National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC

April 1, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 
Tourists enjoy the cherry blossoms in full bloom around the Tidal Basin on March 22 in Washington, D.C.Karen Bleier / AFP – Getty Images

Washington, D.C., celebrates 100 years of friendship, cherry blossoms
By Jane L. Levere, contributor
April 1, 2012, 11:03 am MSN.comThis year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., kicking off Tuesday, is the centennial celebration and is expected to bring record-breaking numbers of tourists and revenue to the city. The festival runs through April 27 — a five-week celebration rather than the usual two.

Washington Mayor Vincent C. Gray called the festival “one of the biggest events, if not the biggest event of the year for Washington, D.C.”

Gray is hopeful visitor revenues during the festival could reach $200 million, “since the economy is better and this year is the centennial,” he told In 2011, the festival generated $126 million in tourist dollars.

No projections have been made for the number of visitors this year. However, for a frame of reference, about 1 million visitors attend the festival on typical years when the event is two weeks long.

The festival began in 1912, when Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo presented 3,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington, D.C., in honor of the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan. The gift was coordinated with help from officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Geographic Society; first lady Helen Herron Taft; and Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a chemist who founded Sankyo Co., Ltd., a company now known as Daiichi Sankyo, which sponsors the festival.

The 3,000 trees were planted in the Tidal Basin; almost 100 of these still survive. The Japanese government gave first lady Lady Bird Johnson an additional 3,800 trees in 1965, which were also planted in the Tidal Basin. These were joined last year by more than 160 additional trees, planted at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, located in the Tidal Basin.

The National Park Service predicts the peak bloom period will be March 20-23 with an average peak bloom date of April 4. The trees are expected to bloom into April throughout the city and some of its suburbs.

The centennial festival is bringing many firsts, including a nationally syndicated broadcast of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on April 14. The parade will be co-hosted by ABC News special correspondent and former TODAY anchor Katie Couric and “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek.

Also new this year is a “City in Bloom” campaign: The National Building Museum, Newseum, Dulles International Airport, Southwest Waterfront and other buildings will have special pink or blossom lighting from March 28 to April 1, while 240 Capitol One bank branches (Capitol One is sponsoring the campaign) will distribute a “Petal Pass,” with discounts for tickets and merchandise. The United States Postal Service will issue a dual “Forever” stamp in honor of the centennial, while National Geographic has published a new book to mark the anniversary, “Cherry Blossoms: The Official Book of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.”

Diana Mayhew, president of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, said a record number of Washington, D.C. restaurants and hotels are participating in festival-related promotions, including more than 100 restaurants — up from 83 last year — and 55 hotels.

Destination DC, the city’s tourism promotion organization, is providing toll-free telephone service (877-44-BLOOM) for inquiries about the festival. “Phones continue to ring with interest,” said Elliott Ferguson, Destination DC’s president and CEO. “I’d like to say it’s going to be phenomenal, bring a lot of international business.”

Mayor Gray predicted the centennial festival would provide “a tremendous boost to our image as a welcoming place and as an international city. It demonstrates, too, what the 100-year relationship between the United States and Japan and Washington and Tokyo has done — it’s served us in good times and in bad times.”

History of Antarctica

April 1, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 


Irish explorer Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton and two members of his expedition team beside a Union Jack within 111 miles (178 km) of the South Pole

Hulton Archive / Getty
Tuesday, Dec. 01, 2009


By Kristi Oloffson

On Dec. 1, 1959, representatives from a dozen countries, including the U.S., Japan and the U.K. met in Washington to sign a treaty intended to keep the Cold War out of the coldest place on Earth. Fifty years later, the Antarctic Treaty is still in effect, making it one of the world’s most successful international agreements, with its member nations still meeting once a year. The pact calls for keeping Antarctica a continent free of weapons and reserved for scientific research alone; its signatories vow to refrain from making any claims to the territory, which is considered neutral ground. The pact fulfilled a longtime goal of its brainchild, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who feared the remote region could one day become an area for military competition. “The Antarctic Treaty and the guarantees it embodies constitute a significant advance toward the goal of a peaceful world with justice,” he said the day the treaty was signed.

