High waves, violent winds, and extreme droughts can wreak terrible destruction—but they can also uncover amazing treasures. Severe weather has exposed Mayan hieroglyphics, medieval skeletons, ancient footprints, and much more. Here are 15 remarkable things revealed by weather.
1. THE OLDEST HUMAN FOOTPRINTS OUTSIDE OF AFRICA
In 2013, strong storms and erosion at Happisburgh, England cleared away sand and revealed curious depressions in mud. Archaeologists determined that they were human footprints—the oldest ever found outside of Africa. These people who made the footprints belonged to a different species of Homo than our own, and they lived between 1 million and 0.78 million years ago.
2. A CIVIL WAR SHIP—AND A BOTTLE OF TERRIBLE WINE
During the U.S. Civil War, President Lincoln ordered a blockade around southern ports to stop goods from passing through. The Confederacy responded with blockade runners, ships helmed by daring captains who ran cotton, medicine, ammunition, and other goods through the blockade.
The Mary Celestia was one such vessel. It served in this role for only two years before it hit a reef and sank. In recent years, severe hurricanes have stripped away sand from the wreck, and they’ve exposed all sorts of interesting archaeological artifacts—including a sealed bottle of wine. Was the vino still drinkable? Experts sipped it and declared that it mostly tasted like sludgy seawater with notes of … gasoline. Eww.
3. A MEDIEVAL SKELETON HANGING FROM TREE ROOTS
In 2015, a tempest in Collooney, Ireland toppled a huge beech tree—andhoisted half of a skeleton into the air. The bones belonged to an early medieval man who met a violent death from some sort of sharp blade. When the beech tree was toppled last year, the roots popped up from the soil, carrying the top half of the skeleton with them.
4. A PREHISTORIC FOREST
Wild weather at Cardigan Bay in Wales periodically strips away sand and uncovers an unusual sight: an ancient forest of tree stumps. In 2014 an especially powerful set of storms exposed much of the forest, giving us amazing views of the ancient trees, which died over 4500 years ago as sea levels rose and salt water inundated the land. Archaeologists also found awooden walkway dating to between 3000 and 4000 years ago; perhaps the local people built it in an attempt to deal with rising seas.
5. THE WRECK OF A COAL SCHOONER—PROBABLY
When Hurricane Sandy blew through New York state’s Fire Island, it exposed the hull of a large ship. Experts believe—though they can’t confirm—that this vessel is the Bessie White, a Canadian coal schooner. The ship ran aground in 1919 or 1922 after it became lost in heavy fog. Fortunately, the naval disaster didn’t claim any lives. The whole crew survived, including the ship’s cat.