Here is a list of 10 major oil spills in history that caused severe oil pollution and irreparable damage to the ecosystem. 1. Amoco Cadiz - The Amoco Cadiz ran aground on Portsall Rocks, three miles off the coast of Brittany, France on March 16, 1978 due to stormy weather. Approximately 200 miles of the coastline was polluted as the entire cargo of 68.7 million gallons of oil was spilled into the sea.

Arabian Gulf Spills - About 900 million barrels of oil spilled into the Arabian Gulf as the Iraqi army destroyed tankers, oil terminals, and oil wells in Kuwait during the Gulf war in January 1991, resulting in one of the largest oil spill disasters ever.

3. Exxon Valdez - In what is regarded as the largest oil spill disaster in American history, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska on March 24, 1989, spilling 10.8 million gallons of oil. The clean up alone cost $2.5 billion. 4. Ixtoc I - The exploratory well blew out on June 3, 1979 in the Gulf of Mexico and by the time the well was brought under control, 140 million gallons of oil had spilled.

This is rated as No. 2 on the list of worst oil spill incidents on record. 5. Burmah Agate - The Burmah Agate collided with the Mimosa in Galveston harbor on November 1, 1979 to cause one of the most infamous marine oil spills. 6. Atlantic Empress - The Greek oil tanker Atlantic Empress was involved in two major oil spills when it collided with the Aegean Captain off Trinidad and Tobago during a tropical rainstorm on July 19, 1979.

The spills together are the largest ship-based spill and the fourth largest total oil spill in history. 7. Argo Oil Merchant - On December 15, 1976 the Argo Merchant ran aground on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts spilling 7.7 million US gallons of fuel oil, enough to heat 18,000 homes for a year. 8. Prestige Oil Spill - The largest environmental disaster ever in Spain, the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige off the Galician coast on November 13, 2002 caused considerable damage to the local fishing industry.

9. Barge Bouchard 155 - Three ships, the barge Bouchard 155, the freighter Balsa 37, and the barge Ocean 255, collided in Tampa Bay, Florida, on August 10, 1993. The Bouchard 155 alone spilled an estimated 336,000 gallons of No.6 fuel oil. 10. Southeast Queensland - The cleanup efforts were estimated at a staggering A$100,000 dollars a day in one of the recent oil spill disasters, which occurred on March 11, 2009 off the coast of southeast Queensland.


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Titanic

While the Titanic is definitely the most famous maritime disaster it is actually not the largest one in the sad history of maritime disasters. Canada also holds a sad record in this history. The infamous Halifax explosion that devastated the city of Halifax, is currently the largest non-nuclear man-made accidental explosion in the history of mankind with the highest death doll of about 2,000 people killed and estimated over 9,000 people were injured. While many people say that maritime disasters are one of the most dangerous, the Halifax Explosion is the one that shows how dangerous they can really be.

The tragedy occurred on December 6, 1917 at the time of the First World War. The SS Mont-Blanc, a cargo ship that was chartered by the government to carry munitions to Europe collided with unloaded Norwegian ship Imo, chartered by the Commission for Relief in Belgium to carry relief supplies.

While Imo was unloaded at the moment, the SS Mont-Blanc was fully loaded with wartime explosives. The collision itself occurred at 8.40, at 8.50 Mont-Blanc caught fire, drifted toward the peers and exploded fifteen minutes later. The explosion was equivalent to roughly 3 kilotons of TNT, which is actually one fifth of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which had estimated power of 15 kilotons.

The fireball rose over 1.2 miles into the air and the explosion obliterated all the buildings and structures within 2 square kilometers including buildings in the communities of Richmond and Dartmouth. The explosion also caused an 18 meter high tsunami that covered the harbor.

It is impossible to tell what the reason of the explosion was, most probably it was criminal negligence be the crew members of one of the ships. Like many other disasters this one has a very good ground for investigation and even trial, but the devastating power of the explosion was so huge that there is literally no one left to sue.

As for the legal side of such navigation problems as the Halifax explosion, it would be regulated by the Canadian criminal code, because it occurred in the Canadian waters. As for the Maritime Laws in general there are two types of law – Admiralty Law (Maritime Law) and Law of the Sea. The Admiralty Law is a distinct body of law which governs maritime questions and offenses.

Because the ships that roam the oceans and seas can belong to various companies and countries this law is a body of both domestic law governing maritime activities, and private international law governing the relationships between private entities which operate vessels on the oceans.

The main matters that it deals with are: marine commerce, marine navigation, shipping, sailors, the transportation of passengers and goods by sea and also a number of land based commercial activities that are maritime in character.

The Law of the Sea is a body of public international law and has another scope of problems. It is dealing with navigational rights, mineral rights, and jurisdiction over coastal waters and international law governing relationships between nations.


The influenza pandemic of 1918


The influenza pandemic of 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people around the world -- 34 million more than died from the First World War in progress alongside it. Unlike the seasonal flu, a pandemic flu is one for which there is little or no human immunity.

And instead of targeting the weak or old, the 1918 flu was particularly deadly among the young and healthy. According to molecular pathologist Jeffrey Taubenberger, almost half of all flu deaths that year were among 20- to 40-year-olds. Their immune systems essentially overreacted, destroying their lungs in an attempt to get to the virus.


Though dubbed the Spanish flu, after millions of early deaths in Spain, the geographic origin of the disease remains unknown. Some hypothesize that it may have been circulating around the world for a few years before developing into a pandemic in 1918.

The first confirmed outbreak in the United States, if not the world, was at an army base in northeastern Kansas on March 11, 1918. Just hours after the first soldier reported sick, dozens more began pouring into the infirmary. By the end of the day, hundreds of soldiers had fallen ill. Within a week 500 had come down with the fever.


camp devens 1918 flu pandemic


The flu quickly spread across the country, where 2 million troops were mobilizing for the war in Europe. The soldiers carried the flu with them when they shipped out, introducing the virus to France, England, Germany and Spain. "King George's Grand Fleet could not even put to sea for three weeks in May, with 10,313 men sick," reports Gina Kolata in her book Flu.

The virus jumped to China, India, Japan and the rest of Asia. By summer it seemed to have played itself out. Then, in late August, the flu re-emerged in Boston. This time it was even more deadly. Some people reportedly dropped dead on the street; others managed to hold on for days.

By the first week of September, an average of 100 people died every day at Camp Devens. "We have lost an outrageous number of Nurses and Drs., and the little town of Ayer is a sight," wrote one of the camp's doctors. "It takes special trains to carry away the dead. For several days there were no coffins and the bodies piled up something fierce; we used to go down to the morgue (which is just back of my ward) and look at the boys laid out in long rows. It beats any sight they ever had in France after a battle."


Camp devens 1918 flu pandemic


By the end of September, 50,000 people in Massachusetts had been infected with the flu. In Philadelphia, 635 people became ill after a large public gathering to raise money for the war. The city tried to staunch the spread by ordering all churches, schools and theaters closed, but by the first week of October, 289 people had died in a single day. In New York, the death tally for one day was 851. San Francisco reported cases, as did Chicago, where there were so many deaths that the city banned funerals "The morgues were packed almost to the ceiling with bodies stacked one on top of another.

