This Day in History (29-Feb-1904) – Theodore Roosevelt, appoints 7-man Panama Canal Commission to proceed with completing a canal at the Isthmus

The dream of digging a water passage across the Isthmus of Panama uniting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans dates to the early 16th century. The Isthmus of Panama, was characterized by mountains, impenetrable jungle, deep swamp, torrential rains, hot sun, debilitating humidity, pestilence and some of the most geologically complex land formations in the world. Both malaria and yellow fever were endemic to the Isthmus. When the Americans took over construction work from French teams in 1904, Medical researchers had found that mosquitoes cause malaria and yellow fever. Necessary prevetion measures and medical aids were provided to combat these diseases. Providing food for more than 40,000 employees and their families in a country with little food production capability and few stores was a tremendous. When the work was completed, 5609 lives were lost from disease and accidents during the American construction era in addition to around 20,000 during French construction era.

The first complete Panama Canal passage by a self-propelled, oceangoing vessel took place on January 7, 1914.  It cut the ship journey of around 8000 miles. On average, it takes a ship 8 to 10 hours to pass through the canal. While moving through it, a system of locks raises each ship 85 feet above sea level. Ship captains aren’t allowed to transit the canal on their own; instead, a specially trained canal pilot takes navigational control of each vessel to guide it through the waterway. In 2010, the 1 millionth vessel crossed the canal. Today, some $1.8 billion in tolls are collected annually.

David McCullough in his book “The Path Between the Seas,” wrote:  “The creation of a water passage across Panama was one of the supreme human achievements of all time, the culmination of a heroic dream of over four hundred years and of more than twenty years of phenomenal effort and sacrifice.  The fifty miles between the oceans were among the hardest ever won by human effort and ingenuity, and no statistics on tonnage or tolls can begin to convey the grandeur of what was accomplished.  Primarily the canal is an expression of that old and noble desire to bridge the divide, to bring people together.  It is a work of civilization.”

 

Reference:

http://www.onthisday.com/day/february/29

https://www.pancanal.com/eng/history/history/index.html

http://www.history.com/news/7-fascinating-facts-about-the-panama-canal

This Day in History (9-Feb-1895) – The sport of volleyball is created in Massachusetts

William G. Morgan, joined as director of Physical Education at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA. In this role he had the opportunity to establish, develop and direct a vast programme of exercises and sport classes for male adults. He came to realise that he needed a certain type of competitive recreational game in order to vary his programme. Basketball, a sport that was beginning to develop, seemed to suit young people, but it was necessary to find a less violent and less intense alternative for the older members. He decided to blend elements of basketball, baseball, tennis, handball and German game of Faustball  to create a game for his classes of businessmen which would demand less physical contact than basketball. He created the game of mintonette. Morgan borrowed the net from tennis, and raised it 6 feet 6 inches above the floor, just above the average man’s head.

Early in 1896 a conference was organized at the YMCA College in Springfield, bringing together all the YMCA Directors of Physical Education where Morgan was invited to make a demonstration of his game in the new college stadium. Morgan explained that the new game was designed for gymnasia or exercise halls, but could also be played in open air. An unlimited number of players could participate, the object of the game being to keep the ball in movement over a high net, from one side to the other. The name Volleyball came when a spectator commented that the game involved much “volleying” the ball back and forth over the net and game was renamed Volleyball.

In 1964, Volleyball was introduced to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The beach volleyball was introduced in 1996 Atlanta Olympics. As per the data was provided by each of the International Sports Federations; on the estimates of participants in the sport worldwide (based on 2002 figures) ; volleyball ranks no. 1 with almost 1 billion  players. Volleyball is one of the big five international sports, and the FIVB (Federation Internationale De Volleyball), with its 220 affiliated national federations, is the largest international sporting federation in the world.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/february-9-1959-the-first-intercontinental-ballistic-missile-becomes-operational

http://inventors.about.com/od/uvstartinventions/a/Vollyball.htm

http://www.volleyball.org/history.html

http://www.topendsports.com/world/lists/popular-sport/final.htm

http://www.fivb.org/en/volleyball/History.asp

https://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/volleyball-training.html

 

This Day in History (31-Jan-1865) – The United States Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, banning slavery

When the North American continent was first colonized by Europeans, the land was vast, the work was harsh, and there was a severe shortage of labor. White bond servants, paying their passage across the ocean from Europe through indentured labor, eased but did not solve the problem. Early in the seventeenth century, a Dutch ship loaded with African slaves introduced a solution. Slaves were most economical on large farms where labor-intensive cash crops, such as tobacco, could be grown. By the end of the American Revolution, slavery had proven unprofitable in the North and was dying out. Even in the South the institution was becoming less useful to farmers as tobacco prices fluctuated and began to drop. However, in 1793 Northerner Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin; this device made it possible for textile mills to use the type of cotton most easily grown in the South. Slavery became profitable again.

