August 19, 2008
In June of that year, 49 year old Michael O'Neill decided to travel to Australia for a month or so, but completely forgot to tell friends and family that he was going. He no doubt enjoyed the holiday, but when he came home he was shocked to find out that he was dead!
This minor mishap started when those close to him had not heard from him for a good amount of time, his neighbours grew worried and they called the police. After knocking several times and after a few visits, the police broke into the house and found no trace of the 'missing' man.
Then, in early August, a death notice was posted in a local newspaper. Michael O'Neill had died, his two brothers, Kevin and Terry, wrote of their loss and bereavement. However this was a completely different Michael O'Neill, who, by complete coincidence, had brothers of the same name!
When the real Michael O'Neill finally journeyed back home to Middlesbrough, England, he arrived to a kicked in door. Puzzled he went to the neighbours who informed him of his death.
"Everywhere I am going, people I know are grabbing hold of my hand, saying, 'I thought you were dead!' They can't believe it's me and I'm still alive."
August 21, 1986
I was surprised to see that my trousers were red, had some stains like honey. I saw some starchy mess on my body. My arms had some wounds I didn't really know how I got these wounds.
I opened the door. I wanted to speak, my breath would not come out. My daughter was already dead. I went into my daughter's bed, thinking that she was still sleeping. I slept till it was 4:30 pm. in the afternoon.
I managed to go over to my neighbours' houses. They were all dead. I decided to leave. I got my motorcycle. A friend whose father had died left with me. As I rode I didn't see any sign of any living thing...”
These are the words of Joseph Nkwain from the village of Subum, Cameroon, who survived a horrific tragedy that killed nearly 2000 people in minutes, on this night in 1986.
Lake Nyos is a crater lake, a lake that formed when a lava flow interacted with groundwater, causing an explosion. After the water filled this crater, it trapped a pocket of magma underneath the new lake, which constantly leaks carbon dioxide into the water. Levels of CO2 build up until such a point where it escapes in a massive release, the gas displacing breathable air, and the travelling 'cloud' killing all in its path.
This is what happened in August 1986. The lake 'erupted' causing a thick cloud of noxious gas to travel at ground level through the nearby villages. Approximately 1700 people were killed, suffocating as they slept with survivors making a run from the disaster. Of those who made it out of harms way many suffered permanent injury and disability.
A similar event had occurred in another nearby crater lake two years earlier. 37 local residents were killed when Lake Monoun 'erupted', however this was kept quiet by the government and those living near Lake Nyos would not have learned of the danger such lakes posed.
August 25, 1835
Well in 1835 many people did due to a series of six articles posted in New York's 'The Sun' newspaper. The articles were the findings of Sir John Herschel, an English mathematician and astronomer (among other things) who had made the discoveries by using a massive telescope housed in a purpose built observatory.
The findings were presented as reprints from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. New life was so close but impossibly far away at the same time.
Unfortunately Herschel's telescope and observatory burnt down and the discoveries came to an abrupt halt. University scientists from Yale travelled to New York to find the original articles to see if more insights could be gleaned as the public clamoured for more knowledge.
Well, and you probably guessed this, it was all a hoax, cooked up (probably) by a journalist looking to increase sales and circulation of the paper. Herschel was quite amused by it all, he never had anything to do with the hoax but he decided the false findings presented were much more interesting than anything he had ever discovered.
The Sun admitted to the hoax on September 16, 1835. The world’s greatest hoax in regards to the moon was over and no one has ever attempted to fool people about our interaction with the Luna surface ever since... well... maybe.