3 Facts About the 3 Biggest Islands in the Caribbean



3 Facts About the 3 Biggest Islands in the Caribbean

Did you know that there are more than 7,000 islands in the Caribbean? While many of these islands are quite small, plenty of them are large enough to be home to millions of residents.

Take, for instance, three of the biggest islands in the Caribbean: Cuba, Hispaniola and Jamaica. While they all call the Caribbean home, each of these islands has a unique character and culture. Ready to be amazed? Read on to learn three fascinating facts about the Caribbean’s biggest islands.

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Cuba Isn’t Just A Single Island

Map of Cuba and surrounding islands
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Cuba, or as it is properly called, the Republic of Cuba, is the largest island in the Caribbean, with a landmass of over 42,000 square miles. It has the largest population of a single country in the Caribbean, too. Cuba is home to over 11 million people.

But what you may not know is that Cuba isn’t just one island. While most people recognize the alligator-like shape of Cuba’s mainland, the country actually includes more than 4,000 small islands and cays.

Many of these islands are quite tiny. Some are home to all-inclusive resorts and others are uninhabited, but some of them are quite respectable in size. For instance, Isla de la Juventud, Cuba’s second-largest island, measures a little over 900 square miles, and has a population of about 100,000.

Hispaniola: Two Countries, One Island

Map of the island of Hispaniola split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Credit: Peter Hermes Furian/ Shutterstock

Hispaniola is the second-largest island in the Caribbean. It has a landmass of over 29,000 square miles and a population of more than 20 million.

But if it’s so big, why is it that so many people have never heard of it? That’s because the island of Hispaniola actually includes two countries: Haiti and the Dominican Republic. While most people are familiar with these names, it’s not as well known that the island spanning both of them is called Hispaniola.

While these two countries are locked together by land, they are very different. The Dominican Republic is far wealthier, with a robust tourism economy and several world-renowned resorts. Haiti, on the other hand, has significant poverty issues and is not as popular for tourists.

Sugarcane Is Not Indigenous to Jamaica

Photo of a sugarcane field at sunset
Credit: Mailson Pignata/ iStock

Jamaica is the third-largest island in the Caribbean by landmass, spanning over 4,200 square miles. This makes it slightly larger than the next-biggest island, Puerto Rico, which measures in at about 3,500 square miles. However, in terms of population density, Puerto Rico is slightly larger, with a population of about 3.25 million as opposed to Jamaica’s at about 2.9 million.

When you think of Jamaica’s most significant crops, you probably think of sugarcane, which is key to making the country’s famous rum. But did you know that sugarcane is not indigenous to Jamaica?

The original residents of Jamaica, the Arawak Indians, grew things like cassava, corn and yams. But when Spanish settlers came through in 1510, they brought sugarcane with them.

Along with the sugarcane, they also brought the custom of slavery. Thousands of Africans were imported to the island to work on sugarcane and tobacco plantations. When the British took over Jamaica, agriculture became the island’s main economy.

While slavery was later abolished, the tradition of agriculture has remained strong in Jamaica. Agriculture is one of the main economies on the island, with the sugar industry being the oldest continuously-run operation on the island.

How’s That For Some Tropical Trivia?

Photo of a beautiful orange sunset behind two palm trees
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The Caribbean may be one large tropical region, but the area’s biggest islands are all quite different from one another. While they may share similar climates and geography, there’s still plenty of economic and cultural diversity among these tropical destinations.

4 Tallest Mountains in Norway



4 Tallest Mountains in Norway

While traveling the Scandinavian country of Norway, there are going to be plenty of locations you’ll want to visit. Oslo, the capital, and the Bryggen wharf are likely high on that list, but if you’re into more adventurous experiences, you may be thinking of something taller.

The snowy peaks of Norway offer an experience for only the bravest and most prepared travelers. Stretching thousands of feet into the sky, the mountains of Norway are a predominant feature that many aim to climb. There are, after all, 291 peaks that top out over 6,000 feet above sea level.

If the notion of adventure and heights grabs your interest, chances are you’ll be enthralled to scale these four incredible summits, which can be found on the tallest mountains in Norway.

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4. Store Styggedalstinden

Photo fo remote, snow-covered mountain peak
Toreroraas/ CC BY-SA 3.0

Elevation: 7,831 feet

The snowy slopes of Store Styggedalstinden saw their first human ascent on August 6, 1883. Many others have made it to the eastern summit of this serene mountain, despite the many challenges present throughout the 7,831-foot ascent to the top.