The morticians worked day and night," wrote Navy nurse Josie Brown, who was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago. "You could never turn around without seeing a big red truck loaded with caskets for the train station so bodies could be sent home. We didn't have the time to treat them. We didn't take temperatures; we didn't even have time to take blood pressure.

We would give them a little hot whisky toddy; that's about all we had time to do. They would have terrific nosebleeds with it. Sometimes the blood would just shoot across the room. You had to get out of the way or someone's nose would bleed all over you." No place was immune to the disease, though government officials tried their best to protect residents.

When ministers in Seattle complained that their churches were shuttered, the mayor retorted, "Religion that won't keep for two weeks, is not worth having." In Ogden, Utah, officials sealed off the town -- no one could go in or out without a doctor's note. In Alaska, the governor closed the ports and posted U.S. marshals to guard them. Even that didn't work: In Nome, just south of the Arctic Circle, 176 of 300 Alaska Natives died.


Titanic wreck


The British luxury passenger liner Titanic sank on April 14-15, 1912, en route to New York City from Southampton, Eng., during its maiden voyage. The vessel sank with a loss of about 1,500 lives at a point about 400 miles (640 km) south of Newfoundland. The great ship, at that time the largest and most luxurious afloat, was designed and built by William Pirrie's Belfast firm Harland and Wolff to service the highly competitive Atlantic Ferry route.

It had a double-bottomed hull that was divided into 16 presumably watertight compartments. Because four of these could be flooded without endangering the liner's buoyancy, it was considered unsinkable. Shortly before midnight on April 14, the ship collided with an iceberg; five of its watertight compartments were ruptured, causing the ship to sink at 2:20 AM April 15.

Inquiries held in the United States and Great Britain alleged that the Leyland liner Californian, which was less than 20 miles (32 km) away all night, could have aided the stricken vessel had its radio operator been on duty and thereby received the Titanic's distress signals. Only the arrival of the Cunard liner Carpathia 1 hour and 20 minutes after the Titanic went down prevented further loss of life in the icy waters.


Titanic construction


Titanic construction began in March 31, 1909 in Belfast, Ireland and was the project of White Star Liners and was built at the Harland & Wolff shipyard. Length of the Titanic construction spanned about three years and cost nearly $7.5 million to build. A technological marvel of its time, the Titanic contained eighteen water tight containers fitted with steel doors designed to close within 25 seconds in order to keep water out of the ship’s interior.

Construction of the Titanic took the work of about 3000 laborers and nearly 3 million rivets. White Star had also constructed a smaller version of the Titanic called the Olympic just a year earlier. Both ships were designed to be the most luxurious ocean liners in operation at the time.


On the Titanic’s maiden voyage, the ship embarked from Southampton, England destined for New York on April 10, 1912. With the passengers all aboard waving to loved ones from the port-side rails, the most luxurious cruise liner set sail for the U.S. The sheer power of the vessel was enough to snap the moorings of the vessel called New York with the amount of water the Titanic displaced.

The Titanic sailed to Cherbourg in France and later to Queenstown in Ireland to pick up additional passengers. There were 1320 passengers and 907 crew. The first few days were uneventful and Captain John Smith continued to increase speed day by day.


Bermuda Triangle


When we talk about urban legends, it is difficult to ignore the Bermuda Triangle (aka the Devil's Triangle), - approximately 1.3 million sq mi area of the North Atlantic Ocean, notorious for the allegedly mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft.

The Bermuda Triangle is a textbook example of how natural events can be given a hue of the supernatural, and turned into a full-fledged hoax - with a little creativity and a gullible audience at your disposal. The myth of the Bermuda Triangle has come into existence over the course of the last few decades, and that is obvious because such myths seldom originate overnight; but instead gradually develop over the course of several years... and sometimes centuries.


Right from the disappearance of the 165m long USS Cyclops, which vanished without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle in March 1918, to the Flight 19 incident, wherein five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bombers (and a Mariner aircraft) disappeared in December 1945, this region has some of the most unbelievable events to its credit. But as they say, "if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't," a little bit of investigation and you realize that the so-called Bermuda Triangle mystery is nothing, but a box full of exaggerated claims.

The Flight 19 incident, for instance, turned out to be a simple case of human error, wherein the pilots lost the track of their position due to bad weather, kept circling over the ocean, and eventually went down when their fuel tanks became empty. Similarly, if you note that the Mariner aircraft, which went as a part of the search and rescue operation, and eventually disappeared, was notorious for technical snags, you realize that its disappearance was not at all mysterious.


We don't really need to resort to some paranormal phenomenon or blame the aliens for these disappearances, when we have obvious reasons, like rough weather prevailing in the tropical waters (USS Cyclops incident) and human error , at our disposal.

The number of actual disappearances in the Triangle is not at all surprising, if you take into consideration the size of the demarcated Bermuda Triangle area in the North Atlantic,  the fact that it lies in the tropical waters wherein rough weather, typically characterized by the presence of thunderstorms and water spouts, is not a rare phenomenon,  the presence of the jet streams, easterlies and the Gulf stream in this region and the heavy flow of traffic that this region is subjected to. More importantly, these natural explanations also help us do away with the theories of methane hydrates and magnetic forces which sound scientific, but are actually baseless.


Bermuda Triangle missing ships


So how did the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon come into existence and, more importantly, how did it become so popular if there is nothing mysterious about it? This so-called mystery began with a series of articles that were published in various newspapers and magazines in the 1950s, and was further fueled by several books and documentaries which followed throughout the 20th century into the 21st.

But obviously, the authors didn't make any attempt to investigate the incidents that they were speaking about. If they had done so, they would have known that the demarcated region of the North Atlantic Ocean was as dangerous as any other part of the Tropics. So who were these people who contributed to the mystery.... or should we say the hoax of the Bermuda Triangle?



It is not possible to pinpoint one individual in particular with many people contributing to the rise of this myth. However, there do exist some people who had a major role to play in its rise. One such person was E. V. W. Jones, whose article titled 'Sea's Puzzles still Baffle Men in Pushbutton Age' put the Bermuda Triangle into the spotlight. In this article, which was written for Associated Press (AP) and published in the Miami Herald on 17th September, 1950, Jones spoke about the mysterious region in the North Atlantic wherein ships and aircraft disappeared without leaving any trace.

To support his claim, he enlisted some accidents which occurred in this part of the Atlantic between 1945 and 1950 - including the disappearance of five torpedo planes which took off from the Navy's Fort Lauderdale air station on 5th December, 1945 (Flight 19 incident), a British airliner (the Ariel), and a British plane (the Star Tiger). In 1952, yet another article about the mysterious disappearances of vessels and aircraft in the North Atlantic appeared - this time in the October issue of the Fate magazine, a United States based magazine about paranormal phenomena.

