Remembering the historic flight of Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background. Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress,digital id# cph.3a23920)
Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background.
Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress,digital id# cph.3a23920)

It was a cold morning and the runway was muddy from the rain when an unknown contract Air Mail pilot by the name of Charles Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field, New York in his Wright Whirlwind monoplane named Spirit of St.Louis. His destination was Paris, France. Others had tried and failed. Scrimping together his own funds and financing from backers, he would attempt a feat that would prove transatlantic air travel was possible.

After taking off at 07:52 am on 20 May 1927, he would fly solo for his entire trip. He had to fly over storm clouds on occasion and other times just above the water having to avoid wave tops. There was fog that made it hard to see and icing on his wings. He had to fly, when possible, by the stars and dead reckoning.

He would land in France at Le Bourget Airpot at 10:22 pm(22:22) on Saturday 21 May. The airfield was seven miles northeast and he originally thought, due to all the lights he saw, it was a industrial plant. In fact it was the headlights of thousands of cars whose passengers had come out to see Lindbergh land. Which he did to great acclaim. He was mobbed by thrilled spectators although a few were souvenir hunters who grabbed items from the plane. A combination of French aviators, police, and even soldiers got him and the plane away from the mob.

He would not only receive the $25,000 Orteig Prize for an aviator who achieved this feat, he would receive several other honors as well. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by France, U.S. President Coolidge awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the U.S Post Office issued a special 10 cent Air Mail stamp with his plane and map of the flight on it. He also had a ticker tape parade in New York. And the U.S. Congress would award him the Medal of Honor which tells you how much in awe of his achievement they were. The Medal of Honor is usually reserved for heroism in combat and only rarely given to civilians (usually the Congressional Gold Medal is given to civilians). And Lindbergh was just 25 years of age when he did all this.

Aside from changing his life forever, his flight was a major boost not only to the aviation industry but encouraged many to become aviators. It was the Lindbergh Boom. The use of Air Mail would increase and last until 1977 when its use for domestic mail was discontinued. Today most first class mail destined outside a regional delivery area (like New York to San Francisco)is put on airplanes. Lower class mailings go the slow route via trucks and rails. The only mail delivered by air today are in remote areas such as in Alaska or other remote areas of the U.S.

The Spirit of St. Louis was given to the Smithsonian Institution by Lindbergh in 1928. It has been on display in the atrium of the National Air and Space Museum and worth the trip to see it.


Update on Chinese Titanic Sinking Simulator/Replica: Shipbuilder Assembling Parts

Photo courtesy George Behe
Photo courtesy George Behe

According to Ecns.com, Chinese government owned China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) is now building parts for the full Titanic replica. The replica will be the main attraction at Seven Star’s planned theme park in Daying where it will be permanently docked. It is scheduled to open in 2017. U.S. based designers are working with Seven Star to develop precise dimensions and layout. The replica will meet all current safety standards and is estimated to cost $161 million or 1 billion yuan. The sinking simulator apparently will be a separate simulation in the same theme park.

As for Clive Palmer’s Titanic replica, not a word.

Source: State-Run Shipbuilder Begins Assembling Parts For Full-Scale Titanic Replica(18 May 2015,Ecns.com)


Memorable Theme Music:Hill Street Blues

Hill Street Blues (1981-1987)was once part of the legendary “must see”television on NBC. The show depicted the lives of those who worked out of the Hill Street Police Station in an unnamed American metropolitan city (though references to Chicago sometimes appeared or were mentioned). It was more gritty than other police shows up to that time in showing severe character flaws and internal politics. And also the revolving door the criminal justice system had become. This was not Adam-12 or Dragnet. The show was awarded eight Emmy Awards in its first season and was nominated 98 times for an Emmy during its run.