Store Styggedalstinden can be found within the eastern part of Luster in Sogn og Fjordane county. You’ll find its peaks tucked between the Sentraltind and Jervvasstind mountains. Though the view from both the bottom and top may be stunning, Styggedalstinden’s name, when broken down, roughly translates to “Ugly Valley.”

Regardless, there is no doubting the overt beauty of the mountain’s slopes, which offer three different climbing experiences dependent on climber skill and the conditions of the mountain.

3. Store Skagastolstinden

Photo of a jagged snow-covered mountain peak
Credit: Erik Eskedal/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

Elevation: 7,890 feet

Getting to the summit of Store Skagastolstinden means climbing up nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. As the third-highest mountain in all of Norway, Skagastolstinden has drawn a lot of attention from curious climbers. The conditions aren’t unsafe for travelers, though the brisk chill in the air can bite and cause discomfort if the adventurers are not properly dressed.

In 1876, William Cecil Slingsby and Emanuel Mohn journeyed up the side of Skagastolstinden. Along the way, they passed a glacier known today as Slingsbybreen, which is a relevant landmark in knowing where to find two additional mountains that climbers pass when trying to tackle Store Skagastolstinden.

To reach the base of Skagastolstinden, you’ll have to park at the nearest hotel and trek to the best starting point once it’s time to start climbing. There are four routes to explore, each with varying degrees of difficulty. Slingsby’s Rute, Andrew’s Renne, Heftye’s Renne, and Nordvestveien await the bravest of travelers.

2. Glittertind

Photo of hikers walking through a snowy mountain field
Credit: Sasha64f/ iStock

Elevation: 8,087 feet

A national park found within Norway’s Lom municipality, Glittertind of the Jotunheimen mountain range is also the second highest snow-covered mountain. At just over 8,000 feet above sea level, it takes quite a bit of work to get to its summit. Travel from the Spiterstulen lodge to get to Glittertindand prepare for a hike that isn’t too difficult, but should also only be tackled by professionals.

During the summer, walking around the summit is made a little more difficult thanks to the melting snows of winter. In the winter months, the path is a little easier as it’s not coated in a layer of water melted off the glacier.

Glittertind may be on the higher side, but its difficulty level is actually a bit easier than some of its shorter counterparts.

1. Galdhopiggen

Photo of a mountain valley
Credit: Enter6/ iStock

Elevation: 8,100 feet

On a list of the tallest mountains in the world, Galdhopiggen would have quite a ways to go to catch up to them. But that doesn’t take away from the awe and wonder that comes from staring up at this 8,100-foot natural formation in Oppland, Norway. Many have climbed the snowy slopes of Galdhopiggen to enjoy the panoramic view.

Located in the Jutunheimen National Park in southern Norway, Galdhopiggen is the tallest peak in Norway, but the Norwegians didn’t always know that. Early Nords knew of Galdhopiggen but weren’t aware of just how tall the mountain’s peak is.

Starting in 1844, several attempts were made to reach the summit. It took six years before a group of three men traveling from Lom were able to reach the top of Galdhopiggen. Before them, geologist and mountaineer Baltazar Mathias Keilha attempted to complete the journey to the summit but didn’t make it.

Like many mountains in Norway, Galdhopiggen is often covered in a layer of pristine white snow. While it adds a beautiful touch to the rocky mountain, it poses a risk for anyone hoping to make the climb to the summit.

The Many Mountains of Norway

Photo of a hiker standing on a cliff enjoying a stunning valley and fjord view
Credit: Olga Danylenko/ Shutterstock.com

Think this is all that Norway has to offer in the way of mountainous peaks? If you’re the type who wants to tackle as many adventures as possible, you can count on the Scandinavian country to deliver. These four are a very small fraction of the snowy peaks that beg to be scaled. The question is — just how high do you want to go?

3 Things You (probably) Never Knew About the Great Lakes



3 Things You Never Knew About the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes—Superior, Erie, Michigan, Huron, and Ontario—are home to one-fifth of the freshwater surface on Earth. Formed 14,000 years ago, with coastlines stretching more than 10,000 miles, they feature a lot of liquid and beachfront real estate for locals, visitors, and international tourists. And while you might know their names and what you can do there, here are three things you probably didn’t know about The Great Lakes.

They’re Home to the Largest Freshwater Coastal Dune System in the World

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Tourists and locals are drawn every year to the many coastal dunes surrounding the Great Lakes and for good reason. The Great Lakes are home to the largest freshwater coastal dune system in the world, and Lake Michigan alone is bordered by more than 275,000 square acres of dunes.