In the article titled 'Sea Mystery at Our Back Door', author George X. Sand linked the disappearances of airplanes and ships to the supernatural, thus becoming the first person to put forth the concept of supernatural mysteries in the Bermuda Triangle - and make it sound all the more mysterious. It was this very article by Sand which introduced the world to the demarcated region between Florida, Puerto Rico, and the islands of Bermuda, which we know today as the 'Bermuda Triangle'.



While a few more articles giving brief accounts of disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle followed over the course of time, the alleged mystery once again shot to fame in 1962 with an article that was published in the American Legion Magazine.

The article, titled 'The Lost Patrol' by Allen W. Eckert, stressed on the Flight 19 incident i.e. the 1945 incident involving the five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bombers wherein 14 people lost their lives. In his article, Eckert published what were believed to be the last words of the flight leader, wherein he said:

"we are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don't know where we are, the water is green, no white" Alongside the disappearance of these five planes, Eckert also stressed on the disappearance of the Mariner aircraft which was sent as a part of the search and rescue mission. All this information contributed to the popularity of the Devil's Triangle.

Though neither Jones, nor Eckert, made any attempt to reveal that the five TBM Avenger bombers which disappeared were on a training mission or that the Mariner aircraft was notorious for technical snags it experienced frequently. If they had, the Flight 19 incident would have been reduced to yet another aviation disaster, instead of the trademark Bermuda Triangle incident which features in virtually every write-up and documentary about the Triangle today. As with any other mystery, even the Bermuda Triangle mystery continued to sensationalize with time. Contributions by Vincent Gaddis and Charles Berlitz.


In February 1964, Argosy - a magazine of masterpiece fiction, published an article titled 'The Deadly Bermuda Triangle' which was written by Vincent Gaddis. In his article, Gaddis cited a pattern of strange events in this region.

It was Vincent Gaddis who coined the phrase 'Bermuda Triangle'. In 1965, Gaddis published his research on the Triangle in form of a book titled the 'Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea'. In this book, Gaddis enlisted nine separate accidents which occurred in this region, with extensive details about each of them.


United States Navy Lieutenant Charles Carroll Taylor


Flight 19 undertook a routine navigation and combat training exercise in TBM-type aircraft. The assignment was called "Navigation problem No. 1", a combination of bombing and navigation, which other flights had completed or were scheduled to undertake that day. The flight leader was United States Navy Lieutenant Charles Carroll Taylor, who had about 2,500 flying hours, mostly in aircraft of this type, while his trainee pilots had 300 total, and 60 flight hours in the Avenger. Taylor had recently arrived from NAS Miami where he had also been a VTB instructor. The student pilots had recently completed other training missions in the area where the flight was to take place.

They were US Marine Captains Edward Joseph Powers and George William Stivers, US Marine Second Lieutenant Forrest James Gerber and USN Ensign Joseph Tipton Bossi; their callsigns start with 'Fox Tair'. The aircraft were four TBM-1Cs, BuNo 45714, 'FT3', BuNo 46094, 'FT36', BuNo 46325, 'FT81', BuNo 73209, 'FT117', and one TBM-3, BuNo 23307, 'FT28'. Each aircraft was fully fueled, and during pre-flight checks it was discovered they were all missing clocks. Navigation of the route was intended to teach dead reckoning principles, which involved calculating among other things elapsed time.

The apparent lack of timekeeping equipment was not a cause for concern as it was assumed each man had his own watch. Takeoff was scheduled for 13:45 local time, but the late arrival of Taylor delayed departure until 14:10. Weather at NAS Fort Lauderdale was described as "favorable, sea state moderate to rough." Taylor was supervising the mission, and a trainee pilot had the role of leader out front. Called "Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, navigation problem No. 1," the exercise involved three different legs, but the actual flight should have flown four.

After take off, they flew on heading 091° (almost due east) for 56 nmi (64 mi; 104 km) until reaching Hen and Chickens Shoals where low level bombing practice was carried out. The flight was to continue on that heading for another 67 nmi (77 mi; 124 km) before turning onto a course of 346° for 73 nmi (84 mi; 135 km), in the process over-flying Grand Bahama island.

The next scheduled turn was to a heading of 241° to fly 120 nmi (140 mi; 220 km) at the end of which the exercise was completed and the Avengers would turn left to then return to NAS Ft. Lauderdale. Flight 19's scheduled navigation exercise on December 5, 1945. 1. Leave NAS Fort Lauderdale 14:10 on heading 091°, drop bombs at Hen and Chickens shoals (B) until about 15:00 then continue on heading 091° for 73 nautical miles (140 km) Turn left to heading 346° and fly 73 nautical miles (140 km). 3. Turn left to heading 241° for 120 nautical miles (220 km) to end exercise north of NAS Fort Lauderdale. 4. 17:50 radio triangulation establishes flight's position to within 50 nautical miles (93 km) of 29°N 79°W and their last reported course, 270°. 5. PBM Mariner leaves NAS Banana River 19:27. 6. 19:50 Mariner explodes near 28°N 80°W.

Radio conversations between the pilots were overheard by base and other aircraft in the area. The practice bombing operation was carried out because at about 15:00 a pilot requested and was given permission to drop his last bomb. Forty minutes later, another flight instructor, Lieutenant Robert F. Cox in FT-74, forming up with his group of students for the same mission, received an unidentified transmission. An unidentified crew member asked Powers, one of the students, for his compass reading. Powers replied: "I don't know where we are.


We must have got lost after that last turn." Cox then transmitted; "This is FT-74, plane or boat calling 'Powers' please identify yourself so someone can help you." The response after a few moments was a request from the others in the flight for suggestions. FT-74 tried again and a man identified as FT-28 (Taylor) came on. "FT-28, this is FT-74, what is your trouble?" "Both of my compasses are out", Taylor replied, "and I am trying to find Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am over land but it's broken.

I am sure I'm in the Keys but I don't know how far down and I don't know how to get to Fort Lauderdale." FT-74 informed the NAS that aircraft were lost, then advised Taylor to put the sun on his port wing and fly north up the coast to Fort Lauderdale.

Base operations then asked if the flight leader's aircraft was equipped with a standard YG (IFF transmitter), which could be used to triangulate the flight's position, but the message was not acknowledged by FT-28. (Later he would indicate that his transmitter was activated.)

Instead, at 16:45, FT-28 radioed: "We are heading 030 degrees for 45 minutes, then we will fly north to make sure we are not over the Gulf of Mexico." During this time no bearings could be made on the flight, and IFF could not be picked up. Taylor was told to broadcast on 4805 kilocycles. This order was not acknowledged so he was asked to switch to 3,000 kilocycles, the search and rescue frequency.

Taylor replied – "I cannot switch frequencies. I must keep my planes intact." At 16:56, Taylor was again asked to turn on his transmitter for YG if he had one. He did not acknowledge but a few minutes later advised his flight "Change course to 090 degrees (due east) for 10 minutes." About the same time someone in the flight said "Dammit, if we could just fly west we would get home; head west, dammit."

