This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
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May 11 is the 131st day of the year (132nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 234 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1934, a massive storm sends millions of tons of topsoil flying from across the parched Great Plains region of the United States as far east as New York, Boston and Atlanta.
At the time the Great Plains were settled in the mid-1800s, the land was covered by prairie grass, which held moisture in the earth and kept most of the soil from blowing away even during dry spells. By the early 20th century, however, farmers had plowed under much of the grass to create fields. The U.S. entry into World War I in 1917 caused a great need for wheat, and farms began to push their fields to the limit, plowing under more and more grassland with the newly invented tractor. The plowing continued after the war, when the introduction of even more powerful gasoline tractors sped up the process. During the 1920s, wheat production increased by 300 percent, causing a glut in the market by 1931.
The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940). The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops or other techniques to prevent erosion. Deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains had displaced the natural deep-rooted grasses that normally kept the soil in place and trapped moisture even during periods of drought and high winds.
During the drought of the 1930s, without natural anchors to keep the soil in place, it dried, turned to dust, and blew away eastward and southward in large dark clouds. At times the clouds blackened the sky reaching all the way to East Coast cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. Much of the soil ended up deposited in the Atlantic Ocean, carried by prevailing winds, which were in part created by the dry and bare soil conditions. These immense dust storms-given names such as “Black Blizzards” and “Black Rollers”-often reduced visibility to a few feet (around a meter). The Dust Bowl affected 100,000,000 acres (400,000 km2), centered on the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and adjacent parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas.
Millions of acres of farmland became useless, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes; many of these families (often known as “Okies”, since so many came from Oklahoma) migrated to California and other states, where they found economic conditions little better during the Great Depression than those they had left. Owning no land, many became migrant workers who traveled from farm to farm to pick fruit and other crops at starvation wages. Author John Steinbeck [ later wrote The Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Of Mice and Men, about such people.
330 – Byzantium is renamed Nova Roma during a dedication ceremony, but it is more popularly referred to as Constantinople.
912 – Alexander becomes Emperor of the Byzantine Empire.
1310 – In France, fifty-four members of the Knights Templar are burned at the stake as heretics.
1502 – Christopher Columbus leaves for his fourth and final voyage to the West Indies.
1647 – Peter Stuyvesant arrives in New Amsterdam to replace Willem Kieft as Director-General of New Netherland, the Dutch colonial settlement in present-day New York City.
1745 – War of Austrian Succession: Battle of Fontenoy – French forces defeat an Anglo-Dutch-Hanoverian army.
1792 – Captain Robert Gray becomes the first documented white person to sail into the Columbia River.
1812 – Prime Minister Spencer Perceval is assassinated by John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons, London.
1813 – In Australia, William Lawson, Gregory Blaxland and William Wentworth lead an expedition westwards from Sydney. Their route opens up inland Australia for continued expansion throughout the 19th century.
1820 – Launch of HMS Beagle, the ship that took Charles Darwin on his scientific voyage.
1857 – Indian Mutiny: Indian rebels seize Delhi from the British.
1858 – Minnesota is admitted as the 32nd U.S. State.
1862 – American Civil War: The ironclad CSS Virginia is scuttled in the James River northwest of Norfolk, Virginia.
1867 – Luxembourg gains its independence.
1880 – Seven people are killed in the Mussel Slough Tragedy, a gun battle in California
1891 – The Otsu incident : Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich of Imperial Russia (later Nicholas II) suffers a critical head injury during a sword attack by Japanese policeman Tsuda Sanz0. He is rescued by Prince George of Greece and Denmark.
1894 – Pullman Strike: Four thousand Pullman Palace Car Company workers go on a wildcat strike in Illinois.
1907 – A derailment outside Lompoc, California kills 32 Shriners when their chartered train derails at a switch near Surf Depot.
1910 – An act of the U.S. Congress establishes Glacier National Park in Montana.
1918 – The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus is officially established.
1924 – Mercedes-Benz is formed by Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz merging their two companies.
1927 – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is founded.
1942 – William Faulkner’s collections of short stories, Go Down, Moses, is published.
1943 – World War II: American troops invade Attu Island in the Aleutian Islands in an attempt to expel occupying Japanese forces.
1944 – World War II: The Allies begin a major offensive against the Axis Powers on the Gustav Line.
1945 – World War II: Off the coast of Okinawa, the aircraft carrier USS Bunker Hill, is hit by two kamikazes, killing 346 of her crew. Although badly damaged, the ship is able to return to the U.S. under her own power.
1946 – UMNO is created.
1949 – Siam officially changes its name to Thailand for the second time. The name had been in use since 1939 but was reverted in 1945.
1949 – Israel joins the United Nations.
1953 – The 1953 Waco tornado outbreak: an F5 tornado hits downtown Waco, Texas, killing 114.
1960 – In Buenos Aires, Argentina, four Israeli Mossad agents capture fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann who is living under the alias of Ricardo Klement.
1967 – Andreas Papandreou, Greek economist and socialist politician, is imprisoned in Athens by the Greek military junta.
1968 – The Toronto Transit Commission opens the largest expansion of its Bloor-Danforth line, going to Scarborough in the East, and Etobicoke in the West.
1970 – The Lubbock Tornado, a F5 tornado, hits Lubbock, Texas, killing 26 and causing $250 million in damage.
1973 – Citing government misconduct, Daniel Ellsberg has charges for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times dismissed.
1985 – Bradford City stadium fire: Fifty-six spectators die and more than 200 are injured in a flash fire at Valley Parade football ground during a match against Lincoln City in Bradford, England.
1987 – Klaus Barbie goes on trial in Lyon for war crimes committed during World War II.
1987 – In Baltimore, Maryland, the first heart-lung transplant takes place. The surgery is performed by Dr. Bruce Reitz of the Stanford University School of Medicine.
1995 – In New York City more than 170 countries decide to extend the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty indefinitely and without conditions.
1996 – After the aircraft’s departure from Miami, Florida, a fire started by improperly handled oxygen canisters in the cargo hold of Atlanta-bound ValuJet Flight 592 causes the Douglas DC-9 to crash in the Florida Everglades killing all 110 on board.
1996 – The 1996 Everest disaster: on a single day eight people die during summit attempts on Mount Everest.
1997 – IBM Deep Blue, a chess-playing supercomputer, defeats Garry Kasparov in the last game of the rematch, becoming the first computer to beat a world-champion chess player in a classic match format.
1998 – India conducts three underground atomic tests in Pokhran to include a thermonuclear device.
2000 – Second Chechen War: Chechen separatists ambush Russian paramilitary forces in the Republic of Ingushetia.
2013 – General Elections Day in Pakistan.
* Christian Feast Day:
Abgar V of Edessa (Eastern Orthodox Church)
Anthimus of Rome
Anthony de Sant’Ana Galvao
Cyril and Methodius (Eastern Orthodox Church)
Francis of Girolama
Gangulphus of Burgundy
Majolus of Cluny
Mamertus, the first of the Ice Saints
Odilo of Cluny
May 11 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
* Earliest date on which Whit Monday can fall, while June 14 is the latest; celebrated on the day after Pentecost. (Christianity)
* Holiday of the City of Miskolc (Miskolc)
* Nisga’a Day, celebration of the effective date of the Nisga’a Final Agreement. (Nisga’a Nation)
* One of the three days of the Feast of the Lemures. (Roman Empire)
* National Technology Day (India)
* Statehood Day (Minnesota)