Avoiding Earthquakes & Tornados?

Earthquakes and tornados are some of nature’s deadliest weapons. For many years, researchers have gathered data on their frequencies and magnitudes. What can we learn from that information?


Here’s a map created by John Nelson, a mapping manager with data-visualization software maker IDV solutions. It shows every major earthquake (203,186 in total) that has been recorded since 1898. You probably already knew this, but if you want to avoid earthquakes, stay away from the Pacific Rim.

“We only started recording hard core in the late 1960’s. Also, you’d be right to assume that areas with more sensors record more earthquakes (but that’s why they are there, so round and round we go), though they can pretty well pinpoint epicenters from all over.” ~ John Nelson, Mapping Manager


John has also created an interesting map showing the path of tornados over the United States. It includes all tornados that “touched down” between 1950 and 2011. Nelson has several other related tornado maps on his website, showing the data by season as well as by F-Scale. Most of the activity takes place in Tornado Alley, usually known as the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains. But there’s more activity on the East Coast than we anticipated. The brightness of the lines indicates the F-Scale, or Fujita Scale, of the Tornado. The F-Scale measures the intensity of tornados based on the amount of damage they inflict on buildings as well as vegetation.

Interestingly enough, West Virginia is surrounded by tornados yet appears to get very little activity within its borders. We suppose that could be a data flaw. But if not, your best bet to avoid tornados seems to be sticking to the West Coast or holing up in West Virginia.

The Tunguska Event?

On June 30, 1908, something exploded over what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia. Bluish light stung the sky and loud sounds filled the air. A shock wave knocked people askew and shattered windows for hundreds of miles. What was the Tunguska Event?

What was the Tunguska Event?

While the Tunguska Event is a source of intense curiosity today, it was barely noticed back in 1908. In fact, the first expedition to investigate it didn’t take place for more than a decade.

In 1921, Russian mineralogist Leonid Kulik traveled to the area and interviewed witnesses. He determined a giant meteorite impact had caused the explosion. He returned to the region in 1927 and hired guides to take him to the impact site. What he saw shocked him to his core.

Kulik found miles of scorched and uprooted trees (830 square miles according to recent estimates). Since the trees had been knocked away from the explosion, he was able to locate ground zero. However, he was unable to fully determine the cause of the event.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

There are a number of explanations for the Tunguska Event. They range from the bizarre (Nikola Tesla firing an electrical wave from Wardenclyffe Tower) to the fairly plausible (an underground explosion of natural gas).

The most widely accepted theory today is that a meteor or comet exploded 3-6 miles above Tunguska, releasing 10-15 megatons of energy in the process. However, scientists have been unable to decide what type of cosmic object was responsible. Recently, a team of Italian scientists reported the discovery of meteorite chunks in nearby Lake Cheko.

“Seismic reflection and magnetic data revealed a P wave velocity/magnetic anomaly close to the lake center, about 10 m below the lake floor; this anomaly is compatible with the presence of a buried stony object and supports the impact crater origin for Lake Cheko.” ~ Magnetic and seismic reflection study of Lake Cheko, a possible impact crater for the 1908 Tunguska Event

So, does this solve the mystery of the Tunguska Event? Was it caused by an exploding meteor? Possibly. But in 2010, a team of Russian scientists used ground-penetrating radar to investigate a crater in the area. They found evidence that it had been created by a huge piece of ice, indicating an exploding comet. Thus, the Tunguska Event remains a mystery…at least for now.

The Hindenburg Disaster!

On May 6, 1937, a German zeppelin named the Hindenburg attempted to land in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Suddenly, the 803-foot long airship burst into flames. 35 people died and the era of the zeppelin came to a crashing halt.

The Hindenburg Disaster!

We’re not going to speculate on the conspiracies surrounding the Hindenburg Disaster today…that’s coming later this week. But in the meantime, we wanted to put up this video of the crash. It’s five minutes long and comes from the British Pathe archive. It shows the Hindenburg flying overhead, its final flight over the landing ground at Lakehurst, New Jersey as well as the ill-fated landing attempt. The fire starts at 2:51.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Hindenburg disaster is one of the most famous disasters of all time. Thirty-five people died while sixty-two others managed to survive the crash.

As we alluded to earlier, the exact cause of the disaster remains unknown. However, there are several reasonable explanations as well as a few wilder conspiracy theories. Regardless, the Hindenburg diaster had far-reaching implications. Perhaps most notably, it destroyed the public’s faith in zeppelins and thus, marked the end of the so-called airship era.

