5 Surprising Upsides of Horrible Natural Disasters

#2. Drought Is a Boon to Archaeology

Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Droughts suck all around. Water conservation restrictions drive up food and energy prices, make hotter weather worse, and steal all the fun out of water balloon fights. But if we can lay all those horrors aside for just a moment, we can focus on how amazing droughts are for archaeologists.

It's pretty simple -- digging for fossils and skulls and shit is next to impossible when they're under water, and when drought exposes lake beds to the sun for the first time, it's a freaking gold mine for scientists. For instance, you have the Texas droughts of 2011, which shrank lakes all around the state to a fraction of their normal size, revealing around 200 new sites and a shitload of artifacts, including the skull of an American native probably thousands of years old, 19th century marble tombstones, a cemetery of freed-slave children, and a piece of the tragic NASA shuttle Columbia.

Via Wikipedia
That's the badass that was sent up to fix Hubble.

An Iraqi drought in 2009 uncovered most of a 120-mile flood zone created by Saddam Hussein decades ago. Because Saddam was terrible at both planning ahead and caring about anyone else's opinion, he had flooded a large number of in-progress archaeological digs. Not only were those uncovered by the drought, but so were a number of new sites, as the water had done most of the archaeologists' work for them. The drought-y goodness even extended to England when its sopping wet skies decided to quit the bottle cold turkey in the summer of 2010. Hundreds of prehistoric settlements and Roman encampments were discovered in farmers' fields and various pastures in the countryside, including 60 sites all on one particularly profitable day.

And just last fall, the record low water levels in the Vistula River in Poland uncovered a genuine stash of buried treasure netting more than 12 tons of marble sculptures missing since the 17th century, which were mostly in great condition -- no small feat, considering the Vistula's headwaters probably absorbed boatloads of Russian vodka-piss for a couple of those centuries.

Via National Geographic
Which probably acted as a bacteria killer in its toxicity.

So forget about Indiana Jones -- the greatest tool that archaeology has may be global warming. At the very least, we can enjoy the irony of learning about ancient destroyed civilizations through the same process that is destroying ours.

#1. A Hurricane Prevents World War I from Breaking Out Early

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In the late 19th century, tensions between Germany and America were already pretty high, and might have spilled over into a full on premature global war if not for one well-timed hurricane. In Samoa, of all places.

See, as it happened, both German and American businessmen had interests in the Samoan rubber industry. Before long, German warships were shelling Samoan coastal villages and an American fleet was steaming across the Pacific to tell them to knock it the hell off. Meanwhile, Britain also sent a ship, apparently solely because the chance to annoy the Germans and the Americans was too good to pass up. In all this time, nobody once thought to ask Samoa what they thought.

Via Wikipedia
We're hoping they mostly just sat back and provoked them while giggling.

The three sides met in Apia harbor, where a taut standoff ensued for several months as tensions rose and politicians scrambled to find a solution. With no resolution in sight, a devastating global war seemed inevitable. Over Samoa. Well, we guess it is nicer than Bosnia.

But while the politicians bickered, the sailors in Apia had bigger worries. Their confrontation happened to coincide with the start of hurricane season, and the waters off Samoa were known for some pretty terrifying storms. But it was a standoff, so neither side could back down without looking like a bunch of little bitches. So for seven long months they stuck it out, until finally the hurricane season had passed and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. That was of course when the hurricane hit.

Via Navy.mil
"Why does the whole island smell like recently shat pants?"

A German cruiser went straight to the bottom with only four survivors. The flagship of the U.S. Pacific fleet was hurled around the harbor like a Slinky in a tumble dryer, managing to ram the only German ship to find a safe anchorage, before crashing very slowly into the already half-sunk USS Vandalia.

When the storm cleared, only one ship was still afloat, and the ensuing climate of "Oh God everyone's dead" effectively defused the crisis, as everyone suddenly woke up to the fact that "not the whole Samoan Archipelago was worth the loss in men and costly ships already suffered." A compromise was quickly reached and peace guaranteed for ... well, about another 16 years.



You can email Alex at hantonalex@gmail.com. Micah thinks you should go hug your grandmother. Seriously, go do it (assuming she deserves a hug).



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