This difference of opinion later led to questions about why the students did not simply head west on their own. It has been explained that this can be attributed to military discipline. As the weather deteriorated, radio contact became intermittent, and it was believed that the five aircraft were actually by that time more than 200 nmi (230 mi; 370 km) out to sea east of the Florida peninsula.

Taylor radioed "We'll fly 270 degrees west until landfall or running out of gas" and requested a weather check at 17:24. By 17:50 several land-based radio stations had triangulated Flight 19's position as being within a 100 nmi (120 mi; 190 km) radius of 29°N 79°W; Flight 19 was north of the Bahamas and well off the coast of central Florida, but nobody transmitted this information on an open, repetitive basis. At 18:04, Taylor radioed to his flight "Holding 270, we didn't fly far enough east, we may as well just turn around and fly east again".

By that time, the weather had deteriorated even more and the sun had since set. Around 18:20, Taylor's last message was received. (It's also been reported that Taylor's last message was received at 7:04 pm.) He was heard saying "All planes close up tight ... we'll have to ditch unless landfall ... when the first plane drops below 10 gallons, we all go down together." At the same time, in the same area, SS Empire Viscount, a British-flagged tanker, radioed that she was in heavy seas and high winds northeast of the Bahamas, where Flight 19 was about to ditch.


Vincent Gaddis


While the 'Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea', written by Vincent Gaddis, was the first book on Bermuda Triangle, it was eventually followed by numerous other books, including the 'Limbo of the Lost' by John Wallace Spencer in 1969, 'The Devil's Triangle' and 'The Devil's Triangle 2' by Richard Winer in 1974 and 1975 respectively, and 'Into the Bermuda Triangle: Pursuing the Truth Behind the World's Greatest Mystery' by Gian J. Quasar in 2003.

While all these books, and a documentary released in 1971, did contribute to the popularity of the Bermuda Triangle hoax, the credit for actually sensationalizing this hoax to an extent that the whole world took a note of it goes to Charles Berlitz.


It was Charles Berlitz's 1974 bestseller, 'The Bermuda Triangle', which gave this mystery a serious boost, such that instantaneously the whole world was aware of this place which gobbled gigantic ships and aircraft - even before the crew realized what was happening.

No other work on Bermuda Triangle was as sensational as that of Berlitz. Right from Christopher Columbus' log records, wherein Columbus speaks about unusual events he experienced, to the Flight 19 incident and other recent incidents, Simply put, Berlitz's book had everything required to make Bermuda Triangle a worldwide sensation - which it actually did, but only until Larry Kusche came into the picture.


In 1975, the Bermuda Triangle once again shot to fame with the release of Larry Kusche's critical take on this mystery - 'The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved'. Unlike the previous authors like Charles Berlitz and Vincent Gaddis, Larry left no stones unturned and investigated all the claims that were made by them. In his book, Larry cites: "the legend of the Bermuda Triangle is a manufactured mystery, perpetuated by writers who either purposely or unknowingly made use of misconceptions, faulty reasoning, and sensationalism."

Larry noticed a 'strange' pattern wherein ships which never left the port, aircraft which never took off and accidents which happened in some other part of the Atlantic, found a place in these books about the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. Loopholes like Berlitz going to the extent of attributing the disappearance of Mary Celeste to the Devil's Triangle, when this ship never passed through the region, made it clear that there was nothing unusual.


Flight 19 leader


It may come as a surprise for many but the radio transmissions of Flight 19 leader, which have become an integral part of the sensational literature on the Bermuda triangle, are not even mentioned in the official reports of the Navy Board of Investigation.

The myth of the Bermuda Triangle became even more evident with the U.S. Navy refusing to identify any such region in the Atlantic, and oceanographers citing that accidents in this region were not at all rare as a result of weather conditions prevailing here. Interestingly, the Bermuda Triangle is not the only place which is notorious for such disappearances of ships and aircraft.

The Dragon's Triangle, off the coast of Japan, is also known for such mysterious disappearances of military vessels and aircraft. While that may not be intriguing any more, the fact that even this region owes its popularity to none other than Charles Berlitz and his storytelling, surely is! By Abhijit Naik.


San Francisco earthquake of 1906


The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 has been in the news lately not only because of its 0nehundredth anniversary, but also because of Hurricane “Katrina” and the destruction of large parts of New Orleans. Within days of “Katrina” the Washington Post - and many other papers alike - referred to the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, and most prominently the San Francisco earthquake to prove the point that “ravaged cities stand their ground” in America. Cities are like the mythical Phoenix, which is featured in San Francisco’s city seal.

They have been resurrected in the past and, therefore, the argument goes, the outlook for New Orleans is anything but gloomy.Historians in Europe and the United States who have looked at cities and their response to disasters more closely in recent years, certainly would agree with this conclusion. Cities “are among humankind’s most durable artifacts.” But where does this remarkable ability of cities to survive come from; an ability, by the way, which applies to cities in the United States and around the world.


In modern history, in the United States the destruction of big cities has been caused almost exclusively by natural disasters and accidents, in Europe the reason for destruction has often been war, whereas Asian countries experienced both. Does this make a difference?

Finally, is it really possible to predict the future of New Orleans and other disaster-stricken cities or would we be neglecting unique aspects that fostered the rebuilding of cities in the past but may not do so today?


The California earthquake of April 18, 1906


The San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 The California earthquake of April 18, 1906 ranks as one of the most significant earthquakes of all time. Today, its importance comes more from the wealth of scientific knowledge derived from it than from its sheer size. Rupturing the northernmost 296 miles (477 kilometers) of the San Andreas fault from northwest of San Juan Bautista to the triple junction at Cape Mendocino, the earthquake confounded contemporary geologists with its large, horizontal displacements and great rupture length.

Indeed, the significance of the fault and recognition of its large cumulative offset would not be fully appreciated until the advent of plate tectonics more than half a century later. Analysis of the 1906 displacements and strain in the surrounding crust led Reid (1910) to formulate his elastic-rebound theory of the earthquake source, which remains today the principal model of the earthquake cycle.


At almost precisely 5:12 a.m., local time, a foreshock occurred with sufficient force to be felt widely throughout the San Francisco Bay area. The great earthquake broke loose some 20 to 25 seconds later, with an epicentre near San Francisco. Violent shocks punctuated the strong shaking which lasted some 45 to 60 seconds.

The earthquake was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and inland as far as central Nevada. The highest Modified Mercalli Intensities (MMI's) of VII to IX paralleled the length of the rupture, extending as far as 80 kilometers inland from the fault trace.

One important characteristic of the shaking intensity noted in Lawson's (1908) report was the clear correlation of intensity with underlying geologic conditions. Areas situated in sediment-filled valleys sustained stronger shaking than nearby bedrock sites, and the strongest shaking occurred in areas where ground reclaimed from San Francisco Bay failed in the earthquake. Modern seismic-zonation practice accounts for the differences in seismic hazard posed by varying geologic conditions.


