How a Cold War Mission Led to the Discovery of the Titanic

Lexie de los Santos, National Geographic
Lexie de los Santos, National Geographic

The Titanic is one of the most famous shipwrecks on the seafloor, but for decades following the 1912 disaster, its debris remained undetected. It took a secret Cold War Navy mission to find two unrelated vessels to finally pinpoint the doomed ship's location.

Now, the history of the Titanic's discovery is the subject of “Titanic: The Untold Story," a new exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C. In 1985, U.S. Navy commander and National Geographic Explorer-at-Large Robert Ballard was commissioned by the Navy to use a submersible to find the wreckage of two nuclear submarines. The USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion both went down in the North Atlantic Ocean during the Cold War, and the U.S. government wanted to know why the ships sank, as well as what impact their nuclear reactors had on the environment.

Ballard agreed to help, but he had a request of his own: He wanted to use the submersible technology to search for the remains of the Titanic, which he suspected ended up in the same area as the submarines he was asked to investigate. He received permission to pursue the side project, just as long as he completed the primary mission.

After tracking down the Cold War submarines, Ballard and his crew launched their own mission to find the Titanic using historical records detailing where the ship may have sunk and where the lifeboats were rescued. They received the first images of the sunken ship's boiler, something last seen when the Titanic was above water, on September 1, 1985.

The previously classified story is told in detail at the National Geographic exhibit, which is now open to the public through January 6, 2019. The show will also feature artifacts from Titanic history, like a deck chair and sheet music that belonged to Wallace Hartley, the bandleader who insisted on playing as the ship sank.

[h/t National Geographic]

A Ring Containing a Lock of Charlotte Brontë’s Hair Found Its Way to Antiques Roadshow

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A ring that “very likely” contains a lock of Charlotte Brontë’s hair appeared on a recent episode of the Antiques Roadshow that was filmed in northern Wales, according to The Guardian. The jewelry itself isn’t especially valuable; the TV show's appraiser, jewelry specialist Geoffrey Munn, said he would have priced it at £25, or about $32.

However, an inscription of the Jane Eyre author’s name as well as the year she died (1855) raises the value to an estimated £20,000 ($26,000). That isn’t too shabby, considering that the owner found the ring among her late father-in-law’s belongings in the attic.

A section of the ring comes unhinged to reveal a thin strand of hair inside—but did it really belong to one of the famous Brontë sisters? Munn seems to think so, explaining that it was not uncommon for hair to be incorporated into jewelry in the 19th century.

“There was a terror of not being able to remember the face and character of the person who had died,” he said. “Hair wreaths” and other pieces of "hair work" were popular ways of paying tribute to deceased loved ones in England and America from the 17th century to the early 20th century.

In this case, the hair inside the ring was finely braided. Munn went on to add, “It echoes a bracelet Charlotte wore of her two sisters’ hair … So it’s absolutely the focus of the mid- to late 19th century and also the focus of Charlotte Brontë.”

The Brontë Society & Brontë Parsonage Museum, which has locks of Brontë’s hair in its collection, said that it had no reason to doubt the authenticity of the ring.

[h/t The Guardian]

From Cocaine to Chloroform: 28 Old-Timey Medical Cures


Is your asthma acting up? Try eating only boiled carrots for a fortnight. Or smoke a cigarette. Have you got a toothache? Electrotherapy might help (and could also take care of that pesky impotence problem). When it comes to our understanding of medicine and illnesses, we’ve come a long way in the past few centuries. Still, it’s always fascinating to take a look back into the past and remember a time when cocaine was a common way to treat everything from hay fever to hemorrhoids.

In this week's all-new edition of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is highlighting all sorts of bizarre, old-timey medical cures. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.