Mike Post, known already for composing for The Rockford Files and other shows, composed the instrumental theme for HIll Street Blues. The instrumental earned him a Grammy award. And the composition became popular enough to take tenth place on instrumental compositions in 1981 (I remember hearing on the radio, which tells you how popular it was). The theme is unlike most cop or law enforcement shows which tend to be about action and power. Instead Post choose a more low key tune using a piano and guitar for the main instruments (a synthesizer is also used). Enjoy and have a nice Sunday everyone.


Saturday Titanic News

1. Final preparations for the upcoming Titanic exhibition at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa are underway. The exhibit opens on Saturday, 23 May and runs till 7 September 2015. The exhibition has garnered a lot of attention and is expected to draw large crowds. A special opening celebration will include a special formal dinner recreating eating a meal aboard Titanic and includes actors dressed in period outfits. More information can be found at rivermuseum.com.
Source: High Hopes For Titanic’s Maiden Voyage To Dubuque(13 May 2015,Telegraph Herald)

Mrs. J.J. "Molly" Brown presenting trophy cup award to Capt. Arthur Henry Rostron, for his service in the rescue of the Titanic. Photo:Public Domain (US Library of Congress, digital id# cph 3c21013)
Photo:Public Domain (US Library of Congress, digital id# cph 3c21013)

2. The great-granddaughter of Molly Brown recently stopped by the Molly Brown House in Denver,Colorado. Helen Benzinger said she was thankful for keeping her great-grandmother’s legacy alive.
Source: Titanic Survivor’s Great-Granddaughter Visits Molly Brown House(15 May 2015,wgem.com)

This 18-foot-model of RMS Titanic will be on display this summer in St. Clair. (Photo:The Times Herald)
18-foot-model of RMS Titanic.
(Photo:The Times Herald)

3. The world’s most accurate Titanic replica is going to be permanently located at The Mariner in Marine City, Michigan starting in July 2015. The replica, which is 18 feet long and weighs 10,000 pounds was previously in St. Clair. It will be located on the old theatre stage. Further details can be found at marinertheater.net.
Source: The Mariner To Get New Life In Marine City As A Theater(12 May 2015,Port Huron Times Herald)

4.Protestors stood outside at the Bodies Revealed exhibition in Niagara Falls, Canada trying to raise awareness that the bodies being displayed came from China. One protestor said “The bodies inside, we don’t know where they come from. Chinese people, prisoners of conscience, disappear in Chinese prisons, many never come out.” Premier says on one hand the bodies are from those who died of natural causes in China but also states “Premier cannot independently verify that the human remains you are viewing are not those of persons who were incarcerated in Chinese prisons.” Which pretty much says exactly what most people suspect but of course cannot prove. If Stalin had come of with this idea, the old Soviet Union could have made a fortune peddling bodies to gullible westerners as well.
Source: Hundreds Protest ‘Bodies Revealed’ Exhibit Of Plastinated Corpses In Niagara(17 April 2015,Epoch Times)

5. There are pranks and then there are PRANKS (like Harry and Ron driving a car to Hogwarts in Chamber of Secrets). A couple decided to take some very realistic fake skeletons and place them in the Colorado River. In lawn chairs. They were placed near rocks so they would pose no harm. They were discovered by a snorkeler who notified police about the skeletons. A diver examined them and reported they were not real but caused a media sensation. The culprits decided to come forward and inform the police they were responsible. Since no one was harmed and the skeletons posed no real safety threat to anyone, no charges are forthcoming. Takes Weekend at Bernies to a whole another level.
Source: Couple From Phoenix Confess Putting Fake Skeletons In Colorado River(12 May 2015,International Business Times)


Friday Funny: Swedish Chef vs Turtle


Monday Titanic Shorts

1. Both Lusitania And Titanic Got Their Anchor From Same Chainmaker
The Birmingham Mail reports that Hingley and Sons made the anchors for both vessels. These massive anchors were not easy to transport and a big day to watch as they were pulled by teams of horses to the railroad for shipment. “The bow anchors weighed over 10 tons. The chains weighed 125 tons – the mass of a whale – and were 330 fathoms long, the equivalent of eight jumbo jets nose to tail.”
Source: Titanic And Lusitania BOTH Customers Of Netherton Chainmaker(10 May 2015,Birmingham Mail)