A number of national and state parks along the Lake Michigan coastline offer visitors a chance to enjoy the sun and adventure through the dunes. Many provide unique Great Lakes freshwater dunes opportunities—like breathtaking views and organized outings—not found anywhere else in the world.

Lake Superior Has A Shipwreck Museum and Historical Society

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Fishing, shipping, passenger transport, and recreation were all reasons for ships to traverse the waters of the Great Lakes over the last few centuries, and travel by water is inherently dangerous. Hundreds of ships of all shapes and sizes have sunk beneath the water in each of the five interconnected lakes.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society in Paradise, Michigan, was first founded with a focus around Whitefish Point on Lake Superior. The organization has spent the last 40 years—in collaboration with its shipwreck museum and underwater research efforts—searching for and documenting sunken vessels during the diving season each year.

The Shipwreck Museum is open to the public from May 1 through October 31. Visitors can view exhibits, attend book signings, take part in fundraising fun runs, and explore shipwreck coasts on guided kayak treks.

Lake Michigan Had a Pirate Problem

Credit: donfiore1 / Depositphotos

The waters of Lake Michigan are infamous for their 19th century pirate problem, during which a trio of swashbucklers terrorized its waters. The Great Lakes pirates were notorious for selling timber, stealing liquor, or being strangely pious, but most were more cap-and-sweater-wearing sea rogues than they were sword-wielding Jack Sparrows.

Jack Rackham, aka Calico Jack, is likely the Great Lakes pirate who people are most familiar with from fictionalized appearances in pop culture. He’s famous for his bright clothing and was known to steal fishing tackle and boats on Great Lakes waters. “King” James Jesse Strang led his religious gang, from Beaver Island on Lake Michigan, in the burning of sawmills and pillaging of goods from local stores during the mid-19th century.

Roaring Dan Seavey was the only man to be formally charged as a pirate on the Great Lakes. Once a U.S. Navy sailor, Seavey nefariously put up lights in dangerous places along Lake Michigan’s coastline to lure ships to fake coves and plundered the wreckage.

Both the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum (mentioned above) and Alpena Shipwreck Tours can pull back the curtain on pirate activity in the area and give visitors a tour of the old pirate stomping grounds.

What If: What If Your Past Changed

What If Your Past Changed


This article is going to be one that is unlike any of the other stories that I have ever written before. I guess most folks would classify this article as a ‘Si-FY’ peace. What I am going to try to do this evening is to try to get each of us to think, to think outside our normal everyday box that we all live in. My Bride and I have been watching a program on Net-Flix called Continuum about some folks living in the year 2077 who got sent back to the year 2012 and the show is about the ramifications of that event. If you get a chance maybe you could look up this program to see if you might like it. It is not the greatest program that I have ever seen but it does bring up several interesting concepts.


I know that most everyone at some point or even many points during their lives have thought about things they have done, or not done in their own past. Maybe about what if I had taken this job or that job instead of the one that I did take or maybe what if I had asked this other person to marry me instead of the person I did marry. I am sure that you get my point. I am 63 years old now and during my life I have had many crossroads, some of which I regret not taking and others that I am glad I did choose to take. But, any variance off of the path we chose would have caused us personally to have had a different life than the one we have lived.


There are some folks who believe that this time that we are all living in is like a sheet of paper that folds over other time warps here on earth that are going on at the same time as the one we see, feel and touch each day.  Some call this alternate universes in time. Some think that in a sense there are wormholes here on earth that can be stepped through taking us to another date in time. Now I would like you to think about, what if such a thing was actually true and a person or persons could step through that portal whether it be on purpose or by a total accident. Now think about this concept, what if this did happen to someone but not ourselves. What if that person or persons effected our life, lets say even just ten years ago. It could be in a way that we would have never even seen coming, it could be a person that we never did nor would ever meet but something they did changed the course of some other peoples lives including our own. Think about going to sleep tonight and waking up to a total different reality. Lets say we are healthy, wealthy and self absorbed when we went to bed but woke up sleeping in a cardboard box in an alley, or maybe under a bridge, all of this because of something that someone else did or didn’t do. You could also reverse that order, you could have gone to bed under a bridge and awoke in a mansion with billions of dollars to spend. Go back further in time, what if your parents never met and you were never born, you went to bed tonight and never woke up because you never existed. Just food for ones brain to feed upon.


