August 18, 1587 Lost Colony of Roanoke

John White returned on August 18, 1590, three years to the day from the birth of his granddaughter. He found the place deserted, only the word “CROATOAN” carved into a fence post, and the letters “CRO” on a nearby tree.

The 16th century was drawing to a close when Queen Elizabeth set out to establish a permanent English settlement in the New World. The charter went to Walter Raleigh, who sent explorers Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to scout out locations for a settlement.

The pair landed on Roanoke Island on July 4, 1584, establishing friendly relations with local natives, the Secotans and Croatans. They returned a year later with glowing reports of what is now the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Two Native Croatans, Manteo and Wanchese, accompanied the pair back to England. All of London was abuzz with the wonders of the New World.

Sir Walter Raleigh (?)
Explorer Sir Walter Raleigh

Queen Elizabeth was so pleased that she knighted Raleigh.  The new land was called “Virginia” in honor of the Virgin Queen.

Raleigh sent a party of 100 soldiers, miners and scientists to Roanoke Island, under the leadership of Captain Ralph Lane. The attempt was doomed from the start. They arrived too late in the season for planting, and Lane alienated the neighboring tribe when he murdered their chief, Wingina. By 1586 they had had enough, and left the island.

Ironically, their supply ship arrived about a week later. Finding the island deserted, that ship left 15 men behind to “hold the fort” before they too, departed.

The now knighted “Sir” Walter Raleigh was not deterred. He recruited 90 men, 17 women and 9 children for a more permanent “Cittie of Raleigh”, appointing John White governor. Among the colonists were White’s pregnant daughter, Eleanor, her husband Ananias Dare, and the Croatans Wanchese and Manteo.

Wanchese, Manteo
Wanchese, Manteo

The caravan stopped at Roanoke Island in July, 1587, to check on the 15 men left behind a year earlier.  Raleigh believed that the Chesapeake afforded better opportunities for his new settlement, but his Portuguese pilot Simon Fernandes had other ideas.

Fernandes was a Privateer, impatient to resume his hunt for Spanish shipping.  He ordered the colonists ashore on Roanoke Island. It could not have lifted the spirits of the small group to learn that the 15 left there by the earlier expedition, had disappeared.

Eleanor Dare gave birth to a daughter on August 18, 1587, and called her Virginia.  The first English child born to the new world.

Fernandez departed for England ten days later, taking along an anxious John White, who wanted to return to England for supplies. It was the last time Governor White would see his family.

croatoan(2)White found himself trapped in England by the invasion of the Spanish Armada, and the Anglo-Spanish war.  It would be three years before he could return to Roanoke. He arrived on August 18, 1590, three years to the day from the birth of his granddaughter. He found the place deserted, only the word “CROATOAN” carved into a fence post.  The letters “CRO” were carved into a nearby tree.

croatoan(1)White had hopes of finding his family at Croatoan, the home of Chief Manteo’s people to the south, on modern day Hatteras Island.

A hurricane came up before he could explore further, his ships so damaged that he had return to England. Despite several attempts, he was never able to raise the resources to return.

What happened to the lost colonists of Roanoke, remains a mystery. They may have died of disease or starvation, or they may have been killed by hostile natives.

Perhaps they went to live with Chief Manteo’s people, after all. One of the wilder legends has Virginia Dare, now a young woman, transformed into a snow white doe by the evil medicine man, Chico, but that’s a story for another day.  The fate of the first English child born on American soil may never be known.

white-deerSeventeen years later, another group of colonists would apply the lessons learned in Roanoke, founding their own colony a few miles up the coast at a place called Jamestown.

A personal anecdote involves a conversation I had with a woman in High Point, North Carolina, a few years back. She described herself as having Croatan ancestry, her family going back many generations on the outer banks of North Carolina. She described her Great Grandmother, a full blooded Croatan. The woman looked like it, too, except for her crystal blue eyes. She used to smile at the idea of the lost colony of Roanoke. “They’re not lost”, she would say. “They are us”.