More often associated with penguins and whales than science and peace, 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice — much of which is a mile and a half deep. The continent holds the record for the coldest temperature in recorded history: a numbing -128.6°F on July 21, 1983, in the middle of the southern hemisphere’s winter. Nearly one and a half times as large as the United States, Antarctica is geologically classified as a desert, garnering less than an inch of precipitation each year. It is the coldest, driest and windiest continent, not to mention the highest — Antarctica’s average elevation is 7,544 feet (2,299 m). The name Antarctica comes from the Greek word antarktiké meaning “opposite to the north.”

Scientists have suspected the existence of a southern landmass that balanced the globe’s northern continents since as early as 150 A.D., when Greek astronomer Ptolemy suggested the existence of a “unknown southern land.” But no humans actually set eyes on Antarctica until 1820. In a great race to the bottom of the world, ships from Russia, Britain and the U.S. all spotted the landmass within months of one another in 1820. The first explorer to discover Antarctica is widely believed to have been Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen, whose expedition first spotted land in January 1820. But further interest in the continent waned in the 1800s and Antarctica largely went unexplored until the final decade of that century, when some 16 expeditions explored the area. (See “Sub-glacial Antarctica” in mankind’s great explorations and adventures.)

The continent’s most famous exploration, however, remains the race to the South Pole in the early 1900s between British naval officer Robert Falcon Scott and Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Using 52 sled dogs and with four companions, Amundsen won the race — making it to the pole after a near two-month journey on Dec. 19, 1911. It took until nearly March for the team to reach Tasmania where they could send a telegram to let the rest of the world know of their feat. Scott later arrived on Jan. 17, 1912, just a month after Amundsen, but his entire team died on the return trip of exhaustion and bitter cold.

The signing of the Antarctic Treaty dedicated the continent entirely to research, from which have come a slew of discoveries about our planet. British scientists discovered the gaping, man-made hole in the ozone layer in the 1980s, while studies of Antarctic ice have contributed to our understanding of climate change — and increased concerns over catastrophically high sea levels if the continent’s thick glaciers were to melt. One of the most integral aspects of Antarctic scientific study remains, surprisingly, meteorites: the continent is a collecting ground for them, preserved well because they naturally bury into the ice for thousands of years.

Antarctica has no permanent residents, just the 1,000 to 5,000 scientists who staff its research centers, usually for a few months at a time. But more and more are coming to visit: more than 45,000 tourists visited Antarctica during its most recent summer, and on average about 30,000 visitors flock to the frigid continent each year. Trips don’t come cheap: a round-trip ticket — most likely by cruise ship — to the bottom of the earth can cost between $5,000 and $10,000. Nevertheless, at least five people have been born in Antarctica, the first being Argentinian Emilio Marcos Palma, whose mother, Silvia Morella de Palma, flew there to give birth in order to beat Chile in having the first Antarctica-born baby, on Jan. 7, 1978 — marking the southernmost birth in history. And despite not having much of a local economy, Antarctica still boasts a postal service, including branches of the U.S. Postal Service, to send and receive mail.

While the Antarctic Treaty continues to prohibit any government or military from overseeing the entire continent, Japan, China, India, the U.S. and many other countries maintain research stations there, thus claiming those areas, though not considered legal territories. But since 1996, the continent has had an unofficial flag to represent itself — a white depiction of the landmass, surrounded by light blue to indicate its neutrality.

Read more:,8599,1943658,00.html#ixzz1qoIkbIBE


South Pole Anniversary

March 30, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off on South Pole Anniversary 
South Pole anniversary final week: comment by Mark Langridge
(Correne Coetzer) Leader of the only team who retraced Scott’s route during the 2011-12 Antarctic season, Mark Langridge told ExplorersWeb that each day he, Kevin Johnson and Paul Vicary thought of Scott and his team.The modern explorers arrived Cape Evans, the original start point, on November 3rd. Arriving at Scott’s hut with great expectation to go inside, the team got the cold shoulder. “We were disappointed with the AHT who were unable to let us in Scott’s hut (we had a permit) even though their helicopter was taking off as we landed 800m away!” Mark told ExplorersWeb.

Carrying Capt. Oates’ Polar medal (signed out from the Regimental museum from his unit), the Langridge team followed Scott’s journals walking over the exact spots he had. “We conducted a short memorial at each pertinent location (One Ton Depot, Scott’s final campsite, Oates’ last campsite, and Taff Evans’ death site) Mark said.

