Taxonomy term

benchmarks

Benchmarks: July 22,1960: Mineral discovery ends Meteor Crater debate

In 1923, Daniel Moreau Barringer stood on the edge of a vast bowl-shaped depression in the Arizona desert, watching a drill rig bore into the floor of the crater. Barringer had spent more than two decades exploring the massive hole, which lies on the Colorado Plateau 65 kilometers east of Flagstaff, Ariz. And although he had sunk dozens of drill holes, collected scores of samples, and carefully mapped the piles of talus that draped its concave walls, Barringer still hadn’t found what he was looking for, and he was getting nervous.
 
22 Jul 2015

Benchmarks: June 1,1840: Setting out for the Copper Country

On the morning of June 1, 1840, Michigan’s first state geologist, Douglass Houghton, stepped onto a small barge about to set sail on Lake Superior. The step marked the beginning of the first geological survey of the Keweenaw Peninsula — the northernmost portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which juts out into the center of the lake. Houghton and his crew would spend the summer exploring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and recording the region’s geologic resources, including rich copper deposits known only locally at the time. That would change, however, after Houghton’s team detailed its findings in an 1841 report that spurred the nation’s first major mining boom.

01 Jun 2015

Benchmarks: May 8, 1902: The deadly eruption of Mount Pelée

At the turn of the 20th century, the town of St. Pierre was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean.” Nestled into the northwest coast of the French island of Martinique, it boasted a bustling harbor where ships hauled away precious loads of sugar and rum, and it had usurped the official capital — Fort-de-France — as the colony’s cultural center. But St. Pierre had a problem: it lay in the shadow of a massive volcano.

 
08 May 2015

Peak's appeal - and hazard - endures today

Despite the bad weather, or perhaps because of it, more than 250,000 visitors flock to Mount Washington each year. It has been a popular tourist destination since the 1850s, when hotels first sprung up on the summit (with their roofs chained to the ground). Some also claim the footpath to the top — the Crawford Path — is the oldest hiking trail in the country.

 
12 Apr 2015

Benchmarks: April 12, 1934: Record winds buffet Mount Washington

When Jeff Masters was 5 years old, a brutish gust of wind knocked him flat. The incident transpired on top of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, a place that has long fascinated Masters — now a meteorologist and the founder of the popular forecasting site Weather Underground.

12 Apr 2015

March 29, 1936: Notes on Earth's Inner Core

On March 29, 1936, Danish seismologist Inge Lehmann wrote a letter to a colleague in which she argued that seismic waves — specifically P-waves — recorded from distant earthquakes showed some anomalous characteristics. “If you had seen so many records from these distances as I have,” she wrote, “I am sure you would not doubt that the amplitudes are abnormally small.” Within the year, Lehmann published a study based on those unusual amplitudes, work that first proposed that Earth has a solid inner core inside its liquid outer core.

29 Mar 2015

Benchmarks: February 17, 1977: Hydrothermal vents are discovered

In early February 1977, as scientists aboard the research vessel (R/V) Knorr made their way across the Pacific waters off the northwest coast of South America, they had reason to suspect their expedition might find the success that had eluded others. Previous missions had identified their destination — a site on the ocean surface about 330 kilometers northeast of the Galápagos Islands, below which two tectonic plates rift apart — as a promising location from which to search for their intended target. Once there, the researchers would deploy a variety of tools, including manned and unmanned submersibles, to the ocean bottom in the hopes of directly spotting hydrothermal vents.

17 Feb 2015

Conjunction injunction: Recent and future planetary alignments

February 1962: The five planets visible to the naked eye, as well as the sun and moon, all appeared within 17 degrees of each other in the sky. A concurrent solar eclipse and new moon made it possible to view the planets.

04 Feb 2015

Benchmarks: January 3, 1970: Lost City meteorite is tracked and recovered

On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 3, 1970, residents of northeastern Oklahoma saw a fireball as bright as a full moon blaze across the sky. The nine-second light display was accompanied by a sonic boom heard over a 1,000-square-kilometer area.

 
03 Jan 2015

Benchmarks: December 26, 2004: Indian Ocean tsunami strikes

On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude-9.2 earthquake ruptured the seafloor off Indonesia, sending the most destructive tsunami in recorded history across the Indian Ocean. A wall of water and debris slammed the shores of South Asia; some witnesses described it as sounding like a freight train. Tourists and locals alike scrambled to safety inland and atop tall hotels, recording videos of the surging water that inundated their communities. Many were unable to reach higher ground.

26 Dec 2014

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