Lost and found and sold

Our travel expert directs readers to unclaimed baggage treasures, high-elevation photography tips and that romantic, albeit cozy, freighter vacation.


Donald D. Groff
September 16, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

I've heard of a store in Alabama where you can buy clothing and other items taken from lost airline baggage. Where can I get information on this place?

The business you're referring to is called the Unclaimed Baggage Center, located in Scottsboro, Ala., about 50 miles southwest of Chattanooga, Tenn., and about 140 miles northwest of Atlanta. While most "lost" bags are quickly found and returned to their owners, a tiny percentage never make it back. But that tiny percentage still amounts to a large number of bags, tens of thousands by some estimates. When the airlines make cash settlements over baggage that has truly been lost in the system, or when baggage is simply never claimed, it can end up in Alabama.

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The Unclaimed Baggage Center buys luggage from a number of major airlines and sells its contents to the public, often at a deep discount from its true value. Designer clothing can go cheap and good deals abound. The store has everything you'd find in the belly of an airplane, from ball gowns and flashy jewelry to ball caps and surfboards. Visitors to its Web site can add their names to a notification list for certain types of merchandise.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center's address is 509 W. Willow St., Scottsboro, AL 35768; phone (256) 259-1525. A brochure is available upon request. Hours are Monday-Friday 9 a.m to 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's closed on Sunday. The store also has a wing devoted to "unclaimed cargo," a section that lacks the sophisticated bargain-hunter appeal found in elsewhere in the establishment. The company has another store in Boaz, Ala., about 45 miles south of Scottsboro, but the quantity and selection are inferior to the main store, and it is not worth a special trip.

I'm planning to visit La Paz, Bolivia, and Machu Picchu in October. Where can I get some good advice on high-elevation photography?

Galen Rowell is a towering figure in the field of mountain and outdoor photography, and his book Mountain Light offers insights into what goes on in his mind while seeking and capturing stunning shots at high elevations. Mountain Light Photography is the name of his business, and the Web site also offers articles that shed light on your question.

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Various photo guidebooks have sections on mountain and outdoor photography, including the "Kodak Guide to Shooting Great Travel Pictures," by Jeff Wignall (Fodor's, 1995), which has an easy-to-read format and several pages devoted to lighting and scale issues when shooting in the mountains. This book is reported out of print, but you may find it in libraries, used-book stores or online book sites. Wignall is currently wrapping up work on the second edition, which will add advice on digital photography and other recent topics.

Other guides include "Berlitz Travel Photography," by Jon Davison (Berlitz, 1996) and "Photography Outdoors: A Field Guide for Travel & Adventure Photographers," by Mark Gardner and Art Wolfe (Mountaineer Books, 1995).

One practical tip for thin-air photography: Don't forget that high elevations put extraordinary demands on your body, and it's important to drink plenty of water and eat and snack to keep your energy up.

I read somewhere that a few cargo ships working out of the West Coast often accept a small number of tourists for Pacific travel (officer's mess, no formal entertainment except movies, lots of peace and quiet, slow travel). Can you tell me how to get information regarding these ships, their schedules and rates?

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The high seas are peppered with merchant ships that carry a handful of paying passengers, and several companies promote and book freighter travel. If you call and ask about departures to the destination of your choice, you'll probably find several options. One contact is the TravLtip Cruise & Freighter Travel Association, which publishes a useful brochure called "35 most-commonly asked questions about freighter travel." For a free copy, write TravLtips at Box 218, Flushing, NY 11358; phone (800) 872-8584.

Another source is the Freighter Travel Club of America, which began in 1958 and which publishes the monthly Freighter Travel News. It reviews freighter trips and carries ads for agencies specializing in freighter travel. Contact the Freighter Travel Club at 3524 Harts Lake Loop, Roy, WA 98580; phone (360) 458-4178. A good Web site for background on freighter cruising is the Internet Guide to Freighter Travel.


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Revisiting a previous Travel Advisor Q&A:

Thanks to reader E.C.K. for this addition to sources for locating dive sites outside the United States:

For good information on dive locales, the best resource out there is Undercurrent, a newsletter that gives the lowdown on dive locations, accommodations and operators all over the world. The newsletter is entirely subscription-based; there is no advertising in it. You'll need to subscribe to get the latest content, but you can get a good feel for the publication through its Web site. Undercurrent has been in business for about 15 years.

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Donald D. Groff

Donald D. Groff has been dispensing travel advice for a decade for such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star.

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