Taxonomy term

benchmarks

Benchmarks: December 7, 1988: A Massive Earthquake Devastates Armenia

Thirty years ago this month, on Dec. 7, 1988, a magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook the northern region of the then-Soviet republic of Armenia. At 11:41 a.m., the earthquake damaged nearly a third of the small country and destroyed the town of Spitak near the epicenter.

07 Dec 2018

Benchmarks: November 16, 1990: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is established

Off the tip of the Florida Peninsula lies the world’s third-largest living coral reef, the Great Florida Reef. The only barrier reef system in North America, it is composed of a system of individual reefs that together extend 270 kilometers south of Miami through the Florida Keys, a crescent-shaped chain of more than 1,500 islands, about 30 of which are inhabited. This ecological treasure is home to more than 6,000 species of marine life, including colorful fish and endangered sea turtles, as well as extensive seagrass beds, mangrove islands and about 1,000 shipwrecks.

16 Nov 2018

Benchmarks: October 11, 1899: Second Boer War begins, fueled by discovery of gold

The 1886 discovery of gold on a farm in the Witwatersrand region of southern Africa drove the growth of Johannesburg, and gold mining has aided the South African economy for more than a century since. But gold, and diamonds, also fueled the Second Boer War, one of the most destructive armed conflicts in Africa’s history. The war resulted in the deaths of nearly 100,000 people, including tens of thousands of Boer women and children who died in British concentration camps. The consequences of the war, including gold mining’s lasting environmental legacy, and the rise of Afrikaner nationalism that reinforced apartheid, are still felt today.

11 Oct 2018

Benchmarks: September 6, 1869: Pennsylvania's Avondale coal mine fire kills 110, igniting reform

In the mid-19th century, American industry was fueled by coal, which was provided largely by the anthracite coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania. The work drew tens of thousands of immigrants, including experienced English and Welsh miners, and many fleeing the Irish Potato Famine. But the work was dangerous, and each year thousands of workers died in the mines and many thousands more were seriously injured. 

06 Sep 2018

Benchmarks: August 27, 1958: Operation Argus creates first anthropogenic space weather

Sixty years ago this month, a fleet of nine U.S. Navy ships with 4,500 people aboard maneuvered into the Atlantic. Eight of these ships continued to the South Atlantic, about 1,800 kilometers southwest of Cape Town, South Africa, while the ninth headed to the North Atlantic, near the Azores. The clandestine military operation — code-named Operation Argus — was not an invasion, but a scientific mission, carried out at a staggering pace and inspired by an unpublished research paper by an elevator engineer with an interest in accelerator physics.

27 Aug 2018

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

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