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Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World

Visitors to the lobby of the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan are often surprised to find a series of pictorial stained-glass panels. Added in the 1960s, they were meant to link the great skyscraper to other engineering triumphs. These triumphs, however, are not the great symbols of American modernity you might expect—other massive steel-and-concrete structures like the Hoover Dam or the Panama Canal—but the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The colorful lobby paintings make no attempt at accuracy. Rather, they echo fantasies of the ancient monuments that have been current since the Renaissance—but they are mysteriously inspiring all the same: the Pyramids of Giza, the Pharos of Alexandria, the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia.

Why should a collection of monuments more than two millennia old still capture the imagination—especially when six of the seven are no longer standing? It’s that word ‘wonder. If you just called them the Seven Architectural Marvels, it wouldn’t have the same impact. Then, too, the one that does survive—the Pyramids of Giza—is sufficiently stunning to convince us that the ancients weren’t exaggerating the splendor of the other six.

One of the first-known lists of wonders was drawn up in the third century B.C., when a Greek scholar at the Library of Alexandria, Callimachus of Cyrene (305-240 B.C.), wrote a treatise called “Acollection of wonders in lands throughout the world.” The essay has been lost, but his choices may have become the basis for later selections, such as the famous list attributed to the engineer Philo of Byzantium around 250 B.C. Of course, the whole idea of Seven Wonders started with antiquity’s fondness for the number seven: being indivisible, it gave each of its elements equal status and so enjoyed a privileged position in numerology.

The list also reflected a shift in Western attitudes toward the world, as thinkers began to celebrate man-made creations along with those of the gods. In the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquests of the Persian Empire and parts of India (334-325 B.C.), Greeks marveled at their own achievements. “Like the sun,” raves Philo of the HangingGardens, “beauty dazzling in its brilliance.”

From their inception, the ancient Wonders were also rooted in human curiosity. In fact, the sites, originally, were not called “Wonders” at all, but theamata, “things to be seen,” preferably in person. In the Hellenic era, wealthy and erudite Greeks traveled by land and sea around the cultural centers of the eastern Mediterranean, broadening their education firsthand. Although the lands conquered by Alexander the Great had dissolved into separate kingdoms by the time Philo compiled his list, they were still ruled by Greek-speaking dynasties, and while travel was not yet as safe as it would become under the Roman Empire, the network of Greek culture extended far and wide, offering an open invitation to explore.

Today one can follow the itinerary of an ancient traveler as he—a peripatetic Greek scholar of that time was almost always male—sought out the magnificent Seven. Along the route, he would find passable highway inns and cheap roadside restaurants. At the sites themselves, professional tour guides called exegetai, or “explainers,” jostled for commissions (“Zeus protect me from your guides at Olympia!” prayed one first-century B.C. antiquarian worn down by their harangues). There were papyrus guidebooks to consult before departing and vendors with whom to haggle over souvenirs: a cheap glass vial engraved with an image of the Pharos of Alexandria has been found by archaeologists as far away as Afghanistan.

Departing in the shadow of the Acropolis from Athens, the traditional center of ancient learning, a scholartourist of 250 B.C. would likely have set off on his grand tour with a couple of servants and a pair of pack mules to carry the luggage. The first and easiest Wonder to visit was the great sculptor Phidias’ (c. 485-425 B.C.) Statue of Zeus (completed around 435 B.C.) at Olympia, a religious sanctuary in southern Greece and the site of the Olympic Games. An energetic walker could cover the 210 miles in ten days. Arriving at Olympia, visitors beheld a walled enclave where a trio of Doric temples, 70 altars and hundreds of statues of past Olympic victors created a dazzling sculpture garden. The most impressive of the structures was the Temple of Zeus, built between 466 and 456 B.C. and resembling the Parthenon in Athens. Through its grand bronze doors, a constant stream of travelers passed into the flickering torchlight, there to behold a glowering, 40-foot-high, gold-and-ivory figure of the King of the Gods seated on a throne, his features framed by a leonine mane of hair.

Beyond its stunning size, viewers were struck by the majesty of the image’s expression—even stray dogs were said to be cowed. The sculptor had captured both Zeus’ invincible divinity and his humanity. Roman general Aemilius Paullus (c. 229-160 B.C.), an earlier visitor, “was moved to his soul, as if he had beheld the god in person,” while the Greek orator Dio Chrysostom wrote that a single glimpse of the statue would make a man forget his earthly troubles.

