The Wild Burros of Oatman, Arizona

Positioned in the ancient part of old Route 66, in the US state of Arizona, Oatman is full of wild burros —an old Spanish term which means donkeys— roaming the streets. This town with an old western appearance has been an enjoyable place and a tourist attraction for the burros wandering around with springiness. The wild donkeys can be hand-fed with ‘burro chow’, naturally known as hay cubes, which are readily available in the town. Although they gently behave with tourists, still you will find several signs posted in the town which asks the public to maintain caution.

burros-oatman-4

Photo credit: Joshua Noble/Flickr

Moroccan Wall: The Longest Minefield in The World

You may or you may not have heard about “Western Sahara”, but if you consult Google Maps or any other modern atlas, you will notice this region clearly identified in the southern end of Morocco. “Western Sahara” is not an actual country, as indicated by the lack of a political boundary between this region and Morocco, but it isn’t totally under the control of Morocco either. It is a disputed region with a complex, war-torn history, and like many other disputed regions in the world, it has a highly militarized zone at the center of which runs a 2,700 km-long sand wall called the Moroccan Western Sahara Wall, or the Moroccan Wall, in short.

Unlike other notorious barriers in the world, the Moroccan Wall is rarely in the news and is little discussed outside of Africa. The existence of this wall has been buried in the desert, along with the 40-year-old plight of the Sahrawi people the Moroccan Wall has kept divided.

moroccan-wall-7

The Japanese Soldiers Who Wouldn’t Surrender

Emperor Hirohito’s announcement of Japan’s surrender at the end of the Second Word War came as a blessed relief to millions of Japanese who had suffered during the long hostilities, but not everybody was prepared to lay down their arms. Japanese soldiers had been indoctrinated to fight onto death, refuse surrender and sacrifice themselves instead of being taken as prisoners. So when the shocking announcement came through the mouth of the Emperor on 15 August 1945, hundreds of soldiers went into hiding out of embarrassment. Some continued fighting for years after the war had ended.

Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda was 22 years old when he was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines in December 1944, as an intelligence officer. Onoda’s job was to disrupt and sabotage enemy efforts, and he had special orders that stated that under no circumstances was he to surrender or take his own life.

hiroo-onoda-3

Agloe: A Fake Town That Became Real

In the 1930s, a small town named Agloe suddenly began appearing on the maps of New York. It was positioned near an unmarked dirt road that led from Roscoe to Rockland, and near to Beaverkill. That road was neither visited by anyone nor was it popularly known, and very few people, if any, outside of the mapmakers’ company, knew that the town of Agloe didn’t even exist.

Agloe was a copyright trap—a century old trick mapmakers and dictionary makers have been using to catch copycats. When companies create a map, they perform all the hard work on it, including examining the right spellings, placing the cities in the right spot on the map, etc., and they need to protect their work. So they add small traps to the map—a fake street, a fantasy town. When another company steals their map, the original creators are able to take their competitors to court by pointing out the fake places that shouldn’t be on the map.

agloe-ny-2

The Battle for Castle Itter: The Strangest Battle of WW2

In the waning days of the Second World War, five days after Hitler shot himself in his bunker in Berlin, one of the most bizarre battle took place at a 19th century castle in the Austrian Alps. Castle Schloss Itter, located on a hill close to the village Itter, had some very prominent French personalities held prisoners by the SS. After the prison's guards fled, the hardy prisoners took arms and fought side-by-side along with American and German troops against the Nazis. The Battle of Castle Itter was the only battle of Word War 2 where Allied forces battled alongside the German troops.

castle-itter-1

Photo credit: Johann Hartl/Panoramio

Thilafushi: Maldives’s Garbage Island

What does an island with not a speck of land to spare do to get rid of hundreds of tons of garbage generated each day by its one million yearly tourists and nearly four hundred thousand permanent residents? They dump it into another island, of course.

