Greenpoint Gazette
Annetta Black

A Guide to the World

BY Kylie Jane Wakefield

The people at Atlas Obscura are fascinated with the world around them. They seek out places to explore as far from the beaten path as possible. On their website, and in their travel diaries, which are filled with unusual findings, they share their passion for travel and discovery with the insatiably curious.

Established in 2009, Atlas Obscura is an online travel and guidebook to unique, strange, and beautiful places throughout the globe. The Greenpoint-based office reports on sights of all kinds, from the neighborhood’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, to the deepest known blue hole in the Bahamas, to a walkable rollercoaster in Germany. “When we started we thought we were the ones who knew the most,” said Annetta Black, vice president of Obscura Society and Events Planning. “There are so many amazing places we would have never guessed were out there.”

Each day, Atlas Obscura posts three to five new entries, submitted either by travelers or staff members. “[Regular] guidebooks don’t mention [these places] at all, or they give them a little 50 word paragraph that doesn’t say anything,” said Black. “We wanted an online guidebook dedicated to these places that normally get left out.”
The staff is currently working on its first book and planning Obscura Day, an annual event that features tours and visits to spectacles around the world. Last year, over 5,000 people participated in 100 events held on seven continents.

Annetta Black

On April 28th, Atlas Obscura will host local tours of Green-Wood Cemetery, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and the ghost ships of Coney Island Creek. Events outside New York will include a cocktail party amongst the medical oddities at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum, a visit to the ruins of an abandoned nineteenth-century tropical botanical garden in France, and a behind-the-scenes look at the San Francisco State University Museum’s Sutro Egyptian Collection. “We [take] travelers on roads less traveled, engaging them more with the history of a place and making their trip more memorable,” said Allison Meier, a contributor. “It can also help bring exposure to places that are in danger of falling to pieces or have already been lost.”

Atlas Obscura has planned more postings about North Brooklyn attractions, such as the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and the Brooklyn Art Library. “I recently led an exploration for Atlas Obscura to Calvary Cemetery, which isn’t in Greenpoint, but is right over the Newtown Creek,” said Meier. “Apparently a lot of the funeral processions used to move through Greenpoint to the cemetery, and I read that the reason Greenpoint Avenue is so wide was to make room for the funerary carriages. Little details like that can make you look at a place differently.”

Seth Teicher, the VP of Business Development and Social Media for Atlas Obscura, said he and his staff want to show people how remarkable the world is. “Our mission as an organization is to be a part of the community of curious people who are trying to see the world through a new lens. There are outstanding things to discover and see. You’d be surprised. Some things are right around the corner from you.”

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