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Benchmarks: August 1576: False gold found in Meta Incognita

Three small boats set sail westward from London on June 7, 1576. Their goal: Find a northwest passage across the Arctic to Cathay, or China. A former pirate, Martin Frobisher, captained the 34 men. By July 11 they had reached Greenland. A storm overtook them, sinking one boat and forcing another to return home.
 
08 Aug 2011

Benchmarks: July 9, 1958: Megatsunami drowns Lituya Bay, Alaska

The recent disaster in Japan demonstrates the incredible destructive power of a megatsunami in a heavily populated area. But a record-breaking tsunami of a different sort occurred in 1958, in a remote part of Alaska known as Lituya Bay — and was witnessed by only six people, two of whom died. The giant tsunami and the unusual geometry of the bay combined to produce the largest wave run-up ever recorded — deluging the steep forested hills along the edges of the bay to a height of 524 meters. The wave was a powerful reminder of the forces nature can unleash.
 
04 Jul 2011

Down to Earth With: Deep-Sea submersible Alvin

Every oceanographer knows Alvin. Since 1964, the legendary deep submergence vehicle has carried more than 12,000 scientists and other observers to the bottom of the ocean on more than 4,600 dives. Its exploits are legion: locating and recovering a lost U.S. hydrogen bomb in 780 meters of water off the coast of Spain in 1966, exploring the first-known hydrothermal vents (black smokers off the Galapagos Islands) in 1977 and surveying the wreck of the Titanic in 1986.

04 Jul 2011

Benchmarks: June 22, 1969: The Cuyahoga burns

It was a relatively small fire. In terms of damage and duration, the city of Cleveland had seen far worse in the 173 years since its founding. In fact, the blaze on June 22, 1969, only warranted a mere 181 words in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But it was not an ordinary fire: It was the Cuyahoga River that burned. And the event started a movement that revolutionized the United States’ commitment to environmental protection.
 
03 Jun 2011

Down To Earth With: John Underhill

“The Odyssey” follows Odysseus’ 10-year journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. John Underhill, a stratigrapher at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, has been on his own odyssey over the past seven years — to test whether Ithaca actually existed. For centuries, scholars assumed that the people and places described by Homer in his epic poems were fictional, but archaeological finds elsewhere, such as Troy and Mycenae, have proven that these stories were grounded in reality.
 
01 Jun 2011

Benchmarks: May 31, 1889: Johnstown flood kills thousands

“It seemed to me as if all the destructive elements of the Creator had been turned loose at once in that awful current of water.” That’s how Col. Elias Unger, president of the corporation that maintained a dam and resort property called the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, described the water unleashed on the afternoon of May 31, 1889, when a dam at the club broke 23 kilometers above Johnstown, Pa. A little more than an hour later, a wall of water reached the town. In all, more than 2,200 people died in what is known as the Johnstown Flood.

02 May 2011

Down to Earth With: Evan Thomas

At age 16, Evan Thomas made a list of 100 life goals — his bucket list. At only 27 years old, he’s done pretty well so far: Graduate college with a degree in aerospace engineering — check. Get a doctorate by age 25 — almost (missed by 11 days). Work for NASA — check. Start a business, help people, travel the world — check, check, check. Get a private pilot license — check. Climb the world’s tallest mountains — in process.
 
02 May 2011

Down to Earth With: Alexander Stewart

Sgt. Alexander Stewart was brought up to believe serving in the military was an obligation all young men should fulfill. In 1991, at the age of 17, he answered the call of duty and joined the U.S. Army, which took him to Alaska with the 6th Infantry Division (Arctic)(Light). The state’s endless snow and ice fascinated Stewart, and after he left active duty, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in geology. In 2007, he completed a doctorate at the University of Cincinnati — in glacial geology, of course. Now he teaches the subject at St. Lawrence University in New York.
 
04 Apr 2011

Benchmarks: April 9, 1895: James Edward Keeler confirms Saturn's rings not solid

On April 9 and 10, 1895, astronomer James Edward Keeler snapped the most important photographs of his life. With a 13-inch (33-centimeter) refracting telescope, Keeler captured proof that Saturn’s rings were not solid disks, but instead a collection of particles revolving around the planet. The discovery put to rest a question that astronomers had been pondering for more than two centuries.
 
01 Apr 2011

Keeler's legacy

James Edward Keeler led a brief life, but his legacy lives on. Scientists have named several natural phenomena after him.
 
01 Apr 2011

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