All posts by Mark Taylor

LEGO Titanic is Announced

LEGO Titanic Replica
Credit: Lego

The stories around the Internet turned out to be true. LEGO is going to be selling a replica of Titanic for people to assemble at home.  It has 9, 090 pieces and is 53 inches long. So plan to have a big table to assemble and display when done. The replica includes a recreation of the ship’s bridge, promenade deck and swimming pool. It comes with a price tag of $629.99 and will be available on 8 Nov 2021.

Source:

LEGO To Release A 9,090-Piece Scale Model Of The Titanic — Its Biggest Set Ever (CNN, 8 Oct 2021)

 


Remembering Christopher Columbus

Sebastiano del Piombo (1485-1547)
Public Domain

Today is Columbus Day in the United States.  Celebrating Columbus began in 1792 in New York City and became an annual tradition.  As a result of 11 Italian immigrants being murdered by a mob in New Orleans in 1892, President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day as a one-time national celebration. This was also part of a wider effort to ease tensions and to placate Italian Americans and Italy, which had expressed official dismay at the murders. Italian Americans began using Columbus Day to not only celebrate Columbus but their heritage as well.

Serious lobbying was undertaken to enshrine the holiday in states and ultimately the federal government. Colorado proclaimed it a holiday in 1905 and made it an official holiday in 1907. In 1934 after lobbying from the Knights of Columbus and New York City Italian leader Generoso Pope, Congress passed a statute requiring the president to proclaim October 12 as Columbus Day each year and asked Americans to observe it with “appropriated ceremonies” in schools, churches, and other places. However, it was a not yet a federal holiday. The effort to make it a federal holiday began in 1966 when the National Columbus Day Committee lobbied to make it a federal holiday. This was achieved in 1968 and has been a federal holiday since then.

Like most federal holidays, it is often celebrated on a Monday of the week the date it falls on. The exception being if falls on a Saturday, it would be celebrated on Friday.

Columbus is recognized for his discovery of the New World. He, like many, were eager to discover the riches of Cathay, India, and Japan. Since the Ottoman Empire closed off using Egypt and the Red Sea to Europeans (land routes were closed as well), European explorers were eager to find a sea route. Columbus (and he was not the only one) held the belief that by sailing west they would be able to get to the Indies. While many educated Europeans (like Columbus) believed the Earth was round, they had no concept of how it big it really was. Thus, they thought East Asia was closer than it was.

After securing financing from the Spanish monarchy, Columbus set sail on 3 August 1492 with three ships-Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina–from Palos, Spain. On 12 October 1492 land was sighted. They would find Cuba later and Columbus thought it was Japan. They landed on Hispaniola in December and left a small colony behind. Returning to Spain in 1493, he was received with high honors by the Spanish court.

Columbus would lead four expeditions to the New World exploring the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and South and Central American mainland. His original goal of finding a western ocean route to Asia was never accomplished. And he likely never truly understood the full scope of what he had accomplished. The New World–North America, the Caribbean, Central and South America–would open new opportunities for exploration and wealth. Spain would become one of the wealthiest and powerful nations on Earth as a result.

Sea travel of great distances in the 15th century was quite a challenge, fraught with all kinds of uncertainty and dangers. They had to depend on the wind, current and favorable weather, and the stars. The sextant had not been invented yet, so they used a procedure called Dead Reckoning. This required the use of simple arithmetic and process to determine their location. A long rope was used, a piece of wood, an hourglass, and a compass. The navigator would record in a log book the daily speed and direction. The rope was knotted every four to six feet along its length. Arithmetic tells us that distance traveled in a single direction can be measured by multiplying the speed with the time. You might have done some of this in grade school. A car traveling at 30 miles per hour for two hours would travel 60 miles (speed x 2). A navigator would log the speed, direction, and time in the log. In this way they could measure the distance traveled to and from where they departed from. Changes in wind speed and other things would be recorded as well. Columbus used his own version, gained from experience sailing, of determining the speed and direction to enter in his log. He could feel the keel moving through the water and with his sense of the wind, knew what the speed of his ship was.