Torn between the economic benefits of slavery and the moral and constitutional issues it raised, white Southerners grew more and more defensive of the institution. Educated blacks such as escaped-slave Frederick Douglass wrote eloquent and heartfelt attacks on the institution. The outbreak of the Civil War forever changed the future of the American nation.  The war began as a struggle to preserve the Union, not a struggle to free the slaves, but many in the North and South felt that the conflict would ultimately decide both issues.  Congress passed laws permitting the seizure of slaves from the property of rebellious Southerners.  In 1962 President Abraham Lincoln presented the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. This document decreed that, all slaves in states would be “thenceforward and forever free.”  Furthermore, Lincoln established an institution through which blacks could join the U.S. Army, an unprecedented level of integration at that time.  The United States Colored Troops (USCT) served on many battlefields, won numerous Medals of Honor, and ensured eventual Union victory in the war.  The thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery except as punishment for a crime, was passed by the Senate in April 1864, and by the House of Representatives in January 1865.

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/january-31-1917-germany-resumes-unrestricted-submarine-warfare

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/civil-war-overview/slavery.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States

This Day in History (29-Jan-1967) – The “ultimate high” of the hippie era, the Mantra-Rock Dance, takes place in San Francisco

Hippie (or hippy) subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The word ‘hippie’ came from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into New York City’s Greenwich Village and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. The Beats adopted the term hip, and early hippies inherited the language and countercultural values of the Beat Generation; children of the road who believed they should make love, not war. Their vocal opposition to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and the increasingly rocky road to shared civil rights among all Americans led to this new, alternative form of activism. Hippies created their own communities, listened to psychedelic music, embraced the sexual revolution, and used drugs such as cannabis,  marijuana, LSD, peyote and psilocybin mushrooms to explore altered states of consciousness.

Donning psychedelic floral clothing and growing beards, all became part of the evolving counter-culture. With this also came a new epoch of fashion, film and literature; one which would grow out of the San Francisco valley and spill into the daily lives of the masses at home and abroad within the span of a couple of years. Hippies often chose brightly colored clothing and wore unusual styles, such as bell-bottom pants, vests, tie-dyed garments, dashikis, peasant blouses, and long, full skirts; non-Western inspired clothing were also popular.

Hippies tended to travel light, and could pick up and go wherever the action was at any time. One travel experience, undertaken by hundreds of thousands of hippies between 1969 and 1971, was the Hippie trail overland route to India. Carrying little or no luggage, and with small amounts of cash, almost all followed the same route, hitch-hiking across Europe to the Indian frontier. Once in India, hippies went to many different destinations, but gathered in large numbers on the beaches of Goa and Kovalam in Trivandrum (Kerala), or crossed the border into Nepal to spend months in Kathmandu. By the mid-1970s, the hippie movement began to slow.

Reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippie

http://all-that-is-interesting.com/a-brief-history-of-hippies

This Day in History (28-Jan-1986) – Challenger explodes

The space shuttle Challenger was one of NASA’s greatest triumphs. It was the second shuttle to reach space, in April 1983. It successfully completed nine milestone missions. Challenger was the vehicle by which several cultural firsts happened in the space shuttle program. The first American female astronautrode up on Challenger on STS-7 in June 1983.  The first African-American reached space on STS-8. On STS-41G in 1984, two women, flew on one mission for the first time, as well as the first Canadian, Marc Garneau. Other milestones Challenger marked included the first night launch and landing (STS-8) and the first operational Spacelab flight (STS-51B).

Christa McAuliffe, a 37-year-old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire, won a competition that earned her a place among the seven-member crew of the Challenger’s tenth mission. She underwent months of shuttle training but then, beginning January 23, was forced to wait six long days as the Challenger’s launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally, on January 28, Challenger was launched at 11:38 a.m. Eastern time in front of more media attention than usual, as it was carrying the first teacher to go in space. Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa’s family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle exploded in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors.  President Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission headed by former secretary of state William Rogers and former astronaut Neil Armstrong. The investigation determined that the explosion was caused by the failure of an “O-ring” seal in one of the two solid-fuel rockets. The elastic O-ring did not respond as expected because of the cold temperature at launch time, which began a chain of events that resulted in the massive explosion.