Personally I do believe in there being a Supreme Being who can and does control time as we know it. I also believe that there are many planets among the trillions of rocks in the sky that hold other life forms, have I ever met any? Not that I am aware of. But wouldn’t it really be odd for God to create trillions of planets and only put life one one? That doesn’t even make any sense. If there is such a thing as time warps here on this planet I personally am very glad that it is God who has control of all such things. Think about it for a moment, what if scientist of any time could walk in and out of time as we know it. Do you not think that the governments would be the ones who would take the control levers of such an event? Another view is that I am glad that it is God who controls time other wise what if another very powerful being with the powers of an Angel like Satan was able to manipulate time, we would all be dead or serving him as slaves. As I said at the beginning of this letter to you tonight, this is all just conjecture for the purpose of stimulating the neurons in our brains. But, WHAT IF?



5 things Leonardo da Vinci invented that we still use today




5 things Leonardo da Vinci invented that we still use today

Leonardo da Vinci was the ultimate Renaissance man. That’s true in the literal sense, because da Vinci did, in fact, live and create during the Renaissance.

But it’s true figuratively as well. He achieved so much and across such a wide variety of disciplines that it boggles the mind.

As if painting the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” weren’t enough, Leonardo da Vinci is also credited with dreaming up plenty of inventions, some of which have been in active use for centuries.

Here are just five of da Vinci’s inventions that we still use today.

Ball bearing

Close up photo of the inner mechanism of a ball bearing
Credit: nantonov/ iStock

A ball bearing is positioned between a wheel and a fixed axle to help separate the moving and stationary parts and reduce friction. While a ball bearing might not be a super exotic invention, it sure is a useful one. Ball bearings allow for smooth movement of all sorts of mechanical devices by reducing the friction between surfaces.

We take it for granted today, but without this da Vinci creation, our machines would never have evolved to what they are today.

Diving gear

Old diving suit
Credit: doubleus/ iStock

Da Vinci didn’t just embrace different artistic disciplines, but different elements, too. In addition to creating designs for flying machines and parachutes, da Vinci also came up with a design for a suit to be worn by soldiers planning stealthy attacks on enemy ships.

His design was for a suit made of leather with a bag-like mask to be worn over a diver’s head and face. Two tubes were attached to the nostrils at one end and to a floating diving bell above surface to let air in.

The mask also had a balloon that could either inflate or deflate, so divers could sink or rise on command. While the design didn’t become well-known until after da Vinci’s death, today’s diving suits bear more than a passing resemblance to da Vinci’s design.

Machine gun

An old machine gun
Credit: mrsixinthemix/ iStock

Believe it or not, the painter of the famed “Mona Lisa” also designed an early version of the machine gun. Da Vinci was obsessed with making modern warfare more efficient, and among his many designs was one for a cannon with multiple barrels that rotated so that it could fire one load while another was being loaded.

Many see this design of a portable, fast and lightweight weapon as the earliest version of the machine gun.


Photo of a parachute over the ocean with a boat in the background
Credit: Ishan @seefromthesky/ Unsplash

True, the parachute as we know it today is largely credited to Sebastien Lenormand’s 1783 creation. However, Leonardo da Vinci came up with the idea a couple centuries earlier.

On his sketch, he noted: “If a man have a tent made of linen of which the apertures [openings] have all been stopped up, and it be twelve braccia [about 23 feet] across and twelve in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any great height without suffering any injury.” Sounds like a parachute to us!

Of course, da Vinci’s design had issues. For one, it was made with linen on a wood frame, and the weight of that wood could have been an impediment to a smooth descent.


Photo of an old suit of armor next to gears and other mechanisms
Credit: Erik Möller/ Public Domain

While it would be hundreds of years before robots hit the mass market, Leonardo da Vinci is said to have made a beta version as early as the 1490’s.

Da Vinci created a robotic knight that was operated by levers and pulleys and mimicked human movement, which was undoubtedly a huge hit at the Milan celebration where it was unveiled.

Here’s to innovation!

Statue of of Leonardo da Vinci
Credit: iPhotographer62/ iStock

While many of da Vinci’s creations weren’t fully realized during his lifetime, many of his concepts and inventions were spot on and are credited with leading to the creation of products that are still used today. If you have a crazy idea for an invention, write it down! It might just be the toast of the town a few centuries down the line.

8 Most Remote Islands You’ve Never Heard Of



8 Most Remote Islands You’ve Never Heard Of

Ever spin a globe and dream of exploring those tiny isolated dots in the middle of the sea? Maybe you long to go off-grid for a while or dive near some exotic coastline. Here are a few far-off retreats for those willing to trade in a cell signal and some amenities for some captivating travel tales. These are eight of the most remote islands you’ve never heard of.

