It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…
* 1975 – Wreck of the Great Lakes ore carrier Edmund Fitzgerald and loss of 29 crew west of the Sault.
The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald (sometimes called the Mighty Fitz or Big Fitz) was a Great Lakes bulk cargo vessel that was christened into service on June 8, 1958. It was 730 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 39 feet high. It was designed to carry taconite pellets (a type of iron ore) from mines near Duluth to iron works in Detroit and Toledo. It was the largest ore carrier on the Great Lakes when it entered service.
Its first voyage took place September 24, 1958. The Fitzgerald met its fate while traveling on Lake Superior during a storm on November 10, 1975. It suddenly sank around 17 miles from Whitefish Bay. Although the captain of the Fitzgerald reported having difficulties during the storm, no distress signals were sent. The entire crew of 29 people died when the vessel sank. No bodies were ever recovered from the wreckage. Later when the wreck was found, it was discovered that the ship had broken in two. It still sits on the bottom of Lake Superior at 530 feet deep.
Conditions on the Great Lakes can be extremely treacherous and can produce high waves. Steep, short-period waves can be particularly hazardous to large ships such as the Fitzgerald, especially when they exceed 5 meters (16 feet) in height. The height of waves generated on the lakes is primarily a function of wind speed and the fetch, or distance, over which they are generated. Of secondary yet substantial importance is the degree of surface-layer stability present over the lake. Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes in surface area and volume. It has the capacity to contain the water volume of the four other lakes plus three additional Lake Eries. Given its immense size, it is capable of sustaining waves in excess of 10 meters (33 feet), about the height of a four-story home.
The disaster was immortalized in song the following year in Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” YouTube: https://youtu.be/9vST6hVRj2A
* 1969 Sesame Street debuts.
On this day in 1969, “Sesame Street,” a pioneering TV show that would teach generations of young children the alphabet and how to count, makes its broadcast debut. “Sesame Street,” with its memorable theme song (“Can you tell me how to get/How to get to Sesame Street”), went on to become the most widely viewed children’s program in the world. It has aired in more than 120 countries.
The show was the brainchild of Joan Ganz Cooney, a former documentary producer for public television. Cooney’s goal was to create programming for preschoolers that was both entertaining and educational. She also wanted to use TV as a way to help underprivileged 3- to 5- year-olds prepare for kindergarten. “Sesame Street” was set in a fictional New York neighborhood and included ethnically diverse characters and positive social messages.
Taking a cue from “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” a popular 1960s variety show, “Sesame Street” was built around short, often funny segments featuring puppets, animation, and live actors. This format was hugely successful, although over the years some critics have blamed the show and its use of brief segments for shrinking children’s attention spans.
From the show’s inception, one of its most-loved aspects has been a family of puppets known as Muppets. Joan Ganz Cooney hired puppeteer Jim Henson (1936-1990) to create a cast of characters that became Sesame Street institutions, including Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Grover and Big Bird.
The subjects tackled by “Sesame Street” have evolved with the times. In 2002, the South African version of the program, “Takalani Sesame,” introduced a 5-year-old Muppet character named Kami who is HIV-positive, in order to help children living with the stigma of a disease that has reached epidemic proportions. In 2006, a new Muppet, Abby Cadabby, made her debut and was positioned as the show’s first female star character, in an effort to encourage diversity and provide a strong role model for girls.
Since its inception, over 74 million Americans have watched “Sesame Street.” Today, an estimated 8 million people tune in to the show each week in the U.S. alone.
* 1995 Playwright and activist hanged in Nigeria.
Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian playwright, and environmental activist is hanged in Nigeria along with eight other activists from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop).
Saro-Wiwa, an outspoken critic of Nigeria’s military regime, was charged by the government with the 1994 murder of four pro-military traditional leaders. He maintained his innocence, claiming that he was being unlawfully silenced for his criticism of the exploitation of the oil-rich Ogoni basin by the Nigerian ruling government and the Shell Petroleum Development Company. Most of the international community agreed, but Nigerian leader General Sani Abacha refused to grant the defendants an appeal and would not delay the executions.
Before his death, Saro-Wiwa won Sweden’s prestigious Right Livelihood Award and had also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In reaction to the executions, U.S. President Bill Clinton recalled the U.S. ambassador from Lagos and imposed an arms ban, though trade with oil-rich Nigeria continued.
* 1973 Slaughterhouse-Five is burned in North Dakota.
On this day in 1973, newspapers report the burning of 36 copies of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.
Vonnegut’s book was a combination of real events and science fiction. His hero, Billy Pilgrim, was a World War II soldier who witnessed the firebombing of Dresden, as had Vonnegut himself. Pilgrim becomes “unstuck in time” and thereafter lives a double existence-one life on an alien planet where a resigned acceptance of inevitable doom expresses itself philosophically in the hopeless locution “And so it goes.” In his life on Earth, Pilgrim preaches the same philosophy. Some found the book’s pessimistic outlook and black humor unsuitable for school children.
Vonnegut was born on November 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, Indiana. He attended Cornell and joined the Air Force during World War II. He was captured by Germans and held in Dresden, where he was forced to dig out dead and charred bodies in the aftermath of the city’s bombing. After the war, he studied anthropology at the University of Chicago and later wrote journalism and public relations material.
Vonnegut’s other novels, including Cat’s Cradle (1963), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Galapagos (1985), and others, did not generate as much controversy as Slaughterhouse-Five. His experimental writing style, combining the real, the absurd, the satiric, and the fanciful, attracted attention and made his books popular. Vonnegut is also a gifted graphic artist whose satirical sketches appear in some of his later novels, including Breakfast of Champions.
* 2001 Bush addresses the United Nations regarding terrorism.
On this day in 2001, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President George W. Bush addresses the United Nations to ask for the international community’s help in combating terrorism around the world. He also pledged to take the fight against terrorism to any place where terrorists were harbored.
In his speech, Bush called the war on terror a case of “light overcoming darkness” and warned that civilization itself was being threatened by those who used terror to achieve their political aims. In a poignant moment, Bush pointed out that only a few miles from United Nations headquarters in New York City “many thousands still lie in a tomb of rubble,” referring to the site where the World Trade Center towers formerly stood. Bush cited the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan against al-Qaida and the Taliban regime that had sponsored them, begun a month earlier, as proof that the U.S. was fully prepared to attack other nations that harbored or financed terrorist groups. Bush went on to promise that the U.S. would stand by its commitment to peace in the Middle East by “working toward a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders as called for” by the United Nations.
Bush concluded his speech by saying he expected the United Nations member states to live up to their global obligation to help root out terrorist cells. “The cost of inaction is far greater,” he said, and the attacks on September 11 proved that ”the only alternative is a nightmare world where every city is a potential killing field.” This speech was the first time Bush laid out a policy of pre-emptive action against regimes that sponsored terrorists. He followed up on his threat two years later by sending American troops to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whom he accused of funding terrorist organizations and developing weapons of mass destruction, though no such weapons were ever found.
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/