) in 1878. At the end of the 19th century, the mountainous regions were blighted…