Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Napoleon's Treasure

In October 1812, Napoleon’s troops were leaving Moscow. They looted not only the citizens’ private houses but also the Kremlin and Moscow’s churches.

They even removed the gilded cross from the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. Leaving Moscow, all of Napoleon’s soldiers were loaded with stolen valuables.
October 25th 1812 was the first day of Napoleon's retreat. Over 14,000 mounted cavalry, nearly 90,000 troops and some 12,000 non-combatant and ill soldiers passed through the Kaluga Gate - a total of 116,000 people and 569 hardware items.
Bonaparte ordered his troops to blow up the Kremlin in revenge for the three unsuccessful offers of peace to Russian Emperor Alexander I. As a result, several Kremlin towers were ruined, as well as some of its walls, the Arsenal’s building, the Assumption Belfry and the Filaret Annex next to the Ivan the Great Bell Tower.

The transportation of the emperor’s loot required 200 horse-drawn wagons. Napoleon had two wagon trains: the “golden train,” carrying valuables looted from the Kremlin; and the iron train, full of ancient weaponry. As they retreated, Napoleon's exhausted army was forced to abandon their spoils.

Historians believe the valuables were thrown into one of the lakes west of the Smolensk Region.
Over the years there have been many attempts to find the abandoned loot. The lakes around Smolensk in particular is among the most popular destination for seekers of the Napoleonic hoard.
Archaeologists excavated a mass grave in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2015. The jumbled bones, haphazardly oriented, were punctuated with finds of shoes and clothing. Buttons revealed the identity of the dead: over 40 different regiments were represented, all from Napoleon’s Grande Armée.

Archaeologists had found the final resting place of over three thousand men who perished during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812.
About 675,000 men of Napoleon's Grand Army set out for Moscow to conquer Russia in June 1812.

By the time of the retreat from Moscow, the army, which had swelled to 900,000, was reduced to 100,000.
When the retreating troops finally reached Vilnius in Lithuania, Napoleon's Grand Army was not so grand: they had been reduced to about 50,000 vermin-bitten, diseased, cold, and starving men.
As the European soldiers died of starvation, disease and the cold, locals burned the bodies. But the stench was so great that the locals started burying them en masse, using trenches the soldiers had dug on their way to Russia as graves.

In 2007 one of Napoleon's swords was sold for more than US$6.4 million. The sword, used in battle some 200 years ago, is believed to be the last of Napoleon's blades in private hands.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Unusual Cars at RM Sotheby's 2016 Amelia Island auction

The Toyota 2000 GT may be one of the few Japanese cars capable of drawing six figures.

RM Sotheby's had a 1967 example finished in white, one of just 62 left-hand drive examples that were sold new in the U.S. The auction house claims that it is considered to be the most authentic 2000 GT in the U.S. $797,000
1997 Porsche 911 Turbo S.

Prices of Porsches are going nowhere but straight up. RM Sotheby's offered an example from 1997, one of just 183 Turbo S models built for the U.S. This one displays 13,379 miles and is said to be a numbers-matching car.

With a 424-hp engine, these were essentially supercars back in the day. $495,000
1962 Rolls-Royce Phantom V Limousine by Park Ward

This 1962 Rolls-Royce Phantom V Limousine by Park Ward is an example with 20,000 miles. That's low mileage even for the typical royal deferred-maintenance-mobiles, and it's rare.

1978 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser

A 1978 example, the subject of a frame-off restoration. 1978 was the first year for front disc brakes on these, even though the basic design dates back to the 1950s. A 4.2-liter inline-six lives under the hood, good for 135 hp. $82,000
1985 Ford RS200 Evolution

The Group B racer is famous for holding the Guinness record for "fastest accelerating car in the world" for some time. This particular RS200 is one of just 24 built to Evolution spec and packs a 600-hp 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, connected to a five-speed manual. The clock showed less than 450 kilometers, which makes it one of the least used RS200s in the world. The car was originally sold to a Texas oilman who kept it as a collectible. $522,000
1963 Volkswagen Type 2 '23-Window' Super Deluxe Microbus with Eriba Puck camper

The VW boasts a 50-hp four-cylinder. The Bus itself received a bare-metal restoration in the 1990s. $159,500

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Most expensive antique weapons at auction

General Ulysses S Grant's Civil War presentation sword - $1.6m.