From Olympia, our intrepid traveler would have caught a merchant ship from the isthmus of Corinth, sailing eastward some 300 miles across the pellucid waters of the Aegean. Since there was no exclusive passenger service, one simply negotiated a price with the ship’s captain and took a place on deck. One’s servants would arrange the creature comforts, leaving the traveler to enjoy the view and make small talk with fellow passengers.

Arriving a few days later at their destination, the bustling island of Rhodes, the travelers would have been greeted with a breathtaking sight. There, towering majestically above the island’s port, so crowded with ships’ masts that it was said to resemble a field of wheat, stood a 110-foot-high Colossus—a gleaming bronze statue of the Greek sun god Helios. It was long believed that the statue straddled the harbor entrance, but modern archaeologists say this would not have been possible with the bronze-casting techniques available to the sculptor, Chares of Lindos, when he erected it between 294 and 282 B.C.

While not even a drawing of the statue survives, scholars theorize the Colossus was an upright figure holding a torch aloft in one hand not unlike the Statue of Liberty; Helios’ face was quite possibly modeled after Alexander the Great’s. Yet, for all its majesty, the Colossus turned out to be the most fragile Wonder of them all—standing for only 56 years before collapsing in an earthquake in 226 B.C. “Even lying on the ground, it is a marvel,” wrote Roman scholar Pliny the Elder in the first century A.D. “Few people can even put their arms around the figure’s thumb, and each of its fingers is larger than most statues.”

The colossus would have made an appropriate introduction to the opulence of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), where the Temple of Artemis mixed Oriental splendor and Hellenic artistry. Size mattered in the ancient world, and in the ostentatious port of Ephesus, citizens built their greatest temple to tower above the city skyline. Though the Parthenon of Athens was regarded as the most perfectly proportioned of all buildings, the Temple of Artemis overwhelmed it in scale. Estimates suggest the interior was about 425 feet long and 255 feet wide, making it nearly as cavernous as New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. One hundred twenty-seven columns, painted in gaudy colors, supported its huge ceiling; some visitors felt lost in the dizzying forest of pillars, as imposing as sequoia trunks. Guides warned tourists not to stare at the temple’s polished white-marble walls lest they be struck blind by their brilliance. Swathed in clouds of incense, a statue of the mother goddess beckoned with open arms. This was not the svelte, athletic huntress Artemis of Greek lore but a majestic, maternal creation from the East, whose multiple breasts hung like papayas from her torso. Among eunuch priests offering sacrifice at the statue’s feet, silversmiths peddled souvenir miniatures of the temple and goddess for the pagan faithful. “Only in Heaven has the Sun ever looked upon its equal,” gushed Greek author Antipater around 100 B.C.

No less splendor graced the Mausoleum, rising 140 feet into the air like a gigantic wedding cake above the turquoise harbor of Halicarnassus, now the modern port of Bodrum on the so-called Turkish Riviera, about 60 miles from the Colossus. Built, legend has it, around 350 B.C. for King Mausolos, the ruler of Caria, by his grief-stricken sister-wife, Artemisia, the Mausoleum was an art lover’s fantasy whose tiers teemed with more than a hundred statues of heroes, kings and Amazon warriors, carved by the five greatest Greek sculptors of the day. “Even today,” noted Pliny the Elder in 75 A.D., “the hands of the sculptors seem to vie with one another in artistry.” The glittering confection was topped with a statue believed to be of the dead king and his wife riding a golden chariot.

Sailing south to Egypt, a journey of several days, travelers up to 50 miles out to sea could spot the fifth—and the only practical—ancient Wonder: the Pharos, or lighthouse, of Alexandria, whose orange flame guided ship pilots along the Nile Delta’s treacherous coastline. Looming above Alexandria’s busy EasternHarbor and surrounded by palm trees and statues of the Pharaohs, the 445-foot, three-tiered limestone tower was taller than the Statue of Liberty. At its pinnacle, a giant burning brazier topped by a statue of Zeus provided a suitably theatrical arrival to the city where Europe, Africa and Asia met. Once ashore, visitors hastened to Alexandria’s Great Library to observe the scientists, astronomers and geographers who labored in what amounted to the first government-funded think tank, the Mouseion. It was these learned men who had produced the lighthouse.

