It’s official: 2013 was one for the books in terms of bizarre stories related to outdoor recreation and environmental issues. Here are some highlights from the year that almost was.
Snorkeler Discovers Sea Monster
In October, a marine instructor discovered a massive, scaly carcass off the coast of California’s Catalina Island. The beast measured 18 feet in length, and required 15 adults to pull the creature onto dry land. After a few tests, teacher Jasmine Santana deduced the carcass belonged to an oarfish, which are usually found at depths of 2,000 to 3,000 feet.
Animal Invasions Abound
2013 was the year of weird infestations. In November, residents across the U.S. Southeast and Gulf Coast reported that swarms of ladybugs had set up shop in their homes and businesses. In September, a horde of wild pigs terrorized a suburban neighborhood in Atlanta. Even the New York City Health Department wasn’t immune to animal invaders; in September, the department announced their main office in Queens was infested with bedbugs.
Mississippi Gator Hunters Set Three Records in Two Days
On Aug. 30, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks reported that a hunting party had caught the longest and heaviest female gator on record; the big gal measured 10 feet and weighed in at 293.5 pounds. Approximately 48 hours later, another hunting party snagged the heaviest male gator on record ― a massive 723.5 pounds. Their triumph was short lived, as just an hour later, the male gator record was broken again! These Mississippi hunters hauled in a gator weighing 727 pounds.
Florida Sinkhole Becomes Instant Tourist Attraction
In the resort business, resourcefulness is an invaluable asset. So when a gaping chasm swallowed a building last summer at Florida’s Summer Bay Resorts (just a few miles from Walt Disney World), general manager Paul Caldwell saw an opportunity. One the site was cleaned up and safety concerns were mitigated, he invited visitors to come check out the sinkhole firsthand. The hole was an instant hit with camera-toting tourists.
Man Paddleboards from U.S. to Cuba
Diana Nyad made headlines in September when she swam from Cuba to Florida and shattered the distance record in the process. Tennessee musician Ben Friberg, on the other hand, didn’t generate quite the same buzz. In August, he became the first person to complete the 110-mile crossing from Florida to Cuba on a paddleboard ― and in only 28 hours. Our verdict: Friberg got robbed.
Daredevil Crosses Grand Canyon on Highwire
Although it seems a stunt like this would have first been completed decades ago, a brave young soul named Nik Wallenda became the first man to cross the Grand Canyon on a high-wire. On June 23, Wallenda completed the treacherous, 1,400-foot walk in just under 23 minutes ― and he did so without a tether, safety net, or other visible means of support. The Wallenda clan is known for this sort of thing, though things haven’t always gone so well; Nik’s grandfather was killed in 1978 when he fell from a high-wire in Puerto Rico. Congratulations Nik on an awesome, terrifying achievement!
Nigerian Man Survives Shipwreck for Two Days in an Air Bubble
Harrison Okene was ‘indisposed’ in the latrine when his tugboat capsized in the Atlantic Ocean on May 26. The 29-year-old ship’s cook was miraculously saved when an air bubble formed around him. He survived inside the bubble for two days, and was pulled to safety when rescue crews finally reached the latrine. “I was there in the water in total darkness just thinking it’s the end,” Okene told Reuters. “I kept thinking the water was going to fill up the room but it did not.”
Rupee Becomes the First Dog to Summit Mount Everest
When Joann Lufson of India rescued Rupee, the 8-month-old puppy was dehydrated and starving. According to most reports, in late October, the durable canine began a 10-day journey up Mount Everest with his owner that ended with a successful summit. Touching though this story may be, Rupee didn’t actually summit Mount Everest. Rupee may not be the first dog to reach the world’s highest point, but he did make it to base camp.