It was a remarkable and historic undertaking. Long sea voyages were often avoided because you were away for years at a time and dependent a great deal on nature to survive. And there was the terrible specter of scurvy. Many would die on long sea voyages from this scourge, which came from the lack of vitamin c in the diet. Fresh water in kegs often wet bad after a month, so beer and spirits (often rum), was where you got water from. Fruits and vegetables would only last so long, and meat had to be cured for long term use. So food was rationed carefully. Later when it was realized that having citrus would alleviate this condition, sailors would get lime or lemon juice as part of their daily food ration. It became so common on British Royal Navy ships the sailors were called Limeys.

Italians and Spanish are rightly proud of his accomplishment. Others had touched upon America (the Vikings for one) prior to Columbus but none had opened the door as he did to a new part of the world that had been undiscovered. Like all our accomplished heroes of the past, he had his faults. In fact, not one hero you can point to doesn’t have faults. The ancient Greeks knew this and what defined a hero was someone who rose above them to do something extraordinary. The Greek hero Heracles (Hercules in Latin) had all kinds of faults but did things that rose above them. Columbus should be remembered for the courage, bravery, and fortitude to sail over the horizon to see what lay beyond. It would change the world and end the Venetian and Ottoman control of trade to the East forever. Columbus died on 20 May 1506. Gout was considered the cause of his death, but doctors today believe it was reactive arthritis.

For information about Christopher Columbus, here are some sources online to view:
Britannica Online
History.com

 

 

Happy Sunday/Welcome to October

Photo:David Wagner(publicdomainpictures.net)

October is the 10th month on both the old Julian and newer Gregorian calendar. It is the first full month of Autumn where harvests are being done and in the old days, people began to make ready for the coming of winter. The southern hemisphere though October is the first full month of spring.  Harvest festivals are common at this time of year along with popular ones such as the German Oktoberfest.

Also for sports fans in the US you see the popular sports of basketball, American football, and baseball converge on the calendar. Football is kicking into gear, basketball is starting up and baseball enters its championship phase culminating with the World Series.

Of course the big day is Halloween on October 31st. As it set by date, the exact day it will fall on will vary each year.  When it falls on a weekday, it means kids have to be home early as they go to school the next day. Friday and Saturday are optimum as you can have longer Halloween events and stay up late watching scary movies. Halloween is not an official holiday but comes close to it. October has as its flower the Calendula and the birthstone is the opal.

GREAT CHICAGO FIRE OF 1871

Currier & Ives lithograph shows people fleeing across the Randolph Street Bridge. Thousands of people literally ran for their lives before the flames, unleashing remarkable scenes of terror and dislocation. “The whole earth, or all we saw of it, was a lurid yellowish red,” wrote one survivor. “Everywhere dust, smoke, flames, heat, thunder of falling walls, crackle of fire, hissing of water, panting of engines, shouts, braying of trumpets, roar of wind, confusion, and uproar.”
Original Source: Chicago Historical Society
Public Domain

On 8 October 1871, what became known as the Great Chicago Fire began and would last till 10 October. The fire began around 9 pm on October 6 possibly at a barn owned by the O’leary family or in the nearby area southwest of city center. It consumed a shed on that farm and then spread outward. Due to a period of hot, dry and windy conditions, the fire would spread rapidly. With homes and buildings built mostly of wood, it also provided fuel for the fire as well.

The fire leapt the south branch of the Chicago River destroying central Chicago. It leapt across the main river branch and consumed the north side as well. 300 people were killed and a large swath of the city (about 3.3 square miles) was destroyed. 100,000 people were left homeless because of the fire. After the fire help poured in from all over the country and internationally as well. Money from Great Britain helped build the Chicago Public Library that would be free to everyone.
After the great Chicago fire of 1871, corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets
Public Domain
The aftermath brought reconsideration of many things particularly in the area of building construction. Fire prevention became a big topic and construction of brick rather than wood buildings would result. With the right infrastructure in place, it would prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. Rebuilding began right away with higher standards and sometimes with buildings that were considered better than the ones that burned down.
Sources:

REMEMBERING HISTORY: END OF WARSAW UPRISING

On 2 October 1944 the Warsaw Uprising came to an end with the surrender of surviving Polish rebels to German forces. The uprising began two months earlier when the Red Army was approaching Warsaw. The rebels supported the Polish government-in-exile and hoped to gain control of the city before the Soviets arrived. They did not want the Russians to gain the city and establish a communist regime in Poland.

