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The Suicide Forest

15 Apr

At the base of Mt. Fuji, Japan, there is a forest called ‘Aokigahara’, which is also known as Jukai (the sea of trees). It is a popular tourist attraction due to the presence of icy caverns; however, it is also a popular destination for something much more disturbing. Aokigahara is one of the most popular suicide destinations in the entire world, second only to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

The forest as seen from a distance. (Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Alpsdake)

The forest as seen from a distance. (Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Alpsdake)

On average, approximately 100 suicides occur every year in the forest. Many of the suicides happen right at the end of the financial year, and most are drug overdoses or hangings. Throughout the forest (and also at its entrances), there are signs written in Japanese and English urging suicidal people to get help and think of their families and other loved ones.

A sign urging visitors to think of their loves ones and seek help. (Source: http://studio360.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/your-life-is-a-precious-gift-from-your-parents/)

A sign urging visitors to think of their loves ones and seek help. (Source: http://studio360.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/your-life-is-a-precious-gift-from-your-parents/)

There is an annual body hunt to recover dead bodies, but it is not uncommon to wander through the forest and come across bones, old clothes, nooses hanging from trees, suicide notes nailed to trees, and sometimes even creepier things. There are dolls nailed upside-down to trees in certain parts of the forest, which is allegedly an expression of hatred for society in the form of a curse. To add to the weirdness of the forest, it is also eerily quiet. This is due to the lack of wildlife and the density of the trees, which blocks the wind.

A place in the forest where a noose was found, along with a bag and cut-up credit cards. (Source: http://lookingforalosea.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/aokigahara-forest-suicide-forest-japan.html)

A place in the forest where a noose was found, along with clothes, a bag, and cut-up credit cards. (Source: http://lookingforalosea.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/aokigahara-forest-suicide-forest-japan.html)

So, how did this awful suicide tradition begin? No one is entirely sure, but many think that a book called ‘Tower of Waves’ may have inspired people to think of Aokigahara as a place for suicides. However, its reputation as a suicide destination predates this novel, and Japanese people have associated the forest with death for a long time. The practice of ‘ubasute’ was allegedly carried out in the forest in the past; this was the practice of taking the elderly or sick into remote areas such as mountains or forests and leaving them to die of exposure or starvation. Thus, many believe that the forest is haunted by the spirits of the dead, and it also has an association with demons in Japanese folklore.

Would you visit this forest, or go camping in it? Any other thoughts? Let us know in a comment below.

To find out more about Aokigahara, watch this documentary:

The Mystery of the Flannan Isles

10 Apr

In the Outer Hebrides (a group of islands near Scotland), there is a small island chain known as the Flannan Isles. There are two main islands in this chain; Eilean Mòr and Eilean Taighe, and from 1895-1899, construction on a lighthouse took place on Eilean Mòr. No permanent residents have lived on the Isles since the lighthouse became automated in 1971. Overall, the island chain would be quite unremarkable if it hadn’t been for the mysterious and still-unexplained event that occurred only one year after construction on the lighthouse was finished.

Location of the Flannan Isles

Location of the Flannan Isles

After it was built, the lighthouse was operated by three men; Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald Macarthur. Late in 1900, crew members of a passing ship noticed that something was amiss. The light was not on, which was especially strange given the poor weather conditions. They reported it to the authorities when they arrived at their destination, and a team was sent to the Flannan Isles to investigate. The team immediately realized that something was wrong when no one was there to greet them. All three of the lighthouse keepers had vanished.

The lighthouse on Eilean Mòr. Credit: Marc Calhoun (geograph.org.uk)

The lighthouse on Eilean Mòr. Credit: Marc Calhoun (geograph.org.uk)

The only other seemingly out-of-place thing was a chair that had been overturned in the lighthouse kitchen. Further investigation of the lighthouse and the island showed extensive storm damage to the west landing on the island, so at first, investigators thought that the men may have been washed away in the storm. However, they had kept logs of their activity right up until the morning that they disappeared (15th December), and the storm damage had apparently occurred sometime before this date.

The men were never seen again, and no bodies ever turned up.

Naturally, this strange occurrence led to wild speculation about what may have happened to the three men. Some alleged that one of the men had murdered the others, and then drowned himself out of guilt. It was also claimed that an enormous sea monster had taken them, while others blamed their disappearance on abduction by foreign spies. Some people also claimed that it was the work of malevolent ghosts, and modern theories mention alien abduction.

