Archive for July, 2010

The Grifon Did Not Sink But Peter Benchley Gains a Script Anyway
July 31, 2010

The Grifon from "The Deep" Was Real and So Was Bisset

Shaw Keeps His Eyes Forward
Shaw Keeps His Eyes Forward

On this date in 1715, the French ship Grifon survived a hurricane off the coast of Florida. “So what,” you ask?Well, first off when the Spanish came to the new world they were looking for booty and plunder. They wanted to exploit the region for its natural resources and send it back to the king in Spain. So they would gather up all of their gold and trinkets and send them back on ships, usually in a convoy to protect against pirates. The Spaniards were rather formidable in those days and so it was suicide for any marauding pirates to try and take on a fleet of ships. On this date in 1715, 10 Spanish ships and one French ship made its way through the Straits of Florida. 

Shaw wasn't making up the stuff about the Griffon

Shaw wasn't making up the stuff about the Griffon

The flotilla rounded the Florida peninsula in order to follow the Gulf Stream back to Europe.  As it made their way up the east coast of Florida,  the entire fleet ran into a hurricane. Some sources say the fleet hit the hurricane on July 30, 1715 and I suspect the difference is that the ships went down on the night of the 30th or early morning of the 31st as this account implies.    In any event, for some reason, the French ship sailed farther off the coast from the Spaniards. The Spanish ships, filled with hundreds of tons of gold and silver, sunk. Some estimate the value of the treasure in 1975 dollars was about $86 million.  But,  the French ship survived. That French ship was the Grifon.

Painting of 1715 Ship Wreck

The sinking of the Spanish fleet in 1715 was one of the worst of Spain’s New World ventures in terms of lives and treasure lost.  Over 1000 men went to the bottom with the 10 ships and the crown lost over 14 million pesos.  Maritime historians that the ultimate cause of the disaster beyond the hurricane was that the Spanish had a habit of over loading their galleons and speculation is that was the case with the 1715 Spanish fleet.   News of the disaster reached Havana and Spain quickly dispatched ships for salvage operations.  A good bit of the treasure was located in waters shallow enough for breath-holding divers to gather a large number of coins.  The salvage operations took several years to complete and the Spanish built a small store house on the edge of a small island to house the treasure until it could be taken back to Spain.  But, British freebooters caught wind of the operation and in 1716, a bunch of ships under the charge of Henry Jennings raided the island and made off with 350,000 pesos.  Undeterred, the Spanish resumed salvaging until they had gotten all that they could get in 1719. 

A Famous Scene from "The Deep"

A Famous Scene from "The Deep"

If you remember the movie The Deep then this ship is familiar to you. Its the ship that Robert Shaw decided had survived but later came back and may have sunk. I’ve provided a script from the scene below. But anyway, there are two things that come to mind from this. First is that Peter Benchley did a fabulous job of basing his fictitious tale on accurate history. I was very surprised that there really was a Grifon that really was the only ship to not sink in a hurricane. The other thing is that about 80% of that gold was recovered by the Spanish by 1719 but the rest did not come back to the surface until the mid 1960’s, which makes me wonder how much of Benchley’s script was really ficticious. Speaking of scripts, if you can take your eyes off of the photo of Jacqueline  Bisset, you can read the script from The Deep, here.

Weather Bottom Line:  Morning rain should give way to cloudy skies.  I doubt if we get to 90 today.  But, the warm front will slowly lift north and we will become hotter and more humid again.  Look for scattered showers and t-storms for a couple of days and then a big fat ridge noses up from the Southwest which will limit rain chances and take our temperatures back into the mid to upper 90’s probably beginning on Tuesday.

God has not always been found on US currency or the Pledge of Allegiance
July 30, 2010

Salmon P. Chase ca. 1860

On This Date in History: When the Civil War first broke out in April 1861, most Americans, particularly those from the North, assumed the conflict would end quickly. Toward the end of that year, it became all too apparent that it could be a very long and bloody affair. Perhaps it is that realization that caused citizens in the Union to urge Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to add some recognition to the Deity on US money. While I understand the sentiment, I do not understand the relevance of placing such a recognition on coinage. Nevertheless, on November 20, 1861 Chase called on Philadelphia Mint Director James Pollock to come up with a motto that would be included on all future coinage. Chase wrote in part: “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.” While he did not specify what to put on the coins, he did tell Pollock to use the “fewest and tersest” words possible and to do so without delay.

US 1864 Two Cent Coin

But, it was not possible for anyone to just add mottos to US coins willy-nilly. Legislation passed in 1837 required that the mint get congressional approval before any verbiage was added to any coin. So, once Pollock came up with a phrase to put on the coins, he had to get the go-ahead from Congress before he could begin stamping it on the coins. Now, Chase had told Pollock to act “without unneccesary delay.” I suppose Pollock found necessary delays because he did not get around to submitting the potential verbiage until December 1863. It took him two years to come up with 3 choices: Our Country, Our God and God, Our Trust. Chase responded on December 9, 1863 of his approval with some modifications. He said that on the Washington obverse, the phrase should read, “Our God and Our Country” and on the shield it should read “In God We Trust.” Congress passed legislation in April 1864 that approved the two additions. The two-cent coin minted in 1864 was the first coin to bear the words, “In God We Trust.”

US two cent coin 1867

From that point forth, most coins received the new verbiage but, for some reason, it disappeared from the nickel in 1883 and did not return to the 5 cent coin until production of the Jefferson nickel in 1938. Shortly after the double eagle gold coin and eagle gold coin was put into circulation in 1907, new coins appeared without the phrase. Pressure almost immediately was brought down on the mint and in 1908, Congress passed a law that stated that all coins which had previously had the phrase must continue to include “In God We Trust” on all future mintings of those coins. Curiously, the phrase was not mandatory on the penny or the nickel but could be put on those coins at the mint director’s discretion pending approval from the treasury secretary. However, “In God We Trust” was not the official US Motto. It was not until the 1950’s that “In God We Trust” gained such a distinction.

Dr. George Docherty gave a sermon at the York Ave Presbyterian Church on Feb 7 1954 that is said to have persuaded Ike to support adding "Under God" to the Pledge

President Eisenhower on this date in 1956 signed into law a bill requiring “In God We Trust” to be put on all currency and be considered the official US Motto. It also stipulated that along with “In God We Trust,” “E-Pluribus Unum” and “United States of America” would also be included on all US coins. Since the Civil War the motto had been put on all coins but not paper currency. The “In God We Trust” bill came just two years after Eisenhower signed a bill that added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Most historians conclude the action of Congress and the President was part of a reaction to the “Red Scare” of the 1950′s. Eisenhower himself has been said to have been raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, while more modern accounts suggest he was raised as a Mennonite. Sources say that Ike abandoned his family religion but that religion was still important to him. In 1953, he was baptised as a Presbyterian, less than a year into his first term as President. So, it was just 1 year after Ike made his personal conversion that he came to support the mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance and 3 years prior to his acceptance of God in an official US motto.

