Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Earthrise   Leave a comment

Far too hectic a week for Advent time, in my opinion — but, then again, I’ve never particularly celebrated Advent as the Episcopal Church encourages us to do. In any case, none of us has had much time, in the preparations for next week, to do much Second Life work — it is Second Life, after all, not the First (and more important) life. But I did take a few minutes to scan through Facebook and various other things, and I was reminded of this event from my childhood.

How many of you know this photograph? Some have called it one of the most important photos ever taken, and I recall it from stamps issued in 1969, in the months before Apollo 11 launched. It is rather prosaically identified in the NASA image catalogue as AS08-14-2382; however, it was popularly given the easier name of Earthrise. It was shot on December 24, 1968 by the crew of Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to fly clear of Terran gravity and orbit another celestial body. One author, Robert Poole, credits this photo with giving rise to the environmental movement 1, though I would suggest it more emphasized the fact that we only know of life on this one spot in the universe.

The photo was not revealed until the film was developed back on Earth, following Apollo 8’s splashdown. (This was 1968, after all, way before digital downloads of images.) But radio and television signals could be transmitted the thousands of miles between Terra and Luna, and the duty personnel at NASA Houston could hear the excitement in the voices of Frank Borman, James Lovell and Bill Anders as they saw Earth ascend above the lunar terminator (the horizon edge of the Moon as they orbited it, a constantly moving value). They instinctively realized that someplace in here was a photograph and a half, and they “scrabbled” (as much as people could in the cramped confines of the Apollo command module) for a roll of color film to record the moment.

Later, during the second scheduled television transmission to Earth, the crew read a “message” for the people of Earth ….

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1 Poole, Robert. Earthrise:  How Man First Saw the Earth. New Haven, 2008: Yale University Press. ISBN: 9780300137668. DDC: 525.0222. LC: QB637 .P66 2008. (Cited in Wilford, John Noble (July 13, 2009). “On Hand for Space History, as Superpowers Spar”. The New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2018.)

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Posted December 21, 2018 by Harper Ganesvoort in History, Real Life

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“… the eleventh hour of the eleventh day ….”

A recreation of The Cenotaph, the monument built originally to honor the British and Empire dead of World War I, here in London City.  (Some items on the wall are derendered for the photo.)

This year, November 11 will be extra notable in many countries.  It will have been one hundred years since November 11, 1918, the day that saw an armistice go into effect at 11:00 a.m. between the warring countries, ending fighting in what we now call the First World War.  Most people of the time hoped it would truly be the last major war, the “war to end war,” as it was phrased.  Sadly, as R. F. Delderfield suggested in To Serve Them All My Days, they had merely blown half-time.  It took only twenty years, along with a punitive peace treaty, governments using its terms to exact vengeance on Germany, and the general world economic collapse of the Great Depression (combined with the massive financial mistakes of the German government during and after the war), to open the path for the instigators of the next great war ….

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Bluenose

I wasn’t sure I’d find anything like the boat behind me — a replica of a hundred-foot fishing schooner, similar to a very famous one from Canada — but I lucked out in the end.  While I was wikiwalking today, you see, I was reminded of what some claim is the most famous ship in Canadian history, one most of us take for granted every day because it’s in our pockets, and we see it so damned often that we “forget” about it.  But never, never completely ….

The 1920s were the last great days of the wind-driven North Atlantic fishing fleets, including out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.  In 1921, the schooner Bluenose was launched, in part to participate in the dory-fishing trade on the Grand Banks, but also to get revenge on the Americans for winning a schooner race sponsored by a newspaper.  She could work hard — she carried eight dories, which would be launched up to four times a day when she was active during the fishing season — but she was designed as much for speed, with a very unique profile in the water.

The Bluenose handily won the right to represent Canada in the 1921 International Fisherman’s Trophy, and proceeded to take apart the American Elsie in October to win the Cup.  She and her captain, Angus Walters, defended the Cup in 1922 against the Henry S. Ford.  The 1923 race ended in controversy, and another wasn’t held for years.

The ship continued mostly successful in racing, and represented Nova Scotia in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of His Majesty King George V; but her paying days as a fishing boat were ending.  Motor trawlers started taking over the trade from the dorymen in the 1930s; that and the Great Depression hit the wind-driven fishers hard.  The Bluenose‘s greatest racing challenger was at hand, though — Gloucester’s Gertrude L. Thebaud.  The Thebaud defeated her in a challenge cup in 1930; but the Bluenose had the better of the American boat in the International Fisherman’s Trophy, defeating her twice — and ending with the trophy in her possession in 1938.  That was the end for her, though; her masts were removed afterward by new owners, who moved her to the Caribbean in 1942 and turned this beauty into a diesel-powered coastal freighter.  She ran aground off Haiti in 1946, was abandoned, and broke up on the reef.

The Bluenose has never been forgotten by Canada, though.  At the height of her fame, the schooner was placed on the reverse of Canada’s dime coin, where she has sailed ever since.  Even before that, she was commemorated on one of Canada’s most famous stamps; and again in 1988, on a stamp honouring Angus Walters, her long-time captain.  And a replica, Bluenose II, built from her original plans, sails the waters out of Lunenburg to this day as a living museum and “ambassador” of Nova Scotia.

Veterans Day 2017

This blog always salutes our veterans of today in a more international manner, by recalling those who gave their all in service at one time or another, representative of the bravery those who are still with us showed.  This year, while considering what I would be writing about, I happened back across this story from World War II, not much remembered today by those of us obsessed with the fight against terrorism, or who champion veterans for more political purposes.  These four men show that there are many forms which bravery can take, and it can be exhibited even by those who swear never to take another’s life.

Learn more after the break.

Looking Back — Charles Lindbergh

 

Read the story on the next page.

From the Archives — “A date which will live in infamy….” (updated)

NOTE: This article was originally published on December 7, 2011, on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Some changes have taken place in Second Life, and so I have revised the article where needed to avoid confusion.

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USS Arizona sinking following explosion of her magazine, 7 Dec 1941; photo from U. S. Navy History and Heritage Command collection

USS Arizona sinking following explosion of her magazine, 7 Dec 1941; photo from U. S. Navy History and Heritage Command collection

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan….”— President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, December 8, 1941, speaking to a joint session of Congress.

The world changed — massively — for Americans on that December day.  While most of us were going about our Sunday routines — perhaps sitting in church for the day’s sermon or Sunday school, or getting out for brunch with friends — a squadron of Japanese aircraft carriers were turning into the wind and launching attack bombers.  Japan was stymied in its plans for expansion of its “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” by an American embargo on oil, machine parts and other needed goods, and afraid that the U. S. would respond if it attacked British interests in Southeast Asia, and planned a preventive strike against the American Pacific Fleet in Hawaii to forestall any action against it.  The Japanese had planned to shave its “notification” to the U. S. government of hostile intent as closely as possible to keep a warning from being sent to the American bases in and around Pearl Harbor; but clerical problems in decoding and typing the message eliminated any validity to their weak attempt to observe the niceties.

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For Our Veterans

veterans-day

Harper put up an excellent pair of pieces for her Veterans Day writing this week, but I decided to do something of my own.  In Canada, we call this Remembrance Day, and it’s more specifically to honour the soldiers and sailors who have fallen, like America’s Memorial Day, since the day’s origin lies in the end of what was then called the Great War, now World War I.  The Flanders poppy in my lapel derives from the poppies that dotted the northern European landscape, thus the inspiration for Canadian army doctor John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields.”

Je me souviens….

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