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August 13, 3114BC  The End of the World

National Geographic explains that 12/21/12 brings to a close not the end of time, but the end of the 12th Bak’tun, an almost 400-year period in the Mayan Long Count calendar.  The world doesn’t end, according to this explanation, it just “rolls over” to the year zero and starts over, kind of like old cars used to do, when they reached 100,000 miles on the odometer.

MayanCalendarOne of the more profoundly silly bits of pop culture nonsense served up in the recent past, may be the world coming to an end on 12/21/12, according to the Mayan calendar. The calendar itself isn’t silly, it’s actually a very sophisticated mathematical construct, but the end of the world part certainly was.

According to linguist, anthropologist and Mayanist scholar Floyd Glenn Lounsbury and his “Lounsbury Correlation”, the Mayan Calendar dates back 5,131 years to August 13, 3114 BC.  This day seems as good as any, though I’m sure there can be little certainty about a date that far in the past.

The Mayans were skilled mathematicians, and it shows in their calendar.  They were the first to recognize the concept of zero, and worked extensively in a base 20 number system.

Long count glyphsThe Mayans used three separate calendars, each period represented by its own glyph. The Long Count was mainly used for historical purposes, able to specify any date within a 2,880,000 day cycle, about 7,885 solar years. The Haab was a civil calendar, consisting of 18 months of 20 days, and one 5-day Uayeb, a nameless period rounding out the 365-day year. The Tzolkin was the “divine” calendar, used mainly for ceremonial and religious purposes.  Consisting of 20 periods of 13 days, the Tzolkin goes through a complete cycle every 260 days. The significance of this cycle is unknown, though it may be connected with the 263 day orbit of Venus. There is no year in the Haab or Tzolkin calendars, though a Haab and Tzolkin date may be combined to specify a particular day within a 52-year cycle.

National Geographic explains that 12/21/12 brings to a close not the end of time, but the end of the 12th Bak’tun, an almost 400-year period in the Mayan Long Count calendar.  The world doesn’t end, according to this explanation, it “rolls over” to the year zero and starts over, kind of like old cars used to do, when the odometer reached 100,000 miles.

MayanCalendar-300x300It doesn’t really roll over to “zero”, either.  The base 20 numerical system means that 12/22/12 begins the next 400 year (actually 394.3 years) period to begin the 13th Bak’tun.  It will reset to zero at the end of the 20th Bak’tun, about 3,000 years from now.  Please let me know how that turns out.

The Mayan calendar system became extinct in most areas after the Spanish conquests of the 16th century, though it continues in use in many modern communities in highland Guatemala and in Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.

The table of Long Count units below illustrates the Mayan units of measurement.  A day is a K’in, there are 20 K’ins in a Winal, and so on.  Today’s date, according to the Mayan calendar, is Long Count: 13.0.4.12.14, Calendar Round: 8 Ix 12 Yaxk’in, Year Bearer: 6 Ik’, Lord of Night: G2, 13 Bak’tun, 0 K’atun, 4 Tun, 12 Winal, 14 K’in, 8 Ix, G2, 12 Yaxk’in.  Got it?  Me neither.

Table of Long Count units

 

August 8, 1969 Paul is Dead

Like the child’s game of “telephone”, the story picked up details with each retelling.  There had been an argument at a Beatles recording session. McCartney left in anger, and crashed his car. To spare the public from grief, the Beatles replaced him with “William Campbell”, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest.

In January 1967, a car belonging to singer/songwriter and Beatles’ band member Paul McCartney, was involved in an accident.  He wasn’t driving at the time, but no matter.

The story was told and retold.  Before long, not only had McCartney himself been involved in the crash.  He’d been killed in it.