While the rebels had initial gains, they were poorly supplied. Hitler sent reinforcements and the rebels and German soldiers engaged in brutal street fights. The Red Army did take a suburb of Warsaw but proceeded no further. Stalin ordered the Red Army not to assist the rebels and denied a request to use their airbases to supply the rebels. This would be remembered down the road by the Polish people. Both Churchill and Roosevelt asked for his assistance. Churchill, without Soviet approval, had supplies dropped by the RAF, the South African Air Force, and the Polish Air Force. Stalin finally relented and gave air clearance for the U.S. Army Air Force to make supply drops. However, it was too late by the time the supplies came.

Warsaw, the capital of Poland, destroyed by German Nazis, January 1945.
Public Domain (Wikipedia)

Out of arms, supplies and food, there was no choice.  After 63 days, they had no choice but to surrender. In retaliation for this uprising, the remaining population of Warsaw was deported. The Polish people were always meant to be eradicated as were the Jews. Plans had been drawn up before the war to turn Poland into a German colony. Warsaw was to be Germanized. Once the remaining population was deported, German destruction of Warsaw was sped up. They had started after the earlier Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Using flamethrowers and explosives, special teams went to work destroying whole neighborhoods, historical monuments, archives, and any place of interest.

By January 1945, 85% of the buildings in Warsaw were gone. Approximately 25% was done during the Warsaw Uprising. The losses are staggering to consider:

  • 10,455 buildings
  • 923 historical buildings (94% of these were destroyed)
  • 25 churches
  • 14 libraries which includes the National Library
  • 81 schools
  • 64 high schools
  • The University of Warsaw and Warsaw University of Technology

Of course, prior to this all Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were seized, looted and destroyed as well.

Aftermath

The Soviets took the position that the rebels did not coordinate their plans with them. Of course, the chief reason they did not aid them is that they supported the democratic Polish government-in-exile in London. And Stalin was not interested in supporting them. His goal had been before the war to allow the west to fight themselves to exhaustion allowing for the Soviet Union to expand in their direction. Those that led the uprising and members of the Home Army were persecuted by the Soviets after the war. They were arrested, tried, and deported to Soviet gulags. They had a show trial, not unlike ones during the Great Purge, where confessions were introduced to show they were actually in league with the Germans!

Warsaw Uprising Monument
Source: Dhirad 2004

Fortunately, those captured by the Germans and freed by American-British forces were spared this. Stalin and his propaganda machine twisted the facts to show the failings of the Home Army and the Polish government-in-exile. All criticism of the Red Army and Soviet Union by Polish people were forbidden. All references to the Home Army were censored, all books and movies on the Warsaw Uprising were either banned or edited out the Home Army. When that did not work, they made the Home Army soldiers into heroes that were betrayed by their corrupt officers. This would remain in effect until the 1980’s with the rise of Solidarity that challenged the Soviet backed regime. It was not until 1989 that a monument was built in Poland.

In the West, stories of the heroism of the Home Army were told. They were valiant heroes fighting against the Germans. The Soviets were criticized for their non-involvement and that it helped them get rid of partisans that would have opposed them. Despite all the official censorship that existed, many Poles knew what happened and led to growing anti-Soviet sentiment that manifested into the Polish labor movement Solidarity. This peaceful movement in the 1980’s would effect change in Poland and later, as the days of the Soviet Union waned, Poland would gain back the freedom it had lost in 1939.

Sources:

Monday Titanic News

Titanic Link With Worcester Marked With Blue Plaque After Long Campaign
Worcester News, 1 Oct 2021

Henry went down with the ship, but Kate, who was 19, escaped on the last lifeboat and nine months later gave birth to a little girl. The campaign to recognise that baby as the “youngest survivor of The Titanic” has been a long one, but in December last year Ellen Mary Walker’s granddaughter Beverley Roberts and Duncan Morley, a relative of Henry Morley, achieved a DNA match which proved the indelible link between the two families.“


Titanic News: Ballard on Secret Mission;Titanic Movie Stars Helped Titanic Survivor; Changes to Maritime Law Coming

The US Navy Backed The Hunt For Titanic In Part Because The Explorer Who Found It Argued It Would ‘Drive The Soviets Crazy,’ Book Reveals Business Insider (India), 23 Sep 2021

The man who found the Titanic did so with help from the US Navy, and he got that much needed support in part by convincing the Navy that finding the shipwreck would “drive the Soviets crazy,” renowned explorer Robert Ballard reveals in the new book “Into The Deep,” which was co-written with investigative reporter Christopher Drew. Over the course of his celebrated career, Ballard has discovered the wrecks of the Nazi battleship Bismarck, the US aircraft carrier Yorktown, and US patrol torpedo boat PT-109 (commanded by then Lt. j.g. John F. Kennedy). But his most recognizable discovery was the British passenger ship Titanic that sank in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, ending more than 1,500 lives.

