Monday, January 30, 2017

The abandoned Royal Masonic School for Boys

Some have called it 'the most scary abandoned building in the UK'. The Royal Masonic School for Boys opened in Bushey, Hertfordshire in 1903. It was built using money from charities of set up by masonic organizations in order to educate the sons of needy Freemasons. 

Another Masonic school was built  and a Junior School was added on the other side of The Avenue in 1929. Following a decline in pupil numbers the junior school closed in 1970, with the senior school closing in 1977.

After their closure, the buildings housed the United States International University, but as the buildings' condition declined, they fell into disrepair. Both schools were also commonly used for films (such as Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Lucky Jim, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and numerous TV shows) from the 1950s until recently. Part of the buildings have now been redeveloped as a gated housing development.

SEE ALSO: More abandoned schools around the world // More abandoned places in the United Kingdom // LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES
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Monday, January 23, 2017

The acoustic mirrors of the United Kingdom

During the 1930s, and leading up to World War II, the United Kingdom built a network of giant "acoustic mirrors" across its southern and eastern coast. The concrete structures, which differed in height and length, were an experimental early warning system. Built in the shape of spherical mirrors, they could reflecting and focus sound waves. Using them, military air defense forces could detect incoming enemy aircraft by listening for the sound of their engines.

The experimental nature of acoustic mirrors can be discerned by the different shapes of each of the three reflectors: one is a long, curved wall about 5 m (16 ft) high by 70 m (230 ft) long, while the other two are dish-shaped constructions approximately 4–5 m (13–16 ft) in diameter. Using microphones placed at the foci of the reflectors enabled a listener to detect the sound of aircraft far out over the English Channel. However, the increasing speed of aircraft during the 1930s, meant that they were detected when they were already too close (the system's range was about 25 miles) to deal with them.  

With the development of the Chain Home radar system at the beginning of World War II, the acoustic mirrors project was cancelled as it was now obsolete. Many of the acoustic mirrors built, stand till this day in coastal areas like at Denge on the Dungeness peninsula and at Hythe, Kent. Other examples exist in other parts of Britain (including Sunderland, Redcar, Boulby, Kilnsea). The only acoustic mirror constructed outside the UK, was built in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq in Malta

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The remains of Pegasus in Antarctica

The eerie picture of a huge plane half buried by snow in Antarctica is what remains from Pegasus, a Lockheed C-121J Super Constellation, operated by U.S. Navy that crash-landed on October 8th, 1970. Pegasus was on a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, the largest research station of Antarctica with a population of over 1,200 people during summer months. McMurdo is operated by the United States and built on land claimed by New Zealand. Non of the 80 people on board the plane were hurt. 

While weather predictions were favorable when Pegasus departed Christchurch, by the time it arrived to Antarctica, visibility had deteriorated to zero as blowing snow made the white ice runway invisible. On the second attempt to land, the right main landing gear hit a snow bank and separated. Then the right wing broke off, with the airplane sliding through the snow. 

Pegasus was abandoned where it landed as it would have been impossible to be repaired on site. After the accident, the airstrip was named Pegasus Field after the C-121 that crashed nearby. Pegasus Field closed down after the last flight departed on December 8, 2016. In early 2017, it was replaced by a new airstrip serving McMurdo Station, Phoenix Airfield.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Desertron: The world's largest Super Collider partly built, then abandoned in Texas

Desertron, or the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) which was its official name, was going to be the largest particle accelerator ever built. With a planned ring circumference of 54.1 miles (87.1 kilometers) and an energy of 20 TeV per proton, it would have greatly surpassed the current record held by the Large Hadron Collider of CERN in Switzerland which has a ring circumference 17 miles (27 kilometers) and energy of 6.5 TeV per proton.

The idea of a large super collider was first formally discussed in 1976. In the mid-1980s the project was reviewed by the US Department of Energy and, subsequently, construction began in Ellis County, Texas. By late 1993 when the project was cancelled, 17 shafts were sunk and 14.6 miles (23.5 kilometers) of tunnel were bored while $2 billion had already been spent. 

There were many reasons for the cancellation of the project with the primary one being the very high amount of cost. While in 1987 Congress was told the project could be completed for $4.4 billion, the amount was later estimated closer to $12 billion. Meanwhile, many congressmen argued that the money would be better spent in their fields, congress was generally trying to cut spending and President Clinton never really supported the project. Adding to this, many opposing physicists argued that the project was unreasonably expensive, even for the amount of knowledge that it could generate. Finally, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, came an end to the need to prove that American science was superior.  