Like the child’s game of “telephone”, the story picked up details with each retelling.  There had been an argument at a Beatles recording session. McCartney left in anger, and crashed his car. To spare the public from grief, the Beatles replaced him with “William Campbell”, the winner of a McCartney look-alike contest.Paul is dead

The February issue of “The Beatles Book” fanzine tried to put the issue to rest, but some stories die hard.  A cottage industry grew up around finding “clues” to McCartney’s “death”.  Hundreds were reported by fans and followers of the legend. John Lennon’s final line in the song “Strawberry Fields Forever” sounded like “I buried Paul”.  (McCartney later said the words were “cranberry sauce”).  When “Revolution 9” from the White Album is played backwards, some said they could hear “turn me on, dead man”.

Photographer Iain MacMillan shot the cover photo for the Beatles’ last recorded album, Abbey Road, on this day in 1969. The ten-minute photo shoot produced six images, from which McCartney himself picked the cover photo. It shows the band crossing the street, walking away from the studio.

As soon as the Abby Road album hit the streets, the “Paul Is Dead” enthusiasts were off and running. It was a funeral procession, couldn’t anybody see that? Lennon, dressed in white, symbolizes the preacher. Ringo Starr was dressed in black.  He was the mourner. George Harrison was wearing blue jeans and a shirt.  Of course he was the gravedigger.Paul is dead, news

And then there was McCartney, barefoot and out of step with the other members of the band. Clearly, he symbolized the corpse. McCartney later explained that he’d been barefoot that day, because it was hot.

No one ever satisfactorily explained, nor did anyone ask, to my knowledge, how Paul McCartney got to march in his own funeral procession.  No matter, the Abby Road cover put the rumor mill over the top.

On October 12, a caller to Detroit radio station WKNR-FM told DJ Russ Gibb about the rumor and its clues. Gibb and his callers then discussed the rumor on the air for the next hour. Roby Yonge did the early AM shift at the powerhouse WABC out of New York. Yonge spent a full hour discussing the rumor, before he was pulled off-air for breaking format. WABC’s signal could be heard in 38 states at that time of night, and at times, other countries. The Beatles’ press office issued a statement denying the rumor, but it had already been reported by national and international media.

Paul is still with us-Life_magazine_nov_69The November 7, 1969, Life magazine interview with McCartney and his wife Linda finally put the story to rest. “Perhaps the rumor started because I haven’t been much in the press lately“, he said. “I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days“.

If they’d had Photoshop in those days, we’d probably still be hearing the rumors, today.

August 4, 1693 – Dom Pérignon

August 4, 1693 is the date traditionally ascribed to Brother (Dom) Pérignon’s invention of Champagne, when he is supposed to have said “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”. 

The wines of medieval and renaissance Europe tended to be almost universally red, and almost always still.  The in-bottle refermentation that gives “sparkling” wine its ‘fizz’ was a problem for winemakers.  Fermentable sugars were frequently left over when weather began to cool in the fall, particularly with the white grape varietals.  Refermentation would set in with the warm spring weather, converting bottles into literal time bombs.  Corks would pop out and wine would spoil.  Sometimes the whole batch would explode, one pressurized bottle going off in sympathetic detonation with the other.preventing-refermentation-fig1

Pierre Perignon entered the Benedictine Order when he was 19, doing his novitiate at the abbey of Saint-Vannes near Verdun, and transferring to the abbey of Hautvillers in 1668.

August 4, 1693 is the date traditionally ascribed to Brother (Dom) Pérignon’s invention of Champagne, when he is supposed to have said “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”.

The story seems to be an 1821 embellishment by one Dom Groussard, in an attempt to increase the prestige of the abbey.  The English scientist and physician Christopher Merret seems to have been the first to add sugars, beginning the refermentation process which resulted in the first carbonated wine.

Dom_Pérignon_découvrant_la_prise_de_mousse

Yet Dom Pérignon most certainly perfected the double fermentation process, and made important contributions to the quality of the abbey’s fine wines.  He was an early advocate of natural process, farming methods we would call “organic”, today.  He strictly avoided the addition of foreign substances, and insisted that all blending take place at the grape stage. Pérignon insisted on “blind” tasting, not wanting to know what vineyard a grape came from prior to selection.

