Category Archives: Georgia

The Fire Trees of Dawsonville

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I am not an early morning riser by any stretch of the imagination. I rather despise early mornings. So, when I find something that delights me in the early morning I consider it a bonus. For some reason that I’ve tried to block from my memory, I was up early one winter morning after it had rained the night before. I took the dog with me and we went for a little jaunt down the road in front of our house.

As we headed west, my eyes saw the scene you see in today’s post. I didn’t have my camera with me as I’d not anticipated opening my eyes on the walk if at all possible, but I did open them long enough to see the scene and knew I had to shoot it. I pulled out my cell phone and shot today’s photo. The sun was rising from behind me and it lit up the tops of the trees to the west. It looked almost as if the trees were on fire. Perhaps if you come visit us some time and are crazy enough to get up of a morning, you might see them, too!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1864, at Poison Spring, Arkansas, Confederate soldiers under the command of General Samuel Maxey captured a Union forage train and slaughtered black troops escorting the expedition.

The Battle of Poison Spring was part of broad Union offensive in the region of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. General Nathaniel Banks had led a Yankee force through Louisiana in March and April, but a defeat in northwestern Louisiana at the Battle of Mansfield on April 8 sent Banks in retreat. Union forces nearby in Arkansas were moving towards Banks’ projected thrust into Texas with the intention of securing southwestern Arkansas for the Federals.

Union General Frederick Steele occupied Camden, Arkansas, on April 15. Two days later, he sent Colonel John Williams and 1,100 of his 14,000-man force to gather 5,000 bushels of corn discovered west of Camden. The force arrived to find that Confederate marauders had destroyed half of the store, but the Yankees loaded the rest into some 200 wagons and prepared to return to Camden. On the way back Maxey and 3,600 Confederates intercepted them. Maxey placed General John Marmaduke in charge of the attack that ensued. Williams positioned part of his force, the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, between the wagon train and the Confederate lines. The regiment was the first black unit in the army, comprised primarily of ex-slaves.

The determined soldiers of the 1st Kansas stopped the first two Rebel attacks, but they were running low on ammunition. A third assault overwhelmed the Kansans, and the rout was on. Williams gathered the remnants of his force and retreated from the abandoned wagons. More than 300 Yankee troops were killed, wounded, or captured, while the Confederates lost just 13 killed and 81 wounded. The Rebels’ treatment of black troops was harsh. No black troops were captured, and those left wounded on the battlefield were brutally killed, scalped, and stripped. The Washington Telegraph, the major Confederate newspaper in Arkansas, justified the atrocity by declaring “We cannot treat Negroes taken in arms as prisoners of war without a destruction of social system for which we contend.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: in Texas, cowboy boots are exempt from sales tax, but hiking boots are not.

Dancin’ Daffodils

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Not far from where we live (maybe 20-25 minutes away) is a place called Gibbs Gardens. It is the creation of a many by the name of Jim Gibbs, who for over 40 years owned and operated a landscaping company in the Atlanta area. As one might anticipate, he loves gardens and desired to create a world-class gardens in north Georgia. By all accounts, he has succeeded grandly!

The property where the manor house stands covers 292 acres, and 250 of those acres have been converted into gardens for others to come and enjoy (there is a fee for entrance). There is a wide variety of different plants and types of gardens so that something is likely to be blooming at any time of the year (almost!).

Over 50 acres are planted in daffodils. Their signs advertise that there are 20 million daffodils on the property, and I believe it after my first visit there a bit over one week ago! This year, because of the warmer weather than usual, the daffodils have bloomed early and we wandered around the area where the daffodils were blooming shooting photos. The picture today was one that I shot a week ago this past Saturday. It was a fairly windy day, but I believe you’ll still get a good sense for the place and how beautiful it is. I am eager to go back to the gardens several times this summer to see the other sights as different plants and trees leaf out and bloom. I suspect it will be spectacular. And yes, we did by an annual pass so we can go year round!

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1963, the Hula-Hoop, a hip-swiveling toy that became a huge fad across America when it was first marketed by Wham-O in 1958, was patented by the company’s co-founder, Arthur “Spud” Melin. An estimated 25 million Hula-Hoops were sold in its first four months of production alone.