Some think that a giant sea monster took the men

Some think that a giant sea monster took the men

After an official investigation, the Northern Lighthouse Board came to the conclusion that the men must have been swept away by a freak wave while they were attempting to secure a box of equipment on the west landing, which was damaged in the previous storm (as recorded in their logs).

A more recent theory claims that a kind of geological formation known as ‘geos’ may have been to blame for the disappearance. A geo is an inlet or cleft in the face of a cliff, caused by wave erosion, and sea caves can form at their heads.

Eilean Mòr has many geos along its coastline, and the west landing of the island is actually situated in a geo. This geo terminates in a sea cave. In stormy weather, water could rush into the cave and explode out again. The theory holds that two of the men may have been securing the box on the west landing, while the other kept watch from the lighthouse. Noticing approaching waves, the watcher raced down to warn his colleagues of the impending danger, knocking a chair over in his haste to get out. Upon getting down to the west landing to warn them, he could have been washed out to sea by the water that exploded out of the sea cave, along with his two colleagues.

An example of a sea cave

An example of a sea cave

A very similar theory claims that one man may have been washed out to sea, and the other ran back to the lighthouse to get help. Upon attempting to rescue the man, both remaining men were washed out to sea by a second freak wave.

So, was the disappearance simply a combination of poor weather and bad luck, or did something far more sinister occur? We do know that when the men disappeared, the weather conditions were very poor, so I think that either one of the freak wave/geo theories would make sense. However, we will probably never know exactly what happened, so the mystery remains open to speculation.

What was the Tunguska Event?

28 Mar

Early in the morning of June 17th, 1908, an enormous explosion rocked a remote Siberian area of Russia known as Krasnoyask Krai. The explosion was so massive that it leveled an entire forest of 80 million trees, and it is estimated that it was more than 1000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. The epicenter of the explosion was in a swamp near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, so the event became known as the Tunguska Event.

Location of the explosion's epicenter in Russia

Location of the explosion’s epicenter in Russia

Luckily, despite the size of the event, it is thought that only one person was killed by the blast (although, not so lucky for the poor man who was killed). This was due to the sheer remoteness of the area that was hit. A lot of people did see it happen, though. Witnesses from areas much farther south claimed that they saw something extremely bright and pale blue moving across the sky, and a few minutes later there was a bright flash accompanied by a thunderous sound. A shockwave, which would have registered at 5.0 on the Richter scale, caused people to be knocked off their feet hundreds of kilometers away.

Fallen trees after the explosion, taken in 1927 by Leonid Kulik's expedition to the area

Fallen trees after the explosion, taken in 1927 by Leonid Kulik’s expedition to the area

So, what actually caused this massive explosion? There are several theories. Some have claimed that it may have been caused by the release of natural gases from the Earth’s crust, and others proposed that the explosion may have been a nuclear one; caused by deuterium in a comet undergoing nuclear fusion as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Another theory claimed that it was caused by a black hole passing through Earth. And, of course, a lot of people have brought up theories involving UFOs and aliens, especially since as the event is referenced in pop-culture quite a lot.

However, the most widely-accepted explanation is that a large meteoroid or comet caused it, exploding just above the Earth’s surface. This would explain the lack of an impact crater in the area. If this is true, then it was the largest impact event on or near the Earth in modern history. Chemical analysis of soils in the region showed that parts of it contained materials of extraterrestrial origin, further supporting this impact theory.

Meteor. Credit: Navicore

Meteor falling to Earth. Credit: Navicore

Despite the fact that the Tunguska Event is still technically unexplained, I would agree that the impact event theory seems to be the most likely. I think it would be even more interesting if there were a more mysterious explanation, though! It’s also very fortunate that it happened in such a remote area, because if it hit a populated area, then the aftermath would have been far worse.

The Devil’s Triangle

27 Mar

Almost everyone knows stories about the Bermuda Triangle; the sea between the three points of Bermuda, Florida, and Puerto Rico which is apparently responsible for the demise of many ships and planes due to ‘mysterious circumstances’. However, hardly anyone has heard of the allegedly equally-dangerous Devil’s Triangle (otherwise known as the Devil’s Sea or the Dragon’s Triangle).

This particular ‘triangle’ has apparently claimed the lives of many people over the years, and stories hold that some supernatural force causes ships to disappear. There have been claims that other paranormal events occur in this region too, like time lapses and electronic malfunction. Some people also believe they have seen UFOs in the area. Also, the ‘Dragon’s Triangle’ name apparently originates from ancient tales of fire-breathing dragons being in the area.