Dom_Pérignon

Pérignon didn’t like white grapes because of their tendency to enter refermentation. He preferred the Pinot Noir, and would aggressively prune vines so that they grew no higher than three feet and produced a smaller crop. The harvest was always in the cool, damp early morning hours, and he took every precaution to avoid bruising or breaking his grapes. Over-ripe and overly large fruit was always thrown out. Pérignon did not allow grapes to be trodden, always preferring the use of multiple presses.Dom Perignon

Dom Pérignon served as the “cellarer” of the Hautvillers abbey until his death in 1715, in a time when the abbey flourished and doubled the size of its vineyards.  In a sign of honor and respect, Dom Pierre Pérignon was buried in a section of the abbey cemetery, historically reserved only for abbots.

Moët et Chandon, which began as Moët et Cie, purchased the vineyards of the Abbey of Hautvillers in 1792. To this day, Moët’s most prestigious cuvée bears the name of Dom Pérignon.

August 1, 1794 Whiskey Rebellion

A federalized militia force of 12,950 was raised to put down what President Washington saw as armed insurrection, marching on Western Pennsylvania in October 1794.  It was a larger force than General Washington normally had under his command, during the late Revolution.

On ratification of the modern constitution in 1789, the founding fathers gazed out at what they had wrought.  What they saw, was debt.Constitution

The Continental government had been unable to levy taxes under the Articles of Confederation, the only major income source being foreign import duties. The government had borrowed money to meet expenses during this period, accumulating $54 million in debt.  The states themselves another $25 million.

Compounding the problem was the matter of runaway inflation, which had plagued the Articles of Confederation period. The colonies had printed paper currency to pay debts, as did the national government. Silver coinage remained stable due to the inherent value of the metal itself, but there was nothing behind this paper money. At one point, you could buy a single sheep for $2 “hard currency”, or $150 in paper “Continental Dollars”. To this day, you might hear the expression “worthless as a continental”.

The first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, reported in his Report on Public Credit, urging Congress to consolidate state and national debt into a single debt to be funded by the federal government. Hamilton felt that existing duties were as high as they could be without depressing imports, so he recommended the first excise tax on a domestically manufactured product – whiskey.  The more meddlesome of Hamilton’s contemporaries were enthusiastically in favor of a “sin tax”, just as they are today.  The “Whiskey Act” became law on March 3, 1791.

The whiskey tax was immediately unpopular, particularly in the west where it was, for all intents and purposes, an income tax.  At a flat rate of 7¢ per gallon, the tax weighed more heavily on the western frontiers, where whiskey was sold for 50¢ a gallon.  About half what it sold for in the more established regions of the east.

Furthermore, coinage wasn’t easy to come by on the frontiers.  In many areas the medium for exchange was whiskey itself.  The stuff was popular, it’s value was relatively stable, and it was easier to transport than the grain from which it was distilled.

Folks on the western fringes of the new nation already felt the federal government was doing too little to secure them against the predation of Indians.  This whiskey tax was the final straw.

Whiskey_Insurrection
Illustration of the Whiskey Rebellion from “Our First Century”, R.M. Devens 1882

Petitions were signed against the new law and there were hearings, none of which settled the matter satisfactorily. Events reached a boiling point in May 1794, when federal district attorney William Rawle issued subpoenas for more than 60 Western Pennsylvania distillers who had not paid their excise tax. All 60 were expected to appear in excise court in Philadelphia, an expensive, disruptive trip that these poor farmers were loathe to undertake.

The war of words became a shooting war as US Marshal David Lenox was delivering these writs in Allegheny County, south of Pittsburgh, on July 15.

Braddocks FieldMore shooting incidents occurred in the days that followed.  Objections to the whiskey tax gave way to a long list of economic grievances, as over 7,000 gathered in Braddock’s Field on August 1. They talked of secession and carried their own flag, each of its six stripes representing one of 6 Pennsylvania or eastern Ohio counties.

At last they marched on Pittsburg, burning the barns of Major Abraham Kirkpatrick, who had previously led soldiers against them.

