The Human Cork

humancork31859 was a strange year, full of ominous signs and portents. In March, French astronomer Edmond Modeste Lescarbault spotted a new celestial body between Mercury and the Sun and kicked off a worldwide, fifty-year search for the elusive Planet Vulcan. On June 17, the only Simoom ever recorded in North America hit Santa Barbara, CA. From August 28-September 2, the largest geomagnetic solar storm on record (now known as The Carrington Event) caused the Northern lights to be visible as far south as Cuba and knocked out telegraph systems all over Europe and North America. No surprise, then, that 1859 also saw the birth of Angelo Faticoni. Never heard of him? Perhaps because he went by another, more memorable monicker: The Human Cork. Ever since infancy, Faticoni was aware of his odd inability to sink. According to one Augusta Chronicle article, he could “sleep on water, roll up in a ball, lie on his side, or assume virtually any aquatic position asked of him.” As an adult freakshow artist, his remarkable skill was subjected to countless tests, from sewing him into a bag with a 20-lb. bowling ball to making him swim across the Hudson River tied to a chair weighted with lead. Researchers at Harvard were unable to debunk him; nor could they prove his abilities were the result of abnormal internal organs, as was commonly proposed. Faticoni always promised to reveal his secret, but death came for him before he did. The year? 1931. Which also happened to be the year that deuterium was discovered. What’s that got to with anything? Nothing. Or everything. You decide. (Deuterium is the main component of heavy water.)