We have all felt the frustration of losing keys, phones, or similar small objects. Some folks might have even lost their car in a large parking garage or after a night out. But these momentary misplacements are hardly mysteries.
Common sense tells us that it should be difficult to lose a large or heavy object. History, as it often does, tells a different story. It is not unheard of for some large things to suddenly disappear from under the noses of even the smartest people, including scientists and security services. Here are ten large objects which have been mysteriously lost.
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The seas surrounding Southeast Asian nations such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia are filled with hundreds of shipwrecks sunk in battles between the Allies and the Japanese during the Second World War. One such battle was The Battle of the Java Sea on February 27, 1942, led by the Dutch off the coast of Indonesia. Fourteen ships were involved altogether, but only two would remain at the end.
In 2002, divers discovered the wrecks, but in 2016 it was reported that two of the Dutch shipwrecks were missing. Only their imprints remained on the seabed.
There is evidence of illegal salvaging on other shipwrecks in the area, but experts say the depth would make moving two ships entirely almost impossible. The size of the equipment needed to do so and the length of time it would take would make any attempt unlikely to go unnoticed too. The discovery was made during an expedition ahead of the 75th anniversary of the battle. The Indonesian Navy agreed to investigate further.
9 A Sea Data Station
It may have only cost 300,000 Euros to build—perhaps less than you might expect for what is essentially an underwater observatory—but German scientists said the data it provided them was priceless. So imagine their surprise when on August 21, 2019, they stopped receiving data about the environment from their prized equipment. When divers went to check on it, all they found was a torn power cable.
The data station, installed in 2016, was not to be found where it should have been, some 72 feet (22 meters) deep in a restricted area near the border with Denmark. So strict is the security that local fishermen are not even allowed in the area, which makes the disappearance even stranger. The weight of the station allowed the scientists to rule out the tide, animals, and storms being behind the disappearance. All they could rely on was appealing to witnesses to report any suspicious activity or findings of equipment washed up on nearby beaches.
8 An Army
The ancient world supplies us with many unanswered and unanswerable questions, and more than one of these relates to the mysterious disappearance of armies. One example is the Ninth Legion of the Roman army. Stationed in Britain, the Ninth Legion contained some 5,000 of ancient Rome’s most capable fighters. However, it seems they were having some trouble keeping the native Britons under control.
During the reign of Emperor Hadrian in the first half of the second century, the Romans were so rocked by rebellions that the Emperor had to visit. In doing so, he planned the famous wall between Scotland and England, which now bears his name. As for the Ninth Legion, the popular tale is that they were defeated by a ragtag army of rebels in an underdog tale that went on to inspire a novel and a movie.
Many historians disagree, and for a while, the belief prevailed that the legion was transferred to the Middle East, and that is all there is to their disappearance from Britain. However, others have pointed out the evidence for this is scant, making the first theory more plausible. Without the discovery of more archeological evidence, the mystery of the Ninth’s disappearance endures.
Victorian society in Britain was known for its eccentricities, and one of these involved dressing up in your finest clothing to have your family’s photo taken with some boulders. The “erratic” boulders were 450,000-year-old relics of the Ice Age and could be found scattered about the city of Birmingham. People were curious about the boulders, which became central objects of scientific intrigue in the 1800s as people began to ponder just where the rocks came from.
In 1890, researchers plotted the locations of the stones on a map, but in the century since then, more than half of the 200 boulders have vanished. One particularly large one is known as the Rowheath boulder, which measured 8 x 5 x 3 feet (2.4 x 1.5 x 0.9 meters). Its whereabouts have been unknown since it was last photographed in 1923.
6 A Star
Surely, the largest object ever “lost” was the star in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy in 2019, which was so big even scientists described it as a “monster star.” It shone about 2.5 million times brighter than our sun. Between 2001 and 2011, it was widely watched by astronomers because it was big and unstable and believed to be in the late stage of its evolution. It was expelling its mass in huge eruptions, and scientists expected a supernova explosion was imminent as the star approached the end of its cycle.