A federalized militia force of 12,950 was raised to put down what President Washington saw as armed insurrection, marching on Western Pennsylvania in October 1794.  It was a larger force than General Washington normally had under his command during the late Revolution.

Washington himself rode out to check on the progress of his army, the first and only time in history that a sitting American President led an army in the field.

whiskey-rebellion-300x214The whiskey rebellion collapsed in the face of what was then an overwhelming army, with 10 of their leaders brought to Philadelphia to stand trial. Two were sentenced to hang for their role in the rebellion, but President Washington pardoned them both.  The whiskey rebellion was over.

All internal taxes were repealed in 1800, when President Thomas Jefferson returned US fiscal policy to a reliance on trade tariffs.  With the Napoleonic wars ongoing in Europe, business was good.  National debt was reduced from $83 million to $43 million, despite $11 million spent on the Louisiana Purchase.

President Andrew Jackson paid off the national debt in its entirety, in 1835.  The first and only President in United States history, ever to do so.  Since that time, the Federal government has saddled the American taxpayer with approximately $301 million in additional debt.  Per day.

July 31, 1920 Corporal Jackie

Albert took a bullet in the shoulder at the Battle of Agagia on February 26, 1916, while the monkey, beside himself with agitation, licked the wound and did everything he could to comfort the stricken man.  It was this incident more than any other that marked Jackie’s transformation from pet and mascot, to a comrade to the men of the regiment.

In 1915, Albert Marr lived with his family and his Chacma baboon, Jackie, on Cheshire Farm, on the outskirts of Pretoria, South Africa.  The Great War had begun a year earlier, when Marr was sworn into the 3rd (Transvaal) Regiment of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade, in August of that year.  He was now Private Albert Marr, #4927.

Albert Marr, JackiePrivate Marr asked for and received permission to bring Jackie along with him.  It wasn’t long before the monkey became the official Regimental Mascot.

Jackie drew rations like any other soldier, eating at the mess table, using his knife and fork and washing it all down with his own drinking basin.

He drilled and marched with his company in a special uniform and cap, complete with buttons, regimental badges, and a hole for his tail.

Jackie entertained the men during quiet periods, lighting their pipes and cigarettes and saluting officers as they passed on their rounds.  He learned to stand at ease when ordered, placing his feet apart and hands behind his back, regimental style.

These two inseparable buddies, Albert Marr and Jackie, first saw combat during the Senussi Campaign in North Africa. Albert took a bullet in the shoulder at the Battle of Agagia on February 26, 1916, while the monkey, beside himself with agitation, licked the wound and did everything he could to comfort the stricken man.  It was this incident more than any other that marked Jackie’s transformation from pet and mascot, to a comrade to the men of the regiment.jackie

Jackie would accompany Albert at night when he was on guard duty.  Marr soon learned to trust Jackie’s keen eyesight and acute hearing.  The monkey was almost always first to know about enemy movements or impending attack.  He would give early warning with a series of sharp barks, or by pulling on Marr’s tunic.

The pair went through the nightmare of Delville Wood together, early in the Somme campaign, when the First South African Infantry held their position despite 80% casualties.  The pair experienced the nightmare of mud that was Passchendaele, and the desperate fighting at Kemmel Hill.  The two were at Belleau Wood, a primarily American operation, where Marine Captain Lloyd Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, was informed that he was surrounded by Germans.  “Retreat?” Williams retorted, “hell, we just got here.”Jackie

Throughout all of it, Albert Marr and Jackie had come through WWI mostly unscathed.  That all changed in April, 1918.

The South African Brigade was being heavily shelled as it withdrew through the West Flanders region of Belgium. Jackie was frantically trying to build a wall of stones around himself, a shelter from flying shrapnel, while shells were bursting all around. A jagged piece of shrapnel wounded Jackie in the arm and another all but amputated the animal’s leg.  He refused to be carried off by the stretcher-bearers, trying instead to finish his wall, hobbling around on what had once been his leg.