Japanese dragon painting by Ogato Gekko. Credit: Adam Cuerden

Japanese dragon painting by Ogato Gekko. Credit: Adam Cuerden

So, where exactly is the Devil’s Triangle? The location differs depending on who you ask, but it is thought to be somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, anywhere between 100 – 1300 km from Japan. That’s not exactly specific… however, most believe that the Devil’s Triangle is close to the Izu Islands, a chain of islands not too far south of Tokyo.

Map of the Izu Islands

Map of the Izu Islands

I wasn’t able to find any sources as to where the legend first definitively arose, aside from the ancient dragon legends, but a lot of it had to do with a book written by Charles Berlitz, called ‘The Dragon’s Triangle’. In this book, Berlitz claimed that Japan had officially declared the area a danger zone after they lost 700 people from military ships during 1952-1954. The ships apparently vanished into thin air, at which point Berlitz claims the Japanese government sent a research ship with 100 people to investigate. This research vessel promptly vanished too.

Now, this legend would be very spooky… if there were actually any truth to it. The oceans around Japan are known for their seismic and volcanic activity, so disappearances of ships/boats isn’t exactly an abnormal occurrence. The ‘fire-breathing dragons’ of the ancient legends could have just been volcanoes.

Credit: Oliver Spalt

Credit: Oliver Spalt

Also, it seems that Berlitz sensationalized the whole issue, along with simply making stuff up. The research ship, the Kaiyo Maru No. 5, actually only had 31 people aboard, and was found to have been destroyed by a volcanic eruption while it was investigating an underwater volcano. The military vessels that Berlitz referred to were actually just fishing vessels, and he conveniently ignored the fact that hundreds of fishing vessels are lost over the years in all different regions of the Pacific, not just the Izu Islands region.

I love reading about weird and creepy things, so it would be great if the stories surrounding the Devil’s Triangle were true. But, unfortunately, it seems like it is just another story that was made up to entertain people, or perhaps warn them about the real (seismic/volcanic) dangers of the area.

The Mysterious Hinterkaifeck Murders

26 Mar

In Germany, 1922, the murders of six people at the Hinterkaifeck farmstead shocked the nation. This wasn’t just because of the gruesome nature of the case, but also because the case was so incredibly weird, and it remains unsolved to this day.

Here is a photo of how the farm appeared back then (it has since been demolished):

hinterkaifeck

Photo credit to Andreas Biegleder

Now, for some background to the case; the Gruber family, consisting of Andreas and Cäzilia Gruber, their daughter Viktoria, and her two children Cäzilia (7) and Josef (2), and their maid, Maria Baumgartner, lived permanently at Hinterkaifeck, which was situated next to a forest. Maria was new to the farm, having only just arrived that day as a replacement for another maid. Interestingly, the previous maid had left claiming that she thought the farm was haunted.

Whilst no one is certain as to exactly what happened, it appears that on the night of March 31st, 1922, someone managed to lure all of the family members (except Josef and the maid, Maria) into the barn, one by one, and murdered them all with an axe. Horrifyingly, the autopsy showed that young Cäzilia had been alive for quite some time after being attacked, tearing her own hair out as she lay dying in the barn. The killer then went into the house and killed Josef and Maria in their beds.

The family was noticed as missing several days later when none of them had been seen for a few days, and young Cäzilia had not attended school.  Neighbors went to check on them and discovered the bodies. After extensive police investigations, a viable suspect was not found. And, as if the situation wasn’t already horrible enough, it actually gets worse.

Neighbors recalled that just a few days before the murders, Andreas Gruber had mentioned a strange occurrence to them. He claimed that he had found footprints in the snow, leading from the forest’s edge to the house, but there were no footprints leading back. He also thought he had heard strange sounds coming from the attic. A particularly terrifying theory that stems from this is that someone may have sneaked into the house, lived undiscovered up in the attic for a few days, and then come out to murder the house’s occupants. To further add to this theory, in the days that the bodies were certainly lying dead in the barn, neighbors reported that they had seen smoke rising from the chimneys. Also, someone had been feeding the farm’s cattle. So, if someone had done this, it also seemed as if they had stayed for several days after the murders to take care of the place.

