The Guatemala Syphilis Scandal

In 2005, Professor Susan Reverby made a shocking discovery. Between 1946 and 1948, the U.S. Public Health Service, with the blessing of Guatemalan officials, deliberately exposed 1,300 Guatemalans to syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. 83 people may have died as a result. How did the Guatemala Syphilis Scandal happen? And why does new evidence indicate that the experiments were “more shocking than was previously known?”

Dr. John Cutler & the Guatemala Syphilis Experiment?

Dr. John Cutler was a surgeon and acting chief of the U.S. Public Health Service’s venereal disease program. At one time, he was viewed as a respectable doctor and even rose to the rank of Assistant Surgeon General under President Eisenhower. Now, after being tied to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment as well as the Guatemala syphilis experiment, he is considered a monster.

Starting in 1946, Dr. Cutler and his researchers oversaw the deliberate infection of 1,300 Guatemalans with syphilis, gonorrhea, and chancroid. This was accomplished by paying prostitutes to sleep with prisoners as well as through direct inoculations. The goal, while somewhat unclear, seems to have been to determine the efficacy of penicillin in dealing with the various venereal diseases. While some Guatemalan officials knowingly participated in the conspiracy, they were not always privy to the experiment’s details. The so-called Guatemala syphilis experiments ended in 1948, due to increasing gossip about the study as well as difficulties in obtaining adequate amounts of penicillin.

News on the Guatemala Syphilis Scandal?

Recently, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, which had been tasked to investigate the experiments, announced its findings. Out of the 1,300 infected people, only 700 received treatment. It is unknown how many people died thanks to the experiment but at least 83 were deceased by 1953.

The Commission, which has yet to release its full report, also announced some particularly disturbing details. None of the victims gave their informed consent to participate in the project. Also, some of the subjects were treated in horrific fashion, including one terminally-ill woman who was “infected…with gonorrhea in her eyes and elsewhere.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Five years after Professor Reverby began to unearth the decades-old conspiracy, it became national news. President Obama called Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom to apologize and ordered the Commission to begin reviewing the study. Guatemala is conducting its own investigation. Reparations are possible and I believe that surviving victims of the study are preparing a lawsuit against the U.S. government.

Unfortunately, there is no turning back the clock. Dr. Cutler’s experiments, which came in the wake of the horrific Nazi experiments, are a permanent part of American history, one that all of us wish we could forget.

Climate Change…Millions of Years Ago?

In 1850, scientists began recording semi-detailed, quasi-global temperature data. While earlier records exist, they are less reliable, and more localized. Of course, 161 years isn’t much data, especially considering that the earth is believed to be about four and a half billion years old. In order to get earlier temperature data, we have to turn to a field of science known as paleoclimatology.

Why is Paleoclimatology Important?

Paleoclimatology is the study of earth’s ancient climate. Since scientists often examine the past in order to better understand the present, paleoclimatology has huge ramifications on the wider climate change debate that rages today.

As mentioned earlier, fairly reliable temperature data exists back to 1850. For earlier periods, scientists rely heavily on proxy measurements. In other words, ancient temperatures are inferred via preserved physical objects. Dendroclimatology, or the study of changes in tree growth via tree rings, is one source of proxy data. Others include coral rings, ice core samples, differences in sedimentary rock levels, and borehole temperatures. Using these proxies, as well as observations recorded in ancient texts, scientists have been able to reconstruct temperature data as far back as 2,000 years for some areas in the northern hemisphere.

The field of paleoclimatology attempts to go back even further. It uses similar proxy sources as the ones mentioned above. Unfortunately, there are some limitations to this practice. Currently, the oldest ice cores are just 800,000 years old while the oldest marine sediments are only 200 million years old. Adding to the difficulty, these sediments have been influenced over time by chemical and physical changes. The biggest problem is that our confidence of proxy sources deteriorates the further back in time we go.

Despite these challenges, paleoclimatology scientists have constructed a timeline of historical temperatures on Earth going back about 500 million years. The chart above provides an overall perspective on what temperatures might have looked like over the course of that time period (please note that it uses a logarithmic scale).

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Assuming that the data is fairly accurate, the chart represents about 11% of Earth’s 4.5 billion year history. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to go back any further due to a lack of reliable proxy sources.