In 1948, friends Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr founded a company in California to sell a slingshot they created to shoot meat up to falcons they used for hunting. The company’s name, Wham-O, came from the sound the slingshots supposedly made. Wham-O eventually branched out from slingshots, selling boomerangs and other sporting goods. Its first hit toy, a flying plastic disc known as the Frisbee, debuted in 1957. The Frisbee was originally marketed under a different name, the Pluto Platter, in an effort to capitalize on America’s fascination with UFOs.

Melina and Knerr were inspired to develop the Hula-Hoop after they saw a wooden hoop that Australian children twirled around their waists during gym class. Wham-O began producing a plastic version of the hoop, dubbed “Hula” after the hip-gyrating Hawaiian dance of the same name, and demonstrating it on Southern California playgrounds. Hula-Hoop mania took off from there.

The enormous popularity of the Hula-Hoop was short-lived and within a matter of months, the masses were on to the next big thing. However, the Hula-Hoop never faded away completely and still has its fans today. According to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, in April 2004, a performer at the Big Apple Circus in Boston simultaneously spun 100 hoops around her body. Earlier that same year, in January, according to the Guinness World Records, two people in Tokyo, Japan, managed to spin the world’s largest hoop–at 13 feet, 4 inches–around their waists at least three times each.

Following the Hula-Hoop, Wham-O continued to produce a steady stream of wacky and beloved novelty items, including the Superball, Water Wiggle, Silly String, Slip ‘n’ Slide and the Hacky Sack.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The hula was originally a form of worship performed by highly trained men who were supposedly taught the dance by the Hawaiian god Luka.

Slip Slidin’ Away…

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This past Saturday my wife and I took of just to get away for a while. Things have been hectic and a “get-away” was overdue. We decided to drive up the “alpine” Helen in the north Georgia “mountains”. It’s less than an hour from where we live and my wife loves a particular restaurant there. Personally, I can take it or leave it, but she absolutely loves going there.

The town of Helen has sort of a Danish/German/Bavarian flavor to the heart of the little town. There’s a beer garden surrounded by shops and places that are made to look alpine. But just outside of the town is an old mill that still operates and produces milled flour, grits, etc. It’s a fun place to stop and lots of interesting things are there to photograph.

One of the favorite things of my to shoot there is a dam. The creek that turns the mill stone flows behind the building. It’s a rather lazy creek, but the dam has water flowing over the top of it constantly, and this time I noticed that there are pipes a bit below the water surface on the down-dam side. I thought it was rather pretty to watch the water shooting over the top of the dam and through the pipes, too, so I took today’s picture of it to share with you.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1898, a massive explosion of unknown origin sank the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard.

One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Ostensibly on a friendly visit, the Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans there after a rebellion against Spanish rule broke out in Havana in January.

An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war.

Subsequent diplomatic failures to resolve the Maine matter, coupled with United States indignation over Spain’s brutal suppression of the Cuban rebellion and continued losses to American investment, led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898.

Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting. On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

In 1976, a team of American naval investigators concluded that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire that ignited its ammunition stocks, not by a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The Sahara Desert at one time was lush grassland and savannah. Overgrazing and/or climate change in 8000 B.C. began to change the area from pastoral land to desert. Now it is the world’s largest hot desert at over 3,630,000 square miles—roughly the size of the United States. Antarctica is considered the largest desert (of any type) in the world.

At the End of the Wardrobe

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Perhaps you’ve seen The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, or you’ve read the book by C. S. Lewis of the same title. In the story, some young English children find much more than they’ve bargained for inside of a wardrobe: they find a portal to Narnia. The first of the children to stumble through only to find herself in a snowy, frozen land is Lucy Pevensy. The land of Narnia has had a curse placed on it by the wicked queen. She finds herself in a clearing with a lampstand.

Not long after Christmas, we had a snowfall here at our home in Georgia. It wasn’t much of a snowfall if you’re from Maine or places in the northern United States, but we had about three inches of the powdery white stuff and it hung around in some places for 3-4 days because the temperatures stayed below or slightly above freezing.

On the morning after the snow first fell, I took my camera and went out to capture the fairly rare event. As I came around the west end of our home, the image in today’s post presented itself to me and it reminded me of the lampstand in the clearing of Narnia. Now I’m wondering: if I go into the walk-in closed tonight, might I wind up in a strange, exciting place that I didn’t know was there?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: On this day in 1943, Japanese forces on Guadalcanal Island, defeated by Marines, started to withdraw after the Japanese emperor finally gave them permission.

