In a year dominated by catastrophic bushfires, turbulent politics and numerous royal scandals, the 2019 news cycle felt like it was on quick spin.
And it appears the coming year will show no signs of relenting, especially with a US presidential election on the horizon.
But sometimes, amid all the bigger-picture stories that threaten our way of life, the world found itself marvelling at feats of sheer genius, of nature’s sheer beauty, and of course, of sheer human stupidity.
With that said, here’s our pick of the year’s truly bizarre yarns.
The ‘foolproof’ plan to storm a government facility
The premise was simple: Gather a few of your closest friends, plan a road trip out to the middle of the Nevadan desert and casually infiltrate a US Air Force facility that supposedly houses alien life.
However, what started out as a comedic Facebook event among friends — “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All Of Us” — quickly spiralled into an online phenomenon that had more than two million RSVPs.
There were the requisite memes, countless think-pieces and the FBI was even called in to investigate the event’s creator, 21-year-old California native Matty Roberts.
And the fun didn’t stop there. After the original event went viral, Roberts hoped to leverage his 15 minutes of fame with a dance music event in the nearby town of Rachel, suitably titled ‘Alienstock’.
A headspinning helicopter rescue
We’ve all dealt with the horrors of flying, but this revolutionary rescue took the meaning of turbulence to dizzying new heights.
Katalin Metro, a hiker on Piestewa Peak in Phoenix, Arizona, required medical assistance after sustaining a broken nose and other injuries, with medical crews believing the best solution was a simple airlift off the mountain.
WILD HELICOPTER RESCUE: Firefighters say a 74-year-old woman had to be flown off of Piestewa Peak this morning after she suffered an injury while hiking.
— FOX 10 Phoenix (@FOX10Phoenix) June 4, 2019
After being secured in a stretcher, things took a sudden rapid turn, as Mrs Metro began spiralling out of control while being winched up, reportedly at one stage up to 175 times per minute.
The ensuing chaos was watched by millions, and Mrs Metro has since filed a $2 million lawsuit against the city of Phoenix over her “very dizzy and nauseating” experience.
One beach walker’s highly unusual find
Let’s set the scene. A beach walker happens upon California’s Drakes Beach shortly after a winter storm surge, only to discover the usually sandy surface is awash with thousands upon thousands of pulsing disembodied penises.
While that may sound like the beginnings of some kind of phallic apocalypse, this was a real-life stranding of fat innkeeper worms, which are colloquially known as penis fish. Naturally.
The creatures, which date back more than 300 million years, burrow underneath beachgoers’ feet into the sand and trap prey like plankton in a mucus-like trap.
Now go forth and enjoy any beach with that visual in your head.
Bank forgets spelling ‘responsibilty’
Australia’s newest incarnation of its most widely-circulated bill, the $50 note, was lauded as world-leading, with improvements designed to tackle counterfeit currency.
But a keen-eyed punter pointed out a rather embarrassing typo that the Reserve Bank could have rectified with a tool we all know and love -spellcheck.
The Melbourne-based sleuth with an adept eye for detail discovered the word ‘responsibility’ had been misspelt as ‘responsibilty’ three times in fine print, and informed the nation’s radio stations of the error.
However, it was too late for the nation’s central bank, with 46 million of them already in circulation since October 2018 with a total value of $2.3 billion.
Egg-stacy over a new Instagram record
What came first, Instagram or the egg?
That was the question London-based advertising creative Chris Godfrey asked himself after learning celebrity/millionaire businesswoman Kim Kardashian West’s sister Kylie Jenner boasted the most-liked Instagram post of all time.
And so he set out on a mission — to best Jenner’s weighty 19 million likes mark with … a stock photo of a humble egg.
In a stunning moment that was emblematic of the collective power of the internet, and a cooking time of nine days, the record was poached.
As of writing, the egg has cracked 54 million likes. Better yet, Mr Godfrey used the egg-citement for good, with the world_record_egg Instagram account regularly posting mental health tips to its 7.4 million followers.
Expensive banana drama
Some contemporary art is so ludicrous, it’s beyond the realm of parody. Then again, not all works command the same fervent attention as Italian-born artist Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘Comedian‘.
For those playing at home, yes, this is the banana that was duct taped to the wall of Art Basel Miami and sold at auction for a measly $120,000.
The merits of the original work were thrown into more absurd territory when fellow artist, Georgian-born David Datuna, ate the piece in his own performative work titled ‘Hungry Artist‘.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the furore wasn’t the first time Cattelan courted controversy this year, after an 18-carat solid gold toilet he crafted was stolen from Blenheim Palace (otherwise known as the birthplace of Winston Churchill).
The shoe explosion that cost Nike billions
If a sports apparel company is going to outfit basketball’s “next big thing”, you best hope it withstands the pressure of a high-profile college basketball game.
It was an expensive lesson Nike learned after Zion Williamson, the number one pick in this year’s NBA draft, collapsed just 36 seconds into Duke University’s clash with the University of North Carolina.
The culprit? A wardrobe malfunction of the explosive kind.
Slow-motion footage showed Williamson’s left shoe disintegrating and his 129-kilogram frame falling to the court, face ridden with agony.
Zion Williamson’s Nike shoe just exploded on national TV!
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) February 21, 2019
The eventual social media storm resulted in Nike shares losing 1.1 per cent after the next day’s trade — the equivalent of $2.07 billion.
Kim Jong Un, is that really you?
Global attention turned to Vietnam in February, with hopes an unprecedented meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un could finally break their nuclear impasse.
Enter Howard X, an Australian-born impersonator, who turned heads and stole headlines with public appearances in the days before the much-hyped Hanoi summit.
While his likeness to Kim was uncanny and his jovial ways gave away the ruse, Kim failed to see the funny side, ordering X’s deportation from the nation on the same day he was due to arrive by train.
As he was escorted from the country, donning sunglasses in the style of the Korean despot, X told reporters: “Satire is a powerful weapon against any dictatorship. They are scared of a couple of guys that look like the real thing.”
Did someone say snowflakes?
Unmasking a not-so-cunning jailbreak
When you think of the world’s most notorious prison breaks, you may think of El Chapo’s elaborate 2015 plot involving a mile-long tunnel and helicopters, or 1962’s famed Escape from Alcatraz.
This particular mask-job does not belong in the same company.
Nice try: A convicted Brazilian drug dealer disguised as his daughter – wearing a plastic mask, bra and black wig – had his jailbreak attempt busted by guards at the Rio de Janeiro state prison as his daughter waited inside the prison in his place. @GavinoGaray brings the latest pic.twitter.com/9vNO4UppxO
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 5, 2019
The Brazilian gang leader Clauvino da Silva, aka “Shorty”, attempted to fool Rio prison guards by masquerading as his 19-year-old daughter, dressed to the nines in a bra and wig, an undersized Disney T-shirt and arguably the most horrifying silicone mask known to man.
But when passing through the prison entrance to make his audacious exit, officers caught on to the low-rent con job, and requested him to strip for the cameras.
However, this story has sombre ending. Da Silva was found dead in his prison cell three days after the foiled plot.