Heimaey Island

Credit: Jodi Jacobson/iStock

If Iceland itself isn’t remote enough for your taste, then hop the ferry for a 40-minute ride to Heimaey Island. If your travel plans include witnessing puffins in their natural habitat, then you’re in the right place. The island is home to the largest population of these stunning birds. Puffins are known as the “clowns of the sea” for their amusing antics. Visitors can hike the Eldfell volcano, walk miles of trails or rent bikes to take in the tranquil scenery.

Tromelin Island

Credit: Aleksei Kornev/Shutterstock

Located 300 miles east of Madagascar, this tiny speck in the Indian Ocean is a bird watchers paradise. The island is a seabird breeding site and known for its abundance of green sea turtles. History buffs will be fascinated with tales of the 1761 slave ship wreckage just off the island’s reef. Landing on the island takes a well-skilled pilot as the airstrip is no more than a dirt path.

Flores Island

Credit: Marco Barone/Shutterstock

Flores is one of the Azores Islands of Portugal. This isle locale is brimming with stunning lagoons, peaceful creeks and lush green hills. Visitors can enjoy the beauty of the outdoors with a hike or bike ride before cooling off in one of the island’s natural swimming pools. Local cuisine has a taste all its own, as the volcanic soil and salty sea combine to give the local produce a unique flavor.

Faroe Islands

Credit: Hyungsoo Ahn/Shutterstock

Located between Iceland and Norway is a collection of remote isles known as “Europe’s Best Kept Secret.” Faroe Islands are officially part of Denmark but don’t brush up on your Danish just yet. These islanders have their own unique language — safe to assume not found on Rosetta Stone. This landmass is peppered with grassy roof-topped buildings and colorful clapboard houses. There’s no need to sacrifice fine dining as Faroe is home to Kok, a Michelin-starred, 23-seat venue with breathtaking cliffside views. The expert chefs use the sparse ingredients found locally to create their innovative dishes.

Raoul Island

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Raoul Island — halfway between New Zealand and Tonga — is so secluded it’s not even open to the public. Arranging a visit to this remote location is a journey in itself. The only travelers granted access are those chosen to be Raoul Island Rangers. To make the cut, adventurers will spend five days in a remote part of New Zealand participating in a “shakedown.” Those who prove to have what it takes to endure the island’s challenging conditions will spend one year on the island as a ranger. The prize for being one of the chosen few is tackling the island’s overgrown weeds and the promise of some unforgettable snorkeling.


Credit: Martin Sun/Shutterstock

Known as the Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean, this St. Maarten neighbor embodies the true meaning of island hospitality. A warm welcome awaits visitors as they set out for world-renowned diving, a hike on the rainforest trail or relaxing on the sandy beach. Flying in and out of Saba is not for the faint of heart. This tiny island is home to the world’s shortest airstrip, providing an added element of excitement to the adventure.

St. Kilda

Credit: Martin Payne/Shutterstock

Located in the most remote part of the British Isles is an archipelago only accessible by boat. Adventurers making the 2.5-hour sea journey will be privy to one of the most unique island tales. The last of the inhabitants evacuated the island in 1930 due to the challenges of self-sufficiency. The ruins of the abandoned homes give insight to its early dwellers. Each house is adorned with a plaque providing a detailed account of the home’s last residents and the date they set sail for a more civilized existence.

Tristan da Cunha

Credit: Grant Thomas/iStock

If this list of islands seems intriguing but not quite remote enough for your liking then head to Tristan da Cunha. Located between South Africa and Argentina in the middle of the Atlantic, this secluded spot holds the title of The Most Remote Island in the World. This archipelago is made up of six volcanic islands with Edinburgh of the Seven Seas as its principal settlement. The approximately 267 inhabitants use diesel generators for energy as traditional electricity is not available. Getting to Tristan da Cunha is no easy feat. Those wishing to visit will endure a seven-day ocean voyage aboard a South African vessel for the honor of these travel bragging rights.

Is quicksand actually a real thing?



Is quicksand actually a real thing?

You’ve watched cartoon characters sink into it, seen depictions of it on the Silver Screen, and may have even heard a tale or two about it, but is quicksand even real? Maybe it’s not something you’ve ever considered, but there is a real possibility that the notion of quicksand was a fictional creation. Even if you’ve heard stories about run-ins with it, have you ever met somebody who’s actually come face to face with quicksand?

