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The Weird Week in Review

Drunk Party Steals Airplane

A Soviet-era Antonov-2 plane is missing from the Serov aerodrome near Yekaterinburg, Russia. The privately-owned plane had been rented to monitor forest fires, but is believed to have been boarded by an inebriated group of 13 people, including the local police chief. Officials believe the party wanted to view some waterfalls around 100 kilometers away. Emergency responders are scouring the Urals, an area of 12,000 square kilometers, with six search planes for signs of the aircraft. No flight plan was filed, and passengers are not responding to cell phone calls.

Naked Man Flees Spider

Police in Albion, Illinois, received a number of calls about a streaker Tuesday morning. They responded to the northeast part of town and found the young man in question, who had by then returned to his home and put on shorts. The unnamed man was not streaking as a prank or a statement, but explained he was terrified. He had awakened to find a spider in his bed! Not bothering to dress, he fled the home straight through a glass door and ran down the street naked. He was taken to a hospital for treatment of cuts from the broken door. Police do not suspect alcohol or drugs.

Wombat Blocks Storm Drain

The city of Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, requires that developers make sure the storm drain system is working before building a new subdivision. A survey was recently conducted by remote camera and found a blockage that turned out to be a wombat! Video footage clearly shows the creature, almost exactly the size of the drain pipe, backing away from the camera. Engineering officer Sonia Smith says she's seen rats and mice in the pipes, but this is her first encounter with a sewer-dwelling wombat. She said the wombat will be removed and relocated, and the pipe opening will be blocked to further wombat access.

Student Caught with 35-foot Cheat Sheet

An unnamed high school student in Kazakhstan was expelled from school after he was found attempting to cheat on a college entrance exam. Proctors noticed him fiddling with his clothing before the test. Under his jacket, they found a cheat sheet containing 25,000 potential test answers! The notes were printed onto a scroll of printer paper 35 feet long, wrapped around his body under his clothing. An official noted that the effort put into the scheme would have been better used for learning the material.

Tourists Saved by Calling Pharmacist

It's not easy to look up a phone number in a foreign country, especially in a panicked situation. When the tide rolled in and surrounded Italian tourists Oberdan and Patrizia Cosimi on a rocky shore in Devon, England, they could not recall the country's emergency number. But the couple found a receipt in a jacket pocket from a pharmacy they had visited a few days before, which contained a phone number. Despite a poor signal, pharmacy employee Pat Askwith figured out they were in trouble and called the coast guard, who rescued the couple and their dog by helicopter. The Cosimis later returned to the shop to thank Askwith for going above and beyond for them.

School Lunch Blogger Denied Photography Rights

Martha Payne, the 9-year-old blogger in Scotland who went viral documenting her school lunches for two months (and who inspired this post), has been shut down by the local council. The blog had caused visible improvement in the quality of the local school lunches, and had raised £2,000 for a food charity. But Martha was called out of class yesterday and told she could no longer take photographs in school because of a newspaper article. Martha protested that she doesn't write newspaper articles. Her father made an inquiry, as the school had supported Martha's efforts, and found that the new rule came from the Argyll and Bute council. No explanation was given for the council's decision. Update: the council has at least temporarily reversed its decision today.

Cat Struck by Car; Hitches Ride

A car traveling at around 100 km/h (62mph) through Roxburgh, New Zealand struck a local cat named Bekkum. The driver was unaware, and continued to the town of Alexandra, 40 kilometers away. There it was discovered that Bekkum was stuck behind the car's license plate! A SPCA volunteer helped to extract the cat by partially dismantling the car. Bekken, surprisingly, was uninjured. His owner, Gaynor Crabbe, says Bekkum has a reputation for hitching rides with unsuspecting drivers, but usually prefers to ride in the car's interior, particularly the back window.

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Animals
Bizarre New Species of Crabs and a Giant Sea Cockroach Discovered in Waters Off Indonesia
One known species of isopod, or "giant sea cockroach"
One known species of isopod, or "giant sea cockroach"
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A crab with green googly eyes, another with "ears" resembling peanuts, and a species of giant sea cockroach are among the dozen new kinds of crustaceans discovered by scientists in the waters off Indonesia, Channel News Asia reports.