So, what conclusions can we draw from this paleoclimatology data? Well, for one we can see that there are about four cycles of ice ages and non ice ages, with about 140 million years separating each one. Second, temperatures have fluctuated fairly wildly throughout these cycles. Third, we are in an ice age as we speak. The Quaternary glaciation began about 2.58 million years ago. Surprised? Well, the reason it doesn’t feel more like an “an ice age” is that we are in a warmer, interglacial period.

Fears over a coming glacial period have existed for decades. Back in 1972, a group of paleoclimatology scientists suggested that “it is likely that the present-day warm epoch will terminate relatively soon if man does not intervene.” Thanks to scientific advances, most scientists no longer worry about so-called global cooling. In fact, most paleoclimatology scholars expect the current interglacial period to last another 15,000-50,000 years.

It should be noted that the present interglacial period, which encompasses the last 10,000-15,000 years, has been quite stable and warm compared to the previous one. This period of climate stability may be more important than it first appears. Some even think that it has been a decisive factor in allowing humanity to blossom into the present civilization we enjoy today.

What’s Inside an Ancient Chinese Tomb?

Recently, archaeologists unearthed a Zhou Dynasty tomb in China’s Henan Province. What did they find inside this 3,000 year old grave?

What was the Western Zhou Dynasty?

The Zhou Dynasty was the longest lasting dynasty in Chinese history. Historians believe it began in 1046 BC and lasted until 256 BC. However, the ruling Jī family only wielded military and political control over China from 1046 BC to 771 BC, a period which is often referred to as the Western Zhou Dynasty. It was marked by the introduction of iron, impressive bronzeware, and the evolution of Chinese script into its modern form.

Recently, while constructing a hospital in Luoyang, workers discovered underground structures. Archaeologists excavated the area and unearthed a perfectly-preserved tomb dating back to the Western Zhou Dynasty. They consider it “the most complete find of any tomb of its era.” So, what did they find inside it?

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The excavation unveiled numerous pits. Some of these pits contained pottery, copper weapons, jade objects, and bronzeware. However, these finds paled in comparison to the main pit where archaeologists uncovered the remains of five wooden chariots and twelve dead horses. Although the chariots have rotted away, the ash residue remains as you can see in the pictures at the links above. The horse skeletons were found lying on their sides, indicating that they were probably killed before burial.

The tomb probably belonged to a mid-level official. In life, he was most likely of limited importance. But in death, he and his tomb are providing valuable insight into funeral customs as well as other aspects of the Western Zhou dynasty.

Blackbeard’s Ship…Or Not?

In 1718, Blackbeard the pirate ran his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge aground at Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina. In 1996, a shipwreck was discovered in the area. Is this Blackbeard’s fabled frigate?

Blackbeard & Queen Anne’s Revenge?

Blackbeard, whose real name was probably Edward Thatch, is perhaps the most famous pirate of all time. After the War of Spanish Succession, he joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold. On November 28, 1717, Captain Hornigold captured the La Concorde which at that time was a slave ship. He turned it over to Blackbeard. Blackbeard renamed the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge, which may be an indication of his allegiance to the Stuarts. He mounted 22 guns on the ship and began a reign of terror unmatched in pirate history.

In 1718, he staged an incredible blockade of Charleston, South Carolina, in which he ransacked about nine ships as they attempted to leave the port. Shortly afterward, he mysteriously ran the Queen Anne’s Revenge aground and took off for North Carolina in a smaller vessel named the Adventure. Some historians believe this was a deliberate move by Blackbeard to disperse his crew and secure a greater share of the spoils for him and his friends.

A Mysterious Shipwreck?

For more than two centuries, the ship remained lost. Then, in 1996, Intersal discovered a shipwreck in the area. Since that time, extensive excavations have uncovered more than 16,000 artifacts. While the ship is generally believed to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources has always been cautious in its statements…until now.

On August 29, National Geographic reported that the shipwreck “has been confirmed as that of the infamous 18th-century pirate Blackbeard.”

