Transportation seems fairly mundane these days. People and goods can travel or be transported by planes and trains, trucks and cars, ships and more. These modes of transport come in all models, sizes, and options. And somehow, if it’s not a UFO, it just doesn’t seem all that exciting, right?
However, making the transportation industry a little more interesting (read: weird) are (sometimes obscure) facts that you would not normally associate with your favorite mode of transport.
10 You cannot technically die on an airplane
Of course, people do die during flights, but they cannot be pronounced dead until the plane lands. Flight attendants and pilots do not have the authority to do this. Instead, on board personnel are simply advised to move the deceased passenger to a seat with the fewest living passengers close to him or her. Should the flight be full, the body is left in its original seat and covered up with a sheet or blanket. Once the landing is completed, medical professionals are on standby to pronounce time of death and take over transportation of the body.
How often do people actually die during flight through? Fortunately, not all that often. But it is estimated that around 50,000 bodies fly alongside passengers every year, as thousands of people die while far from home. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam even has its own mortuary for practicality, and processes around 2,000 bodies a year.
9 Cruise ships can be nightmarish
The mention of cruise ships conjures up images of blue seas, people relaxing beside pools on huge decks and endless buffets. Unfortunately, cruise ships also have a dark side that include people vanishing without a trace, on-board morgues, murders, and suicides.
While the chances of a modern cruise ship sinking are rare, there have been incidents such as the sinking of the Costa Concordia in 2012 which became one of the 16 cruise ship disasters between 1980 to 2012.
It is much more likely for a cruise ship to become stranded than to sink. 98 have run aground between 1972 and 2011. In March 2019, the Viking Sky cruise ship sailed into bad weather, including choppy waters and fierce winds in Norway. This caused engine troubles and the ship became stranded off the coast. There were more than 1,300 passengers on board of which almost 500 had to be rescued and 28 taken to hospital.
If that weren’t enough to make you think twice about a cruise ship vacation, pirate attacks have also been known to happen. In 2005 the Spirit cruise ship barely evaded an attack by Somali pirates. In 2017, passengers on board the Sea Princess had to endure a ‘dusk-til-dawn’ blackout during their 10-day cruise from Sydney, to ensure safety from pirate attacks.
8 Don’t interrupt train traffic
There is a reason that trains often feature in horror movies and thriller films and pop up in many an urban legend. There is something inherently eerie about a train travelling along a lonely track, perhaps through slivers of mist through which its lone light shines dimly, and a few faces staring blankly from a row of tiny windows.
After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, a ‘funeral train’ transported his body to Illinois. This became front-page news as expected, especially because a Pullman train car was used as part of the cortege. A Pullman car had also been loaned to Mary Todd Lincoln. This led to a wide-spread publicizing of train travel.
There have been several incidents where people lie down on train tracks to commit suicide or are thrown from moving train cars in an attempt to kill them. In Japan, while family members had to come to terms with the suicide of a loved one who jumped in front of a moving train, they were also handed a large fine from the train company involved in the incident. During the early 2000s, out of the 13 train companies in the Tokyo region, the majority abided by the policy of charging a suicide victim’s family for interrupting train traffic.
7 Bananas about boats
Superstitions around sailing and the sea were not left behind in the 1700s. To this day, some sailors and boat owners believe that a boat or ship takes on a life of its own after being named and christened. And there are certain things you just shouldn’t do before or after boarding.
Even carrying bananas aboard a boat will apparently bring bad luck. This seems to stem from the days of slave trade ships which stored bananas incorrectly. After rotting in the hold, they started producing methane causing sailors to suffocate. What’s more, banana trees are inhabited by venomous spiders which is still a problem during modern times. There are specialized processing centres dedicated to dealing with these spiders once the bananas are offloaded at their various destinations.
6 First hot air balloon passengers
Hot air balloon rides are not for everyone, especially not those with a fear of heights. When the first hot air balloon was ready to take flight in 1783, it carried a rooster, a duck, and a sheep. The balloon travelled for 2 miles while tethered and was then brought safely back to the ground with the animals unharmed.