The sword was presented to future president General Ulysses S Grant by the citizens of Kentucky in 1864, upon his promotion to "General in Chief of the Armies of the United States".

Pair of Nicolas-Noel Boutet pistols owned by Simon Bolivar - $1.8m

George Washington's pistols. The pistols are also linked to the Marquis de Lafayette and later, seventh US president Andrew Jackson. They sold for $2m at a Christie's auction in New York in 2002.

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's gold dagger. Bonhams in London sold the gold dagger which was owned by Shah Jahan (1592-1666) for £1.7m ($3.3m) in April 2008. The dagger dates to 1629-30.

18th century Chinese jade-hilted sword. A ceremonial steel-bladed sword, produced during the reign of the Qianlong emperor from 1736 to 1795, sold for $5.9m at Sotheby's Hong Kong in 2006.

The Baoteng Saber was one of 90 such swords produced during the emperor's reign, but the first to ever appear at auction.
The most expensive antique weapon to appear at auction is a gold encrusted sword used by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is thought the sword was used by Napoleon in battle at Marengo in June 1800, before he became emperor. The sword brought €4.8m ($6.5m) at an Osenat auction in Fontainebleau, France in 2007.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Strange and Unusual Places

Tufa pinnacles at Mono Lake in Sierra Nevada - Mono Lake is a closed hydrological basin - water flows into it but it doesn't flow out. The only way for water to leave is through evaporation. Four vertical feet of water can evaporate during the course of a year.

Lake Baikal in Siberia freezes over but the water is so clear that you can see 130 feet below you. Wind, temperature differences, frost and sun in the ice crust cause cracks and ice hummocks to form.

A lightning bolt crashed against the Grand Canyon illuminating the canyon walls.
The Door to Hell is a natural gas field in Derweze, Ahal Province, Turkmenistan. The Door to Hell is noted for its natural gas fire which has been burning continuously since it was lit by Soviet petroleum engineers in 1971.

The elephant rock formation in Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada
Don Juan Pond is a hypersaline lake in the west end of Wright Valley, Antarctica. With a salinity level of over 40%, Don Juan Pond is the saltiest known body of water on Earth

The Great Blue Hole in Belize - A large submarine sinkhole which is over 984 feet across and 407 feet deep. The sinkhole was formed during several episodes of quaternary glaciation when sea levels were lower.

The Dune of Pilat is the tallest sand dune in Europe. It is located in La Teste-de-Buch in France, 60 km from Bordeaux.

The Wave in Utah - Carved rock eroded into a wave-like formation made of jurassic-age Navajo sandstone that is 190 million years old.

Aogashima is south of Tokyo in the Philippine Sea. The island is known for having a volcanic caldera within a larger caldera.

The sliding stones of Death Valley, California - The movement of the rocks continue to baffle experts, with some rocks sliding across a flat bed despite weighing up to 700 pounds each.

Urup is an uninhabited volcanic island near in the south of the Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk in the northwest Pacific Ocean

The Beauty Pool of Yellowstone National Park The hot spring allows luminous algae and bacteria to flourish creating a vivid array of colors

Reed Flute Cave: Guilin, China
Socotra, Yemen

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world at 1840 km².
Danxia Landforms in Zhangye, Province of Gansu

Thor’s Well, Oregon

Wulingyuan Scenic Area: Zhangjiajie, China

The Moeraki Boulders of New Zealand The gigantic boulders started forming on the ocean floor and can now be seen sitting on the coastline thanks to erosion.
The Eye of Africa official name the Richat Structure was spotted in central Mauritania by astronauts on early space missions. In the Western Sahara Desert, the formation has a diameter of about 30 miles.

Seaside lava ledges on Kauaʻi of the main Hawaiian Islands.

The Fly Geyser, near Gerlach, Nevada

Rotorua is a city on the southern shores of the lake of the same name, in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand.

Kauaʻi is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, it is the fourth largest of the main islands. Seaside lava ledges make for otherworldly experiences.

Statue of King Decebal, Danube Canyon