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12 Bizarre Rooms at Wind Cave National Park

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In 1903, Wind Cave—near Hot Springs, South Dakota—was the first cave to be designated a National Park. It’s currently the sixth-longest cave in the world, with more than 140 miles of explored passageways. But with several additional miles being discovered every year, it might not be long before Wind Cave surpasses Optymistychna Cave in the Ukraine (146.6 miles) and Sistema Ox Bel Ha in Mexico (159.8 miles) to reach the top four.

Due to its sheer size, there are a vast number of “rooms” in the cave, many with bizarre names: Andy’s Ice Box, Arm Pit, Bachelors Quarters, and the Bagel Ballroom, just to name a few. There’s a method to the madness, sort of: If you find a new room, you get to name it—and nearly anything goes. Here are the stories behind a few of the most interesting ones:

1. ANDY'S ICE BOX

Discovered on December 15, 1979, by Andy Flurkey, Norm Pace, and John Scheltens, Andy’s Ice Box is full of aragonite frostwork—delicate, needle-like growths of calcite that resemble frost creeping across a window. The room discovered by these three explorers is packed with the stuff, making it resemble a frosty freezer.

2. WHAT! YEAH!

If this sounds like a Lil’ Jon lyric to you, you’re absolutely correct. When Jason Walz, Jessie Mann, and Chris Dale found a chasm 30 feet deep, 20 feet wide, and 25 feet long, Lil’ Jon’s exclamations of “What! Yeah!” were the first words that came to mind.

3. WHAT THE HELL LAKE

Up until 1996, the place where What the Hell Lake is now had been completely dry. When Stan Allison discovered that the dry passage had suddenly become water-filled, he exclaimed, “What the hell?” The appearance of the lake prevented cavers from exploring significant sections of the passage until the water receded in 2004.

4. BACHELORS QUARTERS

The thin layer of dust and dirt that covers everything in this room resulted in this unflattering nickname.

5. BAGEL BALLROOM

When cavers found these two large rooms in 1987, they took a break to eat lunch. “To our surprise, everyone on the trip had brought sandwiches for lunch made on bagels (these are tough pieces of bread well suited to the harshness of being carried all day in a caving pack),” Jim Pisarowicz wrote in the official report. “The new rooms were thus named the Bagel Ballroom.” A hole in the floor that led to another room was dubbed “Bagel Hole,” and a large, connected gallery became “Bagel Bowl.”

6. NUDIST COLONY

Dave Schnute was surveying with famous cavers Herb and Jan Conn when they came across a room with a bunch of additional passageways and nooks to explore. Schnute declared that it was "more fun than a mosquito in a nudist colony."

7. PANT PEELER

This small crawl space was named after explorer Randy Brown squeezed his way through—and it was such a tight fit, it peeled his pants and underwear down.

8. THE BEAUTY PARLOR

This area of the cave contains a red, sandy clay that was sold to women to wear as rouge in the 1890s. The National Park Service believes this room was named by the McDonald family, the family that first started developing the cave for tourism in 1890.

9. CAMPAIGN TRAIL

This walking passage was named on November 11, 2000—right in the middle of the Al Gore/George W. Bush election controversy.

10. DUNCAN ROOM

In 1989, Rachel Cox, a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) student involved in a mock search-and-rescue mission, actually got lost in Wind Cave. The park received a call from a psychic who said Cox would be found in a room with “Duncan” in the name. When Cox was found, 37 hours after she went missing, she was located in a room that hadn’t been named. To fulfill the psychic’s prediction, they dubbed it Duncan Room.

11. MRS. WILLIAMS WOMB

In 1985, NOLS student Geoff Williams was the first brave soul to lead the expedition into a small, tight spot. They named the area after his mother's womb. Additionally, they named the tight crawl that led to the spot "Mrs. Williams Birth Canal." We're sure Mrs. Williams was flattered.

12. SPOOK ALLEY

On October 31, 2000, a group of cavers took an ABC World News Tonight crew on a surveying expedition. During this trip, the crew happened to discover a series of rooms where someone had left an old newspaper many years before. The newspaper was dated October 31, 1897—and the fact that a newspaper from a Halloween over a century prior was found on Halloween seemed pretty spooky.

Also worth mentioning: The Backstreet Boys, Vanilla Ice, NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Phish, Darkwing Duck, the pop group Dream, Chris Farley, John Wayne, Pizza Hut, Miller beer, Pee-wee Herman, Yahoo!, and even the Lycos search engine have spots named after them within the cave.

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David Rumsey Historical Map Collection // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
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The Largest Known Map of the 16th-Century World Has Been Digitized
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The challenge of designing an accurate, detailed world map has stumped cartographers for centuries, but Urbano Monte got pretty close to achieving perfection in 1587. Now, for the first time, his full 10-by-10-foot world map has been assembled and digitized, Co.Design reports.