“There was not one aha moment. There was a collection of moments and a deduction based on the evidence.” ~ Claire Aubel, North Carolina Maritime Museums, Public Relations Coordinator

According to the article, the main evidence used in the identification was “the sheer size of the wreck and the many weapons that were found in the rubble.” The rest of the evidence is even more circumstantial. For example, apothecary weights found on the wreck could belong to the ship’s original surgeon when it was still in French hands. Some traces of gold found among lead shot could have been concealed by a French sailor trying to hide it from Blackbeard. On the bright side, artifact dates appear to be in the right ballpark. Underwater archaeologists found “a bell engraved with the date 1705.” Previously announced discoveries include a brass coin weight cast sometime between 1702-1714 as well as a wine glass made to commemorate the 1714 coronation of King George I.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Still, I have to admit that I find this “confirmation” strange. There remains no real hard evidence to link this shipwreck to Blackbeard. And over the years, some researchers have called into question the so-called mountain of circumstantial evidence. For example…

Rodgers, Richards and Lusardi challenged the assumption that the many guns indicated a heavily armed pirate ship. All ships during the period were similarly armed, they said, and the number and and caliber of the guns suggest that the wreck was probably a merchant ship. They said only 14 guns were probably mounted on the Beaufort shipwreck, while the others were too small to damage a ship or were stowed in the hold as ballast. The number of those mounted is what would be expected on an average merchant vessel during peacetime in the first half of the 18th century, they said. Varying historical accounts say the Queen Anne’s Revenge carried 22, 36 and up to 40 guns. In addition, the archaeologists said, one cannon bears a rough mark they interpreted as 1730 or possibly 1737. If that is the date of the cannon’s manufacture, they said, it would eliminate the wreck as the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Now, that article is a couple of years old, but I imagine at least some of it is still relevant today. Furthermore, the timing of this announcement raises awkward questions. According to David Moore, curator of nautical archaeology at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, there were two reasons behind it. First, the museum didn’t want to entitle its new exhibit something along the lines of “Artifacts From the Purported Queen Anne’s Revenge.” Second and more disturbing, the confirmation will “help the museum secure private funding to continue excavating the wreck.”

The shipwreck in question may or may not be the Queen Anne’s Revenge. It seems to fit the profile and time period. And I understand that identifying the wreck is an extremely difficult task. Hard evidence may not even exist, although I’m holding out hope that divers will recover an engraved bell or something along those lines. Regardless, based on the obvious conflict of interest here, this confirmation seems meaningless to me. A better exhibit title? Additional funding to make up for state budget cuts? Good lord.Supposedly, there are 750,000 remaining artifacts aboard the wreck. Recovering them all could take an additional 15 years. Let’s hope one of those artifacts serves as “the smoking gun.” Because at this point, I’m just not convinced.

The Double Eagle Scandal

In May 1933, the U.S. Mint printed the very last Saint-Gaudens double eagle. These $20 gold coins were never officially released to the public. A few managed to avoid destruction and the U.S. government has spent more than 60 years and untold millions of dollars tracking them down. Why is the 1933 double eagle the most controversial coin in history?

President Roosevelt Seizes America’s Gold

On April 5, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 which, in effect, forced American citizens to turn in “all gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates” to the Federal Reserve. On January 30, 1934, Congress followed up that Order with the United States Gold Reserve Act, which allowed the President to seize the Federal Reserve’s newly-acquired gold supply. The federal government built Fort Knox in 1936 in order to store its newfound treasure.

The U.S. Government Declares War on the 1933 Double Eagles

Suddenly, gold coins became a thing of the past. The director of the Philadelphia Mint ordered the recently pressed 1933 double eagles to be melted down into gold bars and sent off to Fort Knox, a task which would take several years to complete. Only two of the coins were slated to survive. They were sent to the Smithsonian for safekeeping.

But, double eagles began to pop up. One coin made its way into the hands of Egypt’s King Farouk. Another one was offered via auction. The Secret Service quickly decided that someone had stolen the double eagles from the Philadelphia Mint. They actually debated the “advisability of trying to get [the] coin back from King Farouk.” However, since World War II was in progress and Egypt was an important American ally, they decided not to risk infuriating him. However, they did seize the other coin, an act which launched a decades-long war against private ownership of the 1933 double eagles.

