|In the end it is the mystery that lasts and not the explanation. - Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, For Want of the Golden City|
The Edmund Fitzgerald, May 1975
The enigmas recounted here aren't necessarily history's most devastating ones. They're all fairly minor, at least in terms of lives lost. Not many of these enigmas had a major impact on the course of history. The cases you'll encounter here were chosen not because of their historical importance but because they've baffled so many scientists and historians for so many years.
The aura of mystery that surrounds them isn't due to any shortage of information. Each of the events is thoroughly documented, and every detail about them has been scrutinized and analyzed by dozens of scholars. Yet, for the most part, we don't seem to be any closer to understanding how or why they happened or, in some cases, exactly what happened.
Several of the enigmas have been written about so much that you may already be familiar with them to some extent. Although some of the other cases are not as well known, they're every bit as fascinating and mysterious.
Every so often, the media announces that one of these puzzles has been solved to everyone's satisfaction. But, as anthropologist Lee Miller notes, "One great flaw in the writing of history is that we often tend to accept easy explanations of events." Eventually some scientist or historian who is not so easily satisfied comes along and challenges the consensus, setting the controversy in motion all over again — and ensuring that, in the words of another writer, "the miraculous, the mysterious, and the enigmatic are alive and well, and always have been."