Time is a funny thing- while every clock in the world measures it more or less identically, every human in the world measures it totally differently. Not only that, but no person measures it the same way consistently. If you’re not sure what we mean, go spend two hours playing your favorite video game, then two more meticulously sharpening 500 pencils. Did one feel a hell of a lot slower than the other? Yes? There you go.
We only mention it because it’s interesting how short some of the following occurrences are on, say, a geological scale- compared to the time it took the Grand Canyon to form, for example, these feats of endurance are nothing. But on our little human scale, setting these records took … for … EVER.
10. Solo Music Concert (Gonzales, 2009: 27 Hours, 3 Minutes, 44 Seconds)
Jason Beck, AKA Gonzales, is a Canadian pianist, singer and rapper who in 2009 played a solo piano concert. A long, long, long concert wherein the song selection ranged from Gershwin to Britney Spears and everything in between, because it pretty much had to. Gonzales didn’t repeat himself once while playing somewhere between 200 and 300 songs, for nearly 28 hours. And you thought Springsteen shows lasted forever.
The gig took place in Paris, and Guinness officials were on hand; Gonzales was allowed thirty-second pauses between each song, and fifteen-minute breaks every three hours. At various points, he played piano with one hand while eating cereal with the other, did some (necessarily brief) interviews for television, and presumably jerked awake in the middle of songs he didn’t remember starting to play. Gonzales obliterated the previous record of 26 hours and 12 minutes; he later said he was attracted to the record by the purposelessness of it all (we’ve been waiting for an excuse to use that word), citing the record holder who “put 143 cigarettes in his mouth… (i)t was purposeless, but he was the only one to do it.”
9. Volcanic Eruption (Mount Kilauea: Currently Erupting since January 3, 1983)
While this is open for debate- Guinness lists Italy’s Mt. Stromboli as having been erupting since the 7th century B.C. Nearly all long-erupting volcanoes, Stromboli included, can be said to be in a NEAR continuous state of eruption. Actual continuous eruption is different though, and our winner is Mt. Kilauea in Hawaii. Mt. Kilauea has been erupting and erupting, and then (just for variety) erupting some more, for over thirty years.
Of course, volcanoes like this are a dream for geologists and others who study them; they can come back to the same spot to study the same eruption day after day. Kilauea’s historic record shows that it has done this in the distant past, with some eruptions probably lasting hundreds of years– which, of course, means that it might just be warming up, so to speak. The bad news here is that, in addition to the constant erupting, Kilauea has also been known to have periods of “explosive” eruptions- one of which, in 1790, killed several hundred people in the United States. Now, think about what part of the U.S. was settled then, remember that Kilauea is in Hawaii, and you now understand why some consider it to be the most dangerous volcano on Earth.
8. Winning Streak, Major Pro Sports (San Diego Sockers – 48 Games)
Any pro athlete will tell you how difficult it is to put together a significant winning streak. In modern professional sports, the streak to end all streaks is generally held to be that achieved by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association, who won 33 straight games, breaking the previous record of 26 held by the New York (baseball) Giants.
As impressive as that record is, it was completely annihilated between 2010 and 2012 by the San Diego Sockers of the Professional Arena Soccer League. The stupidly named, yet utterly dominant Sockers won 48 games straight, not losing once between December 27, 2010 (a one-point overtime loss) and January 27, 2013 (ANOTHER one-point overtime loss.) Having the streak snapped didn’t bother the Sockers too much, though- they didn’t lose another game that season, and took home the league championship, the franchise’s 14th.
7. Science Experiment (The Pitch Drop Experiment, 69 Years)
This experiment (and exercise in saint-level patience) was begun by Thomas Parnell, the first-ever Professor of Physics at the University of Queensland, Australia. No, the University isn’t new; it’s been around for awhile, and they’ve had a physics department for some time. The experiment was begun in 1927, and it continues to this day.
Parnell wanted to demonstrate “surprising properties” of familiar materials, and pitch was at the time commonly used in marine waterproofing. It is an extremely viscous substance, and while it appears to be solid at room temperature (and can even be shattered by striking it), it is actually a very, VERY slow-flowing liquid. The “Pitch Drop Experiment” is what it sounds like- a flask containing pitch is set up so that a drop of the liquid may form and naturally fall, which it does roughly every ten years. The Queensland experiment isn’t the only one of its type- a similar experiment begun in 1944 at Ireland’s Trinity College recently captured a drop actually falling on a webcam set up to monitor the experiment. We know you want to see the time-lapse video, so here.
6. Coma (Edwarda O’Bara, 42 Years)
In 1970, sixteen-year-old Edwarda O’Bara came down with the flu shortly before Christmas. She just couldn’t seem to keep any food down; for an ordinary teenager, it likely would have passed within days. But Edwarda, a diabetic, was on oral insulin, and she wasn’t keeping that down, either. The sugar built up in her body at an alarming rate, and she was taken to North Miami General Hospital on January 3, 1970. On that day, she fell into a coma from which she would never emerge- one over four decades long.
Edwarda and her family were seen as an inspiration by many- they were the subject of a book by self-help guru Wayne Dyer, as Edwarda’s mother Kaye cared for her constantly up until her death in Edwarda’s hospital room in 2008. Sister Colleen promptly quit her job and took over until Edwarda’s death from cystic fibrosis in 2012, at the age of 59. Kaye O’Bara, a devout Catholic, had always told others that her daughter’s condition was a blessing, not a burden, a sentiment echoed by Colleen: “She taught me so much about unconditional love … (i)t’s like I grew up overnight.”