Eventually, our Seven Wonders tourist would likely have torn himself away from Alexandria’s pleasures to sail up the Nile and gaze upon the oldest and most impressive wonder of them all—the Pyramids of Giza, three pyramids that rise, even to this day, from the undulating sands of the Giza Plateau. (For thousands of years, the Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest and most precise stone building in the world.) The pyramids were especially dazzling in the Greek era when they were still sheathed in white limestone and covered by hieroglyphics and graffiti, glistening brilliantly in the desert sun. Surrounding the pyramids, the remains of ancient temples dating back to the Old Kingdom—the apogee of Egyptian military power and artistic skill circa 2500 B.C.—dotted the landscape. Shaven-headed priests, acting as tour guides, pretended to translate the pyramids’ hieroglyphics, which they said described the construction of the monuments, including even what the Egyptian workmen who built them, between around 2580 and 2510 B.C., ate on the job.

The final site on our traveler’s itinerary would have been the most difficult to visit. He would have had to sail to Antioch, in Syria, then follow 500 miles of desert tracks, either on horseback or by carriage, to gaze upon the gardens’ splendor. Babylon, lying some 45 miles south of modern Baghdad, was once widely regarded as the most intoxicating urban center in the world. Travelers entered the city through the Ishtar Gates, inlaid with blue glazed bricks bearing images of lions, bulls and dragons, only to behold a forest of towering ziggurats, obelisks and smoking altars by the Euphrates River.

The Hanging Gardens—a rooftop paradise of sculpted terraces, shade, and perfumed flowers—rose majestically above the human sprawl, watered by a hydraulic irrigation system. (“A work of art of royal luxury . . . suspended above the heads of spectators,” noted Greek engineer Philo around 250 B.C.) The gardens had been built by King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 B.C.) for his wife, a princess from Media, a fertile kingdom by the southern Caspian Sea, who was homesick for greenery; it was said Alexander the Great gazed upon them from his deathbed in the royal palace in 323 B.C.

But much about the gardens is unknown, including their exact location. “The Hanging Gardens, by their very nature, cannot be definitively found,” says Richard A. Billows, professor of history at ColumbiaUniversity. “They would not leave a very clear footprint that says ‘this must have been the spot.’ This isn’t helped by the fact that there is no clear idea of what the gardens looked like.”

Though only one of the Seven Wonders survives, it and the sites of the six others still launch a thousand package tours each year. Fascination with the Pyramids of Giza is certainly understandable; even stripped of their gleaming limestone—Arab conquerors used it as building material in the Middle Ages—the pyramids’ majesty, antiquity and bulk continue to astonish visitors, even if their first glimpse is from a crowded Cairo suburban highway.

But our fascination with the “missing” Wonders is harder to explain. Two of them exist only as fragments on display in museums; others have been scorched entirely from the earth. And yet, they remain curiously compelling. Phidias’ Statue of Zeus at Olympia was taken to Constantinople in the fourth century A.D. and was later destroyed in a palace fire, but the sanctuary itself—near the first Olympic Stadium through overgrown ruins buzzing with bees—remains one of the most visited attractions in Greece. All that is left of the Temple of Zeus is its foundation, but the spot where the statue stood has been identified. In 1958, archaeologists found, some 50 yards from the temple ruins, the workshop in which the artist Phidias sculpted the statue in the fifth century B.C.—including pieces of ivory and the base of a bronze drinking cup engraved with the words “I belong to Phidias” in classical Greek.

In Rhodes, hordes of tourists cluster each summer at Mandraki Harbor, where the Colossus is thought to have stood. Around A.D. 650, more than eight centuries after its collapse, it was broken up by Arab plunderers and sold as scrap metal. Today, not a toenail remains, though local entrepreneurs peddle souvenir T-shirts, spoons and cups emblazoned with the statue’s image. (In 1999, the citizens of Rhodes announced a memorial to be built on the site, though work has yet to begin.)

As for the two Wonders of Asia Minor—the Temple of Artemis and the Mausoleum—they were devastated by earthquakes, barbarians and vengeful Christians. Scraps of both lie in the British Museum in London, but their sites are hauntingly bare. In an ironic genuflection to the cycles of history, chunks of the Mausoleum’s original masonry were used to refortify the Castle of St. Peter at Bodrum, which was restored in the 1970s as a museum dedicated to underwater archaeology.

