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Weird History
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16 Fun Historical Facts Most People Don’t Know That Made Us Say ‘Really?’

August 20, 2020 3.2k votes 630 voters 63.6k views16 items

List RulesVote up the historical facts you're learning for the first time.

History is too often derided as a dry subject that lacks relevance to the modern age. This is patently false. History is a bonanza of bizarre incidents, heartbreaking tragedies, and dark comedy. To prove it, one Redditor challenged the AskReddit community to share the history facts most don't know.

Below are the best responses to that challenge, as well as sources for further reading. Read on to learn about obscure historical figures, as well as the untold stories of the famous and infamous. Vote up the historical facts you never knew.

  • 1

    Buzz Aldrin's Travel Expenses To The Moon And Back Totaled $33.31

    From Redditor u/augenwiehimmel:

    Buzz Aldrin, the second person to set foot on the moon, claimed $33.31 in travel expenses: Houston > Cape Kennedy > the Moon > Pacific Ocean > Hawaii > Houston.


    Surprising history?
  • 2

    The 'Titanic's Sister Ship, 'Olympic,' Had A Storied Career

    From Redditor u/DarkNinjaPenguin:

    Most of us are familiar with the tragic story of Titanic. Fewer know of Titanic's older and goofier sister, Olympic, which not only had a long and successful career, but spent an awful lot of it smashing into sh*t!

    On leaving Southampton for her fifth Atlantic voyage, Olympic sailed just a wee bit close to Royal Navy warship HMS Hawke, scraping off the warship's bow ram. Hawke was severely damaged, while Olympic shrugged it off (despite being holed in two places) and sailed back to Belfast under her own steam for repairs. These repairs delayed Titanic's launch for several weeks.

    During the first World War, Olympic was temporarily repurposed as a troop transport. But she had a thirst for blood! During one crossing, after sighting a German U-boat attempting to torpedo her, the liner threw a sharp turn and ran the f***er over. The U-boat U103 was punctured by Olympic's propeller and sunk. Olympic suffered a few dents and a twisted prow, but was not breached. Olympic earned the distinction of being the only merchant ship to sink an enemy vessel during the war.

    Fast forward to New York harbour 1924, and Olympic collided with another ship which dared cross her path. The Italian ship Fort St George suffered extensive damage and Olympic, which appeared unscathed at the time, later had to have her entire stern frame replaced.

    (Incidentally, during this refit a mysterious dent was found below Olympic's waterline. This was confirmed to be from a torpedo that had hit the liner during the war a decade earlier and not detonated. Olympic didn't bat an eyelid.)

    Nine years later, Olympic joined the long list of ships that had collided with the Nantucket lightship. Not content with just this however, Olympic decided to better the rest of them, hitting the lightship amidships and cutting it clean in two. Seven of the lightship's crew perished.

    Eventually the only thing that could stop this maniac of the ocean wasn't nature, or the laws of physics, but the economy. Transatlantic travel took a major hit during the Depression, and Olympic was scrapped when she could no longer compete with more modern and efficient liners. She had been terrorizing the high seas for 24 years.

    It's a shame really that, of Titanic and her two sisters, most of us are familiar only with the less interesting one!


    Surprising history?
  • 3

    The Naming Of Portland, OR, Was Decided By A Coin Flip

    From Redditor u/thegnight:

    Portland, OR, was almost named Boston. It came down to a coin flip.


    Surprising history?
  • 4

    About 232 Million Years Ago, It Rained For At Least 1 Million Years Straight

    From Redditor u/Chief_doge:

    252 million years ago, it rained for 2 million years straight.


    [Editor's Note: Science journalist Michael Marshall writes, "About 232 million years ago, during a span known as the Carnian age, it rained almost everywhere. After millions of years of dry climates, Earth entered a wet period lasting one million to two million years. Nearly any place where geologists find rocks of that age, there are signs of wet weather."]

    Surprising history?
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