The cancellation of the Desertron project apart from a setback for science research also caused a mild recession for the southern part of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex. The main site was deeded to Ellis County which tried numerous times to sell the property. Finally in 2006 it was sold to an investment group. In 2012 the property was bought by chemical company Magnablend against some opposition from the local community. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

The ghost town of Ellaville in Florida

The town of Ellaville was founded in 1861 by businessman and future governor of Florida George Franklin Drew. Drew built a mansion on the western banks of the Suwannee River in Suwannee County. He named the town 'Ellaville' to honor Ella, his long-time African American servant. 

After the Civil War, Drew and his partner Louis Bucki opened a steam-operated sawmill. The mill soon became the largest in Florida, employing more than 500 people. Florida Railroad built a line to the town that had direct access to the mill and soon after, Ellaville was blooming. In the early 1870s the town had a train station, two schools, two churches, a steamboat dock, a masonic lodge, a commissary and a sawmill.

By then, George Drew had become one of the richest men in Florida, being elected governor in 1876. After his term, he sold his company share to the Bucki and he moved to Jacksonville. The mill was burned down in 1898 and although it was soon rebuilt, there was no longer a significant number of pine still left to harvest. Extensive floods during the 1900's and later the onset of the Great Depression attributed to the decline of Ellaville. The post office finally closed in 1942 and soon the town vanished. 

Little remains of Ellaville exist today. The Drew mansion, which had been vandalized over the years finally burned down during the 1970's. In 1986, the Hillman Bridge built in 1925 by the Federal Aid Project was abandoned and replaced by a new bridge across the river.

SEE ALSO: More ghost towns around the world // More abandoned places in Florida // More abandoned places in the United States // LIST OF ALL DESERTED PLACES 
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Thursday, January 5, 2017

The wrecked Soviet Murmansk battle cruiser

Murmansk was a Sverdlov-class light cruiser of the Soviet Navy's Northern Fleet. She was laid down in Severodvinsk in 1953 and commissioned on 22 September 1955. In 1956 she joined the 2nd Cruiser Division until she was decommissioned in 1989. 

In 1994, Murmansk was sold to India for scrapping but on her way there, she ran aground and partially sank, off the Norwegian village of Sørvær. Although it was estimated that the winter storms would destroy Murmansk's parts that were above water, the ship remained rusty but intact until 2009 when a dismantling operation was finally funded. As the ship was in very bad state it was decided to remove it piece by piece, rather than tow it. A massive breakwater and dry dock was constructed around Murmansk to access the shipwreck from land and demolish it where it rested. The dock around the wreck was sealed in April 2012 and the project was completed in 2013.


Monday, January 2, 2017

The haunted Dundas Castle in New York

Dundas Castle, also known as Craig-E-Clair Castle, was built in 1924 in Roscoe, New York, in the forests of the Catskill Mountains. Before it became a castle, it was a summer lodge built by architect Bradford Lee Gilbert in the early 1880’s. The name Craig-E-Clair came from the homonymous Scottish town, probably because of his wife who was of Scottish decent. 

After Gilbert passed away in 1911, the land and lodge was sold first to Maurice Sternbeck, and then to of Ralph Wurts-Dundas in 1915. Dudas began the construction of the castle but he died in 1921 while it was in the final stages of construction. In 1922 his wife, Josephine Wurts-Dundas, was committed to a sanatarium, without ever having lived in the castle. The castle was inherited by her daughter, however a large part of her fortune was stolen by the castle care-takers who acted as her guardian at the time. Eventually she got married and moved to England only to be soon committed into a mental institution just like her mother. 

Meawhile, the Dundas Castle went through various owners. It became a summer camp for children and then it was bought by the area’s Masonic chapter as a retreat. Soon though, the Masons, who still own the structure, abandoned it and let it be heavily vandalized. 

There have been many legends about the abandoned Dundas castle. Some say that the ghost of Josephine Dundas haunts the castle to this day, looring strangers inside the abandoned property. Others say that the three heart-shaped ponds on the property fill with blood on the full moon. 

In 2001 the Dundas Castle was added to the National Register of Historic Places.