Active weather across the globe in 2021 helped unearth a number of fascinating artifacts from mysterious skulls to an entire ghost town. Yet inanimate objects weren’t the only unbelievable finds made possible by wild weather. Several findings were very much alive, and at least one was quite dangerous.
Here’s a look back at eight remarkable discoveries made possible by the weather in 2021.
A family taking a fishing trip at Utah’s Lake Powell in April took advantage of historically low water levels and ended up making a fascinating discovery. As the Bowles family returned to shore at the end of their trip, they noticed a shipwrecked boat jutting up into the air.
“It wasn’t until somebody had pointed out that it was all the way out of the water,” that they decided to investigate a little more closely, Liz Bowles told WXYZ-TV Channel 7. “So we just kind of puttered over to it and it was cool to see,” she said.
The family members were able to walk out of their boats and walk right up to the old shipwreck, uncovering long-lost items like silverware, an old shoe and even the hide-a-key still stuck to the boat with the keys inside.
At the time of the find, Lake Powell was at just 36% of its capacity, with a drought across the American West leading to low water levels
In California, the same prolonged drought helped a sonar equipment company accidentally discover what appeared to be a long-missing plane resting at the bottom of Folsom Lake outside Sacramento in June.
At first, the employees who discovered the plane believed it matched the description of an aircraft that crashed on New Year’s Day in 1965 with a pilot and three passengers aboard. The body of the pilot was recovered, but the three passengers were never found. That turned out not to be the case, with the plane being identified as one from a separate crash in 1986.
When the plane was discovered, Folsom Lake was at just 38% of its total capacity, with reservoirs and lakes across California suffering from low water levels after enduring extreme drought conditions.
A sonar equipment company, Seafloor Systems, captured this image, believed to show a plane missing since 1986. (Seafloor Systems)
Elsewhere in Utah, a forgotten ghost town was discovered at the Rockport Reservoir in September after the lake fell to just a quarter of its total capacity.
Eerie images posted to Twitter by drone test pilot Devon Dewey showed the foundation of the town, including old roads and crumbling rock structures that were once the homes of hard-working pioneers struggling to survive in the isolated Utah landscape.
Remnants of a mid-19th century Utah town emerge from underwater. (Photo credit: Devon Dewey)
“Rockport Reservoir is so low right now that many of the foundations of the old town are now visible. The town was flooded back in the 1950s to create the reservoir,” Dewey said.
At the time of the discovery, water levels had dipped so low that park officials closed the lake’s boat ramp.
Days after Elsa tore through parts of the Southeast as a tropical storm in mid-July, the former hurricane left a parting gift for a beachgoer combing the shoreline for treasures: a 4-inch-long fossilized megalodon tooth.
“It’s something so ancient,” Jacob Danner said in a phone call with AccuWeather. “You pick up something that’s millions of years old from a creature on the planet, and it takes you back to that childlike fascination of dinosaurs and all the mysteries that are only hinted at when we read about them.”
Jacob Danner shares a photo of his historic megalodon tooth discovery, found in the wake of Hurricane Elsa. (Facebook/Jacob Danner)
A megalodon is an ancient shark that grew to a length of up to 70 feet and was armed with razor-sharp, 7-inch teeth. The creature had the strongest bite force of any known animal on Earth, and its teeth are a prized collector’s item for shark enthusiasts.
The tooth, found at Fernandina Beach near Jacksonville, Florida, was likely at least 11 million years old. Megalodon teeth can survive for millions of years thanks to a fossilization process known as permineralization. And, as it turns out, mysterious skulls can also survive a long time in the water.
A mysterious and massive animal skull washed up on the beach at Island Beach State Park in Berkeley Township, New Jersey, on Memorial Day after a storm passed through the area.
It took authorities some time to figure out what it was, with Facebook commenters joking that it looked like part of a pterodactyl.
The massive skull that washed up at the Island Beach State Park in New Jersey stands up to the hip of the officer holding it. (Facebook/Island Beach State Park)
However, instead of being from a dinosaur, the skull was determined to be the lower jaw and skull of a minke whale. Minke whales are a part of a family of whale species that includes both humpback whales and the blue whale. Adult minke whales can reach up to 23 to 26 feet in length and weigh around 4 to 5 tons.
Surprisingly, a massive whale skull might not have been the oddest thing to turn up on the shores of a beach this year.
In late April, piles of what looked like giant pearls washed up overnight on a beach in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Hundreds of thousands of the unusual orbs covered the beach, with local residents trekking to the beach to observe the strangeness themselves.
As it turns out, the white balls were actually embryos of the carnivorous snail Adelomelon brasiliana, which lives off the coast of Argentina. The snails that emerge from the egg capsules grow up to 8 inches in length and can live up to 20 years.
“In general, they are found in the deep sea; however, certain movements that have to do with the tides or the wind cause these structures to rise and become deposited on the coast,” Marine Biologist Alejandro Saubidet said.
In mid-November, violent storms in Aswan, Egypt, unleashed heavy rains, dangerous lightning, strong winds and a horde of scorpions. The storm’s pouring rain apparently drove the scorpions from their burrows, sending the creatures scurrying indoors to seek shelter.
Mohamed Hamdy Boshta holds a scorpion that he hunted to extract their prized venom for medicinal use, at his company Cairo Venom in Cairo, Egypt, on Dec. 6, 2020. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
As the scorpions moved into residents’ homes, more than 500 people were reportedly stung, leaving health officials to call in doctors who were on vacation to help treat the influx of patients, according to NPR.
No deaths were reported from the scorpion stings, but the complex of storms killed at least three people.
Melting of the Siberian permafrost helped uncovered an ancient animal known as the bdelloid rotifer. For about the last 24,000 years, the multicellular microorganism had been frozen in the Arctic ice. However, upon being thawed, the tiny aquatic creature was reanimated, successfully cloning itself multiple times with an asexual reproduction form known as parthenogenesis.
Video released by the Soil Cryology Laboratory captures the wriggling movements of the tiny microorganism as it reemerged from its frozen state. (Soil Cryology Laboratory)
Stas Malavin, an author of the study published in the scientific journal, Current Biology, in June as part of an analysis on microorganisms, said in a press release that the discovery marked a major step in moving from the preservation of single-celled organisms to more complex species.
“The takeaway is that a multicellular organism can be frozen and stored as such for thousands of years and then return back to life – a dream of many fiction writers,” Malavin said.
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