Taxonomy term

benchmarks

Benchmarks: August 31, 1886: Magnitude-7 earthquake rocks Charleston, South Carolina

In late August 1886, Charleston, S.C., was in the grip of a heat wave. It was so hot during the day that many offices were closed and events were postponed until later in the evening when temperatures had cooled. So, when powerful seismic waves rippled across the city at 9:51 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 1886, people were sent scrambling not just out of homes, theaters and the opera house, but out of churches, offices and other buildings in which they might not have otherwise been at that late hour.

31 Aug 2017

Benchmarks: July 15-24, 1975: Apollo-Soyuz mission launches space collaboration

The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union spurred innovations and historic firsts for humankind from Sputnik to the moon landing. However, much of the drive to break through those technological barriers and explore the vast, starry landscape of space was rooted in a desire to display military dominance in space amid the competition and animosity of the Cold War.

15 Jul 2017

Benchmarks: June 1977: First Excavations at Nebraska's Ashfall Fossil Beds

In the spring of 1971, paleontologist Mike Voorhies was mapping rock exposures on a farm in northeastern Nebraska when he wandered into a small ravine that recent heavy rains had swept clean of debris. High on the gully wall, a change in the color of the rock caught his eye, so he decided to scramble up and take a closer look.

 
31 May 2017

Benchmarks: May 23, 1967: Space weather forecasters avert war

In spring 1967, international political tensions were high. The United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in the space race, as well as a nuclear arms race. The Cuban Missile Crisis, less than five years earlier, was still fresh in people’s minds. The war in Vietnam was escalating, as was the U.S. antiwar movement at home. And in the Middle East, Israel and its neighbors were on the precipice of the Six Day War.

23 May 2017

Benchmarks: April 24, 1990: The Hubble Space Telescope is launched

Five hundred and eighty kilometers above Earth, orbiting at more than 27,000 kilometers per hour, is a 12-ton, bus-sized eye on the universe: the Hubble Space Telescope. When Hubble launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990, scientists hoped it would provide answers to many of the great unknown questions of the day. How old is the universe? How fast is it expanding? What lies between galaxies?

24 Apr 2017

Benchmarks: March 11–13, 1888: The Great Blizzard of 1888 Paralyzes New York City

On Tuesday, March 13, 1888, the streets of New York City were nearly unrecognizable. What had been well-lit homes and storefronts, bustling with shoppers, families, workers and businessmen just two days before, now looked like a frozen battlefield, pummeled by a blizzard whose force had taken the city by surprise. The streets were clogged with deep snow and debris from signs, broken wires, downed poles, trees, and carts that had been abandoned as people fled to shelter. The few people who were out stumbled through deep snow drifts, fighting against a brutal icy wind; some never made it to safety.

11 Mar 2017

Benchmarks: February 5, 1931 and February 20, 1935: Antarctic firsts for women

We can only guess what Caroline Mikkelsen was thinking on Feb. 20, 1935, as she sipped her coffee, resting on a rocky hillside surrounded by the noise and stink of thousands of Adélie penguins. Minutes before, she had become the first woman to set foot in Antarctica and had helped hoist the Norwegian flag into place atop a rock cairn, claiming Norway’s influence in the land. Was she thrilled? Proud? Did she care about the significance of her presence there? We don’t know — little was recorded about the event; and most of what was recorded was lost for decades, resigning the episode, for a time, to footnote status amid the annals of a continent shrouded in mystery and a culture of polar exploration enraptured by the heroic and masculine deeds of the male explorers who had come before.

05 Feb 2017

A mysterious first

Women sailed around the sub-Antarctic islands well before Caroline Mikkelsen or Ingrid Christensen’s journeys, usually accompanying their sailor husbands. Maori navigators are known to have traveled these waters for centuries. 

05 Feb 2017

Benchmarks: January 31, 1961: Ham the chimpanzee, first hominid in space

Early on the morning of Jan. 31, 1961, a chimpanzee named Ham, outfitted in a diaper, waterproof pants and a space suit, was sealed into a capsule and loaded onto a Mercury-Redstone 2 spacecraft in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Six hours later, Ham the Chimp, named after Holloman Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, N.M., where he was trained, became the first hominid to travel into space.

31 Jan 2017

Benchmarks: December 6, 1916: Dinosaur fossils lost at sea in World War I

One hundred years ago this month, a Canadian cargo ship — the SS Mount Temple — departed the port of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River headed for France. On board were 3,000 tons of wheat, more than 700 horses bound for service in World War I, and an unknown number of 75-million-year-old dinosaur skeletons and bones destined for the British Museum of Natural History. But the ship, and the fossils, never made it.

06 Dec 2016

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