As a basic reference about the earthquake and the damage it caused, geologic observations of the fault rupture and shaking effects, and other consequences of the earthquake, the Lawson (1908) report remains the authoritative work, as well as arguably the most important study of a single earthquake. In the public's mind, this earthquake is perhaps remembered most for the fire it spawned in San Francisco, giving it the somewhat misleading appellation of the "San Francisco earthquake".

Shaking damage, however, was equally severe in many other places along the fault rupture. The frequently quoted value of 700 deaths caused by the earthquake and fire is now believed to underestimate the total loss of life by a factor of 3 or 4. Most of the fatalities occurred in San Francisco, and 189 were reported elsewhere.


death of 700,000 people in China


A single severe earthquake in 1976, for example, was responsible for the death of 700,000 people in China. It is estimated that earthquakes caused some two million deaths in the twentieth century alone. Earthquakes differ from natural catastrophes such as hurricanes and floods as well as from man made disasters like war because they occur entirely without warning.

The sudden movement of the earth, of the very foundation of human existence, calls the security of this existence into question in unique fashion. Earthquakes leave people with no time for preparation. They are of short duration: often, just a few moments are sufficient to do as much destruction as warfare might in days or even weeks.

They put societies in an extraordinary situation in which established political, social, economic, and cultural structures are put to a severe test. Such was the situation on April 18, 1906, On that Wednesday morning, the earth moved an average of ten feet horizontally and three feet vertically along a 300-mile stretch of the San Andreas fault. Although it is now estimated that the quake measured 8.3 on the Richter scale, damage in the city was initially limited.

There were many collapsed chimneys and broken windows, and numerous buildings lost their façades or roofs, but the majority of buildings survived the tremor. Light wooden houses appear to have held up just as well as the new downtown skyscrapers built of reinforced concrete, but still, about 5,000 houses were immediately destroyed. For the most part, they were either located on “made ground” – filled-in swamp land along the bay – or poorly constructed.


The earthquake had destroyed San Francisco’s obsolete underground water mains – hydrants throughout the city were useless. Within a few hours, the fires, spreading to the north and south west from the city center, had become an immense conflagration. One block after another was reduced to ash and rubble. Attempts to halt the flames at major streets failed repeatedly. Before the day was over, much of the city center had to be given up as lost.

Larger buildings – including the Palace Hotel where the famous singer Enrico Caruso had spent the night until the earthquake woke him at five in the morning – had their own supplies of water, but once those supplies were exhausted the buildings could not be saved.

Nor could smaller brick and cement buildings, which had been considered fireproof but now fell victim to the wooden structures that stood adjacent to them. Between Wednesday and Saturday morning, the fire destroyed 28,000 buildings and caused up to 500 million dollars in damages. Among the losses were the new city hall – the largest building in the country west of Chicago.


thunderstorms


Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes and hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail, and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms. High winds from thunderstorms can cause damage to homes, overturn vehicles, and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages.

Many strong thunderstorms produce hail. Large hail, and the glass it may break, can injure people and animals. Hail can be smaller than a pea, or as large as a softball, and can be very destructive to automobiles, glass surfaces (skylights and windows), roofs, plants, and crops. Downbursts and straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms can produce winds of 100 to 150 miles (161 to 241 kilometers) per hour—enough to flip cars, vans, and pickup trucks. The resulting damage can equal the damage of most tornadoes.


Lightning tree


Lightning is a major threat during a thunderstorm. Lightning produces thunder in a thunderstorm and is very unpredictable, increasing the risk to individuals and property. According to the National Weather Service, lightning kills on average more than 70 people and injures at least 300 others each year in the United States. While only about 10 percent of those struck are killed, the large majority of the 90 percent who survive suffer long-term injuries, such as memory loss, dizziness, muscle spasms, depression, and fatigue.

Lightning also causes about $5 billion in economic loss each year in the United States. Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles (16 kilometers) from any rainfall. Heat lightning is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder.

Because light travels so much faster than sound, lightning flashes can sometimes be seen long before the resulting thunder is heard. When the lightning and thunder occur very close to one another, the lightning is striking nearby. To estimate the number of miles you are from a thunderstorm, count the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder.

Divide this number by five. More than 50 percent of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm has passed. The National Weather Service encourages you to practice the 30/30 lightning safety rule: If the time between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds.


submarine earthquakes


More than one million earthquakes occur on the earth every year. A large majority of earthquakes will go unnoticed by most people because of their slight magnitude. On the other hand, some earthquakes are very strong and cause considerable damage. According to the distance from the earthquake epicentre, we have local earthquakes (in the region of the quake), near earthquakes (less than 1.000 km away), remote earthquakes (roughly up to 10.000 km), and so on.

Concerning the magnitude, the earthquakes are described as slight, moderate, great, and very great (global (catastrophe). In the past, people believed that an earthquake was a sign from gods, bringing punishment or announcing the end of the world.

However, earthquakes are natural movements of the earth's surface. When they occur on the ocean floor, they are called ocean or submarine earthquakes. Ground motion is produced by seismic waves, which transmit the tension generated in the interior of the earth. The tension is generated for many years as a result of gradual deformation of rocks, and finally produces fracturing of a part of the earth's mantle.The place where the shocks originate is called hypocentre. Directly above the hypocentre, on the surface, is the epicentre.

Concentric vibrations spread from the hypocentre throughout the earth's body. These are the earthquakes or seismic waves. "Seismos" is a Greek word meaning shock. The strongest shocks are found near the epicentre. They are measured and evaluated by instruments and observation. The most important instrument for measuring and studying earthquakes is the seismograph. It registers the generated waves.In order to obtain the most exact results, a seismograph (after its installation) should have a minimal contact with the earth's surface, otherwise it may register permanent earth movements.

The seismographs are therefore isolated from underground movements by being hung on springs or joints. The distance from the hypo-centre is determined using seismic travel-time curve. This is done by compiling the data concerning the moment of the arrival of various types of waves at various times recorded by a number of seismographic sites.

The distance from the epicentre is then calculated based on the available information. Today, all this is done using the most advanced computer technology. Once the epicentre is located, the intensity of the quake is measured in units of magnitude.


Californian seismologist Charles Richter


This scale was developed in 1935 by a Californian seismologist, Charles Richter. Measuring of the intensity of the earthquake on the basis of the observed shocks, which provides information concerning its subjective force, is done using Mercalli scale. When we look closely at regions where many earthquakes have occurred in recent years, we see that region which is most prone to earthquakes is at the edges of the continental plates of South and North America, the region of the Pacific Ocean, South Asia, and southern Europe.

The north of Europe, the interior of Australia, and Africa, as well as some oceans (with the exception of the ocean ridges) are almost free of earthquakes. As yet, there is no single explanation for shocks occurring in plates, where the earth's crust is considered stable.

It is assumed that the stress on the edges of these plates generates pressure in the middle of these formations, which may cause earthquakes at "weak points." Earthquake hypocentres are most common in the depths of 0 to 70 kilometres. Less common are earthquakes having hypocentres in great depths, of up to 700 kilometres. These occur mainly where due to slow drift of the tectonic plates the crust of plate edges is pushed down, as is the case, for example, of the South American Andes.


