Taxonomy term


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

Benchmarks: January 25, 1968: The last firefall: A Yosemite tradition flames out

Fifty years ago this month, on Jan. 25, 1968, a massive bonfire built of red fir bark atop Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park was burned down to embers and, promptly at 9 p.m., and for the last time, pushed over the cliff edge to create a flaming cascade for the viewing enjoyment of tourists gathered below. The spectacle, called “firefall,” had been a beloved Yosemite tradition for nearly a century.

25 Jan 2018

Benchmarks: December 5, 1952: The Great Smog smothers London

On Friday, Dec., 5, 1952, a blanket of thick, yellow smog settled over London, cloaking the city for five days straight. Smog wasn’t uncommon — Londoners called these days “pea-soupers,” based on the yellow-black color — and there were notable smog episodes from the Industrial Revolution (late 1700s) through the 1950s. But the haze of the city’s infamous “Great Smog” of 1952 long overstayed its visit. The lingering smog killed thousands, and its residual effects lasted for decades.

05 Dec 2017

Benchmarks: November 18, 1929: Turbidity currents snap trans-Atlantic cables

On the evening of Monday, Nov. 18, 1929, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake ruptured off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. Those living on the Burin Peninsula, a foot of land that reaches into the Atlantic Ocean, reportedly felt five minutes of shaking — a confusing sensation, since no one in the area had experienced an earthquake before. “Suddenly this roar — this loud banging — [occurred] and the kettle and the plates started to dance,” Gus Etchegary, a resident of the Burin Peninsula who had experienced the quake, described in a documentary video produced by The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Website.

18 Nov 2017

Benchmarks: October 8, 1871: The deadliest wildfire in American history incinerates Peshtigo, Wisconsin

On Oct. 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire burned through 900 hectares of the city, killing as many as 300 people and leaving another 100,000 homeless. More than 17,400 buildings were destroyed and financial losses totaled more than $200 million at the time (equivalent to $3.7 billion in 2016 dollars).

08 Oct 2017

Benchmarks: September 23, 1806: Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery returns from the West

It’s been called the greatest camping trip of all time. Statues, counties, waterways, mountains, military vessels, and even two colleges bear the names of the journey’s leaders. Their journals are among our greatest national treasures, and their adventures have inspired generations of explorers. Two hundred and eleven years ago this month, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their 31-man Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis, the frontier town where they had started their journey 28 months and nearly 13,000 kilometers of wilderness earlier on May 14, 1804.

23 Sep 2017

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