These days, we have early warning alarms for tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and even tsunamis, but on July 21, 365, no such warnings existed, not did any kind of measuring tools so we could know the magnitude of the earthquake that caused tsunamis, or the height of the tsunami itself. Nevertheless, it is known that a powerful earthquake off the coast of Greece caused a tsunami that devastated the city of Alexandria, Egypt.
In spite of the lack of measuring tools at the time, scientists can now estimate that the earthquake was actually two quakes in quick succession. It is estimated that the largest of those quakes was about a magnitude of 8.0. That magnitude of quake is massive by any standards, and it must have been very scary for anyone who might have felt it. It’s hard to say how many people actually felt it, because of its oceanic location, but even if no one felt the quake, they very much felt the aftereffects of that quake. The really tragic thing was that they had no idea what was coming their way, how very dangerous it was, or even that they should run when they saw it coming. I’m sure that they had seen tides come in and go out, and even storms bringing big wave onto the shore. So, it is very possible that they thought this was not that different than those things, except for it not being time for the tide and there was no storm. They likely just stood there looking at this strange phenomenon, until it took them all out.
The quake was centered near a plate boundary called the Hellenic Arc. Following the quake, a wall of water ran across the Mediterranean Sea toward the Egyptian coast. As happens in tsunamis, the water first recedes, and then comes crashing back. As the water in the harbor receded, ships docked at Alexandria suddenly overturned. As often happens in a disaster, it was reported that many people rushed out to loot the overturned ships. That put even more people in harm’s way. The tsunami wave then rushed in and carried the ships over the sea walls, landing many on top of buildings. The people were trapped, and in Alexandria alone, on that one day, approximately 5,000 people lost their lives, and 50,000 homes were destroyed.
The destruction was even greater in the surrounding villages and towns. Many of these small villages were literally wiped of the face of the earth. Outside of Alexandria, 45,000 people were killed. The salty sea water, inundation the farmlands, rendering them useless for years. From what scientists are able to piece together, the area’s shoreline was permanently changed by the disaster. The tsunami continued on, slowly, but steadily overtaking the buildings of Alexandria’s Royal Quarter. The main reason that the archaeologists learned about this horrific event was that in 1995 that archaeologists actually discovered the ruins of the old city, which lies off the coast of present-day Alexandria. With the changed shoreline following the tsunami, many of the old buildings remained under water for centuries.
For centuries, I think most people thought Earth was alone in the universe, at least when it came to planets. It was inevitable that people would decide that they wanted to know more about the numerous stars, the moon, and the sun. Once the telescope was invented, with the earliest workings towards the design of the refracting telescope being made by German-Dutch lensmaker Hans Lippershey in 1608, people, or at least a few people, were able to see the things that really existed beyond Earth’s atmosphere. I can only imagine the shock as the first viewing proclaimed, quite loudly, that we were not alone in the universe…not even in the realm of planets, not to mention galaxies.
Thinking about the vastness of the universe has a tendency to make you feel very small, and I don’t suppose many people in the 1600s were very comfortable with that. These days the thought of the other planets in our galaxy doesn’t really bother us, and in fact it seems completely normal to us. As my husband, Bob and I have been going on our nightly walks, I have been watching the movement of several planets…namely Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Just the thought of these huge, star-like celestial bodies, at least to the naked eye, makes me think about how amazing God’s creation is. I have been able to picture in my mind, how these planets look in the universe, and now, the idea that they are stars seems absurd. Of course, my own “revelation” of that fact came centuries after the great men of science figured that fact out, and of course, that “revelation”didn’t creep into my mind today, but was rather taught to me over the years of my schooling. Still, sometimes while you know something is a fact, the enormity of it takes much longer to fully register in your head. That is the way i feel about it,after a fashion anyway…as if suddenly, I can almost see the planets with the naked eye.