And, as the city of Alexandria reminds us, there is always hope for finding “lost” Wonders. In 1994, Asra el Bakri, an Egyptian filmmaker creating a documentary about Alexandria’s Eastern Harbor, noticed some huge stone blocks just below the water’s surface off Fort Qait-Bey, on a promontory at the heart of the old city. Within a year, French marine archaeologists had catalogued just under 3,000 chunks of masonry, some of which is thought to be the lighthouse, scattered about the ocean floor. Soon they were raising the magnificent statues that once stood by its side. The sculptures are believed to have fallen there during earthquakes that struck the region from late antiquity to the 14th century A.D.

More recently, marine archaeologists discovered the frame of a nearly 40-foot-high double door that was once part of the lighthouse. Using computer graphics, CEA archaeologists are now piecing together how the edifice would have looked and functioned. “Little by little, from campaign to campaign, we have more results,” says Jean-Yves Empereur, director of the CEA, emphasizing that he is attempting to reconstruct all of ancient Alexandria graphically, not just a single monument.

One tour company, ignoring warnings that the harbor’s untreated sewage may cause typhoid, offers recreational diving to the lighthouse stones as well as to two dozen fragmented sphinxes on the sea bottom. For its part, the Egyptian government has floated plans for an underwater marine park, which tourists would visit in glass-bottomed boats. “Why not?” says Clement. “What’s the point of doing the work if it’s just for a few academics reading fusty, obscure journals?”

Of course, one Wonder has dropped off today’s grand tour entirely—the Hanging Gardens. “Things have been going very badly for Babylon over the last 20 years,” says Harriet Crawford, chairman of the BritishSchool of Archaeology in Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s “reconstruction” program, begun in 1987, devastated the Meso-potamian city’s venerable ruins. As a self-styled new Nebuchadnezzar, Hussein built a luxurious palace on a hill above the excavations of the original royal palace, then ordered the ancient edifice rebuilt using bricks stamped with his name. The Hanging Gardens—Babylon’s trademark feature—played a key role in this farce: courtyards and passageways were built to integrate the supposed site of the gardens into the reconstruction. Ironically, new research carried out by Stephanie Dalley and others of the Oriental Institute at Oxford University suggests the gardens may not have been in Babylon at all, but in Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria in what is now northern Iraq. Nor are they thought to have been built by Nebuchadnezzar, but an Assyrian king, Sennacherib.

Misguided though it was, the work in Babylon shows the power of the past to shape the present. In seeking to connect himself to Iraq’s most glorious era, “Hussein saw the significance of Babylon,” says Crawford. “He used it as a symbol of national identity and triumph, to unite all the factions in Iraq.”

The fate of the original Seven Wonders has long provoked a wide spectrum of reactions, from melancholy meditations on human vanity to the transience of man’s achievements. But if their most obvious lesson is that our finest creations will one day turn to rubble, it is a lesson that we resolutely refuse to learn. Which is only as it should be, as the ancient Wonders’ durability—if only in our imagination—so eloquently testifies.

The ancient Greeks loved to make lists. For example, they had lists of admirable epic poets (starting with Homer and Hesiod) and tragic playwrights (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides). These lists became popular when, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, many Greeks settled overseas. Their position as an elite in countries like Egypt, Babylonia, and Bactria depended on their being-Greek, and canons of exemplary texts were important: unlike the native population, a real Greek had read these authors and knew how and when to quote them.

The list of Seven Wonders of the World belongs to this category of texts: splendid buildings, worthy of emulation. The original list, now lost, contained seven Greek buildings, but in the early third century, non-Greek monuments were included as well. It expressed the novel idea that the barbarians could also produce fine works of art, an idea that can be found in the books by several scholars and philosophers of the first generations after Alexander the Great.

Though we think of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World as a single list today, there were actually a number of lists compiled by different Greek writers. Antipater of Sidon, and Philon of Byzantium, drew up two of the most well-known lists.

Many of the lists agreed on six of the seven items. The final place on some lists was awarded to the Walls of the City of Babylon. On others, the Palace of Cyrus, king of Persia took the seventh position. Finally, toward the 6th century A.D., the final item became the Lighthouse at Alexandria.