Arriving the pole was hard for both teams but hardest for the pioneers.

Wanting to arrive at the South Pole on January 17, exactly 100 years after Scott, Langridge, Johnson and Vicary had to race in the end due to a white-out that forced hard work with 3 x 15 hour days, “getting us to the Pole at 23h35 January 17th NZ time!!” Mark said.

Scott wrote on January 17, after a sleepless night, “The Pole. Yes, but under very different circumstances from those expected. We have had a horrible day.” The men had already seen on January 16th, ”a black flag tied to a sledge bearer […] this told us the whole story.”

Mark Langridge and his crew didn’t have to ski back. Scott had no choice. “Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it,” he wrote in his diary.

Finding a cache left behind for them by Amundsen, Oates remarked, “I must say that man must have had his head screwed on right. The gear they left was in excellent order and they seem to have had a comfortable trip with their dog teams, very different from our wretched man-hauling.”

Fast forward a century, Mark Langridge stated to ExWeb, “We have nothing but respect for Scott and Shackleton in pioneering this classic (seldom travelled) route.”

1912 resupply teams

Following the pioneers’ sad march back, question arrives why no effort was made by their peers to find them?

Before leaving for the South Pole, on October 20, 1911, Scott gave detailed instructions to Cecil Meares about what to do by the time he and his team were to return from the South Pole.

Scott instructed a dog team with a resupply to meet them at One Tone Depot. “Assuming that the ship [Terra Nova] will have to leave the Sound soon after the middle of March, it looks at present as though you should aim at meeting the returning party about March 1 in Latitude 82 or 82.30.”

Two resupply teams went out to meet Scott, Wilson, Bowers, Oats and Edgar Evans. Scott’s second in command Edward Evans recalled, “Scott’s instructions were quite clear, and they were certainly obeyed. As a matter of fact there was never any anxiety felt for the Southern party until after March 10. They themselves never imagined they would reach Hut Point before that time, and as the last supporting party had won through short-handed, and after pulling in harness for 1500 miles, it was not considered likely that the Southern party would fail—unless overtaken by scurvy.”

The Russian dog driver, Dimitri/Demetri Gerof and Apsley Cherry-Garrard went out first, with dogs and two weeks’ resupply for the Southern team. They waited out bad weather at One Ton Camp and on March 10th left one month’s rations for Scott before returning to Hut Point.

On March 16 they broke the news that the polar team was still out on the Barrier (Ross Ice Shelf). On March 16 Scott wrote in his diary about Oates who had walked out in a blizzard to his death.

A second team, Edward Atkinson and Patrick Keohane set out on foot on March 27th to look for Scott and the team. Three days later they reached a point south of Corner Camp. Atkinson reported, “Taking into consideration the weather, and temperatures, and the time of the year, and the hopelessness of finding the party except at any definite point like a depôt, I decided to return from here.”

“We depôted the major portion of a week’s provisions to enable them to communicate with Hut Point in case they should reach this point. At this date in my own mind I was morally certain that the party had perished.”

Out on the Barrier, the remaining Southern team, Scott, Bowers and Wilson were in their tent, 11 miles from One Ton Camp – still alive, but near their end.

In the 2011-12 anniversary Antarctic ski season only one team retraced Scott’s route. Mark Langridge led Kevin Johnson and Paul Vicary from Cape Evans across the Ross Ice Shelf, up the Beardmore Glacier to the South Pole. They were the “Scott team” of the British Army’s Scott-Amundsen Race. The “Amundsen team” was lead by Henry Worsley, with team mate Lou Rudd.

Langridge’s team started from Cape Evan on November 4, 2011 and arrived at the South Pole at January 17, 2012. Worsley’s team started at The Bay of Whales on November 3, 2011 and arrived at the South Pole on January 9, 2012.

October 20, 1911 Roald Amundsen and his Norwegian team, Olav Bjaaland, Oscar Wisting, Helmer Hanssen and Sverre Hassel, set off from The Bay of Whales to discover the Geographic South Pole (90°S) on December 14, 1911. Kristian Prestrud, Jørgen Stubberud and Hjalmar Johansen stayed behind at Framheim (Bay of Whales) with the cook, Adolf Lindström.