It makes me wonder how the various scientists, who discovered each of the planets in our galaxy, felt the first time the telescope found a planet, especially a new one…or shall I say, one that was never discovered before that moment. With that thought running around in my head, I learned that on September 23, 1846, German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle discovers the planet Neptune at the Berlin Observatory. We all now know Neptune as the eight planet in our solar system, and because it was the eighth, it was further out in space than the seven that were discovered before it. I can only imagine the excitement he felt in that moment. He was looking upon something no other human being had seen before. I don’t know if he had any concept of how big the planet was in comparison to Earth, but we now know that Neptune is the eighth and farthest known planet from the Sun in the Solar System, because Pluto was later found and then after years as a planet, discounted as a planet and named a dwarf planet. In the Solar System Neptune is the fourth-largest planet by diameter, the third-most-massive planet, and the densest giant planet. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth. At that size, I would say that Neptune’s discovery was by no means a small thing.
Tornado warnings and warning sirens are things that just about every person knows about these days, but in 1944, they weren’t available at all. It wasn’t that no one had thought about a tornado warning system, but rather that they had and they decided against it,and so nothing was developed. If you’re like me, you wonder why anyone would think it a bad idea to warn people about the possibility of a tornado, but that was exactly what happened. According to a report titled “The History (and Future) of Tornado Warning Dissemination in the United States” by Timothy A. Coleman, Kevin R. Knupp, James Spann, J. B. Elliott, and Brian E. Peters, “Despite promising research on the conditions that are favorable for tornadoes in the 1880s by John P. Finley, a general consensus was reached among scientists in the 1880s and 1890s that tornado forecasts and warnings would cause more harm than good. A ban was placed on the issuance of tornado warnings from 1887, when the U.S. Army Signal Corps handled weather forecasts, until 1938, when the civilian U.S. Weather Bureau (USWB) finally lifted the ban.” Even after the an was lifted, warnings were pretty primitive. Modern tornado warning really took off and began to develop in 1948…too late for the people of West Virginia and Pennsylvania on June 23, 1944.
On that June 23rd in 1944, a series of tornadoes across West Virginia and Pennsylvania kill more than 150 people. Most of the twisters were classified as F3, but the most deadly one was an F4 on the Fujita scale, meaning it was a devastating tornado, with winds in excess of 207 miles per hour. The afternoon was very hot, when atmospheric conditions suddenly changed and the tornadoes began to form in Maryland. At about 5:30 pm, an F3 tornado, with winds between 158 and 206 miles per hour, struck in western Pennsylvania. That storm killed two people. Just Forty-five minutes later, a very large twister began in West Virginia, and moved into Pennsylvania. It then tracked back to West Virginia. By the time this F4 tornado ended, it had killed 151 people and leveled hundreds of homes. Another tornado struck that afternoon at a YMCA camp in Washington, Pennsylvania. A letter written by a camper was later found 100 miles away. Area Coal-mining towns were also hit hard on June 23rd. There were some reports that a couple of tornadoes actually crossed the Appalachian mountain range, going up one side and coming down the other…a very rare event with any mountain. Finally, about 10 pm, the remarkable series of twisters finally ended, after the last one hit in Tucker County, West Virginia. In all, the storms caused the destruction of thousands of structures and millions of dollars in damages, and that was just the monetary losses.
While there isn’t much that can be done to spare property in the path of tornadoes, an early warning, and the appropriate action taken, can save the lives of hundreds of people. Sadly, early warnings were not available to save the 153 people killed in the tornado outbreak of June 23, 1944. They were still in the works, because of all the years wasted when scientists decided it was not in the public’s best interest to know about tornadoes. I’m really thankful that the ban was lifted and we have these necessary warnings these days.
Airplane hijacking isn’t a new thing in our day and age, and usually the hijacker is extremely dangerous and often has plans to crash the plane, but there have been, in times past, some hijackings that weren’t “so bad” in the grand scheme of airplane hijacking, anyway. Sometimes the hijacker really just wanted to use the plane to get them where they wanted to go, planning to release the hostages upon arrival. Of course, hijacking isn’t really a good way to get to your vacation destination, or any other reason for your travel, because you are likely to get shot or arrested for your seemingly innocent attempts.
