Bizarre Starfish Wasting Syndrome

By Anupum Pant

Up in the Washington state a videographer and also a diver, Laura James noticed a couple of  dead Starfish on the coast one day. The dead bodies looked like something mysterious had happened. There were broken bodies and splats all over the place as if the fish had been zapped by a laser.

Laura videographed some of the tens of thousands of starfish bodies all over the north america’s pacific coast. No one was sure what was actually happening. And then there were reports of these mysterious starfish deaths from all over the west coast of North America.

For some time, only the sunflower starfish were thought to be affected by this. However, on further investigation, it was found that almost 12 different species of starfish were dying mysteriously all over the west coast (and some on the east coast too). When this was confirmed to be an epidemic of some sort, they started calling it the sea star wasting syndrome and notified the scientists.

Ben minor, a western Washington university professor of biology started collecting sea stars at the coast. They found a number of normal sea stars. Later when the search continued a pile of sea star arms and twisted parts of them were found at different places. Some of the live starfish were collected and were studied in the laboratory.

It was confirmed that the starfish which were affected by this epidemic experienced twisting arms and lesions first and then the arms crawled away in different directions, tearing the body of a starfish apart. All of it in under 24 hours. This bizarre disease then left a spill of inside parts of the fish and broken body parts all over the place.

No one knows for sure what causes this bizarre disease among the sea stars.

The Highest Unclimbed Mountain

By Anupum Pant

Gangkhar Puensum, meaning three mountain siblings, is the tallest mountain in Bhutan with an elevation of 7,570 meters. Since the 80s several attempts have been made to climb this mountain – a part of which lies in Bhutan and the other part in Tibet. None of the attempts have ever been successful.

However in the year 1999, a team of climbers from Japan, after a protracted attempt to get a permit, were able to reach the top of one of the three peaks – Liankang Kangri – from the Chinese side of the mountain. Later, protests from local people in Bhutan made them stop.

So technically, the highest peak has never been climbed by anyone till date. Gangkhar Puensum remains the highest unclimbed mountain. The reason mostly is because obtaining a permit to climb it is almost impossible. It is prohibited by the government of Bhutan.

The prohibition by the government has mostly to do with the lack of rescue services at that place, and due to the local belief which considers the peak sacred – a home to holy spirits.

Gangkhar Puensum is certainly one of the uncharted mysterious places in the world where no one has gone and probably never will.

Dozens Died During The Dance Epidemic of France

By Anupum Pant

Background

In the year 1518, a woman named Frau Troffea suffered with a very mysterious, contagious and a scary disease. Till date, doctors or science has no explanation on what really was going on in her body and the disease is still named among one of the most bizarre and the most unexplainable diseases ever – The Dance plague of 1518.

In the month of  July Frau Troffea came down to a quiet street in the city of Strasbourg, France and started dancing fervently on the street.  Even 6 days later, the woman was still dancing. On the 6th day, she probably died out of exhaustion.

But by the time she had stopped, the dancing disease had spread to 34 more people. And by the end of that month there were 400 others who were experiencing this irresistible urge to dance. Dozens died out of exhaustion.

Ironically, doctors and physicians suggested that the cure to this dancing plague would be to dance more. It was literally dance till you drop. Musicians were hired, stages were made for these hoards of dancers.

Similar contagious of these dancing epidemics in other European cities have been recorded in the history at least 10 other times before this. There was one in the year 1374, which the records say, spread to several towns!

Agreed the story is too old and seems to have become hyped due to repeated story telling, but clearly that isn’t the case because the certainty of the event, is established through a number of independent records.

Why was this happening?

Well, no one knows for sure. The mysterious disease has baffled scientists for years. However, there are of course some weak theories that explain the behaviour of these dancing people.

One theory says that the dancers got high on ergot – A psychotropic fungus that grows on rye and must have reached these people through bread. Since the symptoms associated with ergot poisoning are very similar to what these people were experiencing, it seems like a valid explanation. But there’s almost no chance that ergot poisoning happened…

That is because when a person gets poisoned by this fungus, they start having hallucinations and involuntary muscle contractions. However, the people who were affected by the dancing plague, according the people who had seen this happening, were clearly not willing to dance – which doesn’t happen when you are poisoned by ergot.

Also, these “muscle contractions” they were experiencing weren’t just involuntary contractions that are associated with ergot poisoning. They were moving in a very coordinated manner, actually dancing. Clearly, it wasn’t ergot.

Another possible explanation says that it was out of fear, anxiety and desperation among the people because of the widespread famine and disease in that area during this period. This is presently a widely accepted explanation.

Still, what exactly was happening their brains and what exactly caused it, no one knows.

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