=

When the Stars of Titanic Helped Pay the Bills for the Last Titanic Survivor MSN (via Mental_Floss), 24 Sep 2021

So in early May of that year, Irish author Don Mullan, a longtime friend of Dean’s, led the charge to raise money for her. He himself sold copies of a photo he’d taken of Dean and turned his earnings over to what was dubbed the “Millvina Fund.” And then he called upon the major players in the making of 1997’s Titanic—namely, James Cameron, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, 20th Century Fox, and Celine Dion—to match his contribution. “There were people out there who could, and I felt, morally should, help her. To fail Millvina Dean, the last tangible living link to the Titanic, would make a mockery of the world’s expressed concern for the tragedy,” Mullan explained to Independent.ie. His public plea actually worked. According to Reuters, Cameron, Winslet, and DiCaprio gave a combined $30,000 to the fund. Dean, for her part, was mainly just bothered by the influx of phone calls brought on by the attention.

=

Bill Would Change Maritime Liability Rules After Boat Fire MSN (via AP), 22 Sept 2021

Federal lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would change 19th century maritime liability rules in response to the 2019 boat fire off the coast of Southern California that killed 34 people. The bill would update the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, under which boat owners can limit their liability to the value of the remains of the vessel. The legislation would be retroactively applied to the families of Conception victims if it passes, officials said. The tragedy was one of the deadliest maritime disasters in recent U.S. history.


Autumn Equinox Today

There are two equinoxes in the year, Autumn (September) and Spring (March). When these equinoxes occur the sun is directly on the equator, and the length of day and night is almost equal. In the Northern hemisphere, the September Equinox heralds autumn but the opposite below the equator where it heralds the beginning of spring. The Autumn Equinox begins today at 19:21 UTC (go here to see the time it begins in your area).

Solstices and Equinoxes
Image: NASA

Photo:David Wagner(publicdomainpictures.net)

For those of us in the North, it means a transition from summer to winter.  During this period  days start getting shorter and nights longer. Depending on where you live, you will likely have moderate warm days followed by long and cooler nights. Harvests of many crops often take place during the fall and in the old days you would make preparations to store food for the winter. Harvest festivals are very popular and in particular Halloween. Pumpkins begin appearing along with all kinds of Halloween decor culminating, of course, in All Hallows Eve (Halloween) on October 31.

Shop for all things Halloween at the Halloween Store

Happy Monday: Ships Bell on Display on Nomadic, Sinking of Ship Possibly Triggered Economic Crisis

 

SS Nomadic (1911) is now a museum ship in Belfast. Photo taken in 2018.
Image Credit: Irid Escent/Wikimedia Commons

Ship’s Bell Donated By Bempton Man Now On Display As Part Of SS Nomadic Exhibition In Belfast (Bridlington Free Press, 16 Sept 2021)

A ship’s bell donated by a Bempton man has gone on display on the restored SS Nomadic vessel, which has close connections to the Titanic. This month he received a message from its Chief Executive Officer Kerrie Sweeney saying the display on the Nomadic was complete with all three of his nautical items on show. The Nomadic was a Tender to RMS Titanic and is the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world. It is located near the Titanic Quarter attraction at Belfast’s historic Hamilton Dock.

 ==

Gold-Laden Ship’s Sinking Off NC Coast Sparked Economic Crisis (DailyAdvance.com, 16 Sep 2021)

In 1857, just before the beginning of the Civil War, the sinking of the S.S. Central America 200 miles off the North Carolina coast caught so much attention it could be called the 19th century’s Titanic. But unlike the Titanic, a hurricane was to blame for this shipwreck that resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and significant amounts of gold. The amount of gold lost was in fact so great that it could be directly associated with the economic downturn that took place in 1857. It was a very short crisis that was sparked by a loss of public trust in financial institutions after gold payments were suspended. The crisis, along with the shipwreck itself, has been greatly overshadowed by the Civil War that began just a few years later. That said, both events were major news stories at the time.