Nevertheless, on November 24, 1971, a hijacker calling himself D.B. Cooper commandeered a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 shortly after takeoff. He showed a flight attendant something that looked like a bomb, and informed the crew that he wanted $200,000, four parachutes, and “no funny stuff.” The plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where authorities met Cooper’s demands, which was common back then, and evacuated most of the passengers. Cooper then demanded that the plane fly toward Mexico at a low altitude and ordered the remaining crew members into the cockpit. At 8:13 pm, as the plane flew over the Lewis River in southwest Washington, Cooper parachuted from the plane. The airplane’s pressure gauge recorded the jump. Wearing only wrap-around sunglasses, a thin suit, and a raincoat, Cooper parachuted into a thunderstorm, with winds in excess of 100 mph and temperatures well below zero at the 10,000 foot altitude where he began his fall. The storm prevented an immediate capture, and most authorities assumed he was killed during what they deemed a suicidal jump. No trace of Cooper has ever been found, despite a massive search of the area, and FBI posters, with age analysis.
In 1980, an eight year old boy uncovered a stack of nearly $5,880 of the ransom money in the sands along the north bank of the Columbia River, five miles from Vancouver, Washington. There was no trace of Cooper’s remains in the area. The money was given back to the boy, and he sold some of the bills as souvenirs. No more of the money has ever been found, on the ground or in circulation. More than four decades later, three amateur scientists working for a group called Citizen Sleuths, think they may have found evidence that would narrow down Cooper’s identity. They believe that he had to be an aerospace engineer or a manager. The scientists said they have been analyzing particles found on a clip-on necktie that Cooper left on his seat…number 18E…before jumping out of the plane. To the naked eye, the piece of fabric was a nondescript black tie from J.C. Penney. But, to the modern-day scientists, the tie was an “incredibly fortunate” piece of evidence in the investigation, because ties are not washed often, so DNA could remain on the tie, and with modern DNA testing, maybe they will be able to figure out who D.B. Cooper really was.
Recently, I saw an article on an app I have on my phone, called QuakeFeed. It is, of course, an app that tells me when there are earthquakes anywhere in the world, but my settings alert me if they are bigger 5.0. It’s not that earthquakes scare me or even concern me especially, because I don’t live in a really high earthquake area. I’m just naturally curious, and when a quake happens, I go to the map part of the app to see where it was. The app also has stories about the quakes that occur, especially is there was any damage or loss of life. Periodically, I look at the article part of the app, and that was where I saw the article concerning Mount Everest.
The article talked about an anomaly that I had not considered before. Now, maybe anomaly isn’t really the right word, but in my mind, that’s what it is. It mentioned that there was a possibility that due to earthquakes in the area, Mount Everest might have…shrunk. In case you didn’t know, Mount Everest is located in India and is part of the Himalayan mountain range. Mount Everest sports the crown as the world’s highest elevation, at 29,028 feet. The next highest elevation in a mountain is K2 in Pakistan. At 28,251 it is a full 777 feet lower than Mount Everest…at last measurement anyway. On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal at 11:56am, Nepal Standard Time. Known as the Gorkha earthquake, it killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000. Now, the Smithsonian Magazine is reporting that shortly after that quake, Satellite data was used to determine that large swaths of land in Nepal had risen more than 30 feet, while others had dropped. The school of thought is that the possibility exists that Mount Everest has actually shrunk. As I said, to me that seems like an anomaly, but it’s quite possible that Mount Everest, and all the other mountains of the world, have repeatedly changed in altitude. Somehow, I guess I had it in my head that mountain heights are permanent, but that isn’t even logical. The mountains were created by earthquakes. Their size must be subject to change by an earthquake too. It is the only logical conclusion.
The last time Mount Everest was measured was more than six decades ago, so I guess I wasn’t the only one who thought it wouldn’t change. Nevertheless, now India’s surveyor-general, Dr Swarna Subba Rao has plans to send an expedition to Mount Everest. Their mission is to “re-measure the hulking rock.” They do not expect that Everest has shrunk below 29,000 feet, but the technology has changed on the last 60 years, so it is possible that there might be some discrepancies. These days, scientists will measure Everest’s height using GPS equipment and triangulation techniques. “The observational data would take a month to collect and another 15 days to compute,” said Rao. I for one am excited to hear what their findings are. And, to be honest, I hope that the elevation has changed. To me, that would be like watching history in the making.