Argument over Church/State Separation Has Gone on For a Long Time

Today some people claim that the insertion of God into state mottos and the pledge is a violation of the separation of church and state. Many defenders of the verbiage mistakenly think that the inclusion of God was mandated by our founders when in fact, “under God” and “In God We Trust” did not come along until well after the founders were dead and gone. Would the founding fathers have approved of such a motto? Just because they did not endorse a motto does not necessarily mean that they would be against it. Maybe they had better things to do. Then again, they never even approved a pledge of allegiance either. It is difficult to get into the heads of figures from the past and we are left to try to discern their intent from the writings that they left behind. Silence can be a tacit acknowledgement of the founder’s stance. The question remains as to which side of the argument the tacitness would fall. Then again, perhaps the silence was merely the result of their not having ever thought of mottos or pledges of allegiance or anything else. They were, after all, pretty busy considering a number of pressing issues.

Weather Bottom Line: As I mentioned the last couple of days, Friday will have a much more comfortable start than we’ve seen the last couple of weeks and the afternoon will only see highs in the 80’s with reasonable comfortable humidity. Don’t get used to it. While Saturday morning will start off very pleasant, the cold front that came through and brougth the relief will come back as a warm front. I”ve seen some forecasts with a rather pedestrian rain chance on Saturday. From where I sit, while its not a guarantee that you will get rain or t’storms on Saturday, I think that it’s a better than fair prospect. Just from the standpoint that the warm front is coming back during the heat of the day is enough. While I do not see any shortwaves riding down the frontal boundary from the northwest, it does not mean that one that is not showing up on the models will not do so. A shortwave coming down from Iowa on Friday doesn’t really show up too much so, that’s possible. They are sometimes tough for the computers to find. Even so, the models tend to show some rain over our area. I am not going to water my sunflowers on Friday as I think I’ll get some rain on Saturday. If not ,well it will be hot and humid again on Sunday with the potential for scattered showers and t’storms Sunday and Monday…warranting pedestrian rain chances. After that, I think we will see a big fat ridge assert itself from the Southwest that will limit the rain chances for midweek and serve to take temperatures to the mid and upper 90’s at some point and the humidity will be tough. So, enjoy your Friday while you can.

The Forgotten Tragic Loss of American Airmen at Hiroshima
July 29, 2010

Tom Cartwright, standing 3rd from Left, Only Survivor of Lonesome Lady Crew Which Was in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

B-24 Liberator "Lonesome Lady" Nose Art

On This Date in History:  By the end of July 1945, the allies pretty much had secured air superiority over the Empire of Japan.   The Japanese, however, showed no signs of giving up any time soon so the Americans continued to bomb targets on the Japanese mainland.  On the morning of July 28, 1945 several small groups of B-24 Liberators took off to fly their mission.  The target was the Japanese Battleship Haruna, one of the few battleships remaining in the once mighty Japanese Navy.  The group of planes that included the “Lonesome Lady” was short one plane so it only had 5 B-24s in its flight.  Now, the Haruna was anchored in the Kure Harbor Naval Base, which was heavily armed with anti-aircraft defenses.  The Haruna and other vessels at the base also were naturally heavily armed.  Members of the US Army Air Corps generally had a rule of thumb: “never fly over a battleship.”  However, Lonesome Lady pilot Lt. T.C. Cartwright knew that orders always trumped rules of thumb.

The Lonesome Lady Turned Back Over Land Instead of Safety of Sea

After the Lonesome Lady dropped its bombs,  Cartwright noticed that one of its companion planes, the Taloa. was shot down.  One of those killed in the crash of the Taloa was Lt. Robert C. Johnston, whose family learned of his fate in 2009.  Shortly after the Taloa fell from the sky, another B-24 went down, though it was able to make its way toward a US held island near Okinawa.   The Lonesome Lady took a hit and Cartwright thought that he could make it back to the ocean but he soon realized that the damage was to allow for that strategy.  The plane became so uncontrollable that it deviated from its heading toward the sea back toward the land on its own.  With an engine in flames and the hydraulics lost, the plane was completely out of control.  Cartwright ordered the crew to bail out and, to the best of his knowledge, Cartwright was the last to leave the doomed bomber.

Youthful Lonesome Lady Pilot Tom Cartwright

All of the crew came to earth safely but in a very wide area.  Each one was alone and each one was eventually captured and taken to a military installation for detention.  On this date in 1945, the crew of the Lonesome Lady found themselves housed in a military detention center.  They later found out that the detention center was on a military base in Hiroshima, Japan.   While the base was one of many in Hiroshima, none were intended to be military detention centers and so they had no experienced interrogators.  It is quite interesting that Cartwright said that, at that point in the war, air crews were briefed to tell the Japanese the correct answers to anything that they asked.  Apparently, US military officials felt that whatever the captured crews told their captors, the Japanese already knew the information so there was no sense it risking torture or undue harrassment.  So, Cartwright said that he answered all of the questions put before him truthfully.  Nevertheless, the Japanese thought he was lying so they sent him to the Imperial General Headquarters in Tokyo for further questioning.  Normally, such a trip may result in terrific torture and pain for the unfortunate POW who was sent to such an interrogation facility.  It was not uncommon for prisoners to be beheaded.   For Cartwright, the moved proved to be a lifesaver.

Durden W. Looper

On the morning of August 6, 1945 the US B-29 Bomber called the Enola Gay dropped, “Little Boy”,  the first atomic bomb used in warfare on Hiroshima, Japan.  The target was the Aioi Bridge crossing the Ota River.  About a half mile from the target was the crew of the Lonesome Lady along with the survivors of two other flight crews that had been shot down.  One of those flight crews is suspected to  have included three men from the Taloa.    Amazingly, the solid brick walls somewhat withstood the force of the initial blast.  Nevertheless, only 3 of the prisoners are known to have survived the initial blast.  Included in the list of dead was Lonesome Lady crewman Lt. Durden W.  Looper.    US Navy pilot Normand Brissette and Lonesome Lady gunner Ralph Neal managed to get to a cesspool, where they remained nose deep in the muck until the flames died down.  When they emerged from their ghastly position, they were quickly recaptured by their guards.  That alone indicates the loyalty and fanaticism of the Japanese soldiers.  The city was totally destroyed by a nuclear weapons and they were still keeping an eye on a couple of US flyers who had hidden in a cesspool.

"Little Boy" Detonated 1870 Ft Above Aioi Bridge in Hiroshima

But, their hiding place could not escape their captors or the lasting effects of the atomic bomb.  With oozing sores and constant vomiting, the two men both died a terrible and slow death.  The third American prisoner who survived was not as lucky.  He was made a scapegoat for the destruction of the city.  No one knows for certain whom the flyer was but an eyewitness is said to have described him as “the handsomest boy I ever saw.”  He was tied to what was left of the Aioi Bridge with a sign hanging from him that read, “Beat This American Soldier Before You Pass.”  Lonesome Lady pilot Tom Cartwright survived the war.  Cartwright said that 50 POW’s were beheaded after the Japanese surrender but he was spared.  On August 28, a month after he was shot down, the POW camp where Cartwright was being housed was liberated by US Marines.  Of the 3000 Japanese Americans who were stranded in Hiroshima at the beginning of the war, about 1000 survived the atomic bomb and returned to the United States.

