Taxonomy term


Benchmarks: August 24, 1873: The Mount of the Holy Cross is found, photographed and mapped

The rumors had persisted for decades, some said for centuries. Deep in the Colorado Rockies was a mystical mountain. Upon the face of a towering peak rose a massive cross, formed by snow accumulating in two huge cracks. In his 1868 book, “The Parks and Mountains of Colorado: A Summer Vacation in the Switzerland of America,” journalist Samuel Bowles wrote, “It is as if God has set His sign, His seal, His promise there — a beacon upon the very center and hight [sic] of the continent to all its people and all its generations.”
03 Aug 2012

Benchmarks: July 1, 1912: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officially becomes the first of its kind in U.S.

Living on the fringe of an active volcano in Hawaii is a precarious venture. Because Hawaii’s shield volcanoes aren’t prone to explosive activity, you’re typically not threatened by violent eruptions such as would occur at Mount St. Helens, for example. On the other hand, the slow-moving, unpredictable lava flows can still overtake your home, even if it has avoided years of previous eruptions. 
02 Jul 2012

Benchmarks: June 10, 1886: New Zealand’s Mount Tarawera erupts

On June 10, 1886, Mount Tarawera on New Zealand’s North Island erupted catastrophically, killing more than 100 people. With few warning signals, the explosive basaltic eruption caught many people by surprise as it rocked the mountain, forming fissures that extended for 17 kilometers into the adjacent Lake Rotomahana and Waimangu Valley. 
04 Jun 2012

Benchmarks: May 15, 1909: The Northern Great Plains earthquake

In Culbertson, Mont., at a quarter past nine on a Saturday evening, Ralph Bush and H.G. Walsh were resting in the third-floor apartment of the Reed Cash Grocery when the floor began to rock, vibrating a small penknife right off their table, and sending a candle lamp clattering to the floor. At the nearby Evans Hotel, confusion reigned as the quake shook the two-story brick building, causing frightened guests to flee into the streets. On the second story of the Farmers & Merchants bank, a piano player was entertaining a social gathering at the home of Professor Dale when the shaking sent a vase crashing to the floor. The 15 seconds of quivering was so pronounced at Skelley’s barbershop that, “It rang up a 50-cent cash sale on the cash register, and it has been keeping me guessing how I can balance the darned thing,” Skelley told a reporter from the Culbertson Republican.
02 May 2012

Benchmarks: April 1, 1946: Hawaii tsunami ushers in a Pacific-wide warning system

On the morning of April 1, 1946, children were on their way to school in the small peninsula community of Laupahoehoe on the island of Hawaii (the Big Island). Curious about the fish that were flopping around in the sand on the beach, the students were too busy to notice the ocean sucking all the water out of the bay. Minutes later, a large wave — about 15 meters high — struck the peninsula and swept 16 children and five teachers out to sea.
01 Apr 2012

Benchmarks: March 1961: Project Mohole undertakes the first deep-ocean drilling

Since its inception in the 1960s, the ocean drilling program — an international research program that explores the world’s ocean basins — has logged hundreds of thousands of hours of ship time traveling the world’s oceans, drilling boreholes and retrieving cores of sediment and rock that have revealed Earth’s deep history and structure.
05 Mar 2012

Benchmarks: February 7, 2009: Deadliest day of fire ever recorded in Australia

On Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, John Brumby, premier of the Australian state of Victoria, warned the public of the high risk of wildfires that weekend: “It’s just as bad a day as you can imagine and on top of that the state is just tinder-dry. People need to exercise real common sense tomorrow.” He was right. The next day, more than a dozen major fires and hundreds of smaller ones tore across the region, fueled by record temperatures and high winds. The so-called Black Saturday fires released more energy than 1,500 Hiroshima bombs, according to one fire expert. Together, the fires cost billions in damage and killed 173 people — the deadliest day of fires recorded in Australia.
06 Feb 2012

Benchmarks: January 3–5, 1982: 18,000 landslides wreak havoc on the San Francisco Bay area

When a storm battered California’s San Francisco Bay Area in early January 1982, the rain was intense, but not without precedent. The region had historically endured heavy rains during the winter months, with individual storms sometimes bringing more than half the annual average rainfall in a single 36-hour span. But a collection of unique factors in 1982 created a recipe for a landslide disaster. First, two weather fronts merged, bringing copious amounts of rain to an already saturated region. Second, the rising population had resulted in a construction boom in the iconic hills of the Bay Area. During three days of relentless rain from Jan. 3–5, 1982, a record 18,000 individual landslides occurred, killing at least 25 people.
02 Jan 2012

Benchmarks: December 16, 1811-February 7, 1812: The New Madrid earthquakes strike the Heartland

This winter marks the bicentennial of a series of powerful intraplate earthquakes that occurred in the central United States over a two-month period beginning on Dec. 16, 1811. Named for New Madrid, one of the settlements on the Mississippi River, these tremors were among the largest historic earthquakes to occur east of the Rocky Mountains.

16 Dec 2011

Benchmarks: October 1904: Mineralogy solves a murder

In a bean field outside the city of Freiburg im Breisgau on the western edge of Germany’s Black Forest, Eva Disch lay dead, strangled. Her blue and red silk scarf may have kept the chill off her neck earlier on that October day in 1904, but now it was wound too tightly, a tourniquet around her neck. The only clue to the death of the local seamstress was a dirty handkerchief discarded near her body. With little evidence to go on, investigators turned to Georg Popp.
03 Oct 2011