Friday, October 14, 2011

Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier in 1947

October 14, 1947 Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier

On this date way back in 1947 US Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound, breaking the sound barrier.

For years, many aviators believed that man was not meant to fly faster than the speed of sound, theorizing that transonic drag rise would tear any aircraft apart. All that changed on October 14, 1947, when Yeager flew the X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. The X-1 was lifted to an altitude of 25,000 feet by a B-29 aircraft and then released through the bomb bay, rocketing to 40,000 feet and exceeding 662 miles per hour (the sound barrier at that altitude). The rocket plane, nicknamed "Glamorous Glennis," was designed with thin, unswept wings and a streamlined fuselage modeled after a .50-caliber bullet.

Because of the secrecy of the project, Bell and Yeager's achievement was not announced until June 1948. Yeager continued to serve as a test pilot, and in 1953 he flew 1,650 miles per hour in an X-1A rocket plane. He retired from the US Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general.

Chuck Yeager, born in Myra, West Virginia, in 1923, was a combat fighter during World War II and flew 64 missions over Europe. He shot down 13 German planes and was himself shot down over France, but he escaped capture with the assistance of the French Underground. After the war, he was among several volunteers chosen to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell Aircraft Company to explore the possibility of supersonic flight.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

First ancient mammoth carving discovered in North America

The first ever images of mammoths have been found in North America. Previously hundreds of images of the now extinct animals have been found in Europe, but none here.

A fragment of bone, discovered in Vero Beach, Florida bears a 3-inch-long, 1.75-inch tall engraving. It bears a striking resemblance to a mammoth. It is a trunked creature, whose shortened, high-domed skull and longer forelimbs evoke the body of a mammoth.

If genuine, this rare and spectacular find provides evidence that ancient people living in the Americas during the end of the Pleistocene Epoch created artistic images of the animals they hunted, Purdy and her colleagues write online in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Mammoths and their mastodon relatives disappeared approximately 13,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, so this image must have been carved by that time, according to the researchers.

The bone itself appears to have belonged to a large mammal, most likely a mastodon or mammoth, or less likely, a giant sloth, they write. The image on the bone is not readily apparent, and the fossil hunter who discovered it, James Kennedy, did not notice it for two or three years after collecting the bone. When a cleaning revealed the engraving, Kennedy contacted researchers. The researchers set out to verify that the carving was indeed created by ancient people using a variety of analytical and imaging techniques.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Anchor from Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge recovered

The huge anchor from what's believed to be the wreck of the pirate Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge has been raised from the ocean floor off the North Carolina coast. Archaeologists believe the anchor recovered Friday is from the famous flagship of Blackbeard. The vessel sank in 1718 just a few months before Blackbeard was killed in battle.

The artifact is the third-largest item at the shipwreck, outsized only by two other anchors. Researchers retrieved the anchor from the shipwreck about 20 feet under water and were bringing it to shore. The work to retrieve it began last week. The anchor is about 11 feet long.

The recovery coincides with the release this month of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." The movie features both Blackbeard and the Queen Anne's Revenge as major players.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Winston Churchill becomes British Prime Minister

This is one of those "small" events & decisions upon which our world turned....can you even imagine what our world would look like today if the King had chosen Viscount Halifax and the "separate peace" with Hitler he stood for in the late spring of 1940....Instead of the separate peace he was counting on with the UK, Hitler got Winston Churchill...and the rest, they say, is HISTORY!

Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, is called to replace Neville Chamberlain as British prime minister following the latter's resignation after losing a confidence vote in the House of Commons.

In 1938, Prime Minister Chamberlain signed the Munich Pact with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, giving Czechoslovakia over to German conquest but bringing, as Chamberlain promised, "peace in our time." In September 1939, that peace was shattered by Hitler's invasion of Poland. Chamberlain declared war against Germany but during the next eight months showed himself to be ill-equipped for the daunting task of saving Europe from Nazi conquest. After British forces failed to prevent the German occupation of Norway in April 1940, Chamberlain lost the support of many members of his Conservative Party. On May 10, Hitler invaded Holland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The same day, Chamberlain formally lost the confidence of the House of Commons.