Andersonville Plaque Commemorating Flight Crews Killed Inadvertantly at Hiroshima

War often has unintended consequences.  The crew of the Lonesome Lady was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Quite often, such stories are filled with “what ifs.”  What if the Cartwright had been able to control the plane just a little longer?  What if the plane went out of control toward the ocean instead of turning around back toward land?  Why did the Japanese spare the life of the pilot of the Lonesome Lady but subject a crewman to beating and torture while tied to the Aioi Bridge?  If any of these instances were altered, the story might have turned out differently.  But, alternative history is fantasy and it is what it is.   While the story of the tragic loss of the crew of the USS Indianapolis, which secretly delivered the bomb to Tinian Island is well known, the story of the Lonesome Lady is not.  There is however, a commemorative plaque at a memorial located at the infamous site of the Civil War Andersonville Prison in Georgia.

Weather Bottom Line:  A cold front will ease through the first part of the day and clouds will give way to some sunshine and afternoon heating may produce an errant afternoon shower behind the front.  We will have a short drying trend and also a short lived slight reduction in the heat.  Today we’ll most likely get to near 90 and Friday afternoon will be in the upper 80’s after a morning start in the low 70’s. Neither of those numbers are cool on their own but in relation to lows in the mid 70’s and highs in the low to mid 90’s, its an improvement. It won’t last though because the front comes back as a warm front bringing a chance of rain and t’storms with it on Saturday and then the higher heat and humidity after that along with the threat of scattered afternoon t’storms through at least mid week.

When the US Military turned on its own: A Dark Day in US History
July 28, 2010


Bonus Marchers at Capitol June 17, 1932

Bonus Marchers at Capitol June 17, 1932

On This Date in History: We’ve heard that this is the worst economy “since the great depression.” I have taken issue with that as I think it is pure hyperbole and political posturing. In my view, our overall economic situation is more akin to the latter part of the Carter administration and early Reagan years. However, it could be argued that the banking crisis was potentially as troubling as the 1930’s but again, and argument might be made that the Savings and Loan crisis was a better barometer. But, in overall economic terms, its hard to make such a comparison. For instance, on June 17, 1932 a Washington newspaper said it was the “tensest day in the capital since the War.”

US Army with Tanks Prepare to Take on US Veterans

What was going on? Well, 10,000 World War I vets had gathered on the Capitol grounds in Washington DC. Across the Anacostia River were another 10,000 who had been living in huts made of scrap metal and other junk from a nearby junk pile. These vets also had their wives and children residing in their camp. They had gathered to see if they would get their money. In 1924, Congress had voted to award veterans of the Great War $1.25 for every day a soldier served overseas and a dollar for every day stateside. But, there was a catch. They didn’t get their “war bonus” until 1945. These men needed it in 1932 during some of the darkest days of the Depression. The US House of Representatives had voted to give them their bonuses then. But, the Senate voted against the measure by a 62-18 margin. Needless to say, the vets were pretty P’Oed.

Bonus Army Camp 1932

Bonus Army Camp 1932

So, the “Bonus Expeditionary Force” decided to stay in protest. Aside from the 10,000 across the river, the 10,000 in the Capitol had for weeks been camped out in some 20 sites, including partially demolished government buildings. What I don’t get is that Congress wouldn’t pony up the bonus money…today we’d call it a stimulus…but they did allocate $100,000 for the relocation of the bonus marchers any where they wanted to go. The politicians just wanted them out of town. But, few took up the offer and President Hoover refused to meet with them. About 500 did leave town but 1000 new ones took their place. The marchers started a single file “death march” in front of the Capitol and it lasted until July 16 when Congress adjourned. By that time, 17,000 had gathered to see their less than favorite legislators exit for recess.

Vets Used the Flag as a Weapon to Defend against Police

Vets Used the Flag as a Weapon to Defend against Police

With the politicians gone, one might think that the marchers would leave too. Nope. They stayed and the local authorities became nervous and on this date in 1932, the Bonus Expeditionary Force faced law enforcement officials and later their former comrades in arms.. The cops were ordered to clear all government buildings, presumably those that were in some state of demolition housing some of the vets. The old soldiers resisted and the cops started firing their weapons. Two US veterans of World War I who survived open warfare were killed by the police in their own country. So…what to do? Why call out the army!

Caesar and Ike Make Sure the Vets Get Out of Town

Caesar and Ike Make Sure the Vets Get Out of Town

By the late afternoon, a tank platoon, an infantry battalion and a cavalry squadron were on the scene to put down their fellow soldiers. Who better to be in command of the troops that General Douglas MacArthur. And who better to serve as his liason with the police but none other than Major Dwight D. Eisenhower, future Supreme Allied Commander and President of the United States. And if that’s not enough, why not get Major George S. Patton to lead the cavalry? Clearly outmatched, the old vets were pushed out by soldiers with fixed bayonets and cavalrymen with their sabres drawn.

Vet Camp Burns in Shadow of Capitol Dome

The UPI reported that “men, women and children fled shrieking across the broken ground, falling into excavations as they strove to avoid the rearing hoofs and sable points. Meantime, infantry on the south side had adjusted gas masks and were hurling tear gas bombs inot the block into which they had just driven the veterans.” Four hours later, the camps had been set ablaze and the protesters driven across the river to the Anacostia Flats camp. By 4am on the 29th, that shantyville was also burning and the marchers driven into Maryland. From their, they were told to not stop walking until they got to Pennsylvania.

Maybe MacArthur was trying to re-enact Sherman’s march to the sea. Or maybe he was practicing for his march back to Bataan. Well, maybe not, but it certainly was not a proud day for America’s armed forces and a dark spot on the public record of three heroes of World War II. However, it must have been tough to follow orders to turn on your own men…tough spot to be in. No word on where the Commander in Chief was at that time.

Weather Bottom Line:  We have a little frontal system coming down our way slowly.  Look for scattered showers and t’storms this afternoon and tonight.  The front should ease through on Thursday so rain chances will be in the picture for Thursday but they should diminish as the day progresses, provided the front doesnt slow down too much.  Friday we will be the slight beneficiaries of the front with the edge taken off the heat and humidity but, the front gets dragged back our way as a warm front as another storm system traverses the northern plains.  That should increase the prospects for rain by late Saturday and I suspect it will be more elevated by Saturday night.  The heat and humidity will again be tough after the warm front is dragged through but it remains to be seen if the follow up cold front actually gets here.  It’s too far out to say conclusively and I have other things to do today so we’ll wait and see.

Before Lance Armstrong, there was Greg LeMond
July 27, 2010

We Should Not Forget Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 1989, America's Now Somewhat Forgotten Cycling Hero

Remember the guys with the white hats in Australian Rules Football?

