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Throwback Thursday: Eclipse of Thales 585 BC

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Ancient Origins Total Eclipse Image One
Image Credit: Ancient Origins

Two thousand, six hundred and five years ago, today (roughly speaking)

The eclipse of Thales was a solar eclipse that was, according to The Histories of Herodotus, accurately predicted by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. If Herodotus‘s account is accurate, this eclipse is the earliest recorded (per Isaac Asimov) as being known in advance of its occurrence. How, exactly, Thales predicted the eclipse remains uncertain […].

According to Herodotus, the appearance of the eclipse was interpreted as an omen and, interrupted a battle in a long-standing war between the Medes and the Lydians. The fighting immediately stopped and they agreed to a truce. Because astronomers can calculate the dates of historical eclipses, Isaac Asimov described this battle as the earliest historical event whose date is known with precision to the day and described the prediction as the birth of science.

Ancient Origins Annular Eclipse Image Two
Photo Credit: Ancient Origins

The Mechanics of a Monumentally Difficult Prediction

The reason this astronomical event is thought of as being so important is that predicting a solar eclipse, compared with a lunar eclipse, is exceptionally difficult. The astronomer must not only calculate when it will occur but, where on Earth’s surface it will be visible […]. [In] a lunar eclipse, the moon passes through the Earth’s sun shadow and the phenomena is visible on the whole side of the Earth that is in night-time […]. [They] often last longer than an hour. In solar eclipses, however, the moon’s shadow falls across the Earth in a comparatively narrow path, with a maximum duration, at any given location, of about 7 1/2 minutes.

Moon Blink Eclipse Track Image Three
Eclipse Track
Image Credit: Moon Blink

[What] makes Thales’ prediction [an] historical mystery is that historians know early Greeks, at large, didn’t have this essential lunar data and there are no other records of Greek astronomers in this period accurately predicting any other eclipses. Thus, it is thought by historians that the only place Thales’ advanced astronomical knowledge could have come from was Egypt. [It’s] known [that] Thales studied Egyptian techniques for measuring sections of land with rope […].

Returning [to] the war (mentioned above), after 15 years of fighting, on May 28, 585 BC, the armies of King Aylattes of Lydia were in battle with the forces of King Cyaxares of Medes (or, possibly, Astyages, his son), near the River Halys in what is, today, central Turkey. Chroniclers noted the heavens darkening and soldiers on both sides laying down their weapons in awe of the spectacle […]. [The] event ended both the battle and the war.

[A] Wired article says this famous astronomical event has been debated by hundreds of scholars for nearly two millennia and that some authorities believe Thales’ eclipse may have occurred 25 years earlier in 610 BC. But, the reason most agree with the 585 BC date is the record of the famous battle in Asia Minor ending when the day was suddenly turned to night.

Additional Reading & Sources:
The Battle of the Solar Eclipse (Ancient Origins)
Total Solar Eclipse of May 28, 0585 BC (Moon Blink)
Happy Birthday to Science (Web Archive)
Battle of the Eclipse (Wikipedia)
Eclipse of Thales (Wikipedia)
Predicted Solar Eclipse Stops Battle (Wired)

Throwback Thursday: The Battle of Culloden 1746

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The Battle of Culloden Image One
Image Credit: britatheart.wordpress.com

Two-hundred, seventy-four years ago, today, the Battle of Culloden (east of Inverness), also referred to as the Battle Of Drummossie was the last confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite Rising (Forty-Five Rebellion).

The battle […] is significant as the last pitched battle fought on the British mainland. It was also the last battle of the final Jacobite Rising that commenced in 1745 when Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), grandson of the exiled King James VII & II, arrived in Scotland from France in July and raised his standard at Glenfinnan [in August]. His aim was to put his father on the throne in place of the Hanoverian George II.

The battle was a total and bloody defeat for the Jacobites which effectively marked the end of almost sixty years of the Jacobite struggle, as never again would an armed uprising be used in the attempt to return the Stuarts to the throne. The government victory also paved the way for a sustained programme to destroy the power base of the rebel clans.