This theory leads to many questions.  Was it just one person, or more? Why did this person (or people) want to kill the family? How did they sneak into the house? How did they lure the family into the barn, one by one? Why would they stay for several days later, and take care of the farm?

Overall, taking these questions into account, the case of the Hinterkaifeck murders is terrifying to comprehend, and it remains as one of Germany’s most mysterious unsolved cases. It is unlikely that we will ever really know what happened, which seems to make it even scarier.

For more reading on this case, check out http://armchairdetective.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/hinterkaifeck/

The Disappearance of Harold Holt

26 Mar

Harold Holt was the Prime Minister of Australia for nearly two years from January of 1966, up until his disappearance in December of 1967.

The strange thing about Holt’s disappearance is that his body was never recovered, and this has led to different theories surrounding what actually happened.

Harold Holt, the 17th Prime Minister of Australia. Photo taken during the 1966 elections.

Harold Holt, the 17th Prime Minister of Australia. Photo taken during the 1966 elections.

First of all, what do we know?

On Sunday the 17th of December, 1967, Holt and a group of friends, along with two bodyguards, made a trip from Melbourne to Port Phillip Heads to watch part of a solo circumnavigation of the globe, by Alec Rose in his yacht the ‘Lively Lady’. Around midday, the party made their way to Cheviot Beach, which lies on the eastern arm of Port Phillip Bay. This was one of Holt’s favorite swimming and snorkeling locations despite its reputation for strong rips and currents. Holt was described by his biographer Tom Frame as having “incredible powers of endurance underwater”, most likely due to Holt’s experience as a scuba diver. Despite pleas from the rest of the party, Holt made his way into the water. Not long after entering the water, the party lost sight of Holt. His friends raised the alarm, and a search began with a large group of police, Royal Australian Navy divers, helicopters from the Royal Australian Airforce, army personnel and local volunteers.

Two days later, on the 19th of December, the Australian Government made an announcement that Harold Holt was presumed dead. From here on in is where the theories start.

For the most part, it is generally accepted that Holt fell victim to the strong currents and rips in the area and his body was dragged out to sea before anyone could notice. There are no real ‘loose ends’ with this theory. Holt had recently suffered a flare up of a recurring shoulder injury that caused him a lot of pain. It is quite likely that he was not up to his usual levels of fitness and grew tired fighting the currents or rips. The main issue people have with this idea is that with such a large scale search, it is surprising that his body was not recovered.

Other theories start to speculate on the idea that he committed suicide. This theory has been rejected by  Holt’s own son Sam, his biographer Tom Frame (mentioned before), and  Malcolm Fraser, Holt’s Cabinet Minister at the time. This theory arose after reports that Holt was suffering from depression prior to his disappearance.

Some theories started bordering on conspiracy. There is the idea that he faked his own death to run away with a mistress,  was abducted by a UFO, or kidnapped/rescued by a Chinese submarine, depending on whether or not you think he was a Chinese spy.

Although it seems most likely that the strong rips and currents were  to blame for Holt’s disappearance, the idea that this was an Australian Prime Minister who may have been involved with something more sinister has piqued the curiosity of imaginative minds for many years. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that we will ever know exactly what happened in this tragic case.

Dudley Town

24 Mar

In a forested area near Cornwall, a small town located in the picturesque Litchfield County, Connecticut, there is an abandoned old settlement known to locals as Dudley Town. Although it was never officially considered to be a town, several families lived there in the past. The area was first settled by a Thomas Griffis in the 1740’s, closely followed by several members of the Dudley family, whom the settlement was named for.  Locals claim that Dudley Town is now one of the most haunted abandoned towns in all of New England. Furthermore, it is actually illegal to visit the place, which adds to the mysteriousness of the case.

Location of Dudley Town in Connecticut

Location of Dudley Town in Connecticut

So, what’s with all the legends and secrecy surrounding Dudley Town? It all began when the town was completely abandoned by 1899, and the surrounding forest started to creep back in, leaving the settlement in ruins. Local legend has it that the inhabitants succumbed to some type of ‘madness’, while others died horrible, violent deaths. Also, according to hikers who have visited the place, the woods around the settlement are allegedly eerily silent, with birds and animals refusing to go anywhere near it. Hikers have also reported seeing strange orbs floating around the area.