Challenger’s explosion changed the space shuttle program in several ways. Plans to fly other civilians in space (such as journalists) were shelved for 22 years. Satellite launches were shifted from the shuttle to reusable rockets. On February 1, 2003, a second space-shuttle disaster rocked when Columbia disintegrated upon reentry of the Earth’s atmosphere. All aboard were killed including the first Indian-American astronaut and first Indian woman in space, Kalpana Chawla.

Reference:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/challenger-explodes

http://www.space.com/18084-space-shuttle-challenger.html

This Day in History (20-Jan-1885) – LaMarcus Thompson patents the roller coaster

Lamarcus Adna Thompson, who would later be known as the “father of gravity” started life first as a carpenter in Ohio, USA, then a successful businessman. By the age of 35 he had made a fortune after founding a company that manufactured women’s stockings. It is said that L.A. Thompson was inspired by a trip to the hills in eastern Pennsylvania, where a railroad line running through Carbon County had been converted from a coal transport into a tourist attraction. The Mauch Chunk Switch Back Railway was an 18 mile, mostly downhill course that featured a 2300 ft long, 665 ft high drop at the end. The railway was a success with tourists, who came by the thousands to ride every year. Thompson’s idea was to capture the essence of Mauch Chunk in a smaller package.

And so it was that the first authentic American roller coaster was built. Borrowing from previous unfinished designs and applying his own ideas, Thompson obtained patent for his “Switchback Railway.” The ride opened at Coney Island in 1884 and was an immediate success. Charging 5 cents a ride, Thompson was clearing $600 a day in profits almost immediately. The ride was very modest by today’s standards, standing just 50 feet tall, 600 feet long, and about 10 mph, but it was also something that had never been seen before. Riders boarded bench-like trains and coasted to the bottom on mild, undulating hills, and then repeated the journey in the opposite direction.

Thompson spent the next three years improving his design, obtaining another 30 patents and building the coaster in cities across the country. In just four years, he had built 50 of them. Thompson began to experiment with visuals, first with tunnels and lights, and then with scenery to create a new type of ride. The LA Thompson Scenic Railway combined elements of his earlier creations with visuals. The first one opened in 1888 with great success, leading him to form his own company, opened for the express purpose of building Scenic Railways around the world. The most notable was the installation in Venice, California. Opened in 1910, the track ran among artificial hills lights, and replicas of temples, foreshadowing attractions that would be built by Disney decades later.

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/january-20-2009-barack-obama-takes-the-oath-of-office-as-the-first-african-american-president-of-the-united-states

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/201311/3769/

This Day in History (7-Jan-1999) – US President Bill Clinton’s Trial For Impeachment Began In The Senate

In 1994, Ms. Paula Jones, filed charges against President Bill Clinton alleging sexual harassment in 1991. Amidst the controversy surrounding the case and the investigation by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, of the Whitewater corruption allegations, President Clinton engaged in an illicit sexual affair in 1995, with a White House intern, Ms. Monica Lewinsky, aged 21. After 18 months, Ms. Lewinsky was transferred to the Pentagon in 1996 on account of “inappropriate and immature behavior”, where she befriended Linda Tripp. In her conversations with Ms. Tripp, Ms. Lewinsky detailed her relationship with the President. Ms. Tripp started to secretly tape-record Lewinsky’s telephone conversations.

With the permission of the US State Justice Department, Kenneth Starr expanded his investigation, determined to prove that the President had committed perjury and obstruction of justice by encouraging Ms. Lewinsky to lie. Ms. Lewinsky was subsequently intercepted by the FBI and confessed to the affair. Following this, President Clinton swore in his deposition that he did not have any sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky. In July 1998, Starr egged Ms. Lewinsky into providing him DNA evidence of her sexual relationship with the president. With the evidence secure, Starr also persuaded Ms. Lewinsky to testify in front of a federal grand jury. The President also appeared before the jury but did not answer specific questions. Later, that night he confessed to the relationship on national TV.

On September 9, Starr delivered a 453-page report to the US House of Representatives citing 11 impeachable offenses. On December 19, the House impeached President Clinton. The impeachment trial in the Senate commenced on January 7, 1999. The impeachment trial lasted five weeks and ended with Clinton’s acquittal. Following the trial, Bill Clinton went on to say that he was “profoundly sorry” for the burden that his behavior had imposed on the people of the US and the American Congress. President Bill Clinton went on to complete the term of his presidency but the scandal severely damaged his reputation and that of White House. It was also responsible for Republican Senator Gorge W. Bush’s resounding success in the 2000 US presidential campaign and the defeat of Vice President Al Gore.

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/january-7-1999-us-president-bill-clintons-trial-for-impeachment-began-in-the-senate

http://edition.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/resources/lewinsky/timeline/