The Wave of Poseidon?

In 479 BC, the mighty Persian army marched toward the tiny Greek colony of Potidaea. The northern Aegean Sea had mysteriously retreated, making conditions ideal for a siege. Then disaster struck. The sea surged and hundreds of Persian soldiers died. Potidaea was saved, all thanks to a strange event that has come to be known as “The Wave of Poseidon.”

The Wave of Poseidon?

“When they had made their way over two-fifths of it, however, and three yet remained to cross before they could be in Pallene, there came a great flood-tide, higher, as the people of the place say, than any one of the many that had been before. Some of them who did not know how to swim were drowned, and those who knew were slain by the Potidaeans, who came among them in boats.” ~ Herodotus, The Histories

Herodotus, like many other ancient Greek historians, considered the wave to be of divine providence. It was the work of Poseidon, the god of the sea. In his infinite wisdom, Poseidon had decided to thrash the Persians and thus, save the villagers of Potidaea.

“The Potidaeans say that the cause of the high sea and flood and the Persian disaster lay in the fact that those same Persians who now perished in the sea had profaned the temple and the image of Poseidon which was in the suburb of the city. I think that in saying that this was the cause they are correct. Those who escaped alive were led away by Artabazus to Mardonius in Thessaly. This is how the men who had been the king’s escort fared.” ~ Herodotus, The Histories

Over time, The Wave of Poseidon became a thing of myth. And indeed, that is how modern historians initially viewed it. But over the last few decades, scholars started to study the event in depth, attempting to find a real life explanation for it. They noticed that Herodotus’s account, which was written ~50 years after the actual event, bore some resemblance to a tsunami. Now, new evidence has emerged to bolster this interpretation.

“We wanted to see if these historical accounts are correct and then try to get an assessment of the coastal areas — are they safe or are they not safe?” ~ Klaus Reicherter, Aachen University

A research team led by Klaus Reicherter recently realized the area’s geological conditions were ripe for a tsunami. The seafloor is shaped like a bathtub. Underwater earthquakes and landslides occur from time to time. Models show a regional tsunami could get as high as 16 feet.

Reicherter also discovered layers of sediment that appear to have been carried inland by massive waves. In addition, they excavated numerous shells in a nearby city, far away from land. A dating analysis indicates the shells landed in the soil around 500 BC, give or take 20-30 years.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Many historians view historical accounts of magic and divine intervention as pure myth. But we here at Guerrilla Explorer tend to think many of these strange stories have real-life roots. It appears we can now add The Wave of Poseidon to this category. Interestingly enough, if the tsunami had happened a few decades later, it might have never achieved its mythical status. About fifty years later, in 426 BC, the Greek historian Thucydides became the first person in recorded history to speculate that earthquakes, and not some ancient god, were behind massive waves.

“The cause, in my opinion, of this phenomenon must be sought in the earthquake. At the point where its shock has been the most violent the sea is driven back, and suddenly recoiling with redoubled force, causes the inundation. Without an earthquake I do not see how such an accident could happen.” ~ Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

The Many Myths of the Titanic?

On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic slammed into an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. Since that time, a whole mythology has sprung up around the Titanic, much of it questionable or downright false. What are some of the many myths of the Titanic?

The Many Myths of the Titanic?

In the 1997 film Titanic, the movie portrayed third-class passengers, including Leonardo DiCaprio, being locked below deck to keep them from reaching the lifeboats. There’s just one problem with that scenario…there’s no evidence such a thing ever happened. Here’s more from BBC News on other Titanic myths:

In Cameron’s Titanic, the heroine’s mother looks up at the ship from the dock in Southampton and remarks: “So, this is the ship they say is unsinkable.”

But this is perhaps the biggest myth surrounding the Titanic, says Richard Howells, from Kings College London. “It is not true that everyone thought this. It’s a retrospective myth, and it makes a better story. If a man in his pride builds an unsinkable ship like Prometheus stealing the fire from the gods… it makes perfect mythical sense that God would be so angry at such an affront that he would sink the ship on its maiden outing.”

Contrary to the popular interpretation the White Star Line never made any substantive claims that the Titanic was unsinkable – and nobody really talked about the ship’s unsinkability until after the event, argues Howells.

Although the sinking of the Titanic happened around 15 years after the birth of cinema, and the disaster featured heavily in the silent newsreels of the day, there was very little footage of the ship itself. This was because the Titanic was not big news before it sank…”History turned into myth within hours and certainly days of the sinking,” agrees Richard Howells.