On July 6, 1942, the Japanese landed on Guadalcanal Island, part of the Solomon Islands chain, and began constructing an airfield. In response, the U.S. launched Operation Watchtower, in which American troops landed on five islands within the Solomon chain, including Guadalcanal. The landings on Florida, Tulagi, Gavutu, and Tananbogo met with much initial opposition from the Japanese defenders, despite the fact that the landings took the Japanese by surprise because bad weather had grounded their scouting aircraft. “I have never heard or read of this kind of fighting,” wrote one American major general on the scene. “These people refuse to surrender.”

The Americans who landed on Guadalcanal had an easier time of it, at least initially. More than 11,000 Marines landed, but 24 hours passed before the Japanese manning the garrison knew what had happened. The U.S. forces quickly met their main objective of taking the airfield, and the outnumbered Japanese troops temporarily retreated. Japanese reinforcements were landed, though, and fierce hand-to-hand jungle fighting ensued. The Americans were at a particular disadvantage because they were assaulted from both sea and air, but when the U.S. Navy supplied reinforcement troops, the Americans gained the advantage. By February 1943, the Japanese retreated on secret orders of their emperor. In fact, the Japanese retreat was so stealthy that the Americans did not even know it had taken place until they stumbled upon abandoned positions, empty boats, and discarded supplies.

In total, the Japanese lost more than 25,000 men compared with a loss of 1,600 by the Americans. Each side lost 24 warships.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During WWII, the Japanese launched 9,000 “wind ship weapons” of paper and rubberized-silk balloons that carried incendiary and anti-personnel bombs to the U.S. More than 1,000 balloons hit their targets and they reached as far east as Michigan. The only deaths resulting from a balloon bomb were six Americans (including five children and a pregnant woman) on a picnic in Oregon.

Time to Relax

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I have been way too busy. I am trying to find a way to not be so busy, but I’m not sure I’ve found it yet. Every night I’ve been telling myself that I need to post some to this photo blog, but I’ve been too tired and busy to do so. So, I just forced myself to do it tonight!

This photo was shot with my cell phone along the Chattahoochee River in Norcross, GA. It was getting late in the day and I was looked eastward up the river to catch this light. I’d not taken my Canon 7D with me, so I had to make do with my phone.

I am looking forward to this coming Saturday to try to unwind and relax a bit – and who knows? – maybe even take some photos. But until then, looking at pictures like this will have to suffice.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1950, U.S. President Harry S. Truman publicly announced his decision to support the development of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon theorized to be hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.

Five months earlier, the United States had lost its nuclear supremacy when the Soviet Union successfully detonated an atomic bomb at their test site in Kazakhstan. Then, several weeks after that, British and U.S. intelligence came to the staggering conclusion that German-born Klaus Fuchs, a top-ranking scientist in the U.S. nuclear program, was a spy for the Soviet Union. These two events, and the fact that the Soviets now knew everything that the Americans did about how to build a hydrogen bomb, led Truman to approve massive funding for the superpower race to complete the world’s first “superbomb,” as he described it in his public announcement on January 31.

On November 1, 1952, the United States successfully detonated “Mike,” the world’s first hydrogen bomb, on the Elugelab Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands. The 10.4-megaton thermonuclear device, built upon the Teller-Ulam principles of staged radiation implosion, instantly vaporized an entire island and left behind a crater more than a mile wide. The incredible explosive force of Mike was also apparent from the sheer magnitude of its mushroom cloud–within 90 seconds the mushroom cloud climbed to 57,000 feet and entered the stratosphere. One minute later, it reached 108,000 feet, eventually stabilizing at a ceiling of 120,000 feet. Half an hour after the test, the mushroom stretched 60 miles across, with the base of the head joining the stem at 45,000 feet.

Three years later, on November 22, 1955, the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb on the same principle of radiation implosion. Both superpowers were now in possession of the “hell bomb,” as it was known by many Americans, and the world lived under the threat of thermonuclear war for the first time in history.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the Civil War, 2% of the U.S. population died. This is equivalent to 6 million men today. While rifles were the deadliest weapons during the war, disease killed more men. Camps became breeding grounds for measles, chicken pox, and mumps. One million Union solders contracted malaria.

What if….

