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Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Sun-Soaked Facts About Florida

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Ah, Florida. The land of palm trees, sunshine, and … a carnivorous pink cloud? Read on to learn more about the home of Disney World and the world's worst superhero.

1. The full title of the official Florida state song is “Swanee River (Old Folks at Home).” The choice makes sense when you consider that the retirement industry is the state's second-biggest economic driver [PDF], and that by 2030, one out of every four Florida residents will be older than 65.

2. Florida is 15,409 square miles bigger than England … although a lot of that is swampland.

3. The 3500-year-old cypress tree named “Senator” was the pride of Longwood, Florida (and the fifth oldest tree in the world). Then in 2012, a meth addict climbed inside the trunk and lit up. Senator was reduced to ashes. “I can’t believe I burned down a tree older than Jesus,” she later said.

4. People really, really, really love Walt Disney World—so much so that some of them never want to leave. It’s not legal to scatter human ashes in the park, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it on the sly. The Haunted Mansion is an especially popular choice. But that effort probably isn't worth it: staff members who find suspicious piles of dust call code “HEPA cleanup,” after the special vacuum the custodians use to suck up what’s left of Grandma.


5.
South Florida is the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles coexist in the wild.

6. Miami banks were losing business in the mid-'90s because rollerbladers didn’t feel like taking off their skates to go inside. To accommodate banking on the go, one Citibank installed a custom-built rollerblade ATM, complete with a flashy pink ramp. “Hey, that's a great thing for skaters,'' one waiter on wheels told the Orlando Sentinel. ''I'll be using that baby all the time.''

7. A 1998 Florida law requires all state-funded daycare centers and preschools to play classical music for the children. “I want all the kids in the state of Florida to be the best and brightest,” state senator Bill Turner said. The so-called Mozart effect has since been debunked, but the law holds.

8. Florida’s nasty mosquitoes have inspired some creative pest-control efforts. In 1929, the owner of a Florida Keys fishing lodge spent $10,000 of his own money to build a 30-foot wooden tower in the hopes of attracting bats. Equipped with “all the conveniences any little bat heart could possibly desire” and smeared with pheromone-rich bat poop, the tower would have been a big hit—if any bats ever showed up. 

9. As cuddly as they might look, keep your distance from the state's beloved (and endangered) manatees. The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act makes it illegal to disturb the creatures in any way; violators may face fines up to $500 and be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail. (In 2013, one Florida resident was arrested for posting Facebook photos of his daughters riding a manatee calf.)

iStock


10.
The very first meeting of the Homestead, Florida, Crime Watch group was interrupted when a 75-pound bale of cocaine fell out of the sky and into the meeting. The fugitives flying overhead had dropped another parcel of cocaine nearby—onto a church.

11. In 1982, the Florida Keys seceded from the United States and declared themselves the Conch Republic, in order to protest the placement of a Border Patrol-run road block in Florida City. Key West Mayor-turned-Prime Minister Dennis Wardlow declared war against the United States. The campaign was short-lived; within two minutes, Wardlow had surrendered and requested $1 million in foreign aid.

12. Florida has its own Bigfoot: the eight-foot tall, hairy, smelly monster known as the Skunk Ape. Sightings were so frequent in the '70s that legislators feared it was just a matter of time before the Skunk Ape was caught or killed. They tried to make it a misdemeanor to “take, possess, harm or molest anthropoid or humanoid animals.”

13. The South Florida Museum houses the world’s largest collection of fossilized poop.

South Florida Museum


14.
Florida’s lush climate makes it a haven for escaped or introduced non-native plants and animals. The Everglades teem with invasive species, including eight-inch-long giant snails, boa constrictors, two types of pythons, and crocodile-like reptiles called caimans.

15. Travelers in the 1950s and '60s reported being chased through the woods near Daytona by a strange pink cloud. Citizens told of a carnivorous cloud that would absorb people whole and spit out their bones.

16. Sarasota, Florida, is home to what may be the only Amish beach resort in the world.

17. In 2013, a Florida woman named Linda Ducharme renewed her vows to a Ferris wheel named Bruce. After a short ceremony, the bride fed the groom a slice of pizza.

