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What Those Chimes You Hear on Airplanes Really Mean

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If you don’t pop in your noise-canceling headphones the moment you take your seat on a flight, you’ll eventually hear a familiar sound: a “ping,” used by the crew to communicate with passengers. That non-threatening sound signals when you should stay seated and when you’re free to get up, for example. But sometimes those sounds aren’t meant for the customers. As People reports, airline crews use the chimes as a Morse code of sorts to alert each other to issues big and small.

Qantas Airways shared the code used on their flights in a blog post last year. The high-low “ding-dong” chime that can be heard ringing throughout the cabin is the most common way staff in different parts of the plane get each other’s attention. According to Qantas, this sound is the “ringtone of a crew phone from one galley or section to another.” These calls are usually made for non-pressing matters, like checking to see what the pretzel situation is like in another galley when one area runs out.

There’s also the triple low chime, which is reserved for priority messages from the captain or crew. This can be used to convey possible turbulence, in which case the flight attendants have time to secure their snack carts before an official announcement is made.

While this system is standard across Qantas Airways, it varies from airline to airline. Retired U.S. Airways captain John Cox shared his own insider information in a blog post for USA Today. In his experience, two chimes indicate the plane is approaching 10,000 feet, while three or more chimes signal either turbulence or a sick passenger in need of medical attention. One chime can also communicate bumpy skies, but it’s more commonly used by plane captains to ask for a coffee refill.

Check out more behind-the-scenes secrets from flight attendants here.

[h/t People]

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The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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This 1940 Film on Road Maps Will Make You Appreciate Map Apps Like Never Before
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images
Douglas Grundy, Three Lions/Getty Images

In the modern era, we take for granted having constantly updated, largely accurate maps of just about every road in the world at our fingertips. If you need to find your way through a city or across a country, Google Maps has your back. You no longer have to go out and buy a paper map.

But to appreciate just what a monstrous task making road maps and keeping them updated was in decades past, take a look at this vintage short film, "Caught Mapping," spotted at the Internet Archive by National Geographic.

The 1940 film, produced by the educational and promotional company Jam Handy Organization (which created films for corporations like Chevrolet), spotlights the difficult task of producing and revising maps to keep up with new road construction and repair.

The film is a major booster of the mapmaking industry, and those involved in it come off as near-miracle workers. The process of updating maps involved sending scouts out into the field to drive along every road and note conditions, compare the roads against topographical maps, and confirm mileage figures. Then, those scouts reported back to the draughtsmen responsible for producing revised maps every two weeks. The draughtsmen updated the data on road closures and other changes.

Once those maps were printed, they were "ready to give folks a good steer," as the film's narrator puts it, quietly determining the success of any road trip in the country.

"Presto! and right at their fingertips, modern motorists can have [information] on any road they wish to take." A modern marvel, really.

[h/t National Geographic]

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