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AFP/Getty Images

The Time Winston Churchill Went Skinny-Dipping With a Shark

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

In the winter of 1941-42, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill embarked on a diplomatic mission to North America, which included a widely-acclaimed address given to the U.S. Congress on December 26. But as Churchill’s lengthy visit wore on, he grew understandably exhausted and decided a break was in order. Looking to get away from it all, the “British Bulldog” flew down to a private villa in Palm Beach, Florida that January for a brief vacation, during which a very strange incident occurred.

Shortly after his arrival, Churchill chose to go for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean ... after adamantly refusing to put on a pair of swim trunks. According to one witness, he looked “like a huge, well-adjusted, and slightly over-bottled baby.” Though no civilians were in sight, longtime bodyguard Walter Thompson begged Churchill to reconsider, saying “You could be seen through [spyglasses], sir.” “If they are that much interested,” the Prime Minister replied, “it is their own fault what they see.” 

Suddenly, a large shark began lurking dangerously close to the world’s most powerful skinny-dipper, to the alarm of Churchill’s companions. “They said it was only a ground shark"—actually a very diverse group, only some species of which are dangerous to humans (for more info, head here)—"but I was not wholly reassured," he recalled years later. “It is as bad to be eaten by a ground shark as by any other. So I stayed in the shallows from then on.” 

The big fish eventually wandered off, at which point Churchill boasted, “My bulk has frightened him into deeper water!”

Years later, Parliament held a discussion about the development of artificial "shark repellents" (which sadly didn't involve Adam West's Batman). Possibly remembering his experience in Florida, Churchill declared, “You may rest assured that the British government is entirely opposed to sharks.”

Primary photo courtesy of Vintage Everyday.

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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