10 Enigmas Part 2

Alrighty! I’ve been deprived of electricity at home for two whole days and I have decided that the time has come to do a little more myth-eliminating (*phew* close shave, I almost said “mythbusting tm”!). So I decided to take another look at the list of 10 more enigmas that defy explanation. Boy! This one is really going to keep me busy for a while!

2. The Iron Pillar of Delhi

I had never heard of the Iron Pillar of Delhi before I read this list, so I was genuinely intrigued when I typed “iron pillar delhi” into the Wikipedia search bar and I was very pleased to find that there is a simple scientific explanation for why this iron phallus has stood so firm for so long. Basically, the Iron Pillar is protected by a condom-like layer which formed due to the fortuitous combination of high amounts of phosphorous and the presence of slag and unreduced iron oxides in the metal. Add a healthy dose of alternating wet and dry conditions (the weather) and PRESTO! An iron pillar which is (almost) impervious to rust.

The “inexplicable” part of the non-rusting Iron Pillar of Delhi is not WHY the pillar is remarkably resistant to oxidization, but that it was apparently cast by a bunch of illiterate heathens, or to use the exact words of the list;

how ancient ironsmiths discovered the fact so long before us still amazes archeologists today.

The Iron Pillars age is generally accepted to be around 1600 years, that is, it was cast around 400 AD. That is remarkably old. However, the ancient Indian Iron Age is considered to have begun around 1200 BC. Working with this time line the ancient Indians were using iron for cutting tools and agriculture not one, not two, but THREE thousand years ago. A full 1600 years before the Iron Pillar was cast.

Try not to make the mistake of thinking that all ancient people were unsophisticated savages. The Vedic Indians were, in fact, remarkably sophisticated having developed veterinary medicine by 1900 BCE, waterwheels and watermills by 350 BCE, and the fore-and-aft sailing rig before the end of the 5th century AD. And don’t forget the unmistakable influence of being surrounded by other technologically advanced civilizations such as those in the Middle East (Egypt, Mesopotamia and Assyria) and China. Sure, they were ancient and they built something impressive, but have you or have you not heard of the aeolipile? The aeolipile is a rudimentary steam engine designed and built in the first century AD. To argue that something is amazing because it was made by people thousands of years ago is arrogant and ignorant. Our society enjoys it’s current level of technological development because of the incremental steps taken by people exactly as ancient as those who made the Iron Pillar.

3. Carroll A. Deering

The Carroll A. Deering (the Deering) was a ship which ran aground sometime around 31 January 1921 in an area known as the Diamond Shoals which was notorious for causing many shipwrecks. Nothing mysterious there. The mystery starts to surface with a report of an incident in which the Deering hailed the Cape Lookout lightship. The lightship’s captain reported that on the 28th of January 1921 he encountered a “thin man with reddish hair and a foreign accent” aboard the Deering who told him that the Deering had lost its anchors. The lightship’s captain also reported that the crew of the Deering had been “milling around” on an area of the ship where they would not usually have been allowed. That was the last time the Deering and her crew were seen in the same place at the same time. When the wreck was discovered there were signs that a meal was being prepared in the ships galley.

This sounds like an unfortunate story to me, but reads more like a hijacking by pirates than paranormal activity as suggested in the 10 Enigmas list. The list would like you to believe that the terrifying patch of sea known as the “Bermuda Triangle” is close to where the ship ran aground, yeah, so is New York. You might as well claim that theories point to the Statue of Liberty having sunk the ship herself, it’s about as far away.

In this image, North Carolina is highlighted in red;

And this image sketches the approximate position of the fictitious Bermuda Triangle;

Oh, I guess I had better provide some support for my statements about the Big Scary Triangle of Doom;

There are some skeptics who argue that the facts do not support the legend, that there is no mystery to be solved, and nothing that needs explaining. The number of wrecks in this area is not extraordinary, given its size, location and the amount of traffic it receives. Many of the ships and planes that have been identified as having disappeared mysteriously in the Bermuda Triangle were not in the Bermuda Triangle at all. Investigations to date have not produced scientific evidence of any unusual phenomena involved in the disappearances. Thus, any explanation, including so-called scientific ones in terms of methane gas being released from the ocean floor, magnetic disturbances, etc., are not needed. The real mystery is how the Bermuda Triangle became a mystery at all.

The Skeptic’s Dictionary

Let us use one of the most simple tools in our toolbox; Occams Razor. When faced with a variety of explanations for a phenomenon, the most simple explanation is usually the correct one. Pirates or mysterious phenomenon with serious authenticity issues, hmmmm….

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