On Oct. 24, Middle School students heard from Joshua Foer, author of Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders and co-founder of AtlasObscura.com. Foer uses his book and website to share discoveries of new adventures and encourage intellectual curiosity.
Foer shared that Atlas Obscura owes its origins to a trip that he took at the age of 19. With a grant he received from his college, Foer spent two months driving all over the United States trying to find the most incredible, amazing, hidden spots in the country. He challenged himself to find a new adventure every day and go home and write about it each night.
“There was no great resource for somebody like me who wanted to have those kind of adventures,” he said. “There was no book that I found that was really great, there was no website. And so I started talking to my friend Dylan Thuras and we said we should create a website where people could share their knowledge of the world’s hidden wonders and curious places. We launched Atlas Obscura 10 years ago and we have accumulated this database of 19,000 places all over the world, from all seven continents, that each one hopefully makes you go, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that that could really exist on planet Earth.”"
Through photos and videos, Foer shared a tour of his favorite places (he has visited 500 destinations) with Middle School students. He highlighted trips to ancient bridges in India, South Korea, Peru, and Columbia, a trip to the deserted city in the Mojave Desert of California that resembles a ghostland, and his future plans to travel to Turkmenistan, where natural gas has burned for 47 years. He talked about his travels to Northern Japan to the tombs of Buddhist monks who were self-mummified in 1783 and to Venezuela to see the everlasting lightning storm over Lake Maracaibo. He also showed the Devil’s Kettle, a pair of waterfalls in Minnesota where one of the twin waterfalls seems to flow to nowhere, and the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, the world’s largest musical instrument.
Form II student Nolan McCloskey noted that “even with everything we know through math, science, etc., there are still places we can’t explain, mysteries still unsolved. There are still lots of new discoveries to be found in lots of different fields. The assembly inspired me to try to answer some of these questions. It also showed many beautiful places I never would have seen."
After hundreds of adventures and 10 years with Atlas Obscura, Foer shared, “The thing that is so satisfying for me is that I am still discovering new places, even right around the corner. You don’t have to go halfway around the world, you don’t have to go to the jungles of South America to find wonder. You can find it in your own backyard if you’re willing to look for it.”