The road to Dudley Town now

The road to Dudley Town now – By Jeff Belanger

While all of this makes for a good ghost story, historical researchers have found that most accounts of Dudley Town’s ‘haunting’ were simply made up for entertainment. Other less-imaginative hikers have claimed that the forest near the area is perfectly normal, and there are plenty of birds and other wildlife around. The land was most likely abandoned due to the land’s poor location and soil fertility compared with areas much further west. But, why is it illegal to visit the site?

Some of the Dudley Town ruins

Some of the Dudley Town ruins

Trespassers are heavily fined if they are discovered by the police that patrol the area. This makes it seem even more mysterious; why go to so much effort to guard an abandoned town? What are they hiding? The answer is actually simple enough. The land where the settlement ruins stand is now private property belonging to the Dark Entry Forest Association, who have planted many trees in an attempt to create a necessary ecosystem for wildlife, and do not want visitors encroaching on the land and disturbing this ecosystem.

As I said before, the idea that Dudley Town is haunted, with all its previous occupants cursed by some evil spirits, makes for a very good creepy story for people to tell others around a campfire. While there isn’t really any truth to it, I would certainly still like to be able to visit it myself… just to make sure.

Angikuni Lake

23 Mar

The remote Angikuni Lake lies in Canada’s northernmost territory, Nunavut, and has been the subject of urban legends and UFO conspiracy theories for quite some time. This is because for many years, it was thought to be the site of an unexplained disappearance. Not just one person disappeared, though; apparently, an entire Inuit village vanished.

Location Of Angikuni Lake in Canada

Location Of Angikuni Lake in Canada

The mystery began in the early 1930’s, when a fur trapper named Joe Labelle alleged that he often visited the village, but had gone back to find that everyone was gone. He claimed that it didn’t seem as if they had all just packed up and left, and that there was evidence at the site that purportedly showed how something awful must have occurred, causing the villagers to leave as fast as they could. This ‘evidence’ included his claim that there was still food left in pots over fires, and unfinished garments left with the needle and thread still attached. Several sled-dogs were apparently dead, and a grave was said to have been dug up. Furthermore, around the same time, another trapper named Arnald Laurent claimed that he and his son had observed a strange light crossing the sky, heading towards Angikuni Lake (they may well have seen something, but I think it was probably just a shooting star).

Shooting star. Credit: Navicore

However, unfortunately for all the conspiracy theorists, this is yet another mystery that has been more or less solved. Records from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police showed that at the time (1931), they considered the case to be… well, not actually a case at all. Investigations showed that there were some semi-permanent dwellings in the area that a group of Inuit peoples used seasonally, abandoning them for other areas at certain times of the year. There was no evidence that anyone had left abruptly, as claimed, but it is easy to see why the fur trapper may have been alarmed by the whole occurrence, as in his culture, people generally didn’t pack up and leave when the seasons changed. The other seemingly strange aspects of the story (eg. the dug-up grave) were probably the result of embellished re-tellings of the story over the years. Doubts have even been raised as to whether Joe Labelle had even been to the area.

So, sorry to all the mystery buffs out there, but it seems as if Angikuni Lake is yet another case that can be safely considered as an exaggerated story with a decent explanation.

For more information, check out Robert Columbo’s book ‘Mysterious Canada: strange sights, extraordinary events, and peculiar places’.  

The Bloop – No Longer a Mystery

23 Mar

The infamously-named ‘Bloop’ refers to to an ultra-low frequency underwater sound that was detected in 1997, by the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The sound was traced to the southern Pacific Ocean and was extremely powerful; far too loud to be a blue whale or some such other large ocean creature that we know of.

 bloop

For several years, it was considered to be one of the strangest unexplained underwater mysteries in the world, because no one knew what it was. At first, scientists attributed it to the sound of ‘ice calving’, a process that involves enormous chunks of ice breaking away from glaciers or other icy shelves. However, the sound was considered to be more likely to have originated from an animal, because its frequency was more similar to those of other marine animals, only much louder.

So, was it a mistake on the hydrophone (the machine used to monitor marine sounds)? Or, was it indicative of some terrifyingly large monster lurking the depths of the ocean, far larger than we could imagine?

Unfortunately for mystery-lovers, it was neither. Scientists later found that the sound was coming from something called ‘icequakes’; a seismic event caused by movement of glaciers or icebergs. As much as I would have liked to believe that Cthulu was roaming the oceans and finally been recorded, it seems that this mystery can be firmly categorised as solved. You can listen to ‘The Bloop’ on the Wikipedia entry here.

What really happened at Dyatlov Pass?