On This Date in History:  I have to confess, I was not really aware of the Tour de France until the mid to late 1980’s.  My only real consolation is that I bet that I was not too much different than most Americans.  ESPN had not been around too long and it was filled with the non-major sports.  Largely, it was Sportscenter with  Australian Rules Football and rodeo mixed in.  I suspect that they had Tour de France coverage then but I really didn’t pay much attention until an American got some headlines.   Cycling is one of those sports that has just got to be extremely difficult and requires perhaps the most endurance and leg strength of any sport.  Americans, for some reason, never really got too enthused about it though.  The Tour de France is one of the premier events of the sport and, until 1986, no American had sniffed a championship for years since the first race near the turn of the century.

Heiden's Physique Lent Itself to Cycling as well as Speedskating

A shot in the arm to the sport in America came from speedskater Eric Heiden, who had gained fame by winning 5 gold medals in speed skating at the 1980 Winter Olympics.  During his career he set 15 world records on the ice.  But, that wasn’t enough for him.  Heiden took up cycling and even won a few American professional races and while he was doing that was working toward a career as a orthopedic surgeon.    With all of his personal accomplishments, his push in the sport of cycling may have affected the most people.  His goals were not just personal, but he also planted the seed for an American sponsored cycling team patterned after those in Europe.  That dream came to fruition as the first American cycling team, the 7-Eleven Team.  He participated on that team in the 1986 Tour de France.

A 17 Year Old Wrote Down His Goals

While Eric Heiden was planting seeds and creating dreams, a young man from California was setting out a path to not only live out his dreams, but also make his own history.  On October 18, 1978, the young man wrote out a list of goals.  His first task was to win the 1979 Junior World Championship Road Race.  The next was to win a 1980 Olympics Road Race.  He wanted to win a professional World Championship by the age of 22 and finally, top it all off with a Tour de France Victory by the time he turned 25.  The 17-year-old California Kid reached just about every goal.  He won the 1979 Junior Championship and made the US Olympic Cycling Team for the 1980 Olympics but was thwarted from going farther thanks to President Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  In 1983, at age 22, he won the professional World Championship.  And, on this date in 1986, Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France.

LeMond Showed Great Determination in 1986 But He Set a Great Example in 1989 and 1990

It was not particularly odd that LeMond did not win the final stage nor that he only won one of the 23 stages. The 2010 winner, Alberto Contador,  did not win any of the stages.   The tour championship is determined by overall time and LeMond edged out Bernard Hinault by 3 minutes 10 seconds.  After nearly 5000 km of racing, that doesn’t seem like much but apparently it was a reasonably comfortable margin.  What was perhaps a little strange is that LeMond did not compete on Heiden’s American 7-Eleven team.   Instead, he was part of the established La Vie Claire team that featured 5 time Tour de France Champion Hinault.  There was also an odd thing about the championship due to the teammate relationship between LeMond and Hinault.  The previous year,  Hinault was attempting to win his 5th  Tour victory which no one had done to that point.  One story is that LeMond was way ahead, presumably during one stage, but was told by the team coach to slow down to allow Hinault, who was supposedly trailing just behind during that stage, to catch up so that he could be in a position to win his 5th Tour de France.  As it turns out, Hinault was over 3 minutes behind and the action created somewhat of a controversy.  Because of LeMond’s sacrifice, Hinault went on to win.  To express his gratitude, he told LeMond that he would help him win the next year.

The Yellow Jersey Fit LeMond Well Three Times

According to LeMond, it did not matter to him whether or not Hinault would try to keep his promise or not because he was determined to win.  As any champion, Hinault was extremely competitive and so it is debatable whether or not he really was working toward the benefit of LeMond.   But, in one of the stages through the Alps, Hinault rode extremely hard and it was difficult for observers to believe that Hinault was doing LeMond any favors.  But, Hinault ran out of steam and LeMond survived.  Later, Hinault claimed that it was all part of his strategy to tire out all of the other competitors because he knew that Greg would be the only one who could keep up.  While its not likely too many people bought the story, the end result was the same.  LeMond proved stronger than anyone, including, Hinault and he went on to victory.   The video (titled “LeMond Drops Hinault”) of that fateful stage is grainy but it does exemplify how tough it was and the perserverance and determination of LeMond to defeat his teammate turned nemesis.  Humbly, LeMond recounts that another teammate, Andy Hampsten, made a personal sacrifice to help LeMond to victory in Paris.

X-Ray of Greg LeMond Shows A Few of the Shot Gun Pellets Lodged In His Body

Greg LeMond went on to win the Tour de France 2 more times.  It is quite well known that Lance Armstrong overcame cancer to win the Tour de France which is a true testiment to Houston Rocket’s head coach Rudy Tomjanovich’s admonition to “don’t ever underestimate the heart of the champion.”  Armstrong’s achievement has been a true inspiration to millions of people who suffer from the disease around the world.  Less known is the struggles of Greg LeMond and the obstacle that he overcame.  LeMond’s website lists the event in 1986 but most accounts say it was in April 1987 that he, his uncle and brother-in-law were turkey hunting when his brother-in-law accidently shot Greg in the back with a shot gun.  For that reason, LeMond did not participate in the 1987 or 1988 Tour de France.  But, he came back from his injuries to win in 1989 and 1990.  The remarkable thing is that he did it with 35 shot gun pellets still lodged in his body!  Three of those pellets remained in his heart and five in his liver.  The blast had also cracked a finger, broke two ribs and collapsed a lung.  LeMond credits the medical team of Dr. Sandra Beal with saving his life.  He thought that was going to die as he had lost nearly 3/4 of his blood.  Yet, like Armstrong, he came back from a near death experience to reach the pinnacle of his professional.

Before Lance Armstrong, there was Greg LeMond.  A great example of how, no matter how bad things get, perserverance, effort, determination and the human spirit can overcome the longest of odds.  We have remarkable abilities and potential if we try.  It’s something I try to get across to my students and to kids whom I visit at schools.  It’s also something I need to remind myself of from time to time.   You never know what can happen if you try.  But, if you don’t try, it’s almost a guarantee of the result: nothing.

Weather Bottom Line:  Look for the cold front that came through over the weekend to return today.  While it did not bring much in the way of rain on Sunday, I don’t think we can count on that today.  Look for several showers and t’storms by the afternoon.  With the abundant moisture in place, if you find yourself under a t’storm it could bring some pretty healthy rain totals.  The other day, I pooh poohed by earlier forecast from about a week ago that the biggest impact of Tropical Storm Bonnie would be the rains it brings to the Tennesee Valley.  I had surmised that it went to West Texas.  While that assessment was correct in the sense of the main shortwave energy, I think my first thought was also correct as it would appear that it swept up a whole mess of moisture and instability into Tennessee.  This warm front will represent the leading edge of that stuff so, after today, look for continued hot and humid conditions but there will be a chance every day of scattered storms in the afternoon for most of the remainder of the week.