Titanic Belfast (side view) Image:Prioryman (Wikipedia)
Titanic Belfast (side view)
Image:Prioryman (Wikipedia)

2. What Defines A British Site?
British Airways’ in-flight magazine – High Life –is asking readers to vote for which 21 landmarks define Britain. And one of those sites included on the list is Titanic Belfast. Sites chosen by readers will be revealed in the August 2015 issue.
Source: Titanic Belfast Included In The Search To Find 21 Landmarks That Define Britain(8 May 2015,Belfast Telegraph)


Happy Mother’s Day

Karen Arnold (publicdomainpictures.net)
Karen Arnold (publicdomainpictures.net)

First The Titanic Simulator,Now You Can Experience Cremation Too!

Public Domain
Public Domain

There are many ways to amuse but one of the weirdest, perhaps most morbid is a Chinese amusement park offering you the experience of cremation. Remember that this is the same country that wants people to experience Titanic sinking by used a simulation that will make you feel like you are in 1912 and aboard the tragic ship. So it seems logical to extend it out further or as the old television show said “One Step Beyond.”

Now you have to ask why anyone would want to go through a simulated cremation? Cremation, as it is normally done, puts a corpse in a super hot oven to reduce the body to ashes. Of course horror movies are full of the trope of having people being tossed into a crematory alive. Unless they are supernatural beings, or from Krypton, they do not survive. The cultural theme park in Shenzhen is the one putting on this morbid thrill ride. According to the Daily Mail, the visitors are put into a coffin (they are called punters) on  a conveyor belt.

They are then carried through a chamber filled with hot air, to simulate the flames used during cremation. Screams and shrieks echo through the chamber, and everyone who tries the ride comes out drenched in sweat. Although whether the sweat is from fear or from the extreme heat has not been made clear. ‘I am never coming back,’ said a number of women on leaving the ride, while laughing nervously. Another added: ‘It was horrifying.’

Others were not so negative but then you have to wonder whether they are shills for the amusement park. I could see kids doing this on a dare, those who have seen horror movies wanting to try it for gag etc. In fact this probably would be popular around Halloween. Now to be clear this is not for real. They use hot air machines set at  140 degrees Fahrenheit along with lights and scary sounds to give the effect (and you are on a moving conveyor belt.) Still it is a pretty morbid idea. If you really want to know about cremation, check out YouTube. Lots of uploaded documentaries that will show (and sometimes in graphic scenes)exactly how cremation occurs.

Source: Tourists Flock To Experience Real-Life CREMATION In ‘Death Simulator’ At Chinese Amusement Park(8 May 2015, Daily Mail)


Mount Pelee Erupts: 30,000 die

Remains of St. Pierre by Angelo Heilprin (United States, 1853-1907), 1902. Public Domain
Remains of St. Pierre by Angelo Heilprin (United States, 1853-1907), 1902.
Public Domain

On the lovely Caribbean island of Martinique, Mount Pelee erupted at 7:50 a.m. on 8 May 1902 killing 30,000 people most who were in the city of Saint-Pierre. Concern over the volcano had been growing due to is recent activity. In April explosions had begun at its summit. Numerous quakes, ash showers, and thick clouds of sulfurous gas affected the entire region. This caused many ground insects and snakes to come into Saint-Pierre causing serious problems for everyone and livestock. 50 people died from snakebites mostly children. As volcanic activity continued, water sources became contaminated with ash resulting in livestock dying. Outdoor activities near the mountain were cancelled and by May many were  worried. On 5 May, a crater gave way sending a torrent of scalding water and pyroclastic debris into a river and burying workers at a sugar works. The lahar (the name for such flows) was traveling 62 mph (100 kph)when it hit the sea causing a small tsunami to flood the low lying areas of Saint-Pierre. By 7 May things were getting worse with more ash clouds and glows of reddish-orange being seen from the craters at night.