Before scientists learned how to predict the weather, and before the weather predicting equipment came into being, people often found themselves outside, without any place to get under cover, during some really bad storms. Such was the case on Monday, April 13, 1360…later dubbed Black Monday, when a hail storm killed approximately 1,000 English soldiers in Chartres, France. England and France were in the middle of the Hundred Years’ War. The war began in 1337, and by 1359, King Edward III of England was pushing forward to conquer France. In October he sent a massive force across the English Channel to Calais. The French wouldn’t fight back, but rather stayed behind protective walls that Winter, allowing the King Edward’s men to pillage the countryside.
Then in April of 1360 King Edward’s forces burned the Paris suburbs and marched toward Chartres. The night of April 13, while they were camped outside the town, planning a dawn attack, a sudden storm developed. Lightning struck, killing several soldiers, and hailstones began pelting the men, and scattering the horses. One man described it as “a foul day, full of myst and hayle, so that the men dyed on horseback” Two of the English leaders were killed and the troops panicked…they had no shelter from the storm. They were at it’s mercy. King Edward’s forces suffered heavy losses that some of the men saw as a sign from God, that they should not be fighting against France. King Edward was convinced that they needed to negotiate peace with the French, and on May 8, 1360, the Treaty of Bretigny was signed, marking the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War. King Edward renounced all claims to the throne of France, but he was given control of the land in the north of the country. Nine years later, fighting resumed when the King of France claimed that King Edward had not honored the treaty. the last phase of the Hundred Years’ War finally ended in 1453.
Hailstones have long been known to be very deadly. The larger the stone, of course, the more deadly it is. Some have been known to crush the roofs of cars. The largest hailstone recorded in modern times was found in Aurora, Nebraska. It was seven inches in diameter, about the size of a soccer ball. Hail typically falls at about 100 miles per hour, which explains why getting hit with one can really hurt you, no matter how small the stone might be, and why huge hailstones would mean instant death.
There is an old saying, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.” If that’s the case, then one must assume that the opposite is also true. And in the case of March, 2016…the opposite would definitely be the case. Bob and I were married on March first, and so we go to Thermopolis around that time to celebrate our anniversary. This year was absolutely beautiful!! It was warm with no snow, and our quiet little walks were just lovely. The groundhog had predicted an early Spring this year…and unusual prediction for him, so I was feeling very optimistic about the remainder of the Winter…or the lack thereof. Now it’s not that I’m superstitious, and I don’t believe that these predictions are superstition anyway, but rather God’s way of showing us little signs of His plans for the future. He tells the animals things that humans just don’t hear, like telling the geese when to fly south or to head north. We humans have somehow become so scientific that we fail to listen to the signs from God.
Of course, the scientists would say that they are able to predict the weather too, and perhaps they do listen to the signs of God, whether they admit that is what they are doing or not. Still, I find it odd that things like the groundhog not seeing his shadow on February 2nd, or the way March makes it’s annual entrance, can have such an impact of the weather over the next month or so, but they do nevertheless. One thing that many of us have come to look for is the time when the geese fly south. If they head out early, we have a pretty good idea that Winter will soon follow, but if the stay around into late fall, things could be very different for the Winter. They simply have been told that there is no hurry to leave. It is maybe the one sign from God that we humans have noticed over the years.
Be that as it may, we have arrived at the end of March in Wyoming. Enter Winter Storm Troy!! This Winter has been a relatively easy one, even though, the snow that fell in mid-December, didn’t leave the streets until mid-February. Nevertheless, I am pretty much over Winter after the first snow of the season, so I was looking forward to an early Spring. Now, with the end of March upon us, it decides to follow the old saying, and go out like a lion…since it came in like a lamb. That said, we are sitting here in Wyoming with about sixteen inches of snow on the ground, many businesses closed, and schools that would be…were it not for Spring Break. This storm is not supposed to hang around very long, but those unfortunate people in its path could get anywhere from 1″ to 47″ of the white stuff. I certainly hope we are not on the 47″ end of that scale. The snow is expected to continue through tonight and finally heading out around 6pm tomorrow. After that, look out, because when the temperatures heat up to the low fifties by Sunday, all this snow is going to melt, and become…a whole lot of water. I guess that is the April Fools Day joke in all of this weather prediction process.