There are only two copies of the map: one in Milan, Italy and the second, digitized one at the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection at Stanford University. The massive, extremely detailed illustration, which comprises 60 hand-drawn sheets, is the largest known early map in the world. The Italian cartographer drew it using the azimuthal equidistant projection, which depicts the flattened globe with the North Pole at its center. According to Monte, this gave a more accurate view of the Earth than the Mercator Projection, which was published just two decades earlier in 1569.

The map's depth of detail becomes more apparent the longer you look at it. In addition to country names and geographical landmarks, Monte took the time to note information on weather, meteorological events, length of days at different latitudes, world leaders, and significant countries and places.

Map details.
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

To view the completed map in all its glory, you can download the 3D image through Google Earth or view it through Apple’s augmented reality app AR Globe.

[h/t Co.Design]

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25 Wild Facts About Alaska
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Located 500 miles away from the nearest state, there’s likely a lot you haven’t heard about Alaska. Here are 25 facts about the last frontier.

1. Dog mushing is the official state sport.

2. The state flag was designed by a 13-year-old boy. After calling on students throughout the territory to submit their ideas, Alaska ultimately decided on Benny Benson’s scene of the Big Dipper and the North Star in 1927.

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3. Seventeen of the 20 highest peaks in the U.S. are located in Alaska.

4. Some of Alaska’s bizarre moose-specific legislation has included laws against pushing a moose from a plane, viewing a moose from a plane, and giving a moose beer.

5. Haines, Alaska is home to America’s first museum solely dedicated to hammers. Visitors to the Hammer Museum can view their fascinating collections of hammer sculptures, handle-making machinery, and spring-loaded meat tenderizers.

6. Balto is the famous sled dog that’s usually credited with delivering medicine to a remote Alaskan village, but some argue that Togo was the true hero. Before Balto completed the last 55 miles of the journey, Togo pulled the medicine through 200 miles of wind and snow. His stuffed and preserved body is on display at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Museum in Wasilla, Alaska.

7. Alaska broke their record high when temperatures reached 100° F in 1915.

8. Their low of -80° F recorded in Alaska’s Endicott Mountains still holds the record for the nation's all-time low.

9. Alaska has more coastline than the other 49 states combined.

10. Because of their long summer days, Alaska is capable of producing some unusually oversized produce. Some notable specimens that have been harvested in recent years include a 35-pound broccoli, a 65-pound cantaloupe, and a 138-pound cabbage.

11. About 1700 miles south of the geographic North Pole lies the Fairbanks suburb of North Pole, Alaska. The town’s famous Santa Claus House gift shop is open year-round, and thousands of letters addressed to Santa are sent to the zip code each year. (A real-life Santa Claus was even elected to City Council.)

12. The Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia is around 55 miles wide at its narrowest point. Within it sit the Russian island of Big Diomede and the U.S. island of Little Diomede, which are just two and a half miles apart. So in theory, it would be possible for some Alaskans to see Russia from their houses.

13. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces bombed and invaded the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The occupation lasted nearly a year.

14. Moose, caribou, and bear killed by cars in Alaska are considered property of the state [PDF]. When road kill is reported, the carcasses are butchered by volunteers and distributed as food to charity organizations.

15. America’s largest national forest is the Tongass. It’s about three times the size of the runner-up, which is also located in Alaska.

16. Each year, brave Alaskans compete to be crowned the king or queen of their throne in the Fur Rondy Festival outhouse races. Teams outfit the bottoms of their custom-built outhouses with skis and race each other down a two-lane track. In addition to the title of first place, prizes are awarded for the most colorful, best-engineered, and cleanest commodes.

Mike Juvrud, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

17. The Thing, John Carpenter’s 1982 horror classic set in Antarctica, was filmed in Alaska.

18. In Barrow, Alaska, the longest night lasts for 67 days. In the summer they make up for it with 82 days of uninterrupted sunlight.

19. If Manhattan had the same population density as Alaska, only 28 people would inhabit the island.

20. There are 107 men for every 100 women in Alaska, the highest male-to-female ratio in the United States.

21. Juneau is America’s only state capital that isn’t accessible by road.

22. In 1867, Russia agreed to sell Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million, which amounted to about two cents an acre.

23. Many hotels in Alaska offer Northern Lights wake-up calls upon request.

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24. The Aleuts, Inupiat, Yuit, Athabascans, Tlingit, and Haida make up the major native groups of Alaska. At more than 14 percent, Alaska has a more concentrated indigenous population than any other state.

25. For years, the small town of Talkeetna, Alaska hosted the annual Moose Dropping Festival. Varnished pieces of numbered moose droppings were dumped from a crane into a parking lot and participants whose corresponding droppings landed closest to the center of a target received cash prizes. The event eventually grew too dangerously large for the town of 850 to handle and was retired in 2009.

This story originally ran in 2015.

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