Churchill, who was known for his military leadership ability, was appointed British prime minister in his place. He formed an all-party coalition and quickly won the popular support of Britons. On May 13, in his first speech before the House of Commons, Prime Minister Churchill declared that "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat" and offered an outline of his bold plans for British resistance. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would "never surrender." They never did.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fort Sumter - April 12, 1861

The American Civil War begins when Confederates fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina on April 12, 1861. The fort had been the source of tension between the Union and Confederacy for several months. After South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, the state demanded the fort be turned over but Union officials refused.

A supply ship, the "Star of the West," tried to reach Fort Sumter on January 9, but the shore batteries opened fire and drove it away. For both sides, Sumter was a symbol of sovereignty. The Union could not allow it to fall to the Confederates, although throughout the Deep South other federal installations had been seized. For South Carolinians, secession meant little if the Yankees still held the stronghold. The issue hung in the air when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, stating in his inauguration address: "You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors."

Lincoln did not try to send reinforcements but he did send in food. This way, Lincoln could characterize the operation as a humanitarian mission, bringing, in his words, "food for hungry men." He sent word to the Confederates in Charleston of his intentions on April 6. The Confederate Congress at Montgomery, Alabama, had decided on February 15 that Sumter and other forts must be acquired "either by negotiation or force." Negotiation, it seemed, had failed. The Confederates demanded surrender of the fort, but Major Robert Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter, refused.

In the predawn hours of April 12, the Confederate guns opened fire. For thirty-three hours, the shore batteries lobbed 4,000 shells in the direction of the fort. Finally, the garrison inside the battered fort raised the white flag. No one on either side had been killed, although two Union soldiers died when the departing soldiers fired a gun salute, and some cartridges exploded prematurely. It was a nearly bloodless beginning to America's bloodiest war.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Civil War commemoration threatened as National Parks face shutdown

The National Parks Service is in danger with the looming federal government shutdown. This could mean events commemorating the start of the Civil War with a Confederate attack on Fort Sumter may have to happen without the fort itself. A shutdown would also affect trips to the nation's capital, where the Smithsonian and the National Zoo would be among the first to close, and could cause spring break campers out West to find Yosemite and other parks closed.

If lawmakers can't reach agreement, the National Park Service ceases operations at midnight Friday, shuttering Fort Sumter in the middle of Charleston Harbor just days before events marking the 150th anniversary of the first shots of the war. The Union garrison on the island surrendered after a Confederate bombardment on April 12, 1861.

"It's a very special event and it would be very sad if something like that happened," said Chris Kimmel of Harrisburg, Pa., who visited the fort Wednesday as a chaperone with a group of high school students from another town tied to the war, Gettysburg, Pa.

Events for the anniversary have been planned for years. Hundreds of Union and Confederate re-enactors plan to stay in Forts Sumter and Moultrie, another Park Service site across the harbor, during a week of events. If there is a shutdown, plans will move forward to re-enact the bombardment Tuesday with about 30 cannons ringing the harbor from sites not on federal land.

"I'm shocked. This is a pivotal event in the nation's history," said Jeff Antley, who is coordinating arrangements for an estimated 1,000 re-enactors coming to the city. "You can't say we're going to reschedule for May. The money has been spent. The uniforms have been bought. The travel arrangements have been made."

If the federal government shuts down, then all 394 National Park Service sites would be closed and about 20,000 park service employees would be idled, said David Barna, agency spokesman in Washington. Fifteen-thousand concession employees who run hotels, restaurants and gift shops would likely be idled as well.In April, about 800,000 people visit national park sites each day and those visitors spend $32 million a day, giving a boost to local economies, he said.

Kate Gibbs, a spokeswoman for a group that promotes tourism in the nation's capital, said the National Mall will remain open, although the world-class Smithsonian museums would go dark.

"What we might stand to lose is the National Park Service expert who can add that ounce of magic by saying, `You're standing where Martin Luther King stood when he delivered the `I have a dream' speech,'" said Gibbs, of Destination DC.

It's a busy time for Washington. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which draws about 1 million visitors each spring, is finishing up this weekend, though it wasn't clear how a government shutdown would affect events.

At Yosemite National Park in California, students on spring break flock to the majestic mountains this time of year to see waterfalls swollen by winter rains, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

Any shutdown, he said, would be done in phases. "It's such a complicated place with campgrounds, trails, hotels, tour buses," Gediman said. "It's not as simple as we close the gate and everybody goes home."

About 1,000 workers employed by a company that runs park services as well as about 800 park workers would be affected. Business outside the gates would also suffer.

