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 Meteor that Changed the World

On December 14, 1807, astonished witnesses watched a giant fireball blaze across the sky. Three sonic booms erupted. Then rocks fell from the air. How did the Weston Meteorite change the world?

What was the Weston Meteorite?

It might be hard to imagine but meteorite science was practically non-existent in the 1800s. Sure, people had seen meteors for centuries. But they were poorly understood and hardly ever connected to odd stories of falling rocks. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1800s that scientists began to realize these falling rocks were quite different from the ones normally found on the ground.

Within a few days of December 14, Benjamin Silliman and James L. Kingsley traveled to Weston, Connecticut to investigate the phenomenon. They interviewed witnesses and gathered and analyzed specimens. It wasn’t easy. They only managed to find 15% of the meteorite rocks. Many others disappeared into the hands of residents who proceeded to crack them open.

“Strongly impressed with the idea that these stones contained gold and silver, they subjected them to all the tortures of ancient alchemy, and the goldsmith’s crucible, the forge, and the blacksmith’s anvil, were employed in vain to elicit riches which existed only in the imagination.” ~ Benjamin Silliman and James L. Kingsley, Account of a Meteor

After Silliman and Kingsley published their account, the story caught fire. It was reprinted in multiple journals. Their words were read before the American Philosophical Society, the Philosophical Society of London, and the Academy of Sciences in Paris. Still, not everyone was a believer.

“I would more easily believe that (a) Yankee professor would lie than that stones would fall from heaven.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

However, Silliman continued to think meteorite rocks had a cosmic origin. He taught this to his students, paving the way for meteorite science in the United States. One of his students, Denison Olmstead, went on to study the famous Leonid meteor storm of November 1833. That storm, witnessed by people all over the eastern United States, was a turning point for meteorite science. But the foundation had been laid decades earlier, thanks to the groundbreaking work done by Benjamin Silliman and James L. Kingsley.

“In Europe I had become acquainted with meteorites and the phenomena that usually attend their fall…. I did not dream of being favored by an event of this kind in my own vicinity and occurring on a scale truly magnificent.” ~ Benjamin Silliman, Life of Benjamin Silliman

The Great Atari Video Game Burial?

In late 1983, 14 semi-trailers drove from El Paso, Texas to Alamogordo, New Mexico. They proceeded to dump their mysterious contents into a landfill. The contents were then crushed and buried under a layer of concrete. What was the Great Atari Video Game Burial?

The Rise & Fall of Atari?

By 1983, Atari was the king of the exploding $3.2 billion video game market with an astonishing 80% market share. Within two years, the video game industry had shrank 97% to just $100 million and Atari was all but dead. There are several reasons for the contraction with an oversaturation of weak games being especially important.

“Atari collapsed because they gave too much freedom to third-party developers and the market was swamped with rubbish games.” ~ Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo President

Indeed, Atari was its own worst enemy. In March 1982, it released Pac-Man, manufacturing a whopping 12 million cartridges in the process. It sold well, but not well enough. Atari ended up with 5 million unsold games as well as massive returns.

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial

And then there was E.T.

E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial deserves its reputation as one of the worst games of all time. Good lord, who doesn’t remember constantly falling into pits and then slowly levitating back to the surface? Well, Atari shelled out $22 million for the rights to E.T. and manufactured 5 million cartridges. The game was an epic bust, with just 30% sell-through.

The Great Atari Video Game Burial?

Imagine you’re an Atari executive. Between Pac-Man and E.T., you’ve got 8.5 million unsold video game cartridges. The video game industry is going over a cliff. Retailers hate you because you’ve spent years forcing them to stock old games in order to get access to new ones. What do you do? Head to the dump, of course!

According to a series of newspaper articles written in the Alamgordo Daily News, Atari sent 10-20 truckloads of Atari products 100 miles to New Mexico. They dumped everything into a landfill. The landfill crushed the products and covered them with concrete, supposedly to keep kids from scavenging them.

Still, the exact contents of the landfill remain a mystery. Most people assume its filled with Pac-Man and E.T. cartridges. However, that may not be the case. One executive claimed only “inoperable” material was being dumped (although E.T. sort of fits that description). The truck drivers claimed they were dumping old Atari 2600 products, as part of a corporate decision to focus on the relatively new Atari 5200 system. Another executive contradicted this story. And Howard Scott Warshaw, the programmer behind E.T., seems to doubt eveything.