Ben Franklin Takes Charge of the Mail in Postal Service Milestone
July 25, 2010

Young Printer Ben

Young Printer Ben

Franklin Stamp 1866-69

Franklin Stamp 1866-69

On This Date In History: The US Postal Service was founded on this date in 1775 with Ben Franklin as the first Postmaster General. Franklin was the best choice since he had experience. See, he was the Postmaster General of the colonies(or deputy postmaster) for the crown beginning in 1753. Under Franklin, delivery time for mail was cut in half. He is credited with great improvments and innovations that even continue to the present.

Franklin Milepost Near Boston

Franklin Milestone Near Boston

He started by making a tour of all the postal facilities, which was a tough task at that time due to the difficulty of travel. He had routes surveyed and established the shortest and most efficient routes between cities.   Milestones had been used on roadways in the colonies since the early part of the 18th century.  But, Franklin expaned the use of milestones greatly to better determine the delivery distance that any particular piece of mail .  The legacy of the milestone lives on today inf the form of milemarkers on highways.  Ben improved mail service between New York and Philadelphia by scheduling mail wagons for both night and day. Of course, Franklin had other interests and used his position to his own advantage.  He was able to markedly increase the circulation of his Gazette (either Philadelphia Gazette or Pennsylvania Gazette, depending on the source) by delivering the paper using the postal service to make his delivery. As it turns out, the previous postmaster of Philadelphia had been a competitor of Franklin’s so I guess turnabout is fair play.

Surveyor Goddard's ID Pass signed by Franklin 1776

Surveyor Goddard's ID Pass signed by Franklin 1776

As crown postmaster, old Ben established the rate chart, which determined postal rates by distance and weight. Today, the postal service has a new rate for a standard box in which weight is not a sole determinant of the price. But, in general, the practice of using weight to determine the rates continue and I haven’t figured out why because the volume of the package seems to be more important as it takes up more space.   I suppose that it has something to do with the cost of jetfuel.  Anyway, its all Franklin’s fault and the system he initiated became standard. But, for all the good he did the crown, he was dismissed from his position in 1774 because the old King wasn’t too thrilled with his vocal enthusiasm for independence. Fired from one job, he was quickly rehired by the fledgling colonial government on July 26 1775.

I’ll let you look at the postal service history as told by the postal service. Its probably a good idea to look for outside sources if you want the whole story because the USPS will tell you what the USPS wants you to know. Anyway, here’s the link:

An interesting tidbit is that the USPS is not a direct governmental agency anymore. It became and independent agency, partly as a conclusion to a postal worker strike,  under the Executive Branch in 1971 and stopped receiving subsidies in the early 1980’s. I think that means it is not accurate to yell at the postman and tell him he works for you or that your tax dollars pay his salary.

Weather Bottom Line:   Nothing too exciting here.  A cold front came through as expected but the energy associated with it was mainly to the north and activity farther south did not get going until the afternoon.  Hence, rain chances were a bit over blown.  In spite of the fact we had a cold front (there’s no such thing as a “cool front”)  our tempertures will still be pretty warm…after all…it’s summer.  But, the edge will be taken off the heat and humidity.  Highs for the next several days will be lurking around the 90 degree mark instead of the mid 90’s.  The front will more or less wash out just to our south and there should be enough instability left over that we get isolated t’storms roaming about each afternoon.  My postulation that the remnant of Bonnie might rotate around the ridge into the Tennessee Valley and perhaps in our neck of the woods looks to be off the board.  I think that the ridge is actually expanding because most of the modeling suggests that Bonnie’s leftovers will be moving across Texas.

The Forgotten Eastland Disaster and the Ghosts Left Behind For Oprah
July 24, 2010

Eastland Disaster One of Nation's Worst

On This Date In History: The  Eastland was a steamboat on the Chicago River in the early 20th century that was built with known engineering flaws. But, they used it for ferrying passengers from the city to picnic sites on Lake Michigan.  It was designed to hold 650 people. On This Date In 1915, some 7000 employees of the Western Electric Company gathered on the dock along the north side of the Chicago River between LaSalle and Clark streets to board 5 steamers.  The Eastland was known as “the speed queen of the Great Lakes” and the folks from Western Electric, along with their friends and families,  were to be taken on that Saturday morning to Michigan City Indiana.   Now, in 1913, the Eastland was retrofitted to hold 2500 people, but a naval architect that very same year said that “unless structural defects are remedied to prevent listing, there may be a serious accident.” Nevertheless, the boat remained in service and it is estimated that at least 2500 boarded the vessel and perhaps more. There is suspicion that a large group of the passengers got to one side of the boat to pose for a picture. Other stories claim the passengers crowded together to watch a fist fight or look at a passing boat.  With the big weight shift, an engineer opened one of the ballast tanks but instead of stablizing the boat, it capsized right along the dock.  Over 800 bodies were eventually taken to the Second Regiment Armory, which served as the morgue. 

 The “Eastland Disaster”  has become obscured in the American conscience perhaps due to the role of the United States Congrss in the events of July 24, 1915.    The ultimate cause of the disaster was the retrofit done in 1913 which left the ship top heavy.  Ironically, the retrofit was partially done so the steamship company could be in compliance with the federal Seamen’s Act of 1915.  The Seamen’s Act (formally known as the Act to Promote the Welfare of American Seamen in the Merchant Marine of the United States) was sponsored by progressive Republican Robert La Follette and was a quick reaction to the Titanic disaster of April 1912 in which it was determined that there were not enough lifeboats on the giant luxury liner. 

Some of the Victims

So, Congress decided that they would include in a law designed to aid the plight of sailors, a provision that required all American ships to have a full complement of lifeboats and rafts to support every passenger.  The law was very short sighted though because Great Lakes ships like the Eastland, had a much shallower draft than ocean going vessels.   It is argued by Stephen Cox in The Titanic Story: Hard Choices, Dangerous Decisions that additional lifeboats on the Titanic would not have saved more lives because the crew would not have had enough time to lower them away.  In the case of the Eastland, it is certainly the case that the extra lifeboats did nothing to prevent the loss of life but instead may have been part of the cause for the loss of life.  By simply adding more lifeboats, the ship became even more top-heavy and therefore more unstable.  Without the extra lifeboats, it is possible that the Eastland would never have capsized.  And then entrepreneurs would have been prevented from issuing postcards of images from the disaster scene.

Passengers Walking Across the Doomed Ship and an Adjacent Tug

Several investigations were begun in relation to the disaster but ultimately those were taken over by Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was known for his authoritariain rule and later for his role as commissioner of Major League Baseball.  Under the rule of Landis, grand jury testimony was never published and the findings of the grand jury have never surfaced.   Hence, the exact reason for the disaster may never be known.  Numerous lawsuits were filed to the US Circuit Court of Appeals but most were tossed by the court as it deemed the owners blameless.  It could be that the reason that the court held the owners blameless is because the catalyst of the disaster may have been the law passed by the United States Congress.  The court could have recognized that the owners were simply following the mandate set forth by the Seaman’s Act of 1915.  Perhaps Robert La Follette should have been held liable for the poorly crafted, short sighted bill.