Henry Worsley and Lou Rudd set off at the Bay of Whales on November 3, 2011, crossed the Ross Ice Shelf and Axel Heiberg Glacier and arrived at the South Pole on January 9, 2012.

The British Terra Nova polar team with Robert Falcon Scott as leader set off from Cape Evans on November 1, 1911 on their quest to discover the South Pole. The polar party who arrived at the already discovered South Pole on January 17, 1912 was Henry R. Bowers, Edward A. Wilson, Lawrence E.G. (Titus) Oates and Edgar Evans (Petty Officer Evans died on the way back, February 17, 1912 and Oates a month later). The rest of the team will meet their end with the last word from them on March 29, 1912.




March 24, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 


On October 27, 1904, New York City’s subway system officially opened, but talks to build an underground rail system began soon after London opened its subway in 1863. It wasn’t until 1894 that a referendum was put on the ballot to generate financial support from the city and create the Rapid Transit Board, which was in charge of planning the route. The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) was awarded the contract to build the first subway line. The Rapid Transit Board planned one original route, stretching from City Hall to 96th Street, which then split into two more routes from Broadway to 242nd Street and another that ran under the Harlem River into the Bronx. Bids were then solicited and construction began in 1900.chief engineer, William Barclay Parsons developed. The process, in which crews dug a shallow excavation below the street surface and built a concrete and steel subsurface for trains to run through. The method was a painstaking process that required the relocation of thousands of sewer, gas and water mains and reinforcing buildings along the route. However, some of the exhibit photos clearly show how that many of the buildings did not survive and had to be demolished. While the IRT construction was marred by significant property damage, business disruptions and fatal accidents, it did succeed in addressing the city’s basic objective: a cheap, reliable urban transit system. The five cent fare that remained in place until 1947 allowed an explosive growth of home construction throughout Upper Manhattan and the Bronx

Stanley and Livingstone

March 21, 2012 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 
Mar 21, 1871:

Stanley begins search for Livingstone

On this day in 1871, journalist Henry Morton Stanley begins his famous search through Africa for the missing British explorer Dr. David Livingstone.
In the late 19th century, Europeans and Americans were deeply fascinated by the “Dark Continent” of Africa and its many mysteries. Few did more to increase Africa’s fame than Livingstone, one of England’s most intrepid explorers. In August 1865, he set out on a planned two-year expedition to find the source of the Nile River. Livingstone also wanted to help bring about the abolition of the slave trade, which was devastating Africa’s population.

Almost six years after his expedition began, little had been heard from Livingstone. James Gordon Bennett, Jr., editor of the New York Herald, decided to capitalize on the public’s craze for news of their hero. He sent Stanley to lead an expedition into the African wilderness to find Livingstone or bring back proof of his death. At age 28, Stanley had his own fascinating past. As a young orphan in Wales, he crossed the Atlantic on the crew of a merchant ship. He jumped ship in New Orleans and later served in the Civil War as both a Confederate and a Union soldier before beginning a career in journalism.

After setting out from Zanzibar in March 1871, Stanley led his caravan of nearly 2,000 men into the interior of Africa. Nearly eight months passed–during which Stanley contracted dysentery, cerebral malaria and smallpox–before the expedition approached the village of Ujiji, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Sick and poverty-stricken, Livingstone had come to Ujiji that July after living for some time at the mercy of Arab slave traders. When Stanley’s caravan entered the village on October 27, flying the American flag, villagers crowded toward the new arrivals. Spotting a white man with a gray beard in the crowd, Stanley stepped toward him and stretched out his hand: “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

These words–and Livingstone’s grateful response–soon became famous across Europe and the United States. Though Stanley urged Livingstone to return with him to London, the explorer vowed to continue his original mission. Livingstone died 18 months later in today’s Zambia; his body was embalmed and returned to Britain, where he was buried in Westminster Abbey. As for Stanley, he returned to Africa to fulfill a promise he had made to Livingstone to find the source of the Nile. He later damaged his reputation by accepting money from King Leopold II of Belgium to help create the Belgian-ruled Congo Free State and promote the slave trade. When he left Africa, Stanley resumed his British citizenship and even served in Parliament, but when he died he was refused burial in Westminster Abbey because of his actions in the Congo Free State.

Stanley begins search for Livingstone. (2012). The History Channel website. Retrieved 8:44, March 21, 2012, from

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