Looking back on the most viral news stories in 2021, we can definitely call this year a mixed bag.
There was high interest in anything related to COVID-19, of course, as well as weather and crime stories.
But there were also some surprising headlines that were wildly popular, and also stranger than fiction – Bernie Sanders’ adorable mittens, the woman who shellacked her head with Gorilla Glue, and a lot of news related to UFOs.
Here are some of the stories that really captured Global readers’ attention this year.
Man trapped, stalked by grizzly in Alaska cabin
In July, a man survived a sleepless showdown with a grizzly bear at his remote mining camp in Alaska, where the beast injured him and then relentlessly harassed him each night for several days in hopes of finishing him off.
Coast guard officers spotted a “HELP ME” message scrawled on the roof of the man’s small mining shack on July 16, in a chance helicopter flyover during an unrelated mission.
“We don’t really come across people in the middle of nowhere,” said Lt. A.J. Hammac. “He was kind of struggling. When we came around, he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag.
He had been alone at the shack outside Nome, Alaska, since July 12, working on a small mining claim in an area with no cell reception. The bear had repeatedly attacked the man and at one point had dragged him down the river.
The man only had two rounds left in his pistol and likely would not have survived much longer without the rescue.
“Gorilla Glue girl”
Industrial-strength adhesive is no substitute for a can of hair spray.
Tessica Brown learned that lesson the hard way in February after she used a spray can of Gorilla Glue on her hair and found herself stuck — quite literally — with a single hairstyle.
Brown described the initial superglue disaster in a super-viral TikTok video, then spent a week documenting her efforts to wash out the glue before a surgeon finally did it for her.
More than 28 million people watched the initial video about her blunder, and millions more have followed along to watch her updates and offer advice on removing the glue.
The glue was eventually removed during a four-hour surgery in L.A.
Biden removes Donald Trump’s Diet Coke button from Oval Office
New U.S. President Joe Biden immediately made some changes after moving into the Oval Office in January, including removing one of ex-president Donald Trump‘s unique creature comforts: the Diet Coke button.
The wood-encased, brick-sized button sat on the Resolute desk throughout Trump’s presidency, and would immediately summon a butler with a cold can of Diet Coke at a moment’s notice.
The button was emblematic of the former president’s well-documented love for fast food.
Official photos from the Oval Office showed the missing button, in one of the more notable tweaks Biden made to the space.
Biden kept a few touches from the Trump presidency, including the Resolute desk and the gold curtains hanging behind it. Those curtains were also used during Bill Clinton’s tenure.
Gabby Petito’s disappearance
The Gabby Petito case captured the world’s attention, thanks in part to the couple’s social media presence.
Petito disappeared after a month-long cross-country trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, 23, across the United States. She was last seen alive on Aug. 26.
The pair had posted photos of their trip on their social media accounts, but chilling bodycam footage and a 911 call that were released to the public hinted at the possibility of a darker side to Petito and Laundrie’s relationship.
Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Fla., on Sept. 1 in the white van the couple had rented for the trip. His parents told police their son had disappeared on Sept. 17, three days after they said they had last seen him.
Petito’s remains were identified on Sept. 21 shortly after her body was found along the border of Grand Teton National Park. Her death was ruled a homicide.
After Petito’s remains were found, a weeks-long, nationwide manhunt ensued for Laundrie, which ended when his remains were found along a trail in the swampy Florida wilderness on Oct. 21.
Laundrie died by suicide.
All the UFO stories
People were enthralled with a number of UFO stories this year.
A leaked video from the U.S. navy appeared to show an unidentified flying object diving into the ocean off the coast of San Diego in 2019, in a clip that officials said is authentic.
And then there was the story of the two U.S. navy fighter pilots who said they were investigating a sensor anomaly off the coast of San Diego in 2004 when they saw something they couldn’t explain: a churning patch of white water on the ocean’s surface and a “Tic Tac looking object” that appeared to be hovering without propulsion.
Or how about when video was leaked of flashing, triangle-shaped objects flying over a U.S. warship, and the Pentagon admitted the footage was real.
And let’s not forget when the CIA declassified a massive, long-awaited trove of documents related to UFO sightings over the last 70 years, stoking excitement among those who want to believe in aliens — and frustration among those who want to actually find the proof.
Boy makes major money with Gamestop shares
A fifth-grade Texas boy made headlines when he cashed in $60 worth of shares during the GameStop stock blowup in February.
The boy had received the shares as a Kwanzaa gift from his mom in 2019, and he decided to sell his shares when Reddit’s Wallstreetbets community skyrocketed the stock with a flurry of small-time investments.
The 10-year-old turned a tidy profit, walking away with $3,200.
The Oprah and Meghan and Harry interview
In March, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sat down with Oprah Winfrey in a tell-all interview and it was jaw-dropping, to say the least.
The couple had recently confirmed that they would not return to their royal duties, and detailed to Winfrey some of the hardships they faced in their royal life.
Markle shared that there were “conversations” about the colour of unborn children’s skin tone, and that the “race issue” added immense stress on the couple. She also revealed deep mental health struggles, and that she “didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Harry said his family had opportunities to support his wife, but they didn’t. He also said he asked the Royal Family for help on multiple occassions, but that they never responded to his pleas.
Iceland’s four-day workweek
A Icelandic organization ran a trial for a four-day workweek and the results really struck a chord with readers.
The four-year trial involved trimming 2,500 people’s work hours without trimming their pay, in order to see how it would affect their health, happiness and productivity.
Many employers cut their workweek from 40 hours to 35 or 36. Workplaces also specifically focused on being more efficient during their limited hours by cutting meetings, altering work patterns and re-organizing shift work.
Employees reported a “dramatic” improvement in their well-being, including lower stress and a better work-life balance over the trial period, researchers said. Productivity improved or remained the same in a majority of cases, employers said.
Bernie Sanders gets meme’d in his mitts
Bernie Sanders’ practical inauguration day wardrobe was the first wildly viral event of the year, turning the curmudgeonly U.S. senator into a meme seen ’round the world.
Sanders showed up to the inauguration wearing a warm coat, woollen mittens and a surgical mask, and carrying a brown manila envelope.
Memes of Sanders depicted everything from Sanders’ mittens touching Michelangelo’s Hand of God in the Sistine Chapel to the Vermont Democrat helping actor Demi Moore mould clay at the pottery wheel from the film Ghost.
Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got in on the meme-making.
The memes even inspired one Winnipeg group to create its own “Bernie mittens,” with the money raised going to newcomers to Canada.
The Ever Given ship and the Suez Canal
Speaking of memes, the colossal container ship that got stuck for nearly a week in the Suez Canal was another viral event that could be considered one of the year’s most meme’d.
Helped by the high tide, a flotilla of tugboats wrenched the bulbous bow of the skyscraper-sized Ever Given from the canal’s sandy bank on March 28.
It was a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce.
Airline passenger duct-taped by flight attendants
Remember the American man who was duct-taped to his seat on a Frontier Airlines flight after he allegedly groped and attacked flight attendants? It’s one of those videos you can’t forget.
Police said the man was very intoxicated on the flight and went on a spree of sorts, groping the breasts of two flight attendants and punching another in the face.
Tired of his terrorization, the attendants took matters into their own hands and secured the man to his seat using duct tape and a seat belt extender.