5. Senate Filibuster (Bill Meier, 43 Hours)
For those who don’t know: during a legislative session in the Senate, senators are allowed to speak literally for as long as they like. There are guidelines though; they must keep it relevant to the bill that’s being debated, can’t leave to go for a bathroom break, can’t eat or even drink. They can’t sit, or even lean on anything. And as long as they can keep talking under these conditions, they can do so for hours and hours and hours. When this is done near the end of a session for the purpose of blocking the vote on a bill, it’s called a filibuster. As you can imagine, the longest ones on record approach the truly epic, and the very longest clocks in at a mind-numbing 43 hours.
Texas State senator Bill Meier took the floor on May 2, 1977, in opposition to a bill that would have restricted public access to industrial workers’ comp records. That’s hardly a scintillating issue, but one important enough to Senator Davis for him to strap on an “astronaut bag” to urinate in, so that he might talk for two straight days before the Senate. By the time he gave up the floor, he was parched dry, could hardly speak, and had successfully blocked the legislation. Though he had prepared mentally and physically for the ordeal, he said the hardest part was staying on topic which, when you think about it, actually makes a ton of sense. We doubt we could continually discuss comp records for forty-three seconds.
4. Criminal Trial (McMartin Preschool Child Abuse Trial, 30 Months)
In 1983, extremely disturbing allegations were made by Judy Johnson, the mother of a two-year-old boy who had attended McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California. She was sure that Ray Buckey, the 25-year-old son of the school’s owner, had molested her son. Although there was no physical evidence of such, Buckey was arrested shortly thereafter. It was from this accusation that sprang one of the most bizarre and extensive criminal trials in history- unfortunate, since Johnson was admittedly an alcoholic (she died of the disease in 1986,) and by some accounts a paranoid schizophrenic.
By the time a biased investigator was finished questioning a couple hundred impressionable children, the damage was more than done- it spiraled right into the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” moral panic of the 1980s. McMartin staff were accused of molesting children, forcing them to watch the murder of animals and infants and drink the blood of “sacrifices,” bizarre sexual games- all of it, along with every other case like it, complete fiction. The trial lasted 30 months, cost $15 million in taxpayer funds, and produced zero hard evidence that even a single instance of abuse ever occurred at the school. McMartin family members, unable to raise bail, spent years in prison awaiting trial and lost the preschool that bears their name- all thanks to overzealous prosecutors and child abuse “experts.” All charges were finally dropped in 1990 after the District Attorney reached the brilliant conclusion that “none of this ever happened.”
3. Time Spent On Death Row (Gary Alvord, 39 Years)
Gary Alvord was convicted of triple murder and sentenced to death in Florida in 1974. A frequent convict and one-time prison escapee, Gary was no stranger to the criminal justice system, but this crime was particularly heinous- he had raped and killed an 18-year-old girl, and killed her mother and grandmother as well. After a lengthy appeals process, Gary’s a death warrant was signed in 1981, and again in 1984. The execution was stayed both times however, as Gary was found to be mentally ill- too mentally ill to be legally put to death.
Alvord was sent to a state mental hospital, where he was refused treatment on ethical grounds- he was being rehabilitated in hopes of being made well enough to be executed, and the doctors wanted no part of such a scheme- and they got around to shipping him back to Death Row in 1987. And there he remained, until finally his death came- not by execution but by brain tumor, in May of 2013 at the age of 66. He had spent nearly two-thirds of his entire life — 39 years — on Death Row.
2. Time in Political Office (Fidel Castro, 49 Years)
No other political leader has held office longer than former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who took office as Prime Minister in 1959, assumed the title of President in 1976 and, at age 81, relinquished that title to his 76-year-old brother Raul in 2008. It was a very colorful and eventful 49-year tenure that included comical CIA assassination attempts by the dozen and at least one very close call with nuclear Armageddon.
But more importantly for our purposes here, he contributed one more sub-item to this list: the longest speech ever given before the U.N. General Assembly. It was September of 1960, and the famously long-winded Castro delivered a continuous monologue of a whopping four hours, twenty-nine minutes. But then, as demonstrated amply by his half-century tenure as leader of his country, he was never one for brevity- he routinely gave speeches in Cuba nearly twice that long.
1. Modern Period Of World Peace (November 25, 2003 to August 7, 2008 – 1,716 Days)
Yes, we know: the United States has been at war with terror for a whole decade now. But the US obviously defines war a little bit differently from the rest of the world, for there is no country called Terror and thus, no government that runs it.
By the actual definition of war- when one government of a country that exists declares war on the government of another country that also exists- there was a period of almost five years during the ’00s, between the November 2003 cease-fire between India and Pakistan and Russia’s invasion of Georgia in the late summer of 2008, where nobody on Earth was officially at war with anyone else.
This blew away the previous modern record of about 600 days, a period that ended in 1960- that’s how far back you have to go. Inter-country conflicts, like revolutions and government crackdowns on citizens and the like, unfortunately do not count. And while it’s pleasantly surprising to know that such a period of relative peace is possible today, it seems highly likely that this record will stand for awhile.