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The picture above is the view out of my office window here at the house. I’m fortunate – I can work from home, or pretty much anywhere that I have an internet connection. I know some still fight the commute (as I did for decades!) and I feel for you, but I’m grateful that I seldom have to do that any more.

I took this picture about a week ago. As you can see, fall is trying to arrive here in Georgia. There is hope!  (Actually, it’s been quite nice the past 10 days or so.) But as I looked at this picture, a thought crossed my mind (hey – even I have thoughts once in a while!): what would life be like if we worked outside and only came inside when it was too cold or raining? I know that some folks work outside all year long, but I’m thinking even of folks like me who are primarily white collar types of workers. What if my desk and computer were outside during the fall and spring (at least) and I spent the entire day out there in the beauty, the fresh air and was surrounded by the sounds of leaves rustling and birds singing? Wouldn’t that be AWESOME!!!!!

Instead, I sit in here, occasionally looking out the window. I think that if we were outside more, we’d be more at peace, have less stress in our lives, be healthier…and have better suntans, too!  (That is if we didn’t die of skin cancer…but we’d have a shade over us to protect us, right!?!?!)

I have a hammock in the back yard and the last time I was out there laying in it, I was thinking about “How can I work while laying in my hammock?”  I’m still working on that one. It would be hard to type on my Surface, that’s for sure.  But it’s a pretty smart machine and can do almost anything by voice, too.  May have to give it a try one of these days before long!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1962, complicated and tension-filled negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union finally resulted in a plan to end the two-week-old Cuban Missile Crisis. A frightening period in which nuclear holocaust seemed imminent began to come to an end.

On October 22, President John F. Kennedy warned the Soviets to cease their reckless program to put nuclear weapons in Cuba and announced a naval “quarantine” against additional weapons shipments into Cuba. The world held its breath waiting to see whether the two superpowers would come to blows. U.S. armed forces went on alert and the Strategic Air Command went to a Stage 4 alert (one step away from nuclear attack).

On October 24, millions waited to see whether Soviet ships bound for Cuba carrying additional missiles would try to break the U.S. naval blockade around the island. At the last minute, the vessels turned around and returned to the Soviet Union.

On October 26, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev responded to the quarantine by sending a long and rather disjointed letter to Kennedy offering a deal: Soviet ships bound for Cuba would “not carry any kind of armaments” if the United States vowed never to invade Cuba. He pleaded, “let us show good sense,” and appealed to Kennedy to “weigh well what the aggressive, piratical actions, which you have declared the U.S.A. intends to carry out in international waters, would lead to.” He followed this with another letter the next day offering to remove the missiles from Cuba if the United States would remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey.

Kennedy and his officials debated the proper U.S. response to these offers. Attorney General Robert Kennedy ultimately devised an acceptable plan: take up Khrushchev’s first offer and ignore the second letter. Although the United States had been considering the removal of the missiles from Turkey for some time, agreeing to the Soviet demand for their removal might give the appearance of weakness. Nevertheless, behind the scenes, Russian diplomats were informed that the missiles in Turkey would be removed after the Soviet missiles in Cuba were taken away. This information was accompanied by a threat: If the Cuban missiles were not removed in two days, the United States would resort to military action. It was now Khrushchev’s turn to consider an offer to end the standoff.

(I was just a kid, barely 10 years of age, but I remember the tension of those days very clearly.  I remember going to bed at night and wondering if I’d ever get the chance to see the sun come up again.)

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: During the 1872 election, presidential incumbent Ulysses S. Grant ran against a corpse. His opponent, Horace Greeley, died before the election was finalized. Grant won the election.  George Washington blew his entire campaign budget on 160 gallons of liquor to serve to potential voters (he won 100% of the electoral votes – he was unopposed, so I guess he could afford to blow the budget on booze.)

Inside a “Moonshine” Car

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People love their luxury cars. To some people, luxury means “fine Corinthian leather” (those of you who are old enough will remember those commercials with Ricardo Montalban – those of you who aren’t old enough can just go wash behind your ears!) Some think of luxury cars as having all the bells and whistles you can imagine: power windows, power seats that tip and slide by pressing a button, rear-facing cameras, heated seats, headlight wipers, GPS systems, tire pressure monitors, self-parking and auto-braking. I’m sure there’s a lot more that could be added to that list, but you get the idea.