Many began fleeing into the city (it was believed safe from lava flows)while many were trying to flee. Those that did leave would realize later how lucky they were.

A large black cloud composed of superheated gas, ash and rock rolled headlong down the south flank of Mt. Pelée at more than 100 miles per hour, its path directed by the V-shaped notch at the summit. In less than one minute it struck St. Pierre with hurricane force. The blast was powerful enough to carry a three-ton statue sixteen meters from its mount. One-meter-thick masonary walls were blown into rubble and support girders were mangled into twisted strands of metal. The searing heat of the cloud ignited huge bonfires. Thousands of barrels of rum stored in the city’s warehouses exploded, sending rivers of the flaming liquid through the streets and into the sea. The cloud continued to advanced over the harbor where it destroyed at least twenty ships anchored offshore. The hurricane force of the blast capsized the steamship Grappler, and its scorching heat set ablaze the American sailing ship Roraima, killing most of her passengers and crew. The Roraima had the misfortune of arriving only a few hours before the eruption. Those on on board could only watch in horror as the cloud descended on them after annihilating the city of St. Pierre. Of the 28,000 people in St. Pierre, there were only two known survivors.
(How Volcanoes Work: MT. PELÉE ERUPTION (1902),Geology Department,University of San Diego)

It was the largest loss of life due to a volcano in the 20th century. And the only volcano in French history to cause loss of life (Martinique is a department of France). The city of Saint-Pierre was no more. The French warship Suchet found mostly ruins and corpses. Anything in the direct path of the pyroclastic flow was destroyed completely (about 8 square miles). Outside of that zone the damage was less and more people survived. Another eruption on 20 May would obliterate what was left of Saint-Pierre killing 2,000 most of whom were rescuers, engineers and mariners. On 30 Aug another eruption occurred causing more fatalities and a tsunami. It was the last fatal eruption of Mount Pelee. It would erupt again in 1929 but authorities evacuated so no lives were lost.

The city of Saint-Pierre was never rebuilt and small villages now exists where it once did. Mount Pelee has been quiet but is under constant watch and considered an active volcano.


Today In 1937:Zeppelin Explodes;Scores Dead

Airship Hindenburg crash in Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937 Photo originally taken by Murray Becker, AP Public Domain
Airship Hindenburg crash in Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937.
Photo originally taken by Murray Becker, AP
Public Domain

On 6 May 1937 the German passenger airship Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed while trying to dock at Naval Air Station Lakehurst near Lakehurst, NJ. Of the 97 passengers and crew, 35 perished and one worker was killed on the ground.

The event was caught on newsreel and on radio. Herbert Morrision’s radio coverage is classic and you can listen to at History.com. You can also listen to this one on YouTube which points out that Morrison’s voice was much higher than normal due to the tape recording speed (he was known for his deep voice). His actual audio report sounds different when you hear it as it ought to have been. A British Pathe newsreel of the disaster be viewed here.

While sabotage was suspected, neither the American or German inquiries concluded that was the cause. The American report concludes:

The cause of the accident was the ignition of a mixture of free hydrogen and air. Based upon the evidence, a leak at or in the vicinity of cell 4 and 5 caused a combustible mixture of hydrogen and air to form in the upper stern part of the ship in considerable quantity; the first appearance of an open flame was on the top of the ship and a relatively short distance forward of the upper vertical fin. The theory that a brush discharge ignited such mixture appears most probable.

The many theories that continue to persist are:

  • Sabotage
  • Lightning
  • Static Spark
  • Engine Failure
  • Incendiary Paint
  • Hydrogen Leak
  • Fuel Leak

Mythbusters examined the incendiary paint hypothesis and concluded it did not cause the catastrophe. You can view that here.