Auto mechanic Frank Russell of Biggleswade, England spent two years building a submarine in his backyard. He did it, he said, so that he could find the "lost city" of Atlantis. He described the construction of the sub in an article distributed by International News Service (Dec 1949):
My job is that of a motor mechanic and these craft that I build are purely a spare time hobby. Thus I have to get on with their construction as I can afford it; a few shillings or a pound or so at a time. Believe me, this method is exasperating and heartbreaking.
Practically all the parts have been cut, filed and even some of the holes drilled with ordinary hand tools, though I did manage on several occasions to borrow an oxy-acetylene cutter and an electric drill.
I have built this craft entirely by myself except for some of the more tricky points of welding on the hull. This was done by a friend, who is a highly skilled factory welder.
This submarine has been built entirely out of second-hand steel plates and scrap from local yards. Oxygen cylinders, motors, batteries, and the like are all from government surplus sales. The only new items are the glass observation ports and some rivets and bolts.
The launch date for his sub was November 4, 1950. Unfortunately, I can't find any reports about the launch, but I'm assuming he didn't find Atlantis.
And I'm guessing he may have been pulling everyone's leg about wanting to search for Atlantis, because eight years later he was back in the news as the perpetrator of an elaborate UFO hoax involving a "do-it-yourself space ship made of wire, silver paper, clockwork and a couple of flashlights." So it seems that he was a bit of a practical joker.
In Boobies, Peckers, and Tits Olaf Danielson documents his quest to obtain the world record for nude birdwatching. He managed to see 594 North American species in one year, while in his birthday suit.
It doesn't seem that there was a world record for this activity before Danielson decided to obtain it. So he had to invent his own official rules, which include the following.
You have to be nude to count the bird. Hats and footwear are fine but nothing else.
You have to had left naked to go birding (or for another nude activity) to count the bird. Seeing a turkey vulture while playing nude volleyball is acceptable, while driving along in a car or walking textile, seeing a bird, and then slipping off your clothing does not count. In fact, being in car doesn’t count ever. To count a bird, you will have to go back to car, or house, undress and then return unclothed. For legality reasons, leaving a car walking around a corner and disrobing is acceptable, as long as it wasn’t because you saw a new bird.
You cannot be inside an enclosed boat, house, or car/ truck for it to count. A bird blind must be open to a degree any birder would consider it open. Being naked on an ATV if you left naked on an ATV or even a snowmobile (burr!) is acceptable.
Byron Randall (1918-1999) was an American West Coast artist, but he also received recognition as a collector of potato mashers.
He told a UPI reporter in 1984 that he started his collection not because of any special connection to potato mashers, but simply because he wanted to have a "unique collection." But he gave a more detailed explanation of the origin of his hobby in an interview with Wesley Joost and Jon Randall:
One of my skills is cooking so I had a normal interest in potato mashers as a tool. Every one was different in some way, and they were all designed by someone who had a different idea about what was the best way to arrange the wire striking face and wooden handle. That intrigued me. When I was furnishing the guest house I frequented the markets and Salvation Army. Nearly all of them would have some kitchen gear. I was attracted to them because they were all beautifully functional and simple and never had been standardized like the Dover Eggbeater.
Randall also admitted that he didn't like potatoes themselves — just the mashers.
As of 1984, he had collected 384 mashers. I don't know how many he owned by the time he died. But he claimed that this was the biggest collection of potato mashers in the world.
The Idaho Potato Museum also has a large potato masher collection, which they acquired as a result of a Boy Scout's Eagle Project. So I emailed them to ask how big their collection is. A representative (Tish Dahmen) responded that they have "280 mashers on display then another box full."
She reckons that Randall's collection was larger, and unfortunately she has no idea what became of his mashers. But she added: "if you discover its whereabouts, please know that we’d be happy to house and exhibit it if his family or estate wants to donate to us … we will be happy to accept it!"
Finding a permanent home for a potato masher collection seems like a worthy project, so I'm working on it. There was once a Byron Randall Museum in Tomales, CA, where Randall lived and ran a bed-and-breakfast. Perhaps the museum acquired his collection. However, the museum doesn't have a website. So I don't know if it's still in existence.
Back in the Victorian era, this was apparently a popular hobby. From Collectors Weekly:
Affluent Victorians often spent hours painstakingly collecting, drying, and mounting these underwater plants into decorative scrapbooks... Part of the appeal was what a seaweed collection said about the collector. Anyone could appreciate and collect flowers, but painstakingly obtaining, preserving, and mounting seaweed specimens demonstrated patience, artistic talent, and the refined sensibilities necessary to appreciate the more subtle beauties of nature. Queen Victoria herself made a seaweed album as a young lady.
And yes, the seaweed did smell bad. But Collectors Weekly reminds us that the Victorian era was "a more pungent time."
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.