Taxonomy term

benchmarks

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

Benchmarks: November 13, 1985: Nevado del Ruiz eruption triggers deadly lahars

On Nov. 13, 1985, at a little after 9 p.m. local time, Nevado del Ruiz, a volcano about 130 kilometers from Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, erupted, spewing a violent mix of hot ash and lava into the atmosphere. Less than three hours later, the earth rumbled as mudflows towering nearly 30 meters high swept through the countryside, several villages and eventually the town of Armero, where it killed 70 percent of the town’s residents. All-told, these mudflows, called lahars, killed more than 23,000 people.

13 Nov 2016

Benchmarks: October 2, 1574: Dutch unleash the ocean as a weapon of war

In 1574, the city of Leiden in the Netherlands was brought to its knees: By August of that year, about 6,000 of the city’s roughly 15,000 inhabitants had either starved to death, been killed by the Black Plague or had succumbed to dysentery. Plague doctors in their crow-beaked masks roamed the streets amid famished and diseased citizens drinking foul water from canals. No one knew when, if ever, help would come, for beyond Leiden’s walls the Spanish army was laying siege and cutting off all supply routes into the city.

02 Oct 2016

Benchmarks: September 8, 1900: Massive hurricane strikes Galveston, Texas

Everyone said it couldn’t happen. City leaders saw no need for an expensive seawall, trusting local meteorologist Isaac Cline when he claimed that it was “impossible for any cyclone to ... materially injure the city.” And so, on the morning of Sept. 8, 1900, when the skies over Galveston, Texas, darkened with rain and the winds blew strong, residents of this booming barrier island community believed their city could weather any storm. By the next morning, the city lay in ruin, blasted by a Category-4 hurricane that killed an estimated 10,000 people — a quarter of the island’s population — and more than the combined death tolls of all other landfalling U.S. hurricanes since.

08 Sep 2016

Benchmarks: August 25, 1916: The National Park Service is established

The U.S. national parks are sanctuaries where one can find refuge in nature and marvel at its grandeur — from the glacially sculpted granitic monoliths of California’s Yosemite to the watery wilderness of Florida’s Everglades. This August, the agency that works to ensure the parks’ preservation for future generations, the National Park Service (NPS), celebrates its 100th anniversary.

25 Aug 2016

Benchmarks: July 26, 1905: The rising Salton Sea swamps the Southern Pacific Railroad

On a scorching summer day in 1905, in the middle of a desert, the Colorado River, which had broken free from an irrigation canal and found its way to the lowest point around — the Salton Sink — swamped the Southern Pacific Railroad. Bounded by the Mojave Desert to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south, the sink lies 70 meters below sea level at the bottom of the Salton Trough. By the time the railroad sealed the breach 18 months later, the Salton Sea stretched 58 kilometers long and 42 kilometers wide, making it California’s largest lake.

26 Jul 2016

Benchmarks: June 4, 1783: The era of aviation launches with the first balloon flight

In the small French town of Gonesse in August 1783, a large, spherical and nebulous object painted with red and yellow stripes fell from the sky and began fluttering about on the ground. The town’s peasants, fearful, attacked the object with pitchforks, and then tied it to a horse’s tail to be dragged through the streets.

04 Jun 2016

Benchmarks: May 12, 1905: Andrew Carnegie donates 'Dippy the Dino'

As one of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Andrew Carnegie had come to expect that people would praise and honor him, but May 12, 1905, would be an unusual day for the Pittsburgh steel magnate. Never before had he been honored for donating a dinosaur. Carnegie’s contribution of a massive plaster model of a Diplodocus — at the time the largest-known animal to have ever trod the planet — to London’s Natural History Museum was part of the Scotsman’s dream to rid the world of war, which he called “the foulest blot upon our civilization.”

12 May 2016

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