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Fists, bribes, guns and wheels: Plugger Bill Martin, cycling’s first official hard man

March 2, 2016
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William 'Plugger' Martin, winner of the first Madison Six in 1891.

One by one, the riders entered Martin’s hotel room. On the bed, bribes were laid out in piles of notes and sovereigns; Martin, loaded revolver by his side, addressed each successive visitor, stating the terms of their contract. “Quite right, Bill,” came the replies. Notes and coins changed hands and were signed for. Soon afterwards,…

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The Greatest Six-Day Bicycle Race Ever Seen

February 18, 2015
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The Greatest Six-Day Bicycle Race Ever Seen

The Irishman who won the famous Madison Six of 1896 was English. And everyone knew, except the history books.

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The Last Passenger Pigeon

August 24, 2014
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The Last Passenger Pigeon

In the Spring of 1860, a flock estimated at 3.7 billion Passenger Pigeons flew over Ontario. Eleven years later, some 136 million breeding pairs nested in Wisconsin, with birds landing in such large numbers that limbs were often sheared off the trees. With numbers like that, it’s hardly surprising that the bird was a staple…

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America’s Loneliest Road

August 8, 2014
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America’s Loneliest Road

Running from Ocean City, Maryland on the U.S. east coast all the way to Sacramento in California, U.S. Route 50 cuts an impressive swathe through alpine forests, desert valleys, ghost towns and petroglyphs. It’s the bit that crosses a 287-mile stretch of Nevada, from Ely to Fernley, that prompted the author of a 1986 Life…

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Bouvet Island – ‘The Last Place on Earth’

October 10, 2013
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Bouvetøya

It seems fitting that the most isolated spot on the planet should be an inhospitable, glacier-covered rock sitting smack in the path of the ‘furious fifties’ storm winds. More than 1700 and 2500 kms respectively from nearest neighbours Antarctica and Cape Agulhus (South Africa) Bouvet Island is so remote that, even after its initial discovery…

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The oldest surviving film

August 7, 2013
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Louis Le Prince's Camera, on which the oldest known moving picture was shot.

While Thomas Edison and/or the Lumiere brothers are popularly credited with the invention of the moving picture – something which Edison, a notorious credit taker did little to discourage – history suggests otherwise. As, indeed, does this very short film clip, shot in Roundhay, near Leeds in 1888 by inventor Louis le Prince.

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The World’s Loneliest Tree

July 31, 2013
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The World’s Loneliest Tree

At 400kms from its nearest neighbour, L’Arbre du Ténéré (The Tree of Ténéré) was once considered the most isolated tree on earth. A lone landmark for caravan routes through the Ténéré region of the Sahara desert, it guided travellers en route to Algiers towards a 40m deep well nearby. The tree, an Acacia, was a…

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