The Eastland Disaster represents the largest loss of human life in a single event in the United States during the 20th century.  In terms of shipping disasters, the death toll was only topped by the Titanic and the Sultana.  With all of those bodies, officials in Chicago needed a large building for a makeshift morgue.  Initially, the Reid-Murdoch building adjacent to the site was utilized to house the bodies before the Second Regiment Armory building on West Washington Blvd.  was set up as the morgue.  In the late 20th century, the old armory building had been renovated and was incorporated into a production studio.  Today, that building is the home of Harpo Studios and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Some of the employees of the studio have reported encounters in the building and claim that it is haunted by the ghosts of the Eastland Disaster!   So, if you go to see Oprah you may want to consult the Ghost Busters.  No such worries for the USS Eastland.  It was raised and then later renovated and served as the USS Wilmette which was a gunboat used to patrol US waters during World War II and thereafter.  In 1946, the Wilmette was sold for scrap at the auction price of $2500.

SPC Severe Weather Outlook Saturday July 24 2010

SPC Severe Outlook Sunday July 25 2010

Weather Bottom Line:  One more day of excessive heat and humidty.   As I mentioned yesterday, it’s pretty tough to get the mercury to budge to 100 when there are dewpoints in the low 70’s.  Friday’s official high was 96 at the airport and not the forecast 99 of the weather channel.  I suspect that the highs other than the airport were probably a click or two lower for most people.  But…while high moisture content limits the maximum temperatures, it also elevates the heat index.  So, look for a high today of 96 or so but  a heat index probably close to 110.  A cold front sagging down will increse the prospects for rain and t’storms perhaps as early as Saturday night.  But, certainly by Sunday we will see an end to the latest brief heat wave but also will have an increase in the possibility of strong storms.  After that, we will be cooler but will be less stable.  Most long range forecasts have rain chances in the scattered to isolated range after Sunday but, as mentioned in the previous post, I think that at least some of the moisture from the otherwise useless remnant of Tropical Storm Bonnie makes its way around the ridge and perhaps into the Tennessee and Ohio Vallies.  We’ll see how it shakes out.

Black Bart Was Not As Ferocious As Ralphie Made Him Out To Be
July 23, 2010

Ralphie on the prowl for Black Bart with his Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun

On This Date in Criminal History: Do you remember the movie A Christmas Story in which Ralphie wants a BB gun and has visions of shooting Black Bart? It leads one to believe that Bart was some desperado. Well, in the 1870’s there was a dime novel that was loosely based on a true story. The writer called his main character Bartholomew Graham who took the name of “Black Bart” because he wore black clothes, had black long curly hair and a dense black beard. In real life, there was a man named Charles Bowles  who was born in England in 1829 who immigrated to New York in the United States a few years later with his family.

Dapper Black Bart

Dapper Black Bart

As a young man, the real Charles Bowles changed his name to Charles Boles and, in 1849, he and his cousin went to California to seek their fortune in gold. They failed and, a few years later, came back. Charley Boles tried again with his cousin and his brother. Not only did they fail again, but the brother and cousin both died from an illness. Charley eventually returned and got married. After spending time in the Union Army and serving with distinction, Charley again went out west, this time to Montana where he set up a mining site that depended on water. Some men from Wells Fargo offered to buy his claim and he refused. The men reacted by cutting off his water and Charley had to abandon his mine but said in a letter to his wife,”I am going to take steps.” No one knew what he meant.  For quite some time, the last letter his wife received from him was in 1871.

Bart Often Left a Nasty Poem Behind For the Wells Fargo Boys

On this date in 1878 a Wells Fargo stagecoach was robbed of $400. It wasn’t the first time that a stagecoach from Wells Fargo had been robbed. It is believed that the culprit first began robbing stagecoaches in 1875 because, each time, a poem that intimated the perpetrator was going to strike again. It was signed “Black Bart”. Bart robbed Wells Fargo stage coaches numerous times throughout the late 1870’s and early 1880’s. He wore a flour sack on his head and never fired a shot, though on a few occasions, shots were fired at him. There was never any mayhem or extreme violence. On November 3 1883, Bart made a mistake when he left behind a handkerchief as he made his escape following what would be his last stagecoach robbery. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was able to track the hanky from a laundry mark to an elderly man in San Francisco named Charles Bolton. Bolton admitted that he indeed was Black Bart, but he disputed his reputation as being an outlaw by telling the Pinkertons. “I am a gentleman.” It was also learned that Bolton was really Charles Boles, who years before vowed to “take steps” against the company who forced him to abandon his mining claim. His wife, who had thought he was long since dead, found out that Boles was alive when she learned of his arrest.

Wanted Poster Promises $1000 in Gold For Bart

Just 18 days after his arrest, Black Bart found himself in California’s San Quentin Prison to begin serving his 6 year sentence.  His prison number was 11046.  But, he denied being Charles E. Boles or Black Bart.  Instead, he insisted his name was Charles E. Bolton.  The prevailing thought was that he was trying to protect the family that he had long since abandoned.  However, he wrote letters to his wife.  There is no record of his having received any visitors while he was in prison though rumors ran about, supposedly arising from a letter he wrote to his wife, that a wealthy man had become interested in his condition.  Speculation is that this mystery man, if he did exist, may have helped secure his early release.  Officially, he was released after 4 years and 2 months for good behavior which was a relatively new procedure.  Reporters came calling at his release and again he insisted his name was Charles Bolton and his life of crime was behind him, though reporters tried to get him to say something different.  I guess 19th century reporters did the same thing as today’s journalists when a subject doesn’t say what they want him to say. 

By This Time, Black Bart Insisted He Was Charles Bolton

Bart returned to San Francisco where officials of Wells Fargo kept close tabs on him. He wrote his wife that he was tired of being shadowed by the boys from the bank and felt demoralized.  He wanted to get away from everyone.  He never returned to his wife but in 1888 a man answering Bart’s description checked into a hotel in Visalia and then vanished.  In his room was found a can of tongue, a can of corned beef, coffee, crackers, sugar and a jar of jelly.  There were also two neckties and a set of cuffs that had a laundry mark that read F.X.O.7.   Speculation is that he was trying to throw up a smokescreen for the boys at Wells Fargo.  If he did, it worked.  The last time anyone saw him was February 28, 1888.  The 1892 city directory listed Mary Boles as the widow of Charles E. Boles, which may indicate that she knew something. Or maybe she just gave up.  If the 1917 obituary in a New York newspaper regarding Civil War Veteran Charles E. Boles was indeed that of Black Bart, he would have been 88 years old.  Either way he lives on each Christmas with Ralphie.