The stunning tropical islands of Maldives, southwest of India, is known for its sandy beaches and turquoise waters. But very few are aware of its dirty side. Just a few miles west of Male, the capital city of Maldives, and one of the most densely populated islands on earth, lies the island of Thilafushi, the location of Maldives’s municipal landfill. But Thilafushi was not always a garbage island. In fact, Thilafushi was not even an island.

thilafushi-island-7

Photo credit: Jamie Cowan

The Mysterious Caynton Caves

What appears to be an ordinary rabbit hole in a farmer's field is actually the humble entrance to a large underground cave whose origins are shrouded in mystery.

Located in the grounds of Caynton Hall, near Beckbury, in Shropshire, England, the Caynton Caves were believed to have been dug in the late 18th or early 19th Century, but popular legend associate them with the Knights Templar, a Catholic military order that was founded in the 12th Century, originally to guard pilgrims on their way along the dangerous roads that led to Jerusalem. During the Middle Ages, the order grew rapidly in power and membership to become one of wealthiest and most powerful in Christendom. The order was dissolved in the early 14th century but story of their persecution and sudden dissolution has given rise to many theories and legends revolving around secrets and the mysterious. The Caynton Caves are one of them.

caynton-caves-2

Photo credit: Michael Scott

Monument to The Armenian Alphabet

Located near the village of Artashavan, close to the highway, in Armenia, stands 39 giant carved Armenian letters dedicated to the language its speakers take pride in.

The Armenian alphabet is more than 1,600 years old and it’s still used today in its original form. It was devised by Saint Mesrop Mashtots, an Armenian linguist and ecclesiastical leader, in 405 CE in order to make the Bible accessible to Armenians and spread Christianity. Prior to that, Armenians had no alphabet of their own and instead used Greek, Persian and Syriac scripts, but none of these were well suited to represent the many complex sounds of their native tongue. The Holy Scriptures, being written in Syriac, were thus, to a large extent, unintelligible to the followers requiring the constant need of translators and interpreters.

armenian-alphabet-monument-1

Photo credit: Rita Willaert/Flickr

This Croatian Island Looks Like A Giant Fingerprint

This tiny island in the Adriatic Sea, off the coast of Croatia, has been under a lot of attention in recent times. Located in the Sibenik archipelago on the Dalmatian coast, this small island of 1.4 square kilometer is completely covered by a web of dry stone walls. When viewed from the air, the oval-shaped island of Baljenac, (also spelled Bavljenac), looks like a giant fingerprint with long lines of low walls resembling ridges and grooves of the skin.

Like many west European nations such as Ireland, England and Scotland, much of Croatia’s countryside and the coastline is hugged by dry stone walls. These construction date back to centuries and were used historically to mark boundaries between adjacent agricultural lands. The walls are built without mortar to hold the stones together. Instead, builders carefully select stones and stack them snug together like puzzle pieces.

croatia-dry-stone-walls-5

Photo credit: sibenski.slobodnadalmacija.hr

Chaiten: The Town Buried By A Volcano

Early in the morning of May 2, 2008, a volcano located about 10 km to the north of the town of Chaitén, near the Gulf of Corcovado in southern Chile, rumbled to life after nearly 10,000 years of inactivity. The plume of volcanic ash rose to 17 km and blanketed the entire town. At that time about 4,000 people were living in Chaiten, who were immediately evacuated. The Chaitén volcano continued to erupt for the next several days becoming increasingly violent. The ash column became 30 km tall and drifted across Chile and Argentina and over the Atlantic Ocean.

The town of Chaiten was not significantly hit by the eruption until heavy rainfall swept the ash and mud deposited in the crater and on the flanks of the volcano into the Chaiten River that flows right past the volcano, continuing its way south and past Chaiten until it drains into the sea. As the lahar gradually filled the river-bed, the water course became shallower until May 12, when the river banks were breached. Since its old bed was full, the water cut a new course right through the center of the town swallowing everything that stood on its way. Nearly half of the town was destroyed.

chaiten-chile-1

Chaiten on June 20, 2008. Photo credit: Javier Rubilar/Flickr