Culloden (pronounced culawden, with the emphasis on ‘oden‘) is one of the most important battles in the history of the British Isles and has international significance. It is the final battle fought on the British mainland and brings to an end more than half a century […] of Jacobite conflict, itself played out against a background of wider international wars. Its aftermath transforms the Highlands, bringing to an end the traditional way of life of the area and contributing to the subsequent clearances. The battle also holds a prominent place within the Scottish cultural legacy, frequently depicted, and commemorated, in art, music, literature and film. The battlefield, itself, is one of the most visited tourist sites in the Highlands […]. [T]he site holds a particularly high significance, and emotional connection, to many within Scotland and to the ancestors of the Scottish Diaspora.

The official return for British Army casualties (government troops) was 50 officers, and men, killed and 259 wounded [with] one missing (a proportion of the wounded later died of their wounds). Jacobite fatalities have been estimated at between 1,200-1,500 with between 400 and 500 prisoners taken in the immediate aftermath and many more in the days which followed. Only the Irish and Scottish troops in French service were treated as bona fide prisoners of war, the rest as rebels.

The Battle of Culloden Image Two
Image Credit: britishbattles.com

The battle, which lasted only 40 minutes, resulted in bitter defeat for the heavily outnumbered Jacobites. Led by the Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II, [the] devastating slaughter of the Jacobites was the result of the opening British cannonade and, subsequent tactics of the Redcoats during the attack […] when each British soldier, instead of attacking the Highlander directly in front of him, bayoneted the exposed side of the man to his right. The Highlanders finally broke and fled […].

Hunted by troops and spies, Prince Charles wandered over Scotland for five months before escaping to France and final exile. The [battle] […] marked the end of any serious attempt by the Jacobites to restore the Stuart dynasty to the British throne.

A generation before, a previous Jacobite rebellion had been thwarted by the king’s officer, George Wade, who had “pacified” and “disarmed” the highland clans. So concerned was the English establishment, and relieved by Wade’s actions, that an additional verse to the National Anthem was penned:
God grant the Marshal Wade
May be thy Mighty aid,
Victory bring;
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the king

Fallout (Late Add):
The high ranking “rebel lords” were executed on Tower Hill in London. Britain enacted punitive laws to prevent the clans rising, again:
(1) Episcopal clergy were required to swear allegiance to the House of Hanover.
(2) The Heritable Jurisdictions Act 1749 abolished judicial rights of heritors, stripping estates from lords and clan chiefs.
(3) The Act of Proscription 1746 was enacted to destroy the clan system.
(4) The Dress Act 1746 made wearing the Highland Dress illegal in Scotland, except for the military-based kilt wearing of the Black Watch

Addendum: “Culloden is viewed by the Scottish people as a war grave. To my fellow Americans, stepping onto the Culloden battlefield would be like visiting Gettysburg or Normandy. And, since Scotland views it as a grave, you could also liken it to Arlington Cemetery. You don’t simply walk onto any of these places with a light spirit.” ~Brit At Heart

Sources:
Ascanius (Web Archive)
Battle of Culloden (Britannica)
Battle of Culloden (British Battles)
Battle of Culloden (Historic Environment Scotland)
Battle of Culloden (Wikipedia)
Battle of Culloden Moor (Web Archive)
Culloden (National Trust for Scotland)
Culloden 1745 Culloden 2010 (Bluestocking)
Culloden Ghosts (About Aberdeen)
Culloden Moor (Web Archive)
The Battle of Culloden (Historic UK)

2020 Anniversary Lament

Documentary From 1964

Flick Friday: The Girl In Number 29 1920

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The Girl In Number 29 Image One
Image Credit: Movie Poster Database
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

One-hundred years ago, today, the silent black & white drama film The Girl In Number 29 premiered (though not released, widely). Directed by John Ford and written by Philip D. Hurn, it was based upon the novel The Girl In The Mirror (1919) by Elizabeth Jordan. Starring Frank Mayo, Elinor Fair, Claire Anderson, Robert Bolder and Bull Montana, it is considered a lost film.

