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Smithsonian MagazineSmithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine September 2018

Smithsonian Magazine takes you on a journey through history, science, world culture and technology with breathtaking images from around the world.

United States
Smithsonian Institute
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11 Issues


access_time1 min.
travel kentucky

From the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, experiences found in Kentucky imbue that rare blend of being both genuine and unique. Experiences here aren’t created for visitors, they’ve always been here, as a part of the land, a part of its people, and as part of its history and tradition. Kentucky is a collection of places, events and one-on-one, intimate experiences. Some are easy to find. Other’s take a little effort, yet all are well worth the reward. And that’s what makes it Better in the Bluegrass. Here, in a state you might think you know, you’ll find it’s about a sense of discovery. Uncover a part of Kentucky you connect to and make it yours. Find a hidden treasure in a dusty antique store. Hum a bluegrass song over and over…

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from the editors

READERS WERE SWEPT AWAY by “The Mount Everest of Surfing,” Paul Theroux’s account of the adventurers who take on giant waves off the coast of Portugal. “I held my breath while reading it,” Shauneen Henrick of New York wrote. While Daniel Hagerman “never got into surfing,” he said, “the exhilaration from even attempting this would be something else.” Another wild tale in the July/August issue, “The Counterfeit Queen of Soul,” about the 1969 kidnapping of a woman forced to perform as Aretha Franklin, also left readers spellbound. “What a roller coaster ride for Vickie Jones and her family!” wrote D. Sitko of Austin, Texas. Others rejoiced in the hoopla around the origins of a 60-year-old circular plastic toy. “Who knew ‘hooping’ could be so controversial?” Diana Whitlock said on Facebook.…

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David Burnett Petal, Mississippi, may have changed since the mid-20th century, but it’s still got the small-town feel described in “The Fearless Wit of Forrest County” (p. 66). To capture it, Burnett dug out a Speed Graphic large-format camera from 1948. His lens, a 1943 Kodak Aero Ektar, was made for aerial reconnaissance photography. Unlike today’s digital devices, there’s nothing automatic about this vintage model. “It’s fun to see what you can come up with,” says Burnett, a leading photojournalist since the Nixon administration. “The challenges are not necessarily a bad thing. The older cameras force you to be more innovative in the way you think.” Liza Mundy While writing the best-selling Code Girls, about women working in a World War II decryption service, Mundy discovered the Venona Project, the confidential, female-driven effort…

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call of the wild man

SIXTY YEARS AGO this fall, Bigfoot first stepped into the public consciousness. “Giant footprints puzzle residents,” a headline in the Humboldt Times announced. The small Northern California newspaper reported that a road construction crew had discovered humanlike footprints that were a massive 16 inches long. The paper was the first to give the mysterious animal that made the prints its memorable moniker—“Bigfoot”—and the creature has been stomping through the American imagination ever since. Today, the legendary beast seems to be everywhere: You will find Bigfoot looking awfully cute this year in two children’s films: The Son of Bigfoot and Smallfoot. Animal Planet recently aired the finale of its popular series “Finding Bigfoot,” which lasted 11 seasons despite never making good on the promise of its title. And the Bigfoot Field Researchers…

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fact or folklore

A: FACT. Dromornis planei, an extinct species of 600-pound flightless birds nicknamed the “Demon Ducks of Doom,” lived as recently as 50,000 years ago in what is now Australia. B: FACT. Now extinct, Helicoprions swam the oceans 270 million years ago. Scientists disagree on exactly where the fishes’ menacing teeth were positioned and how they were used. C: FOLKLORE, PROBABLY. The existence of Southeast Asia’s elusive snake-eating cow (known as kting voar in Cambodia) was reportedly confirmed by scientists analyzing a set of curled horns in the 1990s. But subsequent DNA studies refuted that finding. D: FACT. Not until 1901 did scientists gather definitive evidence of the long-rumored okapi, or forest giraffe, of the Democratic Republic of Congo. E: FOLKLORE. The mbielu-mbielu-mbielu is one of many “living dinosaurs” said to dwell in the lakes…

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the iceman cameth

NOVEMBER 1968 INCREDIBLE DISCOVERY Showman Frank Hansen exhibits the “Iceman”—a Bigfoot-like creature encased in ice—at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago. This “relic of the ice age,” he claims, was found in the waters off Siberia. The news soon reaches Ivan T. Sanderson of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained. DECEMBER 1968 REALITY TEST Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans of the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium examine the creature in a trailer in Minnesota. “We considered this to be a genuine and unique example of a most priceless specimen,” Sanderson writes to John Napier, director of primate biology at the Smithsonian. WINTER 1969 THE MISSING LINK? In a scientific journal, Heuvelmans declares he has discovered a new species of man, Homo pongoides. Napier decides to investigate: “The Smithsonian feels they have an obligation not only…