The walls of Babylon
The walls of Babylon owe their fame to the Greek author Herodotus of Halicarnassus (fifth century).
The Pharos of Alexandria
This lighthouse guided sailors to safe harbor for 1,500 years, using fire at night. A quake in the 14th century KO’d it.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
This gold and ivory statue of the king of Greek gods was built around 450 B.C. in the town where the Olympics were born.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The region around Baghdad is dirt now, but it’s where all the hotties partied in the sixth century.
The Colossus of Rhodes
Ancient lore held that this megastatue of the Greek god Helios straddled the harbor entrance of the island of Rhodes.
The Great Pyramid
Erected more than 4,000 years ago, it’s the largest of the ancient wonders and the only one standing today.
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
This 135-foot-high tomb for the Persian King Mausolus was erected around 350 B.C. and stood for over 1,000 years.
The Temple of Artemis
In toga times, fans of the goddess of the hunt hit this marble temple, which stood in what is now western Turkey.

Since the it was Greeks who made the lists it is not unusal that many of the items on them were examples of Greek culture. The writers might have listed the Great Wall of China if then had known about it, or Stonehenge if they'd seen it, but these places were beyond the limits of their world. It is a surprise to most people to learn that not all the Seven Wonders existed at the same time. Even if you lived in ancient times you would have still needed a time machine to see all seven.

While the Great Pyramid of Egypt was built centuries before the rest and is still around today (it is the only "wonder" still intact) most of the others only survived a few hundred years or less. The Colossus of Rhodes stood only a little more than half a century before an earthquake toppled it.

Later, the first item was replaced by the Lighthouse of Alexandria, and this has become the canonical list. However, the ancient sources mention other wonders of the world, like an obelisk in Babylon and the palace of Cyrus in Ecbatana.

Christian authors inserted Noah's Ark, the Temple of Salomo, and the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Beda Venerabilis wrote a treatise on the Seven Wonders, in which he mentioned the Capitol, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the colossus of Rhodes, a figure of Bellerophon, the theater of Heraclea, a bathhouse, and the temple of Artemis.

Retired Greek couples flocked to these tourist traps some 2,000 years ago. Think America’s wonders top ’em? The United States is home to 20 natural and cultural sites inscribed on the World Heritage List - and most of them are national parks! These places are now held in trust for the entire planet as legacies not merely for our own children but for the human race.

You find them in both major metropolitan areas and some of the most remote corners of the country. They protect canyons and craters, redwood forests and vast deserts. They commemorate natural disasters and mankind's accomplishments. They're national monuments, diverse parcels of land all across the country that preserve both pristine lands and the ruins of ancient civilizations.

A patchwork of federal agencies supervises the operation and protection of national monuments, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone are fine, but the great monuments that will matter tomorrow are the ones that made America what it is today.

Long after global warming runs America’s mightiest warship aground, she’ll still be menacing the seas of time. For a good chunk of the 20th century, when the United States wanted to send a message to its foes, it often came in the form of the USS Missouri, a low-riding shark of a battleship that dished out cannon-barrel diplomacy. “She was simply the biggest and the best,” says Murray Yudelowitz, a gunner who served aboard during WWII. “That’s why Admiral Halsey made her his flagship.” Commissioned in 1944, the Iowa-class battleship’s mission was to protect the Pacific carrier fleet at all costs. At 45,000 tons and stretching 887 feet, she was a hulking bodyguard who packed heavy. Mounted topside at the height of her strength: nine 16-inch/50 caliber guns capable of lobbing 2,700-pound shells 23 miles in 50 seconds. During WWII, her gunners splashed swarming Japanese zeros, using a technique Yudelowitz describes the way only a sailor can: “When we’d spot dem Jap buckteeth, we’d let ’em have it.” On September 2, 1945, the Missouri steamed into Tokyo Bay and General Douglas MacArthur accepted the Japanese surrender on her teak deck. Mo went on to unleash hell in Korea, then was decommissioned in 1955. But America’s enemies hadn’t seen the last of her. In the ’80s, she was refitted with 32 tomahawk missiles, 16 harpoon missiles, and four 20 mm Phalanx Gatling guns. On January 16, 1991, she launched the Gulf War’s first salvo: 28 tomahawks. She now proudly moors next to the USS Arizona Memorial—a reminder that waking a sleeping giant is a bad idea.
What the ghosts know: A kamikaze attacked the Missouri off Okinawa in 1945. “The pilot landed in pieces all over the deck,” says Yudelowitz. “So we bagged him up and buried him at sea with a 21-gun salute. That was the Missouri; that’s how we did things.”
Message to future generations: “You’re a bunch of pussies.”