"We really don't have a whole lot of industry other than tourism," said Lester Bridges, president of the Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce.

If there has to be a shutdown, April is the best time of year for Yellowstone National Park, where snow is forecast for the next several days. For much of the month, only a few hardcore visitors enter the park, usually weekend warriors looking to spy on wolves in the Lamar Valley, bicycle a plowed road or ski or snowshoe.

The park had about 33,000 visitors last April. "That's about a day during our peak summer months," park spokesman Al Nash said.

A closure could set preparations back for the busy summer season. About 300 miles of road are being plowed while hotels, stores and park facilities have to be opened, and water and sewer systems have to be readied.

"If the park doesn't open on time, it's definitely going to be a financial hit for businesses that already struggle with a highly seasonal economy," said Bill Berg, president of the chamber of commerce in Gardiner, Mont., just outside the park's north entrance.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What is the origin of the saying "six feet under"

We've all heard the saying "six feet under" many times in our lives. Just where did the phrase come from exactly? Well here's your answer and it is quite interesting in fact.

The phrase "6 feet under" originated in London, England in 1665. It came about as London was being ravaged by the Beubonic Plague. The plague was so rampant that the death rate reached 7,000 per week at its height.

The mayor of London at the time issued a decree that all plague deaths had to be buried at least "6 feet under" to help halt the spread of infection. See, Londoners believed the plague could be spread by the dead as well as the living and 6 feet underground was deep enough to contain the infection.

Of course, people later learned that the plague was spread by fleas from rats. The great fire of London in 1666 that basically wiped out the rat population in the city and gave a reprieve from the plague. The city was saved from disease but the phrase "six feet under" stuck and is still widely used today.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Has the lost city of Atlantis finally been found?

Has the legendary lost city of Atlantis finally been found? To solve the mystery, a US led research team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site just north of Cadiz, Spain. There, buried in the vast marshlands of the Dona Ana Park, they believe that they pinpointed the ancient, multi-ringed dominion known as Atlantis.

They believe it was siped out by a massive tsunami. Tsunamis in the region have been documented for centuries, Freund says. One of the largest was a reported 100 foot tidal wave that slammed Lisbon in November, 1755.

"This is the power of tsunamis," head researcher Richard Freund told Reuters. "It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that's pretty much what we're talking about," said Freund, a University of Hartford, Connecticut, professor who lead an international team searching for the true site of Atlantis.

The team of archeologists and geologists in 2009 and 2010 used a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping, and underwater technology to survey the site. Freund's discovery in central Spain of a strange series of "memorial cities," built in Atlantis' image by its refugees after the city's likely destruction by a tsunami, gave researchers added proof and confidence, he said.

"We found something that no one else has ever seen before, which gives it a layer of credibility, especially for archeology, that makes a lot more sense," Freund said.

Greek philosopher Plato wrote about Atlantis some 2,600 years ago, describing it as "an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Hercules," as the Straits of Gibraltar were known in antiquity. Using Plato's detailed account of Atlantis as a map, searches have focused on the Mediterranean and Atlantic as the best possible sites for the city.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Space Shuttle Discovery ends final space flight

The Space Shuttle Discovery ended its career as the world's most flown spaceship on Wednesday, returning from orbit for the last time and taking off in a new direction as a museum piece. NASA's oldest shuttle swooped through a mostly clear noontime sky to a touchdown at its home base. Florida's spaceport was packed with shuttle program workers, journalists and even some schoolchildren eager to see history in the making. At three minutes before noon Eastern Time — Discovery landed and ceased being a reusable rocketship.

Even after shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis make their final voyages in the coming months, Discovery will still hold the all-time record with 39 missions, 148 million miles, 5,830 orbits of Earth, and 365 days spent in space. All that was achieved in under 27 years.

"To the ship that has led the way time and time again, we say, 'Farewell Discovery,'" radioed the Mission Control commentator.

The six astronauts on board went through their landing checklists with the bittersweet realization no one would ever ride Discovery again. They said during their 13 day space station delivery mission that they expected that to hit them hard when the shuttle came to a stop on the runway.

NASA estimates it will take several months of work removing the three main engines and draining all hazardous fuels before Discovery is ready to head to the Smithsonian Institution. It will make the 750 mile journey strapped to the top of a jumbo jet.