This led a research team from Dublin, Ireland, to pay attention to it in 2019 because they wanted to learn more about how big stars behave at the end of their lives. Only when they turned on their telescopes, the star was nowhere to be found.
Two explanations have been proposed for the unexpected development. Firstly, the star may have evolved into a less bright star and become obscured by dust. The second and more scientifically significant explanation is that the star collapsed into a black hole without a supernova explosion. If so, it would be the first known case of a star dying in such a way.
5 A 33-Foot-Tall Mango
In 2002, the town of Bowen, Australia, erected a massive statue of a mango to celebrate their prized local product. The statue weighed 7 tons and stood 33 feet(10 meters) high. The town considered itself the mango capital of Australia. So imagine their shock when twelve years later, the good folks of the town awoke to find their favorite fruit statue missing.
Not surprisingly, social media speculation was rife. Some thought the thieves would also steal the big pineapple and banana from other towns down the coastline in order to assemble a giant fruit salad. Others were more skeptical about the circumstances, noticing that no police report was filed and that a Facebook page for the Bowen big mango had been created that morning.
The suspicions of the latter would be proved right the next day when it was revealed to be a publicity stunt for the Nando’s restaurant chain.
4 “Stan” the T. Rex
In October 2020, an incredibly rare, nearly complete skeleton of a T. rex nicknamed “Stan” was sold at auction for an eye-watering $31.8 million to an anonymous buyer. Stan had originally been dug up in South Dakota in the early 1990s and was being sold as the result of a legal dispute. However, the unidentified bidder caused concern among dinophiles when he did not immediately return the fossil to public view.
Paleontologists worried Stan would be locked away, and his high price tag would encourage more fossils to be sold to private buyers and therefore unable to be studied. However, Stan would resurface almost two years later when it was revealed his new home would be the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
3 $10 million in Silver
You might think companies transporting cargo of such high value might take more care than to leave it sitting in the parking lot of a run-down warehouse. You would be wrong. The silver was being transported from South Korea to New York via Canada when it disappeared. A number of firms were involved in transporting the precious metal, leading to much finger pointing even three years after the 2019 robbery.
The mystery revolves around a passcode that was needed to release the 39,683-pound (18,000-kilogram) container from a secure rail yard. At some point, the code was intercepted by bad actors who then sent fake pickup instructions to a courier firm, having the silver delivered to the warehouse instead of the true owner.
Small amounts of the silver subsequently turned up in British Columbia and Massachusetts. However, the whereabouts of the rest remain unsolved at the time of writing.
2 A Boeing 727
Okay, a disappearing plane is not exactly unique, but when it is a large commercial jet and the FBI, CIA, U.S. Departments of State, and Homeland Security are still stumped almost two decades later, that is pretty strange. In May 2003, a flight engineer and his recently-hired helper appeared to be inside the jet in Angola when it suddenly took off while refusing to communicate with air traffic controllers. Having only a private pilot’s license, it is unknown if the engineer was flying the plane or if it was someone else.
Initially, there were worries the plane might be used as a bomb—the jet carried fuel to be delivered to diamond mines rather than passengers. However, the plane simply vanished. Naturally, all parties expected the worse, but no evidence of a crash was ever found, even after lengthy investigations and the search of nearby countries. There was no trace of the missing plane or its crew.
1 Nuclear Bombs
Yes, bombs. Plural. The U.S. has lost at least three nuclear bombs, and during the Cold War, the Soviets are thought to have lost several too. Although the locations of these are said to be known, all are deep in the ocean. The bombs became lost as a result of human error or the failure of vehicles transporting them rather than being stolen by malicious agents.
But if that does not make you feel better, consider that the U.S. military, with all its resources, has declared its missing bombs irretrievable. This is owed to the inefficiency of searching the ocean, especially now, as the bombs are probably buried deep in the seabed. In addition, they run the risk of accidental detonation if they attempt to recover them. If they cannot get them back, it is unlikely anyone else can.