These finds are the result of a two-week expedition by Indonesian and Singaporean scientists with the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition (SJADES 2018), which involved exploring deep waters in the Sunda Strait (the waterway separating the islands of Sumatra and Java in Southeast Asia) and the Indian Ocean. Using trawls, dredges, and other tools, researchers brought a huge variety of deep-sea life to the surface—some species for the very first time.

"The world down there is an alien world," Peter Ng, chief scientist of the expedition, told Channel News Asia. "You have waters that go down more than 2000 to 3000 meters [9800 feet], and we do not know … the animal life that's at the bottom."

The giant sea cockroach—technically a giant isopod, also nicknamed a Darth Vader isopod—is a new species in the genus Bathynomus, measuring almost a foot long and found more than 4000 feet deep. The isopods are occasionally seen on the ocean floor, where they scuttle around scavenging for dead fish and other animals. This marked the first time the genus has ever been recorded in Indonesia.

Another find is a spider crab nicknamed Big Ears, though it doesn't actually have ears—its peanut-shaped plates are used to protect the crab's eyes.

More than 800 species were collected during the expedition, accounting for 12,000 individual animals. Researchers say it will take up to two years to study all of them. In addition to the 12 species that are completely new to science, 40 were seen for the first time in Indonesia. Creatures that the scientists dubbed a chain-saw lobster, an ice cream cone worm, and a cock-eyed squid were among some of the rarer finds.

A "Chain-Saw Lobster"
Nicknamed the "Chain-Saw Lobster," this creature is a rare blind lobster, found only in the deep seas.

Researchers took to the giant sea cockroach quickly, with some of the crew members reportedly calling it “cute” and cradling it like a baby. Check out Channel News Asia Insider's video below for more insight into their creepy finds.

[h/t Channel News Asia]

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Weird
The Mysterious Case of the Severed Feet in British Columbia
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While walking on the beach, many people look out for a number of things: Shells, buried treasure, crabs, and dolphins among them. But if you’re on a beach in British Columbia, you might want to keep an eye out for something a little more sinister—about 15 severed feet have washed up on the shores there in the past few years. The latest was found on May 6, wedged in a mass of logs on Gabriola Island, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The feet have been surprising unlucky British Columbians for over a decade. The first appeared back in 2007 on Jedediah Island; it was eventually matched to a deceased man whose family declined to provide additional information. Bizarre, but not particularly alarming—until another one showed up on Gabriola Island less than a month later. More feet followed, and though some were matched to missing persons, most remained anonymous (feet, unfortunately, don’t contain much identifying information). Instead, police focused on the fact that each foot was encased in a running shoe—though sizes, genders, and brands differed.

This seems like a real-life episode of The X-Files, but it turns out there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the severed feet: They’re not really “severed,” which would indicate cutting or slicing, at all. According to scientists who tested the theory, the feet likely belong to suicide, drowning, or plane crash victims. It’s common for decomposing bodies to come apart at the joint, making it natural for the foot to come apart from the leg. But if that’s the case, wouldn’t hands be similarly susceptible to washing up on beaches? Nope, that’s where the shoes come in.

While the rest of the body naturally decomposes in water, feet are surprisingly well protected inside the rubber and fabric of a shoe. The soles can be pretty buoyant, and sometimes air pockets get trapped inside the shoe, making it float to the surface. Most of the “severed” feet have been clad in jogging shoes such as Nikes and Pumas, but at least one case involves a hiking boot. In that instance, the boot (and foot) was matched to a man who went missing while fishing more than 25 years ago. The most recent case also involves a hiking boot.

That leaves the question: Why British Columbia? According to Richard Thompson, an oceanographer with the federal Institute of Ocean Sciences, it’s connected to ocean current. “There’s a lot of recirculation in the region; we’re working here with a semi-enclosed basin. Fraser River, False Creek, Burrard Inlet—all those regions around there are somewhat semi-enclosed. The tidal currents and the winds can keep things that are floating recirculating in the system." Several feet have also been found further south, in Washington state, which shares a network of coastal waterways with British Columbia.

Others aren’t so quick to accept this scientific analysis, however. Criminal lawyer and crime author Michael Slade still wonders if a serial killer is afoot. "We also have to consider that this could be a serial killer," he said. "Somebody who right now is underneath the radar. That has to be on the table."

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