Lt. Colonel R. N. Woodsend of the Royal Medical Corps described the scene:  “It was a pathetic sight; the little fellow, carried by his keeper, lay moaning in pain, the man crying his eyes out in sympathy, ‘You must do something for him, he saved my life in Egypt. He nursed me through dysentery’. The baboon was badly wounded, the left leg hanging with shreds of muscle, another jagged wound in the right arm.  We decided to give the patient chloroform and dress his wounds…It was a simple matter to amputate the leg with scissors and I cleaned the wounds and dressed them as well as I could.  He came around as quickly as he went under. The problem then was what to do with him. This was soon settled by his keeper: ‘He is on army strength’. So, duly labelled, number, name, ATS injection, nature of injuries, etc. he was taken to the road and sent by a passing ambulance to the Casualty Clearing Station”.Jackie Portrait

As the war drew to a close, Jackie was promoted to the rank of Corporal, and given a medal for bravery. Possibly the only monkey in history, ever to be so honored.

On his arm he wore a gold wound stripe, and three blue service chevrons, one for each of his three years’ front line service.

After the pair arrived home, Jackie became the center of attention at a parade officially welcoming the 1st South African Regiment home.

On July 31, 1920, Jackie received the Pretoria Citizen’s Service Medal, at the Peace Parade in Church Square, Pretoria.

Jackie died as the result of a fire, which destroyed the Marr family farmhouse in May 1921.  Albert Marr passed away in 1973, at the age of 84.  Marr had missed his battle buddy Jackie, for all the days in-between.

July 28, 1957 Broken Arrow

Since 1950, there have been 32 Broken Arrow incidents.  As of this date, six nuclear weapons have been lost and never recovered.

At one time, the C-124 was the world’s largest military transport aircraft.  Weighing in at 175,000lbs with a wingspan of 175ft, four 3,500 horsepower Pratt & Whitney propeller engines drive the air frame along at a stately cruising speed of 246 mph.  Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft called the aircraft “Globemaster”.  Airmen called the plane “Old Shaky”.

c124c_pettersen

The Air Force C-124 Globemaster transport left its base in Delaware on July 28, 1957, on a routine flight to Europe. On board were a crew of seven, three nuclear bombs, and one nuclear core. The flight would routinely have taken 10-12 hours.  This trip was destined to be anything but routine.Mk6

Exactly what went wrong remains a mystery, due to the sensitive nature of the cargo. Two engines had to be shut down shortly into the mission, and the aircraft turned back.  The nearest suitable airfield was the Naval Air Station in Atlantic City, but that was too far. Even at maximum RPMs, the best the remaining two engines could do was slow the massive aircraft’s descent into the sea.

sans_titre11An emergency landing on open ocean is not an option with such a large aircraft.  It would have broken up on impact with the probable loss of all hands.   Descending rapidly, the crew would have jettisoned everything they could lay hands on, to reduce weight.  Non-essential equipment would have gone first, then excess fuel, but it wasn’t enough.  With only 2,500ft and losing altitude, there was no choice left but to jettison those atomic bombs.

At 3,000lbs apiece, two of the three bombs were enough to do the job, and the C-124 made it safely to Atlantic City.  What became of those two atomic bombs remains a mystery.  Most likely, they lie at the bottom of the ocean, 100 miles off New Jersey.

The United States Department of Defense has a term for accidents involving nuclear weapons, warheads or components, which do not involve the immediate risk of nuclear war.  Such incidents are called “Broken Arrows”.Image2

Broken Arrows include accidental or unexplained nuclear or non-nuclear detonation of an atomic weapon, the loss of such a weapon with or without its carrying vehicle, and the release of nuclear radiation resulting in public hazard, whether actual or potential.

Since 1950, there have been 32 Broken Arrow incidents.  As of this date, six nuclear weapons have been lost and never recovered.

If you’re interested, a handy “Nuclear Folly Locator” appears at the link below, based on Rudolph Herzog’s “A Short History of Nuclear Folly”.  It makes for some very comforting reading.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1gYCdyVCF3mhfJwX4c5xdBnc-Y8Q&usp=sharing