Travel with the Atlas Obscura

Exploring the weird, wide world with the book’s co-author Dylan Thuras

Joined by their affinity for the peculiar, Dylan Thuras and Joshua Foer met while organizing an event Thuras calls “a live cabinet of curiosities,” with presentations by real-life Rain Man Kim Peek and free-fall record holder Colonel Joe Kittinger. In 2009, they founded Atlas Obscura, a website that crowd sources and catalogues curious places. Now, along with co-author Ella Morton, they’ve launched a book that distills the site into 700 destinations you’ll hardly believe exist.

CAA Where did the idea for Atlas Obscura come from?

DT It came out of a general suspicion that the world is actually much bigger and weirder and more amazing and wondrous than people give it credit for. We sort of said, “Why doesn’t a compendium exist that gathers all these weird, wonderful places?”

CAA What makes a place a good candidate for the Atlas?

DT Every one of these places is really a celebration of either someone’s ingenuity, their dedication, their crazy dreams, their artistic visions or a piece of history that is incredible and deserves to be more widely known.

CAA What would you say is the quintessential Atlas Obscura place?

DT The Gates of Hell—this giant burning hole in the desert of Turkmenistan that was created as a result of an industrial accident. Or Ball’s Pyramid, a spire off the coast of Australia where they found the Lord Howe Island stick insect, which they had thought was extinct. The entire existing population had been hiding under one bush on this rocky spire.

CAA Any tips on finding your own weird and wondrous places?

DT Obviously, I would recommend using the Atlas! Also, going to [one of those places] and then asking, “Hey, is there anything else interesting, unusual or weird around here?” Sometimes the places are a hook to get you in and talking to the people who run them, who are often eccentric and fascinating.

CAA There’s something in the book from every Canadian province and territory except New Brunswick. Surely there’s something interesting there!

DT Canada is full of amazing stuff, and it probably has eight pages in the book. That gives it short shrift, but hopefully sets your imagination running. You know what’s in New Brunswick? The Old Sow Whirlpool—it’s one of those places that sailors would have had a lot of lore about, because it could suck your ship right down!

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