In the epic battle of man vs. nature, the colossal Bethlehem Iron Works was America’s greatest industrial gladiator. She haunts the shores of the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania like a four-and-a-half-mile-long ghost ship. For the tens of thousands who worked at the Bethlehem Steel mill, she’s a sad sight. They remember her simply as “the Steel,” and she supplied much of the raw material that built America. The first metal rolled off the mill in 1863. Forty years later, it was pumping out armor plating for the Great White Fleet. As the 20th century dawned, the Steel’s 33 furnaces, two forging departments, and seven massive machine shops churned out the hard-and-cold behind America’s crown jewels: The Golden Gate Bridge, the Chrysler Building, and much of the Manhattan skyline owe their existence to Bethlehem Steel. Hell, so does Europe. After Hitler invaded Poland, company chairman Eugene Grace declared, “Gentlemen, we are going to make a lot of money.” He had no idea. Bethlehem forged steel for nearly 20 percent of U.S. Navy ships, 70 percent of all airplane cylinders, and a third of the big cannons. At peak production, more than 30,000 worked at the mill, their collars bluer than a dead man’s balls. When workers went on strike, the mill’s own police force cracked skulls. It was the kind of place that made a guy want to drink a 12-pack and break a college boy’s nose, just to feel human. Thanks to bloated unions and the “new economy,” Bethlehem Steel folded in 1995, leaving behind the nation’s fifth-largest “brownfield site” and 95,000 people without health benefits. The area was slated to become the National Museum of Industrial History, but even that plan is collecting rust.
What the ghosts know: Bethlehem Steel president Charles M. Schwab once bribed a Russian duke’s mistress with a $200,000 diamond necklace for the right to provide the steel for the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Message to future generations: “We used to have a work ethic until Starbucks’ counter staff came along.”

Saving Time

If we ever blow ourselves up, one of these time capsules should be able to tell our distant descendants about the party.

Mail from six billion
In 2006 the French will launch a satellite that will return to Earth in 50,000 years. It can hold four-page letters from six billion people. Visit keo.org and write one so future inhabitants won’t think we were all whining frogs.

Backward vault
Behind Mount Rushmore is the Hall of Records, a 70-foot tunnel to a titanium vault. Inside: 16 porcelain panels with key texts like the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and a history of the United States. Cool!

NASA goes for the gold
In case the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes run into E.T., they contain gold-plated copper disks with greetings, sounds, images, and music. They also have maps to Earth, so hope the E.T.s bring their own beer and women.

MIA at MIT
In 1939 MIT placed a time capsule beneath a cyclotron, a machine that accelerates charged particles. The capsule was meant to be opened in 1989, but engineers have yet to remove it from under its 18-ton lid. —Kaitlin Bettick

* * * * *

Be Immortal

Want to pass on part of yourself to future generations? Don’t go planting your seed all over town—stuff a box! When building a time capsule, “Put in interesting things that tell about the times,” says Paul S. Storch, an objects conservator in St. Paul, Minnesota. We hope these items will impart the following messages to future Maxim readers…