“O: Is the landfill story true or false?

HSW: I say false.

O: You don’t know definitively, though?

HSW: I don’t know if anybody knows definitively, because I doubt that it happened, so nobody can really know.” ~ Interview between Keith Phipps & Howard Scott Warshaw

At this point, its impossible to know for certain what’s buried in the Alamgordo landfill (although there is a legend that prototypes for the famous Atari Mindlink controller may have been included in the dumping). Fortunately, there is one way to end this mystery. An archaeological dig. We get a team together, head to Alamgordo, and excavate the landfill as a garbology project. Anyone interested?

The Mayan Doomsday Prophecy?

 On December 21, 2012, the Mayan Long Count calendar will reach the end of a 5,126 year cycle. Is this the 2012 doomsday? Or just another day?

The 2012 Doomsday Phenomenon

The 2012 Doomsday phenomenon has reached almost epic proportions. It’s been featured in numerous documentaries on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. It was even made into a movie, the aptly named 2012.

So, what are the facts? According to the Maya codice Popol Vuh, we’re currently living in the fourth world of creation. In the first world, the Maya gods Kukulkán and Tepeu created man out of mud. The mud crumbled and so in the second world, the gods switched to wood. However, this version of mankind lacked souls and rebelled against the gods. The gods destroyed them with rain and then created a third world. This time, they constructed man out of maize. When this failed, the Maya gods created the current version of mankind.

Now, the Classic Maya civilization used something called the Long Count Calendar. As best as we can determine, each date was described using five separate numbers. The largest number they used was a b’ak’tun, which was equivalent to 144,000 days, or roughly 394 years.

Each of the above-mentioned worlds supposedly lasted 13 b’ak’tuns, or a grand total of about 5,126 years. Some scholars have attempted to match up the Gregorian calendar with the Long Count calendar. They think the current world of creation started on August 11, 3114 BC. The end of the 13th b’ak’tun will thus take place on December 21, 2012.

Did the Ancient Mayas Believe in a 2012 Doomsday?

So, that’s the background. But did the Mayas see this as doomsday? Well, it’s difficult to determine exactly what they thought about it. The Mayas were fascinated with the concept of time. They seemed to view it as a never-ending cycle of ends and new beginnings. So, it’s possible they would’ve viewed December 21, 2012 as a doomsday of sorts. However, there’s really no evidence to suggest they saw it as anything more than the completion of one cycle and the beginning of another. Indeed, many modern scholars think the ancient Maya would’ve seen December 21 as a major celebration.

One thing is clear. The Maya didn’t appear to view the end of the cycle as the ultimate doomsday. Researchers have discovered references to post-2012 dates on several ancient Maya ruins.

“At Palenque, for instance, they predicted that people in the year 4772 AD would be celebrating the anniversary of the coronation of their great king Pakal.” ~ Mark Van Stone, 2012 FAQ

Recently, archaeologists discovered some very old Mayan astronomical tables at the Xultun ruins (well, they actually stumbled on them while chasing off treasure hunters). They discovered four long numbers on a wall which appear to reference a date 7,000 years past 813 AD.

Overall, it would appear the Classic Maya expected the Earth to keep spinning well past December 21, 2012. Not that it really matters. There’s no reason to believe the Mayas possessed any prophetic skills whatsoever. After all, if they were such great prophets, then how come they never saw the ending of their own civilization?

“And maybe the most important question to ask was voiced to me by Bill Saturno, discoverer of the San Bartolo murals. If the Maya were such skilled prophets, how could they have missed the Conquest? “Didn’t see that one coming, did they?” The single most devastating disaster to befall the peoples of the Americas of all time, and not a word about it in the entire corpus of Mayan prophetic literature.” ~ Mark Van Stone, 2012 FAQ

Was Jack the Ripper…a Woman?

Jack the Ripper is the most famous serial killer of all time. For over a century, scholars have searched for his true identity. But were they searching for the wrong type of person? Was Jack the Ripper really…Jill the Ripper?

Who was Jack the Ripper?