Bonnie Spaghetti Model Track 18Z 7.23.10

Bonnie Spaghetti Model Track 18Z 7.23.10

Weather Bottom Line:  Tropical Storm Bonnie (See satellite loop below)  is stirring up more in the media than it is in the Gulf or South Florida.  I got an email from my cousin’s husband in Fort Lauderdale, Fred Flintstone, who said they had about a half inch of rain…they get more than that in a run of the mill thunderstorm.  The problem for Bonnie is that there is a huge upper level low in the center of the Gulf and that is serving to just beat the crap out of the upper wind flow…its disrupting or shearing the winds aloft such that Bonnie cannot get any upper support and without that, you do not get a hurricane.  Centered over the northern part of the Dixie states is a big ridge.  It has expanded north and is why the Ohio Valley is so h0t today and will be in the upper 90’s with dewpoints in the low 70’s again on Saturday. 

Bonnie Spaghetti Intensity Model 18Z 7.23.10

Between the upper low with its counter clockwise flow and the clockwise flow of the area of high pressure will be the track of Bonnie.  It will be shot out like a cannon with the help of both of the other systems flow.  That is another reason why Bonnie will not be much of a storm.  It’s moving so fast, even if the upper conditions were good (they’re awful), it would not have time to develop. In fact, I bet it gets downgraded  to a depression as it comes off of Florida and then there is a fair chance that it will not reach tropical storm status again.   And with that speed, its not likely to produce any crippling rain when it does make landfall late Saturday night or early Sunday morning in the north central coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  Now, the flow around the high will break down with the advance of a cold front into the Ohio Valley.  That will raise the prosects for rain and t’storms in our area.  The moisture from Bonnie will then wrap around and move up the Mississippi and Ohio Valley and continue to bring us rain.  I suspect that the biggest threat for Bonnie will be the rainfall that it brings in, say the Tennessee Valley or perhaps the Ohio Valley early next week.  Our temperatures will be reduceds somewhat starting Sunday….so we only have to deal with a heat index of 105 to 110 for today and tomorrow.

Click image for Western Atlantic 2 day satellite loop

John Dillinger’s Infamy Lives With Rumors FBI Did NOT Get Their Man
July 22, 2010

Dillinger's 1930 Ford Model A Sold for 165K in January 2010

On This Date in History: A funny thing about American history is that not only do we tend to celebrate heroes, but Americans also seem to celebrate the villains. George Washington was arguably the most important man in US history yet more people probably know about Billy the Kid than General Washington.   Movies are made about the exploits of Al Capone yet, the life of President US Grant, who shows up on the fifty dollar bill is either misrepresented or totally obscure to most Americans.  Some years ago, I had the opportunity to see the Bonnie and Clyde “death car”  though from the linked site, it may have been a fake. This guy  claimed it was the real thing and hauled it around in an 18-wheeler and charged people to come and look at it.   I didn’t pay but, since I was in the news, I got to see it up close, complete with bullet holes.  I was suprised at how small it was.  But, this guy got the tv station to give him free advertising as the tv station wanted to capitalize on viewers fascination with criminals of the past.  Of course, there was a famous movie with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty about Bonnie and Clyde.  Also, there was a recent movie about John Dillinger starring Johnny Depp.  Like Billy the Kid and Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger had a relatively short crime career yet he remains an icon in the international imagination.  Just this year, like the Bonnie and Clyde “death car” complete with bullet holes, a John Dillinger getaway car was sold at auction for $165,000.  July 22nd is a watershed day in the history of John Dillinger as it was supposedly the end of him.  But, there are those who think that it was only the end of his public life and not his real life.  Either way, as long as Hollywood and historians write about Dillinger and other criminal figures from the past, they will never die and their legends and myths may actually grow.

dillinger-wantedIn the late 1920’s and 1930’s, lots of gangsters roamed the countryside. Public Enemy Number One was determined by the Bureau of Investigations, which in 1935 became the FBI. In 1934, the man who held the title was John Dillinger. While it didn’t take him long to top the list, he had to learn his trade through trial and error like any good craftsman. On June 10, 1933, Dillinger pulled his first bank job in Carlisle, IN. Two weeks later, he tried again but this one was botched in Monticello, Indiana. It is interesting that there is very little information available regarding the attempted hold up of a Marshall Fields in Monticello by Dillinger and William Shaw. I suppose its because it was a failed attempt and Americans only like to hear about wins, not losses.

McNutt Thought Dillinger Capable of all Sorts of Things after long prison sentence

McNutt had a bad feeling about Dillinger due to a harsh sentence

An interesting thing about Dillinger is that, even though he was Public Enemy Number 1, his career as a criminal didn’t really last all that long. He was put in jail in 1924 following the beating of Mooresville, IN grocer Frank Morgan by Dillinger and his good friend Edgar Singleton. They had been out boozing it up and jumped the guy. Dillinger got caught when, a few days after the assault on September 6, 1924, Dillinger brought attention to himself by inquiring as to the well being of Mr. Morgan. As it turns out, Morgan couldn’t identify his attackers, but Dillinger was tricked into confessing. Meanwhile, his buddy Ed pled not guilty. Ed was out of jail after a couple of years while Dillinger got 10-20 years for assault and 2-14 years for conspiracy to commit a felony. Some scholars think that the difference in sentences is what pissed off Dillinger and led him on a life of crime. Indiana Governor Paul McNutt thought that the sentence was so harsh that it might cause Dillinger to do anything once he was out of jail. Victim Morgan and the sentencing judge both thought that the sentence was pretty tough. By 1933, the pair joined 182 townfolk lobbying to let Dillinger loose and on May 22, 1933 John Dillinger was set free.

Some Hoosiers Made Certain that They Were Not Mistaken for Dillinger But Did the FBI Still Get the Right Man?

That’s the odd part. He was set free on May 22 1933 and within a few weeks, he was committing or at least trying to, commit worse crimes than he had done prior to his initial incarceration. Did prison create John Dillinger?  The fact that Dillinger failed in Monticello, IN was probably more associated with his lack of experience than anything else, but one can’t know for sure. Even Monticello doesn’t want to talk about it. In any event, Dillinger went on to amass some $359, 322 in loot taken and that made him the marked man at the top of the list.

Dillinger Death Made Headlines Nationwide

Dillinger Death Made Headlines Nationwide

On This Date in 1934, the Bureau got their man when it gunned down Public Enemy Number 1, John Dillinger. Bureau agent Melvin Purvis got a tip from brothel operator Anna Sage who gave information concerning Dillinger’s whereabouts under the threat of deportation to her native Romania on morals charges. Sage is the original woman in red, which has been also called the lady in red. The story is that she attended the Biograph Theatre in Chicago and when she emerged, she was identified from her red dress and thus the man whom she was with was to be considered Dillinger. She came out and the agents promptly shot her date. That was that, the headlines were trumpeted across the nation and the photo above was circulated to prove that Dillinger was indeed dead.