The Chernobyl nuclear power plant


The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was built in the wooded marshlands of northern Ukraine, approximately 80 miles north of Kiev. It's first reactor went online in 1977, the second in 1978, third in 1981, and fourth in 1983; two more were planned for construction. A small town, Pripyat, was also built near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to house the workers and their families. On April 25, 1986, reactor four was going to be shut down for some routine maintenance.

During the shutdown, technicians were also going to run a test. The test was to determine whether, in case of a power outage, the turbines could produce enough energy to keep the cooling system running until the backup generators came online. The shutdown and test began at 1 a.m. on April 25th. To get accurate results from the test, the operators turned off several of the safety systems, which turned out to be a disastrous decision. In the middle of the test, the shutdown had to be delayed nine hours because of a high demand for power in Kiev.

The shutdown and test continued again at 11:10 p.m. on the night of April 25th. Just after 1 a.m. on April 26th, the reactor's power dropped suddenly, causing a potentially dangerous situation. The operators tried to compensate for the low power but the reactor went out of control. If the safety systems had remained on, they would have fixed the problem; however, they were not. The reactor exploded at 1:23 a.m. The world discovered the accident two days later, on April 28th, when operators of the Swedish Forsmark nuclear power plant in Stockholm registered unusually high radiation levels near their plant.

When other plants around Europe began to register similar high radiation readings, they contacted the Soviet Union to find out what had happened. The Soviets denied any knowledge about a nuclear disaster until 9 p.m. on April 28th, when they announced to the world that one of the reactors had been "damaged." While trying to keep the nuclear disaster a secret, the Soviets were also trying to clean it up. At first they poured water on the many fires, then they tried to put them out with sand and lead and then nitrogen.

It took nearly two weeks to put the fires out. Citizens in the nearby towns were told to stay indoors. Pripyat was evacuated on April 27th, the day after the disaster had begun; the town of Chernobyl wasn't evacuated until May 2, six days after the explosion.

Physical clean-up of the area continued. Contaminated topsoil was placed into sealed barrels and radiated water contained. Soviet engineers also encased the remains of the fourth reactor in a large, concrete sarcophagus to prevent additional radiation leakage. The sarcophagus, constructed quickly and in dangerous conditions, had already begun to crumble by 1997.

An international consortium has begun to retrofit the encasing, expected to be completed in 2007.It is estimated that the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster was 100 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thirty-one people died shortly after the explosion, but thousands more will die from the long-term effects of radiation.


Challenger space shuttle


On 28 January,1986 the Challenger space shuttle blew up 73 seconds after launch. Seven lives and three billion dollars worth of equipment was lost. The Challenger accident was the result of a faulty sealing system which allowed exhaust flames from the Solid-Fuel Rocket Boosters (SRB) to vent directly on the external tank, rupturing the tank and causing the explosion. NASA identified the failure due to the improper sealing of the O-rings, the giant black rubber loops that help seal the segments of the SRBs.

The O-ring is made of a fluoroelastomer, which seals the joint between two solid rocket booster sections. An elastomer is a material that can be deformed dramatically and recover its shape completely. A rubber band is an example of an elastomer. In almost half of the shuttle flights there was O-ring erosion in the booster field joints. The launch took place in untested temperature conditions and in spite of serious warnings on the part of the engineers of Thiokol, the company that manufactured the SRBs.

The sequence of events that led to the unfortunate events is examined in order to draw the necessary conclusions. NASA was very anxious to proceed with the launch for a variety of reasons including, economic considerations and political pressure. To justify its budget NASA had scheduled a large number of missions in 1986.

It was vital for the Challenger to be launched so that there would be enough time to refurbish the launch pad to prepare it for the next launch. The European Space Agency was providing added competition and there was political pressure for the Challenger to be in space when the president of the US gave the State of the Union address.


Insect swarms

I

nsect swarms are the #9 natural disaster. Scientists who analyze fossil records suspect that long ago, insects ruled the earth and devoured everything in their path. An "explosion" (or swarm) involves a vast increase in the number of insect pests, the most common pests being locusts, mosquitoes, butterflies, moths, beetles, bugs, bees, and dragonflies. No one knows the exact reason for such events, but rising global temperatures are implicated. Insect populations increase when temperatures rise rapidly.

Warmer weather in northern climates leads to insect migration up from the tropics. Insects migrate in search of food, and rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere make leaves less nutritious because they contain less proteins, so consequently, insects are forced to eat more to acquire the nutrients they need.

The photo at right is of the Canary Islands (off the NW coast of Africa) which in 2004 was invaded by an estimated 100 million hungry locusts, prompting authorities to order massive evacuations. In many countries, locusts are the primary cause of starvation, and worldwide, bee stings and spider bites kill more people every year than non-insect bites, such as snakes which kill about 90,000 people a year.


Hurricanes


Hurricanes are products of the tropical ocean and atmosphere. Powered by heat from the sea, they are steered by the easterly trade winds and the temperate westerlies as well as by their own ferocious energy. Around their core, winds grow with great velocity, generating violent seas.

Moving ashore, they sweep the ocean inward while spawning tornadoes and producing torrential rains and floods. Each year on average, ten tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes) develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico.

Many of these remain over the ocean. However, about five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every 3 years. Of these five, two will be major hurricanes (category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale)


In the eastern Pacific, hurricanes begin forming by mid-May, while in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, hurricane development starts in June. For the United States, the peak hurricane threat exists from mid-August to late October although the official hurricane season extends through November. Over other parts of the world, such as the western Pacific, hurricanes can occur year-round. Developing hurricanes gather heat and energy through contact with warm ocean waters. The addition of moisture by evaporation from the sea surface powers them like giant heat engines.

The process by which a disturbance forms and subsequently strengthens into a hurricane depends on at least three conditions. Warm waters and moisture are mentioned above. The third condition is a wind pattern near the ocean surface that spirals air inward. Bands of thunderstorms form, allowing the air to warm further and rise higher into the atmosphere. If the winds at these higher levels are relatively light, this structure can remain intact and allow for additional strengthening.

The center, or eye, of a hurricane is relatively calm. The most violent activity takes place in the area immediately around the eye, called the eyewall. At the top of the eyewall (about 50,000 feet), most of the air is propelled outward, increasing the air’s upward motion. Some of the air, however, moves inward and sinks into the eye, creating a cloud-free area.


Storm surge


Storm surge is a large dome of water often 50 to 100 miles wide that sweeps across the coastline near where a hurricane makes landfall. The surge of high water topped by waves is devastating. The stronger the hurricane and the shallower the offshore water, the higher the surge will be. Along the immediate coast, storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property.

If the storm surge arrives at the same time as the high tide, the water height will be even greater. The storm tide is the combination of the storm surge and the normal astronomical tide. Hurricane-force winds, 74 mph or more, can destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes.