(See BBC News for more on the myths surrounding the Titanic)

Did an Optical Illusion sink the Titanic?

Back in 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, taking over 1,500 lives in the process. But how did this happen?

Did an Optical Illusion sink the Titanic?

Recently, we wrote about how lunar tides may have caused the iceberg to end up in the Titanic’s path. However, this doesn’t explain how the crew managed to miss it. One intriguing possibility is that the lookouts were thrown off by an optical illusion. According to British historian Tim Maltin, the iceberg may have been shielded by a phenomenon known as super refraction. In other words, a thermal inversion caused light waves to bend in strange ways, effectively creating a false horizon from the Titanic’s point of view. Here’s more on whether or not an optical illusion sunk the Titanic from Popsci:

The Titanic may have struck an iceberg and sank helplessly because of a strange atmosphere-caused optical illusion, a new book argues. British historian Tim Maltin says super refraction, an extraordinary bending of light that causes mirages, prevented the Titanic’s crew from seeing the fateful iceberg…

…This abnormal bending of light waves would have created a false horizon, and the iceberg lay beneath it, out of view of the ship’s lookouts…

(See Popsci for more on whether or not an optical illusion sunk the Titanic)

Did Lunar Tides Sink the Titanic?

On April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean, taking 1,517 people to a watery grave. But how did it happen?

Did Lunar Tides Sink the Titanic?

The fate of the Titanic is well known. In 1912, it crashed into an iceberg and sank sank in the North Atlantic Ocean. Over 1,500 people died in the process. But how did that particular iceberg enter the Titanic’s shipping lane in the first place?

According to modern astronomers, the answer might lie in the tides…the lunar tides. Here’s more on the Titanic and lunar tides from The Daily Mail:

‘The event January 4 was the closest approach of the Moon to the Earth in more than 1,400 years, and it maximized the Moon’s tide-raising forces on Earth’s oceans. That’s remarkable,’ said Texas State physics faculty member Donald Olson…

All these factors contributed to abnormally high sea levels which helped dislodge grounded icebergs and send them into the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic, it is claimed…

‘That could explain the abundant icebergs in the spring of 1912. We don’t claim to know exactly where the Titanic iceberg was in January 1912 – nobody can know that – but this is a plausible scenario.’

(See The Daily Mail for more on the Titanic and lunar tides)

The Velikovsky Affair and Consensus Science?

In 1950, Immanuel Velikovsky published a book entitled, Worlds in Collision. This work, which involved decades of research, subsequently became a best-seller. However, it also inspired unprecedented backlash from the scientific community, which became known as the Velikovsky Affair. Who was Velikovsky and why were his ideas derided by established scientists?

Who was Immanuel Velikovsky?

Immanuel Velikovsky was an independent, multidisciplinary scholar who researched in fields such as astronomy, physics, ancient history, and comparative mythology. He was also a proponent of catastrophism, which is the theory that Earth has been greatly impacted in the past by sudden, violent events such as comet collisions and volcanic eruptions.

In 1950, Velikovsky released Worlds in Collision. It proposed that “many myths and traditions of ancient peoples and cultures are based on actual events.” His work noted that Venus, which is the second brightest object in the sky, was not observed by ancient astronomers. Based on historical texts and his reading of the physical evidence, he suggested that Venus was a relative newcomer to the solar system, having been ejected from Jupiter around the 15th century BCE. Furthermore, he thought that Venus originally had an irregular orbit. This caused numerous catastrophes on Earth which were subsequently recorded in ancient texts.

The Velikovsky Affair?

Velikovsky was a polymath and thus, not easily dismissed as a kook or a fraud. So, the scientific establishment went after him in a different fashion, in what would become known as the “Velikovsky Affair.”

According to David Stowe’s essay, The Velikovsky Story: The Scientific Mafia, Velikovsky “became the target of nearly universal abuse and derision.” During the Velikovsky Affair, he was shunned and essentially blackballed from college campuses. He was also “rigorously excluded from access to learned journals for his replies.” The Senior Editor at Macmillan who helped publish his book was fired as was the director of the Hayden Planetarium who “proposed to take Velikovsky seriously enough to mount a display about the theory.” In regards to the Velikovsky Affair, the Italian probabilist Bruno de Finetti reportedly described the scientific establishment as a “despotic and irresponsible mafia.”

Analyzing the Velikovsky Affair

The Velikovsky Affair deserves to be scrutinized in two ways. First, the merits of his ideas must be considered. While criticizing some of Velikovsky’s work, no less an expert than Mike Baillie (see: Did a Comet Cause the Black Death?) is generally supportive of some of his basic ideas.