22 Mar

In terms of unexplained incidents throughout history, the ‘Dyatlov Pass Incident’ is probably one of the scariest. To this day, no one is entirely sure exactly what happened that fateful night, but there are a few theories. So, for those who haven’t heard of it, what exactly was the Dyatlov Pass Incident?

In February 1959, ten Russian ski hikers, most of them university students, decided to trek across the northern Ural Mountains together. They were led by Igor Dyatlov (the mountain pass in question is now named after him). One of the hikers had to return home due to illness, and it was lucky that he did, because he would be the only group member to make it home alive. The group was expected to make contact with their sports club once they had returned to Vizhai, a far-north Russian town. When nothing was heard from them for an extended period of time, friends and relatives began to worry, and a rescue operation consisting of students and teachers was dispatched. Not long after that, the police and military became involved. On February 26th, the hiker’s tent was discovered on the eastern shoulder of a mountain, now ominously known as Kholat Syakhl (Mountain of the Dead).

The hiker's tent as it appeared on the day it was found - 26th February, 1959

The hiker’s tent as it appeared on the day it was found – 26th February, 1959

The tent appeared to have been cut open from the inside, and all the hiker’s belongings were still in it, including their shoes. This probably meant that something had caused them to flee in the middle of the night, without even stopping to put their footwear on despite the intense cold. Footprints, made by sets of both barefoot and sock-clad feet were found, and these footprints headed down the mountain to the other side of the pass, where there was a forested area. Unfortunately, after a short distance the footprint trail was covered in too much snow to be of any more use.

On the edge of the forest, the rescue operation found evidence of a campfire, along with the bodies of two of the hikers. They were barefoot and clad in only their underwear. Not far from these bodies, three more bodies were found, and all looked as if they had been heading back towards the camp. The other four hiker’s bodies were not found for several more weeks, as they were buried under a few metres of snow in a nearby ravine. They were dressed in more clothes than the others, and it looked like they had taken clothes from the previous five after they had died, in an attempt to keep themselves warm.

Medical inquests found that six of the hikers had died of hypothermia, and the other three had sustained fatal injuries; one had a crushed skull and the other two had chest fractures. The chest fractures were said to have been caused by some kind of massive pressure, akin to the force generated by a car accident. Strangely, one of them was also missing a tongue. Whilst it was initially suspected that they may have been killed by local indigenous Mansi people, there was no evidence of any other people having been in the area at the time. Along with this, the medical report claimed that humans couldn’t possibly cause the kind of damage seen on the victims, stating instead that the hikers had died from a ‘compelling natural force’.

There were other more controversial claims about the case:

1.)    Apparently, forensic tests also showed high levels of radioactive contamination on the hiker’s clothing.

2.)    An attendee at the hiker’s funerals stated that their skin seemed to have a ‘deep tan’

3.)    Some people who had also been hiking in the area came forward to claim that on the night that the incident occurred, they saw orange glowing spheres in the sky (later found to be missile launches)

4.)    Others claimed that there was a big military accident cover-up going on, as evidenced by the large amount of scrap metal in the area.

5.)    The reports on the incident were allegedly hidden by the government and revealed only in the 1990’s, with parts still hidden.

These more controversial claims have generally been dismissed; however, the actual cause of the incident is still unknown. Many people have posited the theory that an avalanche was responsible. This makes a lot of sense; the hikers may have been awoken by the sound of an approaching avalanche, cut the tent open and ran as fast as they could, not even bothering to take shoes or clothes with them in their hurry to escape. Being hit by an avalanche could also explain the massive force exerted on the three hikers who sustained fatal physical injuries, and even the missing tongue. However, an avalanche would probably have covered the footprints leading away from the tent, but they were still highly visible. There was also no avalanche damage seen in the area.

avalanche

Avalanche – Courtesy of Scientif38

Thus, no one is entirely sure what happened to these poor hikers. I think that what may have occurred is this: they were all asleep, and awoken by the sound of the missile launches or perhaps a plane passing overhead. Sleepily mistaking the sound for the booming of an impending avalanche, they cut the tent open and raced away as quickly as they could. Once they realized that there was no avalanche, they started to make their way back to their camp, but by this stage six had perished from hypothermia due to the exposure to the freezing elements. This explains why three of the bodies were found in various stages of making their way back to the tent. The other four took their clothes to keep warm, and ended up falling into the ravine that they were later found in. The heavy fall could explain the bodily trauma. As for the missing tongue, it’s possible that an animal could have scavenged it, especially seeing as the bodies were lying in the open for quite some time before being discovered.