18. Florida was Spanish territory for 280 years, which is longer than the U.S. has officially existed.

19. NASA built a rocket test facility in Homestead, Florida, in the 1960s. When the project ended, the government left the site intact—and there’s still a rocket there today.


20.
The minimum-security prison at Eglin Air Force Base was once so cushy that it was known as “Club Fed.” White-collar inmates enjoyed rounds of golf and lobster bakes before the party ended in 2006.

21. Participants in the annual Interstate Mullet Toss throw dead fish over the state line from Florida into Alabama.

22. Florida once boasted the dubious distinction of "lightning capital of the world," until NASA discovered that Rwanda actually deserves the title. Still, approximately nine people are killed by lightning strikes in Florida each year.

23. The state got its name from explorer Ponce de Leon, who called it La Florida, or “the flowery place.”

24. In the 1950s, Miami’s Opa-locka Airport served as the CIA’s base of covert operations against Guatemala and Cuba.

25. For anyone who still insists on hating on Florida, consider this: Wherever you are within the state, you're never more than 60 miles from the nearest body of salt water [PDF]. 

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euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
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geography
Mount Jackson Loses Spot as UK's Tallest Mountain After Satellite Reveals Measurement Error
euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Geography textbook writers, take note: The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has just made a major correction to its old data. As Independent reports, satellite imagery reveals that Mount Hope in the British Atlantic Territory is 1236 feet taller than previously believed, unseating Mount Jackson as the UK’s tallest peak.

BAS realized the old height was incorrect after surveying mountains in Britain’s Antarctic territory using satellite technology. Inaccurate measurements pose a threat to planes flying over the mountains, and with the mapping project BAS intended to make the route safer for aircraft.

Prior to the survey, Mount Jackson was thought to be the tallest mountain in the British Atlantic Territory and the greater UK at 10,446 feet, the BBC reports. But after reviewing the new elevation data, BAS found that Mount Hope bests it by just 180 feet. Reaching 10,627 feet at its summit, Mount Hope is officially Britain’s tallest mountain.

Historically, mountains were measured on the ground using basic math equations. By measuring the distance between two points at the base of a mountain and calculating the angle between the top of the mountain and each point, researchers could estimate its height. But this method leaves a lot of room for error, and today surveyors use satellites circling the globe to come up with more precise numbers.

Because they’re both located in Antarctica, neither of the two tallest mountains in the UK is a popular climbing destination. British thrill-seekers usually choose Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, as their bucket-list mountain of choice—but at just 4413 at its highest point, climbing it would be a breeze compared to conquering Mount Hope.

[h/t Independent]

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Courtesy of Sotheby's
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History
Found: A Rare Map of Australia, Created During the 17th Century
Courtesy of Sotheby's
Courtesy of Sotheby's

More than 40 years before Captain James Cook landed on Australia’s eastern coast in 1770, renowned Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu created an early map of the Land Down Under. Using geographical information gleaned from Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in the 1640s, it was the first map to include the island state of Tasmania and name New Zealand, and the only one to call Australia “Nova Hollandia.”

Very few copies—if any—of the 1659 map, titled Archipelagus Orientalis (Eastern Archipelago), were thought to have survived. But in 2010, a printing was discovered in a Swedish attic. After being restored, the artifact is newly on display at the National Library of Australia, in the capital city of Canberra, according to news.com.au.

The seller’s identity has been kept under wraps, but it’s thought that the map belonged to an antiquarian bookseller who closed his or her business in the 1950s. For decades, the map sat amidst other papers and books until it was unearthed in 2010 and put up for auction.

The National Library acquired the 17th century wall map in 2013 for approximately $460,000. After a lengthy restoration process, it recently went on display in its Treasures Gallery, where it will hang until mid-2018.

As for other surviving copies of the map: a second version was discovered in a private Italian home and announced in May 2017, according to Australian Geographic. It ended up selling for more than $320,000.

[h/t news.com.au]

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