Atlas Obscura

New wonders and curiosities added to the Atlas.

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Patsy Ann Statue in Juneau, Alaska

On the cruise ship dock in Juneau, Alaska stands the bronze likeness of a Bull Terrier named Patsy Ann. The dog is seated and gazes towards the Gastineau Channel as the incoming ships dock. The statue sits where, for over a decade, Patsy Ann greeted all passengers disembarking onto the Juneau quay and achieved the honorific of the city’s “Official Greeter.” ...

Bramble Bank Cricket Pitch in England

The Bramble Bank is a triangular sandbar located in the center of the Solent between Calshot in mainland Hampshire, England, and Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Through most of the year, the Bramble forms a patch of unusually shallow water, posing a perilous threat to the sea traffic using the busy strait. Once a year, however, it rises from the depths...

The Ancient Art of Harvesting Fruit in the Desert

Noland Johnson aims his kuipad, reaching the 20-foot pole made of sun-bleached saguaro cactus ribs that bends under its own weight. His target is also a saguaro, this one living and rising some two stories into the desert sky. He slides the sharp tip of the kuipad behind one of the cactus’s arms, which is crowned with bulbous fruit. Oval and plump,...

Airavatesvara Temple’s Optical Illusion in Kumbakonam, India

The Airavatesvara Temple is one of the three Great Living Chola Temples, 11th- and 12th-century Hindu temples constructed during the 1,500-year Chola dynasty in modern-day southern India’s state of Tamil Nadu. Located in Darasuram, the Airavatesvara Temple was built by King Rajaraja Chola II. After more than 850 years, it remains a key surviving example...

Salt Street Watchmaker in Madrid, Spain

A nameless watchmaker keeps an eye on Madrid’s Calle de la Sal (Salt Street), less than a block from the Plaza Mayor. He's only sort-of-nameless. People call him the Salt Street Watchmaker. He’s an automaton, perched on a balcony over an old clock and watch store with a carillon, Antigua Relojeria. He’s a become a favorite character of locals and...

The Rise and Fall of North Carolina's National Hollerin' Contest

In the summer of 1952, a young graduate student named Ray B. Browne left the University of California, Los Angeles, to conduct folkloric research in rural Alabama. Farmers there told Browne that a few decades earlier, you couldn't stand outside your barn without hearing half a dozen farmers hollerin' at each other across the fields. Browne, who later...

La Fábrica de Luz (Light factory-Energy Museum) in Ponferrada, Spain

This museum is located in an old power plant at the epicenter of an important coal-mining area that operated between 1920 and 1971. It was eventually replaced by a new power plant known as Compostilla I and later Compostilla II. The plant was eventually abandoned, although it remains an important relic of Spanish industrial heritage. The current museum,...

Salisbury Historic Swing-Bridge in Bainham, New Zealand

In 1887, after much lobbying by colonial settlers, a bridge was completed across the Aorere River, at the northern end of the South Island. From the start, the bridge was controversial because it was only a footbridge, with a maximum capacity of 220 pounds, even though it was supposed to allow further access for mining in the area.  The original bridge...

The Climate Isn't Just Worsening Wildfires, It Can Hobble Forests' Ability to Recover

The majestic forests of the American West tower with iconic trees that hold decades, even centuries, of history in their heights and rings. But young, fledgling trees also tell significant stories about climate and the potential for forests to bounce back following wildfires, such as the ones that have afflicted the West with increasing intensity over...

The Saga of Midori Naka

Among the various items in the collection of Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine are two glass specimen jars, each maybe six inches tall, and each filled with a clear liquid and an amorphous brown blob that one might at first mistake for a crumpled grocery bag. They are all that remain of stage actress Midori...

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