Taxonomy term

benchmarks

Benchmarks: June 15, 1991: Mount Pinatubo erupts

Twenty-seven years ago this month, the calm in central Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines, turned to chaos. On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo disgorged 5 cubic kilometers of material over a few hours, and ash clouds soared 35 kilometers into the atmosphere. The substantial eruption — the second largest of the 20th century — burned itself into memories and history books.

15 Jun 2018

Benchmarks: May 3, 2003: New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain falls

On May 2, 2003, the Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire’s famous face-shaped granite formation, adorned the side of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park, just as it had for millennia. But by the next morning, it was gone: The iconic stone face had fallen.

03 May 2018

Benchmarks: April 4, 2011: Air France Flight 447 wreckage found using modern oceanography tools

In the early morning hours of March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (MH370), en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, lost communication with air traffic control during the transition between Malaysian and Vietnamese air space. It then disappeared, along with all 239 people aboard.

04 Apr 2018

Benchmarks: March 29, 1912: Scott's South Pole Journey Ends in Death

The epic tale of the race between Norway and Britain to be the first to reach the South Pole — and its tragic conclusion with the deaths of British team members in February and March 1912 — is well known. But the details of what happened on the ice, of what went wrong for the British expedition, have continued to be discussed and debated since the bodies of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and his four crewmates were discovered the following summer. Several recent studies on the Antarctic climate and on the questionable behavior of Scott’s second-in-command are casting new light on the outcome of the expedition.

29 Mar 2018

Benchmarks: February 12, 1986: France and the U.K. sign the Treaty of Canterbury, paving the way for the Chunnel

Since the tunnel connecting Britain and France beneath the English Channel opened in 1994, more than 390 million people and 320 million metric tons of goods have made the 50-kilometer subterranean trip. The Channel Tunnel, or Chunnel, which is actually three separate tunnels — two for rail traffic and one for maintenance — thus plays a major part in the countries’ economies, as well as in the broader European economy. Beyond that distinction, it has been memorialized in popular TV, movies and literature. And in recent years, the tunnel has taken on literal and symbolic significance as a gateway amid flows of refugees from strife-ridden parts of the world and in debates over immigration policy. The Chunnel has become so firmly embedded in the regional infrastructure and culture during the past quarter century that it is difficult to imagine it not being there today.

12 Feb 2018

Benchmarks: January 25, 1968: The last firefall: A Yosemite tradition flames out

Fifty years ago this month, on Jan. 25, 1968, a massive bonfire built of red fir bark atop Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park was burned down to embers and, promptly at 9 p.m., and for the last time, pushed over the cliff edge to create a flaming cascade for the viewing enjoyment of tourists gathered below. The spectacle, called “firefall,” had been a beloved Yosemite tradition for nearly a century.

25 Jan 2018

Benchmarks: December 5, 1952: The Great Smog smothers London

On Friday, Dec., 5, 1952, a blanket of thick, yellow smog settled over London, cloaking the city for five days straight. Smog wasn’t uncommon — Londoners called these days “pea-soupers,” based on the yellow-black color — and there were notable smog episodes from the Industrial Revolution (late 1700s) through the 1950s. But the haze of the city’s infamous “Great Smog” of 1952 long overstayed its visit. The lingering smog killed thousands, and its residual effects lasted for decades.

05 Dec 2017

Benchmarks: November 18, 1929: Turbidity currents snap trans-Atlantic cables

On the evening of Monday, Nov. 18, 1929, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake ruptured off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Those living on the Burin Peninsula, a foot of land that reaches into the Atlantic Ocean, reportedly felt five minutes of shaking — a confusing sensation, since no one in the area had experienced an earthquake before. “Suddenly this roar — this loud banging — [occurred] and the kettle and the plates started to dance,” Gus Etchegary, a resident of the Burin Peninsula who had experienced the quake, described in a documentary video produced by The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website.

18 Nov 2017

Benchmarks: October 8, 1871: The deadliest wildfire in American history incinerates Peshtigo, Wisconsin

On Oct. 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned through 900 hectares of the city, killing as many as 300 people and leaving another 100,000 homeless. More than 17,400 buildings were destroyed and financial losses totaled more than $200 million at the time (equivalent to $3.7 billion in 2016 dollars).

08 Oct 2017

Benchmarks: September 23, 1806: Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery returns from the West

It’s been called the greatest camping trip of all time. Statues, counties, waterways, mountains, military vessels, and even two colleges bear the names of the journey’s leaders. Their journals are among our greatest national treasures, and their adventures have inspired generations of explorers. Two hundred and eleven years ago this month, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their 31-man Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis, the frontier town where they had started their journey 28 months and nearly 13,000 kilometers of wilderness earlier on May 14, 1804.

23 Sep 2017

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