Today’s photo is of the inside of one of the cars at the moonshine festival. For those of you who may not have the sharpest of eyes, yep – that’s a beer can holder attached to the dashboard and a jug for moonshine sitting in the seat. But what caught my eye was the fine upholstery.

I grew up on a farm and knew quite well what a gunny sack is. If you look closely, you’ll see that they paneled the doors, covered the seats and even the dashboard with only the finest gunny sack upholstery. Nothing was too good for the moonshiners, I guess!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylor moved all over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, around 1898. In July 1901, while reading an article about the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, she learned of the growing popularity of two enormous waterfalls located on the border of upstate New York and Canada. Strapped for cash and seeking fame, Taylor came up with the perfect attention-getting stunt: She would go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Taylor was not the first person to attempt the plunge over the famous falls. In October 1829, Sam Patch, known as the Yankee Leaper, survived jumping down the 175-foot Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara River, on the Canadian side of the border. More than 70 years later, Taylor chose to take the ride on her birthday, October 24. (She claimed she was in her 40s, but genealogical records later showed she was 63.) With the help of two assistants, Taylor strapped herself into a leather harness inside an old wooden pickle barrel five feet high and three feet in diameter. With cushions lining the barrel to break her fall, Taylor was towed by a small boat into the middle of the fast-flowing Niagara River and cut loose.

Knocked violently from side to side by the rapids and then propelled over the edge of Horseshoe Falls, Taylor reached the shore alive, if a bit battered, around 20 minutes after her journey began. After a brief flurry of photo-ops and speaking engagements, Taylor’s fame cooled, and she was unable to make the fortune for which she had hoped. She did, however, inspire a number of copy-cat daredevils. Between 1901 and 1995, 15 people went over the falls; 10 of them survived. Among those who died were Jesse Sharp, who took the plunge in a kayak in 1990, and Robert Overcracker, who used a jet ski in 1995. No matter the method, going over Niagara Falls is illegal, and survivors face charges and stiff fines on either side of the border.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Moon dust is said to smell like spent gunpowder.

Moonshine Madness

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OK. So we live in Georgia – in north Georgia, as a matter of fact. Many people don’t realize how far north the Atlanta area is in Georgia, and we live about 45 miles north of Atlanta. I suppose it would be safe to say that we live in the foothills of the Georgia mountains. (They use the term “mountains” loosely here in Georgia – at least from the perspective of someone who has lived most of his life near the Sierra Nevada mountain range and who has visited and been through the Rockies numerous times, too.)

Northern Georgia is famous for lots of things. There were many Civil War battles that took place around here, most notably the battle of Chickamauga. The first gold rush in America started not far from where we live. And infamously, the Trail of Tears began near here, too. But there’s another thing that the hills of Appalachia are famous for: moonshine and moonshiners!

The hamlet of Dawsonville celebrates that part of north Georgia’s history every fall about this time and it was held this weekend. It has turned into a large car show, lots of food and craft booths, bands playing outdoors and just a generally good time.

I was busy on Saturday so I couldn’t go then when my wife did, but after we got home from church and a bit of shopping this afternoon, I went over with my camera to explore. Sadly, quite a few of the cars that were on display had already pulled out from the looks of things, but I still enjoyed myself. In my wanderings, I came across a booth for the Moonshine Museum. That’s where I shot today’s photo. Sorta helps you get a sense for the north Georgia hills, right? I’ve got more pictures that I’ll share in the coming days, but for now, you might just pull out your banjo and juice harp and watch Deliverance or listen to Dueling Banjos to help round out the picture.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1965, in action following the clash at the Plei Me Special Forces camp 30 miles southwest of Pleiku earlier in the month, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) launched Operation Silver Bayonet.

U.S. troops, in conjunction with South Vietnamese forces, sought to destroy North Vietnamese forces operating in Pleku Province in II Corps Tactical Zone (the Central Highlands). The operation concluded in November with a week of bitter fighting when fleeing North Vietnamese troops decided to protect an important staging area and supply base in the Ia Drang Valley. It was the bloodiest battle of the war to date. In one engagement, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry fought a desperate three-day battle at Landing Zone X-Ray with the North Vietnamese 33rd and 66th Regiments; when the fighting was over, 834 Communists lay dead on the battlefield. In an associated engagement, 500 North Vietnamese ambushed another battalion from the 1st Cavalry Division at Landing Zone Albany, wiping out almost an entire company. Reported enemy casualties for Operation Silver Bayonet totaled 1,771. U.S. casualties included 240 killed in action.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: A four-leaf clover is often considered good luck, but it is also part of an Irish love ritual. In some parts of Ireland, if a woman eats a four-leaf clover while thinking about a man, supposedly he will fall in love with her.