The true extent of Jack the Ripper’s murder spree remains unknown. However, historians generally agree he (or she) killed at least five prostitutes starting in 1888.

“From April 3, 1888 to February 13, 1891, eleven women were murdered in Whitechapel and subsequently connected in the police docket as the Whitechapel murders. Most, if not all of these women, are believed to have been prostitutes. A majority of experts attribute five of those murders, the so-called “canonical five,” to a single killer. They shared several common features including ‘deep throat slashes, abdominal and genital-area mutilation, removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations.‘” ~ David Meyer, Who was Jack the Ripper?

Was Jack the Ripper really Jill the Ripper?

There are more than 100 theories on Jack the Ripper’s identity. Now, an author named John Morris has added his own theory to the mix. In his book, Jack the Ripper: Hand of a Woman, Morris argues that Jack the Ripper was a woman named Lizzie Williams. She was the wife of royal physician (and suspect) John Williams.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that the Ripper was a woman. But because everyone believes that the murderer was a man, all the evidence that points to a woman has always been ignored.” ~ John Morris

As for evidence, it seems three of the victims had their wombs removed so Morris believes Lizzie Williams was motivated to kill because she couldn’t have children. Also, none of the women were sexually assaulted. In addition, pieces of an unidentified woman’s clothing were found near some of the victims. Finally, one of the victims, a woman named Mary Kelly, may have been having an affair with Lizzie’s husband.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

It should be noted that many writers claim Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame believed Jack the Ripper was actually Jill the Ripper. As far as I can tell, the earliest reference for this claim comes from Tom Cullen’s 1965 book, When London Walked in Terror. However, Cullen’s source was not Sir Arthur himself, but rather his son Adrian Conan Doyle. And as for Sir Arthur’s support of the Jill the Ripper theory, well, I’ll let you read his son’s words for yourself…

“More than thirty years having passed, it is difficult to recall his views in detail on the Ripper case. However, I do remember that he considered it likely that the man had a rough knowledge of surgery and probably clothed himself as a woman to avoid undue attention by the police and to approach his victims without arousing suspicion on their part.” ~ Adrian Conan Doyle

So, the idea that Sir Arthur believed in Jill the Ripper appears to be just an urban legend. Truth be told, I think the evidence for a Jill the Ripper is exceedingly weak. And Morris’s research doesn’t change my opinion. At the end of the day, I continue to think there’s one reason no one ever found Jack the Ripper…he didn’t actually exist.

“There are plenty of other feasible suspects out there. In addition, a reexamination of the evidence suggests that the “canonical five” murders may have actually been committed by multiple people. In other words, it’s entirely possible that Jack the Ripper was not a real person at all…he may have been nothing more than an invention of the media.” ~ David Meyer, Who was Jack the Ripper?

Did the Nazis Send a Man into Space?

On October 29, 1933, the London Sunday Referee published a report that a man named Otto Fischer had flown a 24-foot long rocket six miles above Earth. Did Space Nazis really exist?

Did Space Nazis Exist?

This story comes to you straight from io9. And it’s a wild one. No, the Nazis didn’t really send someone into space. But there was some truth behind the Space Nazis fiction.

In the early 1930s, the Bank of Magdeburg funded a rocket flight in order to prove something known as the Hollow Earth Doctrine. According to the Hollow Earth Doctrine (of which there are still some adherents today), mankind didn’t live on the outside of the Earth but rather, on the inside. An engineer named Franz Mengering thought he could prove the theory by launching a rocket into the air. If it traveled long enough, it would crash into the other end of the hollow earth, which was believed to be the Pacific Ocean.

The project never gained traction and the loan went to a rocket researcher named Rudolf Nebel instead. He was asked to build a rocket which could carry a man into space. However, the best the rocket could do was a belly-flop about 1,000 feet from the launching pad. The Space Nazis project was eventually abandoned and the rocket was put into storage.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

On a side note, the story was later resurrected in 1935 in a London magazine called Pall Mall. After that, it appeared to vanish from history. So, there you have it. Otto Fischer never reached space (in fact, he probably never existed). Space Nazis never existed. And thus, Yuri Gagarin’s place in history remains secure.

The Mysterious Voynich Manuscript?

In 1912, antique book dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich purchased a strange unreadable manuscript near Rome. Despite a century of efforts, it has defied all code-breaking attempts. What is the Voynich Manuscript?