“The government has been fanatical about seizing and destroying these coins. They’re famous because the government has been seizing them since the 1940s.” ~ Robert W. Hoge, American Numismatic Society

The 1933 Double Eagle becomes the Most Expensive Coin in History

The Secret Service traced the coins to a Philadelphia-based jeweler named Israel Switt. Switt claimed that he didn’t have any records pertaining to the eagles. However, he did state that they weren’t purchased from a Mint employee. The Justice Department disagreed but was unable to press charges due to the statute of limitations.

For the moment, the investigation was at an impasse. But after King Farouk was overthrown, his double eagle found its way into the hands of a coin dealer named Stephen Fenton. Fenton attempted to sell the coin in 1996 but the end buyer betrayed him. Secret Service agents rushed the room and seized the double eagle.

Incredibly, Fenton was charged with “conspiring to convert to his own use and attempt to sell property of the United States.” No one seemed to care that FDR’s ridiculous and unconstitutional Executive Order had been repealed in 1974 by President Ford. And the fact that there was no proof the coins were stolen in the first place didn’t seem to strike anyone as strange.

Fortunately, the charges were quickly dropped. And eventually, Fenton and the Justice Department agreed to auction off the coin and split the proceeds. After an extended publicity campaign, it sold for a grand total of $7.6 million, making it the most expensive coin in history until the 2010 sale of a 1794 silver dollar. The anonymous buyer lent it to the American Numismatic Society, which in turn lent it to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The Double Eagle Double-Cross?

The story of the 1933 double eagle should’ve ended with that auction. But there was still another chapter to come. In 2004, Israel Switt’s only child Joan Langbord along with her son Roy discovered ten 1933 double eagles in a safety deposit box. She took the coins to the U.S. Mint for authentication. The Mint agreed but ended up pulling a fast one. It refused to return the property and instead told the media that it had “recovered” ten additional coins.

The Langbord family sued. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero claimed that any 1933 double eagles that left the Mint did so illegally. The Langbord family argued that most of the Philadelphia Mint records, which were ill-kept, had been destroyed in 1978. Also, no surviving witnesses remained. Finally, they identified a “window of opportunity” where Israel Switt could’ve obtained the coins in a legal manner.Shockingly, the jury sided with the government. While the Langbord’s are expected to appeal the verdict, the story has come to an end, at least for now. And government representatives are quite pleased with their success.

“People of the United States of America have been vindicated.” ~ Jacqueline Romero, Assistant U.S. Attorney

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The government spent more than six decades vigorously pursuing these coins. They confiscated private property. They treated citizens very differently, allowing Fenton to profit from his coin while not giving the same courtesy to the Langbords. And they paid untold millions of tax dollars throughout the investigation as well as during the court case. That leaves me with one question…Do you feel vindicated?

The Real Life Mrs. Sherlock Holmes?

In 1917, an 18-year old Harlem resident named Ruth Cruger vanished. The case seemed destined for permanent “Unsolved” status until Grace Humiston appeared on the scene. Dubbed “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” by the press, she solved the case and in the process, exposed rampant corruption within the NYPD. How did she do it? And why was she subsequently erased from history?

A Mysterious Disappearance?

On February 13, 1917, Ruth Cruger visited a motorcycle repair shop in Harlem in order to have her skates polished. She was never seen again. The next day, her sister Helen went looking for her. Helen visited the shop only to find it closed. A few hours later, the owner, a man named Alfredo Cocchi, reopened the shop. He told Helen that Ruth had dropped off the skates and picked them up later in the day without incident.

Suspicious, Helen returned home and told the story to her father, Henry Cruger. Henry contacted the police. The police were reluctant to get involved on account of the fact that Cocchi was a “respectable businessman.” Eventually, an officer performed a cursory search of the shop’s cellar, which revealed nothing.

Grace Humiston, the real-life Mrs. Sherlock Holmes?

Ruth’s disappearance quickly became national news. At the time, many people lived in fear of “white slavery,” or the forced prostitution of respectable white girls. The NYPD poured fuel on this fire by claiming that Ruth wanted “to be lost” in order to pursue a career as a prostitute. Understandably irked, Henry Cruger hired a lawyer named Grace Humiston to solve the case. Grace had founded the People’s Law Firm, which specialized in serving low-income individuals. She was known for battling the notorious turpentine slave labor camps as well as securing the acquittal for a wrongfully-convicted man on death row.

“Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” worked pro bono on the case, putting in 15-hour days interviewing Harlem residents. After gathering eyewitness testimony of suspicious activity, she attempted to enter Cocchi’s motorcycle shop. Although Cocchi had fled to Italy, his wife prevented the intrusion, threatening Grace in the process.

Undeterred, Grace used the threat to secure a search permit from Police Commissioner Arthur Woods. On June 16, she and Patrick Solam searched the shop’s cellar. After some digging, they found Ruth’s bloodied body. Her skull had been crushed. Then, while still alive, her abdomen had been ripped open with her own skate.

Although Italy refused to extradite Cocchi, they convicted him of the murder all the same. He was given 27 years in prison. His creepy confession is below.

“I had never seen Ruth Cruger before she came to my shop to have her skates sharpened. From the very beginning Ruth did all in her power to attract my attention. I felt something strange when her dark, penetrating eyes fixed on mine. I was still more disconcerted when she came again to get her skates. An overpowering attraction for the young woman seized me. What happened afterward seems like a dream.” ~ Alfredo Cocchi

“Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” Grace Humiston became a national celebrity and even found herself compared to Sherlock Holmes. It was a comparison that she didn’t exactly appreciate.

“No, I never read Sherlock Holmes. In fact, I am not a believer in deduction. Common sense and persistence will always solve a mystery. You never need theatricals nor Dr. Watsons if you stick to a case.” ~ Grace Humiston

The Downfall of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes?

So, if Grace Humiston was so famous, why has she been largely forgotten today? One reason may be the Camp Upton incident. Despite Cocchi’s confession, she was convinced that his true intention was to force Ruth into prostitution. She subsequently formed the Morality League of America to rescue missing girls from “white slavery.” A few months later, in November 1917, she accused the U.S. Army of hiding 600 pregnant white slaves at Camp Upton. Unable to back up her claim, she subsequently lost her police powers.

A more compelling reason is that she leveled accusations at the NYPD in the aftermath of the case. A subsequent investigation revealed that the police had a motive for not investigating Cocchi…some of its officers had a profitable kickback relationship with him. After arresting someone, these officers would tell the person to visit Cocchi. Cocchi would “settle” the case for a fee, part of which he would kick back to the officers.

Two years after solving the murder, she was arrested by Patrick Gargan for operating a dance hall without a license. Gargan had served as Captain of the precinct where the Cocchi investigation took place. Since evidence to back up the charge was nonexistent, the arrest appeared to be motivated by revenge. The case was thrown out of court.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Although she escaped imprisonment, Gargan achieved a more important victory. Within a few short decades, Grace Humiston had been almost completely whitewashed from history. Even her name and gender were removed from stories written about the Ruth Cruger case. It’s time to correct that wrong. Grace was a remarkable lawyer and private-eye who risked much of herself to see justice done. She was truly, for lack of a better moniker, “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes.”

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

Queen Hatshepsut: Death by Moisturizer?

Queen Hatshepsut was one of the most successful pharaohs in ancient Egypt and one of the most powerful women of all time. She died in 1458 BC of unknown causes. Now, a new theory proposes to solve this mystery. Did Hatshepsut moisturize herself to death?

The Mysterious Flask of Hatshepsut?

I wrote about Hatshepsut a little over a week ago. That article, Did Ancient Egyptians Conquer the Seas?, discussed her role in an overseas expedition to the mysterious Land of Punt. Now, she’s back in the news for something else…namely her own death.

German scholars recently announced the discovery of creosote and asphalt in a flask that supposedly belonged to Hatshepsut. These are carcinogenic substances and known to cause cancer.

The rest of the flask contained palm and nutmeg oil as well as polyunsaturated fats. Taken together, the contents indicate that the flask might have once held some sort of ancient skin care lotion. The research team believes that Hatsheptsut suffered from a chronic skin disease. By using the lotion as a salve, she exposed herself to the dangerous substances over an extended period of time. This ultimately caused her to contract cancer.