Frank Mayo & Claire Anderson Image Two
Frank Mayo & Claire Anderson
Image Credit: Motion Picture News
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

From AFI:

After turning out a successful drama, young playwright Laurie Devon settles down to a life of idleness. Alarmed and disgusted, his friends make every effort to get him to work again but, he refuses. One evening, while glancing into his mirror, Laurie sees a beautiful girl in the apartment across the way, holding a revolver to her head. Dashing out of his apartment house, he prevents her from pulling the trigger. He learns that her name is Doris Williams and discovers that her plight is caused by a man named Shaw. Soon after, Shaw and his thugs abduct her, and Laurie comes to her rescue, shooting her tormentor. Returning home, he confesses his crime to his sister and friends, and learns that the whole incident was a trick to restore his interest in life. The plot succeeds and Laurie writes another hit play in which his new wife Doris is the star.

From MPN:

Laurie Devon (Mayo) is a New York playwright who, having had one success, refuses to work on another play. One night he sees a woman (Anderson) in an apartment across the street take out a gun and place it to her forehead. He reaches her in time to save her and she tells him that she is under some terrible evil influence, which she will not disclose. Devon attempts to untangle the mystery and is led on an adventure. The woman is taken to a house on Long Island, where Devon, after a fight, rescues her. He takes out the revolver and shoots one of the pursuers, who falls to the ground. On returning home, he is heartbroken and tells his sister Barbara (Fair) and his friends that he is a murderer. His sister, and two of his friends, then confess that the whole thing was a frame-up. [T]hey had hired some actors to stage everything and that it was an attempt to get the ambitionless [sic] author to write again. The revolver used in the suicide attempt by the woman, and in the later shooting, had blanks. Devon and the woman from the apartment melt into each other’s arms at the final fade-out.

Elinor Fair & Harry Hilliard Image Three
Elinor Fair & Harry Hilliard
Image Credit: Exhibitors Herald
archive.org
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Additional Reading & Sources
American Film Institute
IMDB
Web Archive
Wikipedia

Wayback Wednesday: Tybee Island Bomb Accident 1958

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Tybee Bomb Image One
Image Credit: cafepress.com
Silkscreen Image For T-shirts

America lost a bomb. I’m not kidding. Sixty-two years ago, today, the United States Air Force dropped a nuclear bomb in the water off the coast of Tybee Island, very close to Savannah, Georgia. A North American Aviation F-86 Sabrejet fighter plane and a Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber collided during practicing exercises and, in fear of a detonation in the event of a crash, the crew jettisoned the bomb. They still haven’t found it and it is assumed to be somewhere at the bottom of Wassaw Sound.

Midair Collision:

The B-47 bomber was on a simulated combat mission from Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. It was carrying a single 7,600-pound bomb. At about 2:00am EST, an F-86 fighter collided with the B-47. The F-86 crashed after the pilot ejected from the plane. The damaged B-47 remained airborne, plummeting 18,000 feet from 38,000 feet when [the pilot] regained flight control. The crew requested permission to [drop] the bomb in order to reduce weight and prevent the bomb from exploding during an emergency landing. Permission was granted and the bomb was jettisoned at 7,200 feet […]. The crew did not see an explosion when the bomb struck the sea. They managed to land the B-47 safely at […] Hunter Air Force Base. The pilot, a Colonel Howard Richardson, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after this incident.

Tybee Bomb Image Two
Image Credit: npr.org

The Bomb:

Some sources describe the bomb as a functional nuclear weapon but, others describe it as disabled. If it had a plutonium nuclear core installed, it was a fully functional weapon. If it had a dummy core installed, it was incapable of producing a nuclear explosion but, could still produce a conventional explosion. […] The Air Force maintains that its nuclear capsule, used to initiate the nuclear reaction, was removed before its flight aboard B-47. […] the bomb contained a simulated 150-pound cap made of lead. However, according to 1966 Congressional testimony by Assistant Secretary of Defense W.J. Howard, the Tybee Island bomb was a “complete weapon, a bomb with a nuclear capsule” and one of two weapons lost that contained a plutonium trigger. Nevertheless, a study of the Strategic Air Command documents indicates that Alert Force test flights in February 1958 with the older Mark 15 payloads were not authorized to fly with nuclear capsules on board.

The collision, and its aftermath, also drives the plot of the novel Three Chords & The Truth by Craig McDonald, published in November 2016.

Missing For 50 Years (BBC News)
This Day In Aviation (This site claims the bomber was from MacDill Air Force Base)
Lost H-Bomb: RIP (Savannah Now Archive)
The Case of the Missing H-Bomb (Counterpunch Archive)
The Colonel and the Bomb (The Atlantic)