Along the northern California coast, one of the highlights is the Lone Cypress in Monterey on the 17-Mile Drive. It is perhaps the most famous photo stop on the drive, though one could debate if it deserves to have that notoriety. There is no doubt that it is a beautiful setting.
What I find intriguing about it is that it stands there alone, with no other trees to break the frequent winds and storms that blow in off the Pacific. The Lone Cypress is a western icon, and has been called one of the most photographed trees in North America. The tree is located between Cypress Point Golf Course and the Pebble Beach Golf Links, two of world’s most well known golf courses. Possibly as old as 250 years, the cypress has been scarred by fire and held in place with cables for 65 years. The Monterey Cypress grows naturally only in Pebble Beach and Point Lobos.
What stories might this tree tell us of those 250 years if it could speak? Might it speak of the storms and fog? Of shipwrecks and close calls? Of lovers who came to enjoy the beautiful scenery while on honeymoons? Might it speak of Spanish explorers and conquistadors, of padres traveling to establish missions in California? It has probably witnessed everything from native Americans paddling on the ocean below the cliffs to airplanes, satellites and space shuttles. It stands alone, and now, with a little help, steadfast.
And I thought that I’ve seen a lot of change in my lifetime!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1996, a cargo plane crashed in Kishasa, Zaire, (modern day Democratic Republic of the Congo) killing somewhere between 225 and 350 people and injuring another 500.
Africa Air was a private freight company that operated on the margins of legality. They were well-known for sometimes ignoring safety regulations, and enforcement of the rules was lax in Zaire. On January 8, the company went even further, sending its Russian Antonov AN-32B into the sky from N’Dolo Airport in Kishasa even though its certification for flying had been revoked. Making matters worse, the Russian crew members had loaded the plane with freight beyond its capacity. The plane was allegedly on its way to bring supplies to Jonas Savimbi’s notorious rebels in Angola.
As the plane barreled down a runway on the sunny afternoon, its engines smoked and then burst into flames. The plane could not attain altitude and simply ran off the end of the runway, toward a marketplace filled with wooden and iron shacks. The plane crashed into the crowded market and exploded. Fires broke out everywhere and would-be rescuers were driven back by the intense heat and smoke.
In all, estimates of the death toll ranged from 225 to 350 people killed and approximately 500 seriously injured. Of the six crew members on board, four survived. The angry marketplace crowd attempted to lynch them but was thwarted by authorities. There was a second attempt while the crew was at a local hospital but it also failed. The crew members were extradited to Russia for prosecution and sentenced to two years in prison. Pilot Nicolai Kazarin stated during the trial “the market shouldn’t have been there, so why should they be entitled to compensation?” Africa Air subsequently went out of business. Good riddance, I say!
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The science of kissing is called philematology. Now that you know, when someone asks what you do, you can say you are a philematologist – and they’ll probably say, “Oh, that’s interesting!” and act like they know what you’re talking about!