But….a supposed authority on the history of American Crime, Jay Robert Nash, says the FBI got the wrong guy. Nash says the man who was killed outside of the theatre was really a patsy. James Lawrence was considered a low level thug who was used by Sage and a crooked Indiana detective to unwittingly stand in for Dillinger. If you notice, the dead guy looks similar to the Dillinger photo on the left, but to me he looks a bit more like Jackie Gleason than the lean looking photo of the alive version of Public Enemy Number 1. The FBI claimed that Dillinger had plastic surgery and that explains any discrepancies. But the Cook County autopsy report was supposedly lost for 30 years. After it was found, the claim is that the dead guy is not the same height or weight of Dillinger. Dillinger had blue eyes whereas the corpse had brown eyes. The corpse was missing a distinguishing birthmark and had more teeth than the notorious bank-robber. Evidence showed the dead guy had a rheumatic heart. Had Dillinger had such a condition, he would have been prevented from being in the Navy.

FBI stands by their story that this man in the Cook County morgue in 1934 was indeed John Dillinger

The FBI, of course, stands by their story and claims the record, including fingerprints, support the truth that the G-Man got his man!!! I dunno…but I do know that Dillinger was never spotted again. Seems to me that if he were alive, it would be unlikely that he “went straight.” But then again, the guy was dead, they couldn’t interrogate him to determine if he was in fact Dillinger and they certainly couldn’t read him his Miranda rights. Back in those days it was “shoot first and ask questions later”….kinda like that good neighbor in Texas. Anyway, if you see a very old man that looks like the alive version of Dillinger, call the authorities immediately.

Weather Bottom Line:  Today will be more of the same with scattered t’storms though I do not see any major features either in the minds of the computer models nor in the reality of the radar.  Friday and Saturday will be very hot…I saw the weather channel claiming 99 for one of the days but that will be tough with dewpoints in the low 70’s.  But, mid 90’s seems hot enough and with that type of moisture, it will feel even hotter.  Sunday, the ridge should break down to allow for an elevation in rain/t’storm chances perhaps as early as Saturday night and, if not, then certainly Sunday.  The boundary should come through sufficiently to catch a break from the heat on Monday but it may move back as a warm front on Tuesday bringing rain chances and a return to higher temps and humidity.

Apollo 11 Mission Successful Conclusion Due to Alert Weatherman
July 21, 2010

Armstrong and Aldrin ascend from the moon to rendevous with Columbia with location of splashdown in doubt

Liftoff from Moon (LM 17)

Liftoff from Moon (LM 17)

On This Date in History:  Yesterday was the 41st anniversary of the 5th NASA mission of the Apollo program designated as Apollo 11 landing on the moon.  It stands as one of the monumental achievements of the 20th century and perhaps the greatest endeavor of human history.  It was quite a trick, because, even though it worked out on paper, it had never been done before.   Any engineer will tell you that something working on paper is not the same as actually accomplishing a project.  So, they made it to the moon but, like the landing, no one had ever taken off from the moon either; the challenge of safely returning the men from the moon remained.  At 1:54pm EDT on this date in 1969, The Lunar Module Eagle successfully lifted off from the moon.  Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. left behind a plaque,  prominently signed by President Nixon,  that read “we came in peace for all mankind.”  They had spent 21 hours and 37 minutes on the lunar surface and as they prepared for their voyage home, one of their backpacks broke the switch that controlled their module’s ascent from the lunar surface. Oops. Yankee ingenuity came into play and the astronauts showed a zero-gravity pen into the broken switch. Obviously, the make-shift repair worked because they were able to flip the switch and return safely. Had it not been for their making use of what they had, they would have been marooned. Previously, when they landed on the Sea of Tranquility, the Eagle had but a few precious seconds of fuel remaining, perhaps as little as one second. Had Armstrong not set down when he did,  Astronaut Michael Collins, the commander of the Command Module Columbia in orbit around the moon, may have come home alone.

Plaque Left on Moon

Plaque Left on Moon

 Armstrong and Aldrin not only placed the plaque on the moon, but they also left behind a piece of the Wright Flyer flown at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers, a disc with messages from 73 VIP’s on earth and the mission patch from Apollo I honoring astronauts Gus GrissomRoger Chaffee and Ed White who had died when a fire swept through their Apollo I capsule just a couple of years before.  As a nod toward detente, the memorial also recognized the deaths of two Soviet cosmonauts. When the astronauts of Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific on July 24, 1969 more questions remained. Initially, there was an issue with the capsule inverted in the ocean.  I remember that because no one was able to communicate with them until they got the Columbia in an upright position.  For a few minutes, it was a little dicey.  After that there was a larger issue.   Since no one had ever been to the moon, there was concern that they may have picked up some bugs…which is odd since it is unlikely that anything could live in space. While no pathogens were ever discovered, all precautions were taken and Armstrong, Aldrin and  Collins were whisked away from the deck of the USS Hornet wearing special protective masks. They were taken to a silver camper on one of the decks below in which they were to reside for a 21 day quarantine period. There were no handshakes and no hugs. A man followed behind them with a can of bug spray as they walked from the helicopter to the special quarantine location.

Bad Weather Could Have Foiled Splashdown

Bad Weather Could Have Foiled Splashdown

All of this may not have come to pass though and there may have been another disaster. See, there was bad weather of which many people were not aware…or weren’t supposed to know about it. The Americans had a special Cold-War era spy program called Corona which was part of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.  Part of the DMSP operation involved the placement of satellites in geosycnrous orbit around the world in what was said to be a weather reconnasaince mission. In reality, it was a spying program that was not declassified until 1995.  When the program was declassified, it was revealed that Capt. Hank Brandi had received a medal of commodation for saving the Apollo 11 astronauts. He had seen the data from the spy satellites and noted that powerful thunderstorms would be in the landing area.   Remember, the first hurricane tracked by satellite was Hurricane Camille in August 1969, so the assets we take for granted today simply were not on place when the Apollo 11 astronauts took flight; fortunately though, there was Corona.  Had Columbia splashed down in the throes of such a thunderstorm complex,  the parachutes from the capsule would get ripped to shreds and the astronauts would plunge into the ocean to their deaths. Brandi risked his career and the integrity of the Corona program by sharing the information with other officials who eventually altered the landing zone, which was not an easy thing to do, and the mission was saved.

Weather Bottom Line:  I had mentioned a few days ago that a frontal boundary would be stuck in our area as it washed out. That has been the focus for disturbances wandering thorugh the flow along the boundary; Hence, we’ve had periodic bouts with storms.  So far, the models have not been great at picking up the disturbances or, when they do, properly track the forecast progress.  That’s not too unusual.  You really have to just look at  the radar and see what is going on in most cases.  I didn’t see too much out west on Wednesday morning.  Doesn’t mean that something can’t bubble up but it does mean that there weren’t any major features.  I think we’ll have one more day of this with the ridge over  the Southeast expanding northward for Friday and Saturday, elevating temperatures and decreasing rain chances.  By Saturday night and Sunday, the ridge breaks down a bit as another front approaches which should increase the probability.  After that, if the front does indeed come through early next week, then we should see a reduction in the heat and humidity for a little while.