Since it’s likely a question that’s been burning a hole in your mind, it seems appropriate to answer the question once and for all: Is quicksand a real thing?

Does quicksand exist?

Park ranger waist deep in quicksand
Credit: NPS/ Jacob W. FrankPublic Domain

The short answer is: yes. While it may sound like the creation of a science-fiction writer, quicksand is absolutely real. Just as depicted in the movies, quicksand appears to have a solid state, but when touched, turns into a gelatinous liquid that can trap a person. Though it has the word “sand” in its name, quicksand is not just an unstable patch of solid granules. It’s a non-Newtonian liquid, meaning it doesn’t follow the characteristics of Newton’s Law of Viscosity.

While composed of sand, quicksand’s qualities are due to the 30% to 70% of air found between each grain. There is another component to the unusual formation, however, that helps give it that thick consistency.

It’s more than just sand

Water running through a landscape of sand
Credit: ChiccoDodi FC/ iStock

Along with the air-filled space, quicksand is comprised of a third component — water. Since there is such a space between the grains of sand, when there is a vibration or added weight, they become unstable. With these disturbances, water separates from the grains, causing the liquid-like consistency. As it loses viscosity, the patch of quicksand becomes unable to hold up any weight. Anything that crosses it, from a small animal to a human, will start to sink.

Quicksand is often depicted as a death trap, but with the proper reaction, getting caught in it is not a dooming scenario.

Escaping quicksand

Photo of three people hiking in a desert and river landscape
Credit: Pierce Martin/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

When a living organism gets caught in quicksand, its gut reaction is panic. Even humans, who can more readily process what’s happening to them, will struggle against the downward force of sinking.

Rather than struggle, a victim of quicksand should stick to calm movements. The slower they move, the less viscous the quicksand will get. With the sinking slowed, rather than try to pull themselves out, the individual should spread their arms and legs to increase surface area. An increased surface area will cause them to float.

Where does quicksand form?

Image of water collecting on sand
Credit: Wendy Love/ iStock

Though it may sound scary, quicksand isn’t commonplace all over the world. Patches of quicksand are found near springs and riverbanks, where the motion of the water causes additional space between the grains of sand.

Desert environments can also experience quicksand, though these instances aren’t caused by water. Instead, it’s the downward motion of the wind near sand dunes that create space, leading to the viscous terrain.

A rare occurrence in nature

Young kid playing in quicksand at the beach
Credit: pio3/ Shutterstock

While not quite the same as it’s depicted in fictional stories, quicksand does exist, though your chances of coming across a patch are incredibly low. For now, you can marvel at the oddities of quicksand from afar, popping on the occasional TV series or movie that depicts the phenomenon. At least now you can quell that lingering worry in the back of your mind that a random patch of sand may swallow you into the Earth.

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4 Things You (Probably) Never Knew About the Leaning Tower of Pisa



4 Things You Never Knew About the Leaning Tower of Pisa

A historical site turned Instagram photo background, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a sight to behold, but it is often relegated to being the butt of an age-old joke. Is that person really holding up the tilting tower? Completed in 1372, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has a storied history that’s painted all over its lopsided construction.

While it’s not difficult to determine something went wrong during its build, there are far more fascinating facts about the Italian tower.

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Benito Mussolini Was Ashamed of the Tower

Photo of the leaning tower of Pisa and a small statue
Credit: Patryk Kosmider/ Shutterstock.com

When Mussolini took over Italy and aimed to strengthen the presence of fascism, he targeted different aspects of the country. As odd as it may seem, among them was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. According to Mussolini, the tower wasn’t the best symbol for Fascist Italy. Ashamed of the historic structure, he ordered that the tilt be reversed.

Under Mussolini’s orders, engineers drilled into the foundation. Approximately 200 tons of concrete was poured into each hole in an attempt to correct the slant. Once the concrete was in place, Mussolini saw a change in the tilt, but not the one he sought. The Leaning Tower of Pisa fell another few inches south, increasing the tilt.

It’s Not the Only Leaning Tower

Photo of a tall, old, stone clocktower
Credit: KrimKate/ Shutterstock.com

Though the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the most well-known structure, it’s far from the only tower built on unstable ground. There are 10 leaning towers in Italy, including Campanile of San Nicola, Campanile of San Michele degli Scalzi, and others in Venice, Bologna, Caorle, Burano, and Rome.

Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, many of them were built on ground that can’t sustain the weight of the structure. The Campanile of San Martino, Santo Stefano, Basilica di San Pietro di Castello, and San Giorgio were constructed on the soft grounds of Venice.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is joined by two additional leaning towers — Campanile of San Michele degli Scalzi and Campanile of San Nicola.

The Lean Direction Has Changed Over Time

Photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Credit: Guzel Studio/ Shutterstock.com

It may seem implausible, but the Leaning Tower of Pisa hasn’t always tilted toward the south. In attempts to completely fix the original slant, engineers have frequently implemented different techniques. Original attempts were thwarted by the center of gravity, and recent plans led to the Leaning Tower of Pisa switching which side it leaned toward.

In 1995, one method involved freezing and use of steel cables. The result was an increased lean. While some attempts have led to worse results, crews have been able to correct the tilt marginally. Ultimately, engineers have been able to return it to the degree of tilt it was at in 1838.

It Took 200 Years to Built

Photo of the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in front of a beautiful sunset
Credit: pisaphotography/ Shutterstock.com

On August 14, 1173, construction on the Leaning Tower of Pisa began. What could have been a relatively simple job was exacerbated by the ground of Pisa. The soft soil led to immediate issues as the tower started to lean well before construction was close to being completed. Marshy terrain proved unable to sustain the weight of the tower, and as building continued, the tower started to sport its signature tilt.

When builders realized the structure was tilting, they stopped building. For almost 100 years, the unfinished tower was abandoned. Construction stopped in 1178 and didn’t pick up again until 1272, leaving nearly a century-long gap. The tower was finally finished in 1372.

Will the Tower Ever Fall?

Photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Credit: Lukiyanova Natalia frenta/ Shutterstock.com

Considering the degree of the tilt, it’s inevitable that the Leaning Tower of Pisa will collapse without proper intervention. For now, we get to enjoy it in all of its tilted glory, but according to Livescience, experts believe the tower has only another 200 years left, barring accidents with building maintenance or a permanent fix.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a part of Italy, one of many landmarks that tourists flock to in order to capture the perfect gag photo of themselves “lifting” the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

4 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About North Carolina



4 Things You Didn’t Know About North Carolina

When you think of the great state of North Carolina, chances are you think of its beautiful coastline, bustling cities, and the majestic Blue Ridge mountains.

But there’s even more to discover in this welcoming southern state, from iconic regional foods to incredible mansions and chilling historical mysteries.

Want to learn more? Here are four things you didn’t know about North Carolina.

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The Birthplace Of Both Pepsi And Krispy Kreme

Photo of the Pepsi logo on a building
Credit: FotograFFF/ Shutterstock.com

Did somebody say sugar rush? North Carolina is the birthplace of not one but two internationally beloved sugary treats: Pepsi-Cola and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

Pepsi-Cola: In 1893, a drugstore owner named Caleb Davis Bradham created what he called “Brad’s Drink,” a mixture of sugar, water, caramel, lemon oil, nutmeg, and other flavorings. It became a local favorite. The drink was later rebranded “Pepsi-Cola” and went on to become an international sensation.

Krispy Kreme: In 1933, an entrepreneur named Vernon Rudolph purchased a top-secret doughnut recipe from a New Orleans chef and set out to make some dough (pun intended). He took his recipe on the road and opened the first Krispy Kreme in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in 1937.

The business grew, and automating processes allowed for greater production. The business expanded, first through the Carolinas, then throughout the United States. Today, they operate locations in a variety of different countries.

America’s Biggest Mansion

Photo of a large, elaborate mansion
Credit: ZakZeinert/ Shutterstock.com

Did you know that the largest home in the U.S. is located in North Carolina? Nestled in the green, mountainous region of Asheville, the regal Biltmore Estate was built in the 1800’s by George Vanderbilt II, an heir of the famous Vanderbilt railroad family.

The incredible estate boasts a gorgeous house with 255 rooms, grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (who also co-designed New York’s Central Park along with Calvert Vaux), and today, it even has a winery.

Today, the Biltmore Estate is no longer a private residence. It’s operated as a popular attraction, with guided tours, walking paths, restaurants, and regular events.

Its First Settlers Disappeared Mysteriously

Photo of hills leading to a beach next to the ocean
Credit: Hakan Ozturk/ Shutterstock.com

In 1587, the first English colony, Roanoke Island, was established just off the coast of what is today North Carolina. The original settlers included a group of 117 individuals, including men, women, and children.

Soon after it was established, the colony’s leader took a trip back to Britain for supplies. But what was supposed to be a short trip became extended when war broke out, and he didn’t return for three years.