There is some outside evidence to support this new theory. Hatshepsut’s family apparently suffered from genetic skin diseases. Also, assuming that the 2007 identification of her mummy is correct, then Hatshepsut clearly suffered from a skin disease of her own as well as bone cancer.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Not everyone is convinced. Researchers have yet to find traces of the offending substances in her bone marrow. Skeptics can also point to a number of weak links in the evidence chain. We don’t know for sure that the flask is authentic or that Hatshepsut used it. Also, we can’t be positive that the mummy belongs to her. Finally, even if the mummy does belong to Hatshepsut, the so-called skin disease she appears to have suffered from may be nothing more than residue left over from the mummification process.

Still, the research team has put together an intriguing case. Further tests and analysis are of course required. But at the moment, it seems quite possible that Hatshepsut may have, in effect, moisturized herself to death.

The Mysterious Treasure of Oak Island

Oak Island is a small island located four miles off the coast of Novia Scotia. It is the home of the infamous “money pit.” For more than two centuries, treasure hunters have attempted to unearth its treasure. Even Franklin Delano Roosevelt participated in one expedition decades before he became President of the United States. Does Oak Island really hold a treasure? And if so, how has it managed to elude treasure hunters for so long?

The Oak Island Money Pit?

In 1763, residents in nearby Chester reported “strange lights and fires” on Oak Island.  Then in 1795, a 16-year old boy discovered a circular depression on the island’s southeastern end. With the help of two friends, he began to dig and uncovered a stone platform and two layers of logs. Although they found nothing, they would return to the island eight years later with the Onslow Company. They found platforms of logs every ten feet as well as charcoal at 40 feet, putty at 50 feet, and coconut at 60 feet. At 80-90 feet, they recovered a large stone with strange symbols on it. One translation of these symbols read, “Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” The group continued to dig but at about 98 feet, the pit mysteriously flooded with seawater.

In 1849, the Truro Company dug a new shaft parallel to the flooded one. This shaft also flooded. In 1851, workers made an astonishing discovery. A nearby beach was fake. Someone had removed the original clay and created a drainage system. Round stones were covered with dead grass and coconut fibres and then topped off with sand. Five drains were connected to the area, leading to speculation that whoever built the pit had also constructed an ingenious flood-trap. The tides caused seawater to flow into the pit while the grass and fibres kept sand from clogging the drains. Bailing the pit out proved useless as more water just rushed in to take its place.

An 1861 effort by the Oak Island Association caused the bottom of the original shaft to collapse into what may have been a natural cavern. Over a dozen separate expeditions would follow, leaving the area around the Money Pit a nearly unworkable mess of mud and debris. Starting in 1967, Triton Alliance, Ltd. used a steel caisson to excavate 235 feet into the ground. Supposedly, workers lowered cameras into a natural cave and recorded images of chests and a human hand. But the shaft collapsed and yet another expedition walked away empty-handed.

What’s Hidden on Oak Island?

Like many treasure stories, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Early accounts mention marks every ten feet. Later accounts change these marks into wood platforms. The stone with strange symbols on it has not been seen since the early 1900s and the corresponding translation remains highly controversial. Most importantly, after so many excavations, its impossible to tell if structures within the pit were created by the original builders or by earlier expeditions.

Numerous theories abound as to what might be hidden on Oak Island. Everything from pirate treasure to Shakespeare’s true identity to the Ark of the Covenant has been speculated to sit at the bottom of the money pit. And of course, there’s also the very strong possibility that the pit is nothing more than a natural sinkhole which leads to an underground cave (similar geological features exist on the mainland). The flooding, in this scenario, was caused by underground cavities filled with water. Dye tests conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution add support to that theory. However, the artificial beach as well as other clues make it hard to deny the possibility that someone built the pit centuries ago, presumably to hide something within it.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Recently, Oak Island Tours, Inc. began using electrical resistivity in order to detect underground tunnels. The process involves pulsing current through the ground in order to find unusual structures. According to Rick Lagina, the process has proved fruitful.

“There are interesting anomalies, yes…There are more than several sites that we are very excited about.” ~ Rick Lagina

Lagina and his fellow treasure hunters plan to analyze the data in order to determine promising drilling spots. So, is this just the latest in a long line of failures? Or will Oak Island Tours, Inc. finally get to the bottom of the money pit mystery? Either way, we should know the answer very soon.

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.