The Mysterious Voynich Manuscript?

At this very moment, a conference is underway in Rome, a sort of 100-year celebration of Voynich’s purchase. Various experts will hold presentations with such topics as:

  • Forensic investigations of the Voynich MS
  • Voynichese word structure and statistics
  • Statistical Properties of the Voynich Manuscript Text – How Can we Make Sense of Contradicting Results?

So, what do we know about the Voynich Manuscript? Well, not very much as it turns out. Its author is unknown. It has been carbon-dated with 95% accuracy to 1404-1438, making it ~600 years old. The earliest known owner is believed to be Emperor Rudolf II (1552 to 1612). It contains about 240 pages, many of which are filled with drawings of unidentified plants, astrological diagrams, and images of strange women bathing in basins that are connected to each other with elaborate pipe networks (see the picture above).

The text itself remains a complete mystery. The Voynich Manuscript was written from left to right and appears to lack punctuation. The exact alphabet used is unknown. However, 20-30 letters would account for almost all of the text. Unfortunately, all attempts to map these letters on to existing languages have fallen short. Many scholars have put forth possible explanations for the mysterious text, ranging from unknown dialects to some form of code. But no one knows for certain.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

All this begs the question, is the Voynich Manuscript even authentic? Over the past few decades, numerous scholars have speculated it’s actually some kind of ancient hoax. However, if it’s a hoax, it’s one of epic proportions. The Voynich Manuscript is incredibly complex with many subtle characteristics.

At this point, we must conclude our knowledge of the Voynich Manuscript is slim and driven more by what we don’t know than what we do. Still, researchers continue to study it, looking for that elusive breakthrough. Maybe one day soon, someone will crack the text and at last, we’ll be able to learn the tome’s true secrets.

Egypt’s Ancient Astronomers?

Algol, also known as the Demon Star, is a binary system, meaning it contains two stars rotating around each other. Until recently, it was believed this unique feature was discovered by John Goodricke in 1783. Now, we have reason to believe it was detected thousands of years earlier. Did ancient Egyptian astronomers discover and understand Algol?

Algol and the Mysterious Cairo Calendar?

In 1200 BC, ancient Egyptian astronomers created a document now known as the Cairo Calendar. They used it to record observations about the sky. Recently, a team of scholars from the University of Helsinki took a closer look at this calendar. In doing so, they discovered the ancient Egyptians weren’t just recording changes in the sky. They were attempting to understand and calculate how the stars worked.

The Cairo Calendar charts at least two specific cycles. One cycle lasts 29.6 days, roughly the same amount of time as the lunar cycle. The other cycle lasts 2.85 days and appears to match the activity of Algol. Currently, Algol dims every 2.867 days, most likely because its stars rotate and block each other’s light.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

But what about that small difference between the two numbers? One possibility is the ancient Egyptians simply made slight errors in their calculations. However, there’s also an intriguing alternative theory. It’s possible Algol’s rotation has slowed over time. If this is the case, it would add evidence to a recent theory that Algol is actually a three-star system.

Interesting huh? Of course, it’s impossible to say for certain, not without a better understanding of how the ancient Egyptians recorded the cycles. Still, at least for the moment, it seems possible that the work of these ancient Egyptian astronomers has shed new light on one of the night sky’s most perplexing puzzles.

Did Ancient Americans Hunt Mammoths?

In 1915, construction workers made a startling discovery in Vero Beach, Florida. Did ancient Americans live alongside mammoths? Did they hunt these and other giant extinct creatures from the Pleistocene epoch?

When did Ancient Americans reach the Americas?

According to the International Union of Geological Sciences, the Pleistocene epoch started 2,588,000 years ago and ended 11,700 years ago. Many animals of that age, such as mammoths, mastodons, and giant ground sloths, were larger than their modern relatives.

In 1913, workers unearthed some vertebrate fossils in Vero Beach while building a drainage canal. Recognizing them as from the Pleistocene epoch, Dr. E.H. Sellards asked the workers to keep a lookout for more remains. In 1915, the workers struck a veritable gold mine. They found at least five separate skeletons as well as numerous stone tools.