Today, March 23rd, is known as Near Miss Day because it was on this day in 1898 that a large asteroid, named Apollo Asteroid 1989FC…an asteroid that was, in fact, bigger than an aircraft carrier and traveling at 46,000 miles per hour, passed the Earth, and it was a mere 400,000 miles away. The Earth had been at that place in space just six hours earlier. Six hours was all that stood between the Earth and the asteroid. Had it hit the Earth, scientists predicted that it would have left a crater the size of Washington DC, and destroyed everything around it for up to a hundred miles. Of course, that asteroid did not hit earth, and so was forgotten in the minds of most people, with astronomers being the possible exception. Earth does get hit periodically with meteors…some larger than others, and our atmosphere deals with them quite often, burning most of them up, causing what we all know as a shooting star. I find it interesting that we are in the middle of another close encounter right now. This time it is with a comet…or to be more accurate, two comets.
The smaller comet, Comet P/2016 BA14, was difficult to see, but it passed by us at a distance of just 2.2 million miles, making it the third closest flyby of a comet in recorded history. The larger comet is called Comet 252P/Linear. It was first discovered back in 2000, and has been monitored since that time. Comet P/2016 BA14 was only spotted in January this year. At first, astronomers thought it was a potentially dangerous asteroid heading towards us. Comet P/2016 BA14 will make its closest approach at around 11:30am EDT on March 22 (2.30am AEST on March 23). Of course, if you live in the United States, these two occurrences will not be on Near Miss Day, but they will be for those who live in Australia. I don’t know if Australia recognizes Near Miss Day, but if they do, they would find this weeks event interesting too.
I think that most of the time, we think very little about space…at least most of us do. Space seems so far away, and while we know that there are lots of things floating around out there, we somehow don’t believe they will ever impact Earth. That is even more strange, in that the craters on the moon come from meteor strikes, so why would the Earth somehow be immune. Of course, it wouldn’t be immune at all. The Earth occupies pretty much the same space as the moon. So we could get hit. I know that 400,000 miles seems like a lot, but in the perspective of space, it would be classified as a near miss.
We’ve all been told not to stand so close to the television set, but somehow all that nagging by our parents never really had much effect on most kids, who still stood right in front of the television as often as they sat a distance away from it. I don’t think it was really an act of defiance, but rather that the child was absorbed in the show, and didn’t even realize that they were standing right in front of the television set.
Of course, our parents were worried about a myth that getting too close to the television set could damage their child’s eyes, but science has proven that to be just that…a myth. In reality, they say that the reason that children tend to stand close to the television is that they can actually focus better on objects that are closer. Of course, scientists also say that when children stand so closely, it can also be a sign of future nearsightedness. That said, I guess that in reality, it does no harm for a child to stand right in front of the television…other than the fact that it irritates everyone else who is trying to watch the same show. I don’t suppose that this revelation will stop parents from telling their children not to stand so close to the television set, and that is up to them, but the reality is that it will not hurt your children.
Whether it is hard on your children’s eyes to stand so close to the television or not, will probably always be up for debate, but don’t think that kids are the only ones who do it, because they aren’t. I’ve seen plenty of adults who stand in front of the television set, including my husband, Bob and me too. It’s not that you mean to do it, but rather that you walk by and something catches your eye. You are interested, so you look, and the next thing you know someone is telling you to get out of the way. Oops!! Not only did you get caught by another adult, standing in front of the television set, but it was probably one of the same people who heard you tell your kids not to stand in front of the television set. I know that for me, that brings back memories of those days now in the past when I nagged my kids in exactly the same way.