12 Bizarre Rooms at Wind Cave National Park


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:


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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


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."


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Fictional Place Names Are Popping Up On Road Signs in Didcot, England

Driving along the highway in Didcot, England, you may notice something strange: the road signs point the way to places like Neverland and Middle-earth.

The names of these and other fictional locales from literature were seamlessly added to road signs by an artist/prankster using Transport Medium, the official font of British road signs.

After some sleuthing, BBC News found the man responsible, who spoke to the outlet on the condition of anonymity. He told the BBC that he's been orchestrating "creative interventions" all over England for about 20 years under different pseudonyms, and that this project was a reaction to Didcot being labeled "the most normal town in England" in 2017, which rubbed him the wrong way. "To me there's nowhere that's normal, there's no such thing, but I thought I'd have a go at changing people's perceptions of Didcot," he said of the town, which he describes as a "fun" and "funky" place.

Oxfordshire County Council isn't laughing; it told the BBC that although the signs were "on the surface amusing," they were "vandalism" and potentially dangerous, since it would be hard for a driver who spotted one not to do a double take while their eyes were supposed to be on the road. Even so, thanks to routine council matters, the signs are safe—at least for now—as the Council says that it is prioritizing fixing potholes at the moment.

Jackie Billington, Didcot's mayor, recognizes that the signs have an upside. "If you speak to the majority of people in Didcot they're of the same opinion: it's put Didcot on the map again," he told BBC News. "Hopefully they'll be up for a couple of weeks."

There are five altered signs in total. If you fancy a visit to the Emerald City, you're pointed toward Sutton Courtenay. Narnia neighbors a power station. And Gotham City is on the same route as Oxford and Newbury (and not, apparently, in New Jersey, as DC Comics would have you believe). If you want to go see the signs for yourself before they disappear, you'll find them along the A4130 to Wallingford.

See the signs here and in the video below.

[h/t BBC News]

Why Experts Can't Agree on the Lengths of the World's Coastlines

Measuring the distance between two places on a map is pretty straightforward. But if you want to calculate how long a shoreline is, things can get complicated. Just search "U.S. coastline length" and you'll find that results can vary by tens of thousands of miles.

How can cartographers come up with numbers that differ so wildly if they're all measuring the same thing? The answer, according to the video below from RealLifeLore, lies in a phenomenon called the Coastline Paradox.

Measuring the East Coast of the U.S. isn't the same as calculating the miles separating the tip of Florida from the tip of Maine. A coast doesn't follow a straight line. It's made up of divots and curves that start to multiply the closer you zoom in on the map. Accounting for every single detail of the coast is impossible. One, because the shore is always changing shape, and two, because these intricacies go all the way down to the molecular level.

That means cartographers have to pick a unit of measurement with which to estimate the length of the coast. If one team measures in miles and another measures in units of 100 miles, their results will look very different. Smaller measurements produce longer and, technically, more accurate numbers. But at some point, if you keep drilling down to smaller and smaller units, the length of a coastline appears to approach infinity—which doesn't seem entirely right, either. So every measurement of a coastline you see is really just a rough estimate.

The Coastline Paradox isn't the only complication that makes cartography an imperfect science. Even Mount Everest's title as the world's tallest mountain isn't totally uncontested.

Learn more about the Coastline Paradox in the video below.

[h/t RealLifeLore]


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