A major controversy soon erupted. The discoveries seemed to indicate that modern man had inhabited the Americas prior to 10,000 BC, which conflicted with prevailing opinion. Roughly half the scientists who examined the remains took this stance. The other half thought the skeletons came from a later era and were merely buried in the same layer of soil as the Pleistocene animals. Since dating techniques didn’t exist at the time, it was impossible to prove one way or the other. Eventually, the skeptics won the debate.

Did Ancient Americans Hunt Mammoths?

In 2009, archaeologists discovered a strange carving on a piece of bone in Vero Beach. The bone appeared to depict a mammoth or a mastodon. While the bone could not be dated, the accuracy of the drawing along with the mineralization of the bone itself led scholars to rethink the possibility of people living in the Americas during the Pleistocene epoch.

“There was considerable skepticism expressed about the authenticity of the incising on the bone until it was examined exhaustively by archaeologists, paleontologists, forensic anthropologists, materials science engineers and artists.” ~ Barbara Purdy, University of Florida

Now, a team of researchers led by Bruce MacFadden and Barbara Purdy have reexamined some of the old Vero Beach bones. Using rare earth element analysis, they’ve gathered significant evidence that people co-existed with large extinct animals such as mammoths in the Americas about 13,000 years ago.

“The uptake of rare earth elements is time-dependent, so an old fossil is going to have very different concentrations of rare earth elements than bones from a more recent human burial. We found the human remains have statistically the same concentrations of rare earth elements as the fossils.” ~ Bruce MacFadden, Florida Museum Vertebrate Paleontology Curator

It should be noted this isn’t a sure thing. Rare earth element analysis is less precise than radiocarbon dating. Still, the evidence is hard to ignore. In all likelihood, people roamed the Americas as early as 13,000 years ago, side by side with mammoths and other animals that today only live in our imagination.

Did the Incas visit the Old World?

Around 1480, Topa Inca Yupanqui embarked on a mysterious voyage. Did the Incas travel clear across the Pacific Ocean…prior to the Europeans?

Pre-Columbian Mystery: Did the Incas visit the Old World?

In 1572, Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa wrote a famous book entitled, The History of the Incas. He wrote it while in Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire, a mere 40 years after Spanish conquistadors arrived in the city. He took great pains to record the history and mythology of the Incas, even going so far as to solicit feedback from them during public readings.

In his tome, he described a nine to twelve-month voyage conducted by the tenth Sapa Inca (or king), Topa Inca Yupanqui. Supposedly, this pre-Columbian voyage took the Incas to two islands known as Avachumbi (or Outer Island) and Ninachumbi (Fire Island). Here are some excerpts from the original text:

“Tupac Inca was a man of lofty and ambitious ideas, and was not satisfied with the regions he had already conquered. So he determined to challenge a happy fortune, and see if it would favour him by sea…

The Inca, having this certainty, determined to go there. He caused an immense number of balsas to be constructed, in which he embarked more than 20,000 chosen men…

Tupac Inca navigated and sailed on until he discovered the islands of Avachumbi and Ninachumbi, and returned, bringing back with him black people, gold, a chair of brass, and a skin and jaw bone of a horse. These trophies were preserved in the fortress of Cuzco until the Spaniards came…

An Inca now living had charge of this skin and jaw bone of a horse. He gave this account, and the rest who were present corroborated it. His name is Urco Huaranca. I am particular about this because to those who know anything of the Indies it will appear a strange thing and difficult to believe. The duration of this expedition undertaken by Tupac Inca was nine months, others say a year, and, as he was so long absent, every one believed he was dead…” ~ Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, The History of the Incas

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Some scholars believe the veracity of this account of a pre-Columbian voyage. They point to the Galápagos Islands as well as Easter Island as possible locations for Avachumbi and Ninachumbi. Others believe the account is mythological and indeed, the text backs this up to a certain point. Prior to embarking on his pre-Columbian expedition, Topa Inca supposedly consulted a strange man named Antarqui. Antarqui, who was able to talk to the dead as well as fly, used his magic to determine the islands were real. Only then did Topa Inca set sail.

A pre-Columbian journey by the Incas certainly seems feasible. Unfortunately, no physical evidence of it remains. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Someday soon, archaeologists might uncover a huaraca or a tokapu while investigating an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean…and in the process, rewrite history.