The View from a Tub

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First of all, let me say that I’m not a fan of taking baths. Showers, yes. Baths, not especially. However, sometimes if I am really sore and achy, a good soak in a hot tub or jacuzzi can really be helpful!

Alas, that’s not what today’s photo is about. I took this shot yesterday morning looking out the window right by our bathtub. I think the view is relaxing enough that I might just have to crawl in the tub one of these days, soak in the warm water and gaze out the window. I love the woods!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1944, two liquid gas tanks exploded in Cleveland, Ohio, killing 130 people. It took all of the city’s firefighters to bring the resulting industrial fire under control.

At 2:30 p.m., laboratory workers at the East Ohio Gas Company spotted white vapor leaking from the large natural gas tank at the company plant near Lake Erie. The circular tank had a diameter of 57 feet and could hold 90 million cubic feet of the highly flammable gas. Ten minutes later, a massive and violent explosion rocked the entire area. Flames went as high as 2,500 feet in the air. Everything in a half-mile vicinity of the explosion was completely destroyed.

Shortly afterwards, a smaller tank also exploded. The resulting out-of-control fire necessitated the evacuation of 10,000 people from the surrounding area. Every firefighting unit in Cleveland converged on the East Ohio Gas site. It still took nearly an entire day to bring the fire under control. When the flames went out, rescue workers found that 130 people had been killed by the blast and nearly half of the bodies were so badly burned that they could not be identified. Two hundred and fifteen people were injured and required hospitalization.

The explosion had destroyed two entire factories, 79 homes in the surrounding area and more than 200 vehicles. The total bill for damages exceeded $10 million. The cause of the blast had to do with the contraction of the metal tanks: The gas was stored at temperatures below negative 250 degrees and the resulting contraction of the metal had caused a steel plate to rupture.

Newer and safer techniques for storing gas and building tanks were developed in the wake of this disaster.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Experts estimate that in a lifetime, a human brain may retain one quadrillion separate bits of information.

At the Base of the Falls

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Near the town of Helen, Georgia, is an old grist mill named Nora Mills. It dates back to the 1800’s and still grinds meal powered by the flow of water that turns the grinding stones. The falls are not huge, but constant, and the flow of the water is effective.

Lying on the rocks by the base of the water that flows over the dam are some logs. I don’t know how long they have been there. I don’t know what stories they could tell. But I wish I did.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1987, a passenger ferry collided with an oil tanker near Manila in the Philippines on this day in 1987, leaving 4,000 people dead. The ferry, the Dona Paz, was severely overcrowded, carrying more than twice its stated capacity, and nearly everyone on board was killed.

Sulpicio Lines owned the 2,215-ton Dona Paz, which was supposed to carry 1,400 passengers among the many islands of the Philippines. On December 20, it was going from Tacloban on Leyte Island to Manila. There was much demand due to the Christmas holidays and the company allowed approximately 4,000 people to board. Passengers shared cots and mats were laid out in the corridors as night fell during the 375-mile journey.

By 10 p.m., many of the ship’s officers were drinking and watching television while an apprentice officer piloted the ship through the busy Tablas Strait, 110 miles south of Manila. Also coming through the strait was the 629-ton tankerVictor, carrying 8,000 barrels of oil to Masbate Island. The two ships collided, for reasons still unknown, and a huge explosion resulted. Both ships sank quickly and although the Don Eusebio arrived on the scene shortly to help, it could only circle the fiery area in vain looking for survivors.

Only 24 survivors were found, half of whom were crew members from the Victor. For the next week, burned or drowned bodies washed ashore up and down Manila Island. President Corazon Aquino called it a “tragedy of harrowing proportions.” The precise number of people on board the Dona Paz is not known, but the best estimate puts the death toll near 4,000. This makes it twice as deadly as the Titanic disaster and the worst maritime tragedy in history.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: An early version of Google at Stanford could analyze 30-50 pages a second. Currently, it’s millions of pages a second.