The first human pilot for a hot air balloon was almost going to be a condemned criminal, as decided by Louis XVI, but the king changed his mind after a stern talking to. Instead, a scientist and an aristocrat took the risk upon themselves and on 21 November 1783, Jean-François Pilâtre De Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes flew for 20 minutes and were noted in historical annals as the first people to experience sustained flight.
In the 1970s a theory was put forward that the ancient Nazca Lines were created for the purpose of viewing them from a hot air balloon, which would mean that the Nazca people had taken flight. The theory was widely discredited, but some still believe that hot air balloons may hold some clues to solving the Lines mystery.
5 Cars weren’t always the worst polluters
Out of all the modes of transport, cars are the most frequently and commonly used. Getting your first car is big deal, whether it is tied with a red ribbon or a jalopy from a second-hand dealer. We have literally hundreds of models to choose from, all with optional extras. What’s more, people seem to love anything that features fast, beautiful cars.
On the other hand, cars are not so great for the environment and greatly contribute to air pollution. Some of the worst culprits include the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the Range Rover, and the Lamborghini Aventador SV.
However, cars were the greener alternative back in the day. At one point, around 200,000 horses lived in New York City alone and their excrement left a lasting stink hovering over the city. Not to mention the flies and diseases. So, when the motor car was introduced, people were overly excited at the prospect of using a non-foul-smelling vehicle for transport.
4 Lost and found
Some of the most recognizable buses in the world include the yellow American school buses and the red double decker buses in London. In the 1830s, buses were steam-powered and the first mechanical bus (then called omnibus) arrived in 1833. By 1910 mass-produced double-decker buses were travelling the streets with hundreds of these vehicles being used for military service during WWI.
In modern times, buses are an affordable way of travel, whether to a holiday destination or to work. People carry all sorts of things with them on buses which they often then leave behind in their hurry to get off at their designated stop. Some of the weirdest things found on buses at the end of a long workday include an urn full of ashes, a prosthetic leg, and a host of musical instruments. There has even been an abandoned life-sized Spiderman doll.
3 Creepy profession
In 2016, a social study revealed that most people found clowns to be in the creepiest profession in the world. Strangely enough (or not), taxi drivers came in 5th on the list compiled after the study.
This seems to make sense considering that taxi drivers are more likely to get murdered, compared to any other profession. Statistics in 2013 showed that a taxi driver in the US was 20 times more likely to be killed than a person in any other job. Also, the most dangerous places to be a taxi driver include Thailand, Iraq, and Libya.
Then again, some taxi drivers themselves also freak out a lot of people and with good reason: There have been several incidents where taxi drivers turned out to be murderers or kidnappers in disguise. Others turned into stalkers after dropping off passengers at their homes.
2 It’s all about going… outside
If you’ve read Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, you’ve probably looked at RVs travelling the motorways with suspicion or trepidation. After all, who wants to run into the True Knot?
However, in real life, RVs are extremely popular and around 1 million people in the US live in theirs full time. This gives them the opportunity to travel pretty much anywhere and tarry for as long as they like. Some RV lovers go all out as is evidenced by one Dubai buyer who bought a 40-foot model for $3 million.
RVs are more popular in the US than anywhere else and more than 80% of the country’s RVs are manufactured in Indiana.
When RVs were first introduced in the 1930s, they were extremely basic and equipped only with beds, water, and electricity. The first models didn’t even have toilets, so if nature called, RVers had to duck behind the nearest foliage.
1 From music to motorcycles
Motorcycles are immensely popular worldwide, with clubs and chapters devoted to the love of riding the open roads on these beasts. Biker gangs are common and have been immortalized in series such as Sons of Anarchy and Mayans M.C.
Yamaha produces some of the world’s most popular motorcycles, but what some may not know is that the company started off as a piano manufacturer in 1887. They still produce musical instruments, but also manufacture electronics, industrial robots, boats and, of course, bikes.
Yamaha motorcycles are also frequently used in movies such as First Blood in which a Yamaha XT 250 is featured. Also, Ghost Rider starts out with a chopper which then morphs into a Yamaha V-Max.