Debris, such as signs, roofing material, siding, and small items left outside, become flying missiles in hurricanes. Winds often stay above hurricane strength well inland. Hurricane Hugo (1989) battered Charlotte, North Carolina (which is about 175 miles inland), with gusts to near 100 mph, downing trees and power lines and causing massive disruption.


tornadoes


Hurricanes also produce tornadoes, which add to the hurricane’s destructive power. These tornadoes most often occur in thunderstorms embedded in rain bands well away from the center of the hurricane. However, they can also occur near the eyewall.

Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornado's can cause fatalities and devastate a neighbourhood in seconds. A tornado appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunder-storm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not uncommon to see clear, sunlit skies behind a tornado.



In its earliest stages, tornadoes are said to stem from thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are formed within three distinct stages, the first being the cumulus-stage. Certain atmospheric conditions which are present during the thunderstorm, such as moisture in the unstable air and some sort of lifting force, creates atmospheric instability.

Unstable air, which is warm and moist, rises when a lifting mechanism is present. Surface heating, which acts as the primary lifting force, heats the air near the ground. The air, in turn, becomes buoyant and begins to rise, otherwise known as an updraft. These updrafts, warm, moist swells of rising air, eventually begin to cool.


Tsunamis


We have all recently been under immense shock on what has happened in some of the regions of Asia last December 26, 2004, just a day after a joyous Christmas Celebration on the paradise-like place of Phuket and on the island of Sri Lanka. It was a great tragedy with the toll of dead people reaching about 135,000 now and left many of people injured, homeless and struggling to survive.

Here are some of the facts that you may want to know about Tsunamis: - Before the first wave of the tsunami hits, the shoreline recedes tremendously and it may even expose the sea or ocean floor and leave a bounty of fishes dry.

If you happen to see this, never let your curiosity get the better of you and immediately run to higher ground. - A tsunami can be a series of waves and mostly the first wave is the less intense of all. - Tsunamis only affect shallow waters or coastal areas. When tsunamis hit the deep areas of water, it just comes off as an average big ocean wave.

The Physics of tsunamis indicate that as it travels into shallow water, its height increases even reaching up to a hundred meters (100 m) in height in extreme cases. - Earthquakes are not the only causes of Tsunami, Tsunamis can also be generated from meteorites falling on a large body of water, a volcanic eruption, landslide or from any occurrence that displaces a large amount of water. - Animals domestic or wild can almost detect approaching tsunamis.

As observed from the Tsunami that hit last Dec. 26, 2004, the statistics of animals that were affected by the Tsunami were very very small and even negligible compared to the human casualties. Scientist and animal experts attribute this to the keen, attuned and sensitive senses of animals as compared to humans. - Tsunamis can also be earlier detected with a Tsunameter, a device that can detect an approaching Tidal Wave. Unfortunately, only a few countries could afford this device. Sri Lanka has considered of acquiring one but that project was not pushed through.

These are just a few facts that you may want to know about Tsunamis. Tsunamis are deadly and may cause destruction of lives, properties, and even an entire place. The best weapon against this kind of unprecedented and unstoppable occurrence is a well educated and well informed public so that even if properties may get washed away, lives may still be saved.



The 1964 Anchorage, Alaska, earthquake and the resulting tsunami struck without warning on Good Friday, March 27. It was a quiet spring day in Anchorage, a holiday. Temperatures were seasonably mild with a moderate amount of snow on the ground.

Children had the day off from school, and customer traffic in the stores downtown was light. Many residents were preparing or enjoying dinner at home. At 5:36 p.m. a major earthquake began to shake the ground, and the earth beneath Southcentral Alaska moved in waves for the next four long minutes.

Parents and children slipped, stumbled and fell on shifting floors in a panicked effort to get outdoors to escape breaking windows. Two inch cracks appeared in the ground in many places. Roads wrinkled and split and Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage broke apart and collapsed 10 feet or more.

The Government Hill Elementary School twisted, shifted and became unusable in a moment. The outside wall of the J.C. Penney building crashed to the street. In the Turnagain residential district the ground liquefied like quicksand, slid away, and swallowed up 75 or more homes. The four minute earthquake released the energy roughly equivalent to 10 million times the force of an atomic bomb.

The mass of the earth and ocean absorbed most of the force, but manmade structures in the area could not absorb the rest of the force without suffering massive damage. Total property damage was estimated at $500 million.Anchorage was crippled as gas lines and water lines were severed abruptly. Residents resorted to melting snow for water while awaiting repairs. Four days later students returned to available schools as life in Anchorage began to recover.


Hindenburg’s


Hindenburg’s three-day transatlantic crossing that began on Monday evening, 3 May 1936 was uneventful but for bad weather that seemed to dog the journey. At midnight, the Hindenburg encountered its first storm over the North Sea, and by predawn, it had risen from its usual cruising altitude of 800 to 1,000 feet (244-305 meters) to 2,100 feet (640 meters) to fly above the storms as it followed the English Channel. Midday Tuesday saw the Hindenburg resume a normal cruising altitude as it passed southwest of Ireland, but again encountered strong headwinds heading out over the Atlantic.

Wednesday passed uneventfully enough as the Hindenburg sailed within 808 miles (1,300 km) of Newfoundland, Canada. Reportedly, Captain Lehmann spent some time that evening in the lounge playing his accordion for passengers.


The next day, 6 May 1936 at roughly 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the great shadow of the Hindenburg slipped over New York City as it majestically crisscrossed the city. The international passengers were treated to views of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Harlem, the Bronx and a baseball game in progress between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets field.

While the Hindenburg had the option to land at 4:00 p.m., a lightening storm in the area caused Commander Pruss to opt for a scenic ride up the Eastern seaboard instead, hoping weather conditions would improve before having to set down. As hoped, the sky began clearing, and at 7:00 p.m. the mighty Hindenburg approached the Naval airbase in Lakehurst, New Jersey to set down. A crowd of reporters, dignitaries and well-wishers were on hand for the newsworthy event.


The starboard bow mooring rope dropped to the ground 260 feet (79 meters) below at 7:23 p.m., just as witnesses saw a blue arc forward of the tail fin, followed by a huge fiery explosion. Flames engulfed the entire rear of the Hindenburg and the airship began falling, stern first, to the ground. Fire shot across the ship’s skin, fueled by the hydrogen within, as the nose of the bow shot flames skyward, following the stern down. Ground crews below ran for their lives with the colossal fiery ship swallowing the sky above.

Many passengers and crew of the Hindenburg frantically leapt for their lives through broken windows, some attempting to slide down mooring ropes as the unbelievable catastrophe unfolded. No sooner had the gigantic ship collapsed into a fiery heap, than ground crews ran back into towering smoke and flames to help escaping passengers that rode the Hindenburg to the ground. Many people were pulled from the wreckage on fire, while others miraculously escaped unharmed. The entire disaster took place in just 32 seconds.