Of course, this is just my speculation. For all I know, some other terrifying ‘compelling force’ may have scared the hikers into running away in the middle of the night, and this ‘force’ may have been responsible for the massive trauma found on three of the bodies.

So, did something sinister cause this incident, or is there a logical explanation? Anyone with their own ideas or theories is welcome to comment below. For more information and some (quite gruesome) photos associated with the incident, check out http://www.ermaktravel.com/Europe/Russia/Cholat-%20Syachil/Kholat%20Syakhl.htm

The Mystery of Bouvet Island

22 Mar
Picture showing the west coast of Bouvet Island.Credit to François Guerraz

Picture showing the west coast of Bouvet Island.
Credit to François Guerraz

The freezing subantarctic Bouvet Island is literally in the middle of nowhere; located in the South Atlantic Ocean, it is known for being the most remote island in the entire world. A Norwegian dependency, it is a very small, uninhabited island, and is now classified as a nature reserve after a weather station operated on it for a few months during 1978 and 1979. Aside from its unfathomable isolation, there doesn’t seem to be anything all that special about this island at first glance.

In 1964, British Lieutenant Commander Allan Crawford and a team were sent to Bouvet Island by helicopter, to research a new piece of land that had popped up on the island due to volcanic activity. Here’s where it gets a bit weird. When they arrived, they found something very unusual. On this new patch of land, which had only been there for around ten years, the team came across an abandoned lifeboat, floating in a lagoon. The oars were on the shore, along with a copper tank.  There were no signs of any people or bodies, and the boat was unmarked and thus unidentifiable as belonging to anyone in particular. Unfortunately, the team did not have much time to look around, but before they left they snapped this photo:

Picture taken of the abandoned lifeboat

So, where did the boat come from? It’s possible that it came from a ship in distress, but that theory has been seen as doubtful because of the sheer remoteness, minuscule size and lack of visibility of the island due to the harsh weather. Even if it was a shipwreck victim, where did they go? As mentioned previously, there were no signs that anyone had tried to camp near the lifeboat, or attempted to use it as a shelter. It’s also possible that it just happened to wash up near the island, coming to rest in the lagoon after floating in from a shipwreck hundreds of miles away, but this doesn’t explain the oars and other equipment on the shore.

From here, the mystery deepens. Another expedition to the island a couple of years later found no traces of the boat, the oars or the copper tank. Did the owner of the boat come back to fetch it? This seems unlikely, again due to the general remoteness of the island, coupled with the fact that retrieving a lifeboat would mean lifting it out with a helicopter or dragging it back out to sea and placing it on a ship; both just seem like way too much effort to go to for something as insignificant as a lifeboat.The whole thing is very mysterious, and quite creepy to think about. I have two theories:

  1. The lifeboat did belong to a shipwreck victim who had simply happened to come across the island by pure chance. Landing on the shore, he left the boat (which was obviously too heavy to carry around) and went to look for some kind of food and water sources. The severe climate may have been too much for him to handle, and he could have collapsed and died elsewhere on the island whilst doing this. As stated above, the team that found the boat didn’t have time to search much further than the shore where the boat was, so this seems like a logical explanation. There are still several questions remaining, though. Were there any shipwrecks in the general vicinity of the island at the time? If so, why didn’t anyone come forward to claim the boat and say it was from their ship? Where did the boat disappear to? Maybe the boat somehow floated back out to sea, or simply sank into the lagoon. Unfortunately, there is no real way of knowing.
  2. A larger ship was in the area on an expedition, and sent a team with a couple of smaller boats to land on the shore. When they landed, they noticed that one of the boats was slightly damaged, and the team all headed back on the good boat, got back on the ship and left, after exploring the island. This would explain why there were no signs of any camping activity or human remains. As the team who found the boat in 1964 spent very little time on the island, perhaps they didn’t notice the boat was slightly damaged. This still doesn’t explain where the boat disappeared to, though, and again, if this theory is correct, why didn’t anyone come forward to say that it was their boat?

Either way, the mystery of the boat on Bouvet Island remains unsolved. I doubt anyone will ever know the exact reason behind it, but anyone with other theories is welcome to list them in the comments below.

For more in-depth information on this topic, please see http://allkindsofhistory.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/an-abandoned-lifeboat-at-worlds-end/.

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