1. Smoke Signal
“In our day, sucking down rich tobacco flavor was still legal and fun. Fight for your rights.”

2. Round On Us
“Before making any important decisions, mull things over with a couple of bourbons on ice.”

3. Hiroki Hair
“We bequeath you this lock of Hiroki. May its DNA let him be cloned and humiliated forever.”

4. Holy Object
“Behold our Supreme Deity. Wind him up and follow his every command. D’oh!”

Here, 1,000 years from now, our connection to the future will come full circle. More storied than the Daytona International Speedway itself is how it evolved. In 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, most racing took place on slow dirt roads. But down in Florida, between Ormond and Daytona, was a 23-mile strip of hard-packed sand where rumrunners raced “stock cars”—horsepower-packed jalopies designed to haul moonshine and outrun the law. In stepped Bill France, a mechanic and racing fanatic who lobbied Daytona Beach officials to build a paved oval track. The city finally agreed in 1948, and the first Daytona 500 was held 11 years later, on February 22, 1959. The largest outdoor illuminated sporting facility in the world, Daytona Speedway can fit more than 200,000 spectators inside its 480 acres, and it has come to define American racing glory. “Running down that massive backstretch at 200 mph, battling 42 of the world’s best drivers…I’m telling you, it’s electrifying,” says two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip. Other drivers haven’t been so lucky. Over the years the speedway has claimed the lives of 30 fearless men.
What the ghosts know: Back in the ’50s, when workers were removing dirt to create the track’s 31-degree banks, they hit Florida’s infamously low water table. What bubbled up was the 40-acre lake in Daytona’s infield—purely an accident.
Message to future generations: “We weren’t afraid to go bumper-to-bumper at 190 mph. You shouldn’t be, either.”

This motherbunker will take a nuclear lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Those who’ve seen the 1983 movie WarGames might recall Cheyenne Mountain, that big-ass bunker with the 25-ton blast doors and computers that track Soviet ICBMs. Well, it’s real—and still there, patiently bracing for everybody’s worst day. Built in 1961, the 200,000-square-foot complex is the ultimate deterrent: It can survive a 30 kiloton nuke, and the 200 folks inside can monitor the aftermath. At their disposal: a grocery store, a medical facility with a dental office, two gyms, a sauna, a chapel, and—since they’ll be the only ones left with hair!—a barber shop.
What the ghosts know: In 1980, Cheyenne detected 2,200 incoming Soviet ICBMs. Then national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski was about to advise President Jimmy Carter to retaliate when Cheyenne realized that the “launch” was a just a computer error. Whoops!
Message to future generations: “We were capable of destroying the entire planet…and maybe we did.”

We may not have nobility, but we do have a King. This was its castle. “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” Benjamin Franklin once said. Carry that sentiment to its natural conclusion and the world’s greatest religious center is the 100-acre Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis. It’s a National Historic Landmark, and inside its six-story 19th-century Brew House, delicious Budweiser still cooks in the kind of atmosphere it deserves: inside traditionally styled stainless-steel tanks, beneath two 50-foot wrought-iron chandeliers. The packaging plant at St. Louis alone can crank out 7,700 cans of beer a minute, 22 million bottles a week, and more than 15 million barrels a year. Translated into beer goggles, it does more to keep America beautiful than the entire cosmetics industry.
What the ghosts know: The post-tour two-beer-limit treat in the bland hospitality center ain’t what it used to be.
Message to future generations: “Americans knew how to party!”

This gargantuan plant keeps 3 million globetrotters high each and every day. After the polar icecaps melt and the oceans rise, future underwater explorers 30 miles north of what is now Seattle may wander into the remains of a building so large in scale it’ll make their submarines look like minnows in a whale’s belly. Inside they’ll find airplanes. Back in 1966, to produce the 747, Boeing built the world’s most voluminous building in Everett, Washington. With a footprint of 98.3 acres and an astonishing 472 million cubic feet, the Everett facility can fit 911 basketball courts or 2,142 average-size homes under its 114-foot-high roof. Imagine the house party!
What the ghosts know: During construction, a 46-day rain streak cost Boeing nearly $500,000 in site repairs.
Message to future generations: “Roll the dice.” If the 747 didn’t sell, it would’ve bankrupted Boeing.

When an open pit mine in Utah is visible from outer space, it’s safe to say that Mother Earth has become our bitch. “The unscarred beauty of the mountain is worth more than it’s mineral wealth,” a National Park Service superintendent once said. In the case of Bingham Canyon, an open pit copper mine near Salt Lake City, nobody listened—and a wonder resulted. One of the only man-made objects visible from space, the mine is more than two miles across and nearly a mile deep. Two Sears Towers could stand atop each other inside the pit—and still wouldn’t reach the rim.
What the ghosts know: 20,000 people once lived in Bingham Canyon’s communities. The mine slowly ate away at the towns’ edges, swallowing the last buildings in 1972.
Message to future generations: “Sorry we destroyed this beautiful mountain, but if you wanna make an omelet…”

Tony Perrottet. Journey to the Seven Wonders. Smithsonian . June 2004.
Todd Katz. Se7en Wonders of America. Maxim [Print + Kindle]. July 2004.


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