When he did get back in August of 1590, things had taken a very creepy turn. All of the settlers were gone. There were no traces of the colony, its inhabitants, or what might have happened.

The only clue? The seemingly meaningless word “croatan” carved into a wooden post. To this day, this mystery has historians stumped.

The Tallest Brick Lighthouse in the United States

Photo of a black and white striped lighthouse
Credit: Stephen B. Goodwin/ Shutterstock.com

While North Carolina isn’t typically associated with tall structures, it is, in fact, home to America’s tallest brick lighthouse. Completed in the early 1800’s, the black and white Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is an iconic figure for the state and often appears on the cover of trip guides and on postcards.

What you can’t tell from photos, though, is just how massive the lighthouse is: It’s 210 feet (about 19 stories) tall and offers a range of 24 nautical miles.

Sweet Carolina!

Photo of a busy big city at night
Credit: ESB Professional/ Shutterstock.com

North Carolina is home to plenty of beautiful nature, interesting history, and a lot of cool areas to visit. With its iconic architecture, legendary snack foods, and even some historical mystery and intrigue, it’s well worth your time to visit the Tar Heel State to explore!

5 Forgotten Airlines Everyone Used to Love



5 Forgotten Airlines Everyone Used to Love

Today, everyone looks for the best airline with the most reasonable price. Searches start with the main companies: United Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, among others. What travelers may not know, however, is that many of these popular airlines are descendants of several great airlines that came before. Here are five forgotten airlines everyone used to love.

Pan American World Airways (Pan Am)

Credit: @pan.am

Pan American World Airways (Pan Am, as it is more commonly known) is not just the title of a fictional television series starring Christina Ricci. Pan Am is one of the most adored airlines of all time. Founded in 1927, it was a pioneer in the aviation industry, bringing popularity to jumbo jets and other aircrafts when no one else in the industry was really using them yet. It was also the first airline to begin using computerized systems for flight booking and reservation management. This airline was so beloved that, after it closed up shop in 1991, the Pan Am Historical Foundation was created, and it’s entirely devoted to archiving news about Pan Am and its historical significance.

Trans World Airlines (TWA)

Credit: Markus Schmal/Shutterstock.com

Trans World Airlines (TWA) was born to carry mail in 1920’s. Under the funding of billionaire aviator Howard Hughes, which started in 1939, the airline quickly became much more than that. Deemed “the airline run by flyers,” it released sleek new airplanes (this time for carrying people, not just mail), and was one of the first airlines to receive a jumbo jet. Unfortunately, though, according to USA Today, the airline began to crumble in the ’70’s, and was forced to file for bankruptcy in the ’90’s. In 2001, it was bought out by American Airlines.

Eastern Air Lines

Credit: Markus Mainka/Shutterstock.com

Like Pan Am, Eastern Air Lines was founded in 1927. It was one of the Big Four Airlines in the 1930s, and was led by a World War I flying ace named Eddie Rickenbacker. For much of its run, it was the undisputed leader in flights between New York and Florida, so much so that it was said to hold a monopoly over this area. As time went on, though, more and more problems began to plague the airline, such as debt and labor disputes, until it went out of business in 1991. The airline was so beloved, though, that the 2000s saw many attempts to bring it back to life. The latest attempt was short lived. According to Airways Mag, the new Eastern Air Lines was forced to give up its Air Operator’s Certificate less than two years after restarting.

Cimber Air

Credit: InsectWorld/Shutterstock.com

Created in 1950, this Danish airline was extremely successful and was renowned for its great service. It has been linked with several great airlines that are still in business today, such as Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airlines. In 2008, it was large and powerful enough to absorb parts of a bankrupt airline called Sterling Airlines, but this proved to be its downfall. Just four years later it, too, had to file for bankruptcy, and the run was effectively over. There was an attempt by Scandinavian Airlines to get it going again according to The Local, but this did not pan out either.

Gandalf Airlines

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Gandalf Airlines is perhaps one of the funnest airlines to have been lost to time. This Italian airline, operated just outside of Milan, was created by Luciano Di Fazio, who just so happened to be a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan. He so loved The Lord of the Rings that the Eye of Sauron was emblazoned on the seat covers on every flight, and the theme from The Hobbit was played in every cabin. Unfortunately, though, this airline was short-lived. It opened in 1998, but according to RunwayGirlNetwork.com, it saw a huge decrease in the cities it served starting in 2003, and went bankrupt by 2004. Perhaps one day Frodo can go on a quest to bring it back.

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