“Velikovsky was almost certainly correct in his assertion that ancient texts hold clues to catastrophic events in the relatively recent past, within the span of human civilization, which involve the effects of comets, meteorites and cometary dust…But fundamentally, Velikovsky did not understand anything about comets…He did not know about the hazard posed by relatively small objects…This failure to recognize the power of comets and asteroids means that it is reasonable to go back to Velikovsky and delete all the physically impossible text about Venus and Mars passing close to the earth…In other words, we can get down to his main thesis, which is that the Earth experienced dramatic events from heavenly bodies particularly in the second millennium BC.” Mike Baillie, Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets

We must also scrutinize the response of the general scientific community. As a recent study observed, creative ideas are often rejected in favor of the “tried and true.” This is just as accurate in science as it is in business or any other field. Unfortunately, some scientists are so eager to discredit things they view as pseudoscience that they end up blocking progress. In the case of Velikovsky, he disagreed with the so-called “consensus science” of the time and found himself blackballed as a result.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Science is hardly the apolitical field it is portrayed to be in the popular media. Original thinkers are often either forced to conform or face professional destruction at the hands of the consensus. Hence, the shameful Velikovsky Affair. However, progress dictates that we must always remain skeptical of “consensus science,” no matter how difficult it is to do so.

“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.” ~ Michael Crichton, Speech: Aliens Cause Global Warming

The Most Toxic Place on Earth?

Lake Karachay is a small body of water located in Russia’s scenic Ural Mountains. Once upon a time, it was an idyllic spot. Now, it is the most toxic place on earth. But how toxic is it? And how did it get that way?

The Soviet Union’s Secret City?

In 1945, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, jumpstarting the atomic age. Following World War II, the Soviet Union was eager to close the weapons gap. They began constructing a secret city in the Ural Mountains, known as Chelyabinsk-40.

In 1948, Chelyabinsk-40 began producing plutonium. In the first of what was to become many short-sighted decisions, the nuclear waste was diluted with water and discharged into the Techa River. This waste contained a few long-lived isotopes, namely Caesium-137 and Strontium-90. By 1951, the river, which also served as the city’s drinking water, was highly radioactive.

Lake Karachay & Nuclear Disaster!

The Soviet Union took steps to improve the situation. Endangered civilians were moved and the Techa River was dammed. Nuclear waste disposal practices were also changed. Rather than being dumped in Techa, waste was stored in tanks for months at a time. After the radioactivity had diminished, the waste was pumped into a different sort of storage facility…Lake Karachay.

It didn’t help. Workers began to experience signs of acute radiation syndrome. Even worse, pipes started to fail, leading to radiation leakage. But the worst was yet to come. In September 1957, the cooling system in one of the storage tanks failed. 70-80 tons of radioactive waste started to evaporate. On September 29, the tank exploded with a force of about 70-100 tons of TNT.

The Kyshtym Disaster was the third worst nuclear accident in history behind only Chernobyl and the recent Fukushima Daiichi disaster. It released somewhere between 2 to 50 MCi of radioactivity and contaminated hundreds of square miles.

Mysterious Diseases?

Since the facility was top-secret, the Soviet Union coldly chose not to warn surrounding villages. But they couldn’t stop the radiation. Soon, strange skin-shedding “diseases” appeared throughout the region. A mass evacuation was eventually put in place but the damage was already done.

Meanwhile, engineers decontaminated Chelyabinsk-40 and unbelievably, resumed production. As such, radioactive waste was once again flowing into Lake Karachay. During the 1960s, Lake Karachay began to dry out leaving a layer of radioactive sediment. Winds carried this dust in all directions, exposing half a million additional civilians to dangerous levels of radiation. Engineers attempted to prevent further erosion by filling Lake Karachay with about 10,000 hollow concrete blocks.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

By 1990, Lake Karachay was the most toxic place on earth. It contained 3.6 EBq of Caesium-137 and 0.74 EBq of Strontium-90. The radiation level near the lake was measured at 600 röntgens per hour. In other words, a mere hour of exposure to the lake was lethal. Areas that surround Lake Karachay have experienced elevated levels of various cancers and large declines in lifespans.

The story of Lake Karachay is a cautionary one. Even though its no longer used as a waste dump, it still poses big risks. Research indicates that the lake is contaminating nearby rivers and groundwater. Its conceivable that the radioactive chemicals may even leak into the ocean. Unfortunately, the final chapter on Lake Karachay remains to be written.