The famine in Ethiopia 1984-1985


The famine in Ethiopia 1984-1985 is considered one of the most devastating famines in the history of mankind. There were actually two famines, both of which were equally destructive, during this period - one in the northern region and one in the southern region. The famine in the north was mainly due to the government's callous carelessness and the famine in the south was mainly due to the failure of short rains at that time.

The reign of the Derg is widely considered the most important cause of the famine in Ethiopia 1984. When the Derg was in control, there were insurgencies in as many as fourteen of the country's administrative regions. A lot of local groups were competing against each other to take control of the country during this period. So, in order to put an end to all these insurgencies, the Derg started to kill the 'suspected' enemies of the government.

This period (1977 to 1978) is called the Red Terror during which hundreds of thousands of people were killed systematically by the Derg. It won't be farfetched to say that the seeds of the famine in Ethiopia 1984 were deliberately sown during the Red Terror. During this period, the AMC (Agricultural Marketing Corporation), a corporation set up by the Derg, started extracting food from the peasants in the rural areas to feed the urban population.

This move was a direct result of the nationwide unrest among the urban population thanks to the insurgencies. The Derg tried to pacify the urban population by giving food grains at very cheap prices. However, this turned out to be a disaster for the rural population, especially the peasantry. The Derg fixed a very low price for food grains and this turned out to be a disincentive to production in the rural areas. The farmers, who were supposed to give their share of food grains to the AMC, bought grains in the open market amassing a lot of debts.

One of the most heinous moves of the Derg was the restriction of non-agricultural activities. Thanks to this shocking move, the farmers were not able to engage in non-agricultural activities such as migrant labor and petty trading.

As a result, they were not able to supplement their poor income. During this period, nearly 500,000 farmers lost a significant part of their income which led to a collapse in state run commercial farms. All these things led to the famine in Ethiopia 1984 in the northern part of the country. In the mid eighties, things were chaotic in Ethiopia.

The local insurgencies, the total failure of crops, and the Derg's reckless attitude led to a major humanitarian crisis during the aftermath of the famine in Ethiopia 1984. Nearly six million people were dependant on relief food and waterborne diseases and hunger deaths were rampant.

During this time, the international community severely criticized the government and a lot of relief organizations offered food to the affected people. The people who lived in the famine-hit part of the country were moved to the southern part.

The famine in Ethiopia 1984 affected nearly eight million people. The estimated death toll is over one million. A lot of historians called it a 'Biblical famine in the 20th century'. A lot of countries including the U.S., the Soviet Union, Germany, Poland, Canada, and Switzerland were involved in the humanitarian response to the famine.


The Exxon Valdez oil spill


The Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of the greatest ocean disasters in modern day history. The problems caused by the spill were too great for even the large company to hide under a market umbrella. The spill happened years ago, but it still remains a popular topic because of its effects on the environment. The Exxon Valdez oil happened in 1989 on March 24, near Alaska in the Prince William Sound. It was one of the worst environmental disasters that had a human cause.

Over 10 million gallons of oil spilled into the environment and the location made it difficult for clean up crews to reach the area. Before workers reached the scene, over 11,000 square miles were affected. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill gives more details on the overview, as does Remembering the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. The Exxon Valdez ship left around 9 pm on March 23 of that year.

The ship was forced to move around because of ice in the area. Two met steering the ship apparently started a 12 hour ship without first getting the proper amount of time off. The captain requested permission to move the ship again because of ice and moved it again, where it hit Bligh Reef. The Reef cracked the hull of the ship, causing the oil to spill out. Had the captain kept the ship on course, the problem wouldn’t have occurred.

The cause is discussed at History & Facts and The Encyclopedia of Earth. A large amount of problems caused by the oil spill were caused by the cleanup measures. Oil was pushed into the water and also pushed off microbial organisms such as plankton. Other animals depended on those organisms for survival, but they were destroyed during the cleanup.

A large amount of oil stayed on the coastline where it still sits today. Hundreds of thousands of animals died right away including sea otters, seabirds, bald eagles, harbor seals and orcas. Many animals continued to die later or experience health problems. The company couldn’t hide the problems under their umbrellas though they did try. Oil Spills and NOAA Fisheries focuses on the impacts. The spill led to several different cleanup measures.

A private company arrived first and used a mixture that caused the oil to slide off the surface of objects and mix with the water. They didn’t have enough of the product so they were called back. A second cleanup measure involved using an explosion to reduce the amount of oil, but was called off because of bad weather. The company brought it mechanical equipment, but it only worked for a short period of time before becoming clogged. High pressure water hoses forced the oil off the shore and into the water. The Anchorage Daily News and Prince William Sound discuss the clean up measures.


The aftermath is carefully looked at by NOAA and Exxon Valdez the Aftermath. Exxon Mobile claimed that no harmful effects were shown on the environment, though other studies dispute this fact. They claim that the oil spilled still causes problems today in the animal population. Exxon Mobile lost a lawsuit totaling $287 million for damages and several billion dollars in punitive damages.

A further investigation into the case found that the master of the ship was quite possibly under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. They also discovered that the crew and the Coast Guard were both partly at fault.

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which specified that any vessel involved in an oil spill couldn’t operate in Prince William Sound, came about as result of the spill. The Exxon Valdez was repaired and is still in use today.


Hillsborough Stadium Football Disaster


Hillsborough Stadium Football Disaster, 15 April 1989 At the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest which was held at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough Stadium on 15 April 1989 a tragedy unfolded that involved the death of many Liverpool supporters. As the kick-off time approached there was an increasing crush outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles.

To avoid injury, the police decided to open an exit gate to let more fans into the stadium. This resulted in a major influx of fans into an already crowded part of the ground, causing many to be crushed against security and crush barriers on the terraces in the West Stand. 96 of them died from their injuries.

An inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Taylor, published its findings (known as the Taylor report) in August 1989 and January 1990. It outlined the events of that day and made a number of recommendations on football stadium design. Copies of the reports are available in the Local Studies and the Arts and Social Sciences libraries in Sheffield Central Library.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy there was considerable controversy over the way some newspapers reported the events and also in the conduct of the South Yorkshire Police.


Asteroid impacts


Asteroid impacts are the #10 natural disaster. Sure, the big impact events only happen about every 14,000 years, and the planet killers only come around every 300 million years, but stuff falling out of the sky happens all the time (most of it from nature). 500 meteorites strike the Earth's surface every year. At least ten, big near-misses from big asteroids have occurred during 1994-2007.

A large object striking Earth would inject huge quantities of dust into the stratosphere, depress temperatures around the globe, and lead to massive crop loss and the possible breakdown of society. The death toll might be in the billions.

Outer space, it turns out, is pretty crowded with a lot of junk. NASA and groups like the Catalina Sky Survey estimate that there are at least 900 "Potentially Hazardous Asteroids" out there threatening earth at present. In addition, there are an estimated 7000 "Near Earth Objects" travelling about in space.

Even a near-miss is significant because it almost always creates some degree of electromagnetic interference in the Earth's magnetosphere, sometimes triggering natural disasters, fire storms, and unknown effects. Advance warning may be zero in some cases.


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