Lake Nyos Disaster: August 21, 1986

Lake Nyos Disaster August 21, 1986

On August 21, 1986, a rare natural disaster occurred in the West African country of Cameroon when a large cloud of carbon dioxide gas spewed from Lake Nyos and blanketed nearby villages killing 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock while they slept.

The event, known as a limnic eruption, occurs when carbon dioxide builds in colder, deep lake water creating a heavy layer on the bottom. The weight of the warmer, upper layer of water forms a lid that keeps the gas down — much like a cork on a bottle.

Carbon dioxide cloud kills 1746 people in Cameroon
Eventually the gas in Lake Nyos built up to a point that it was released in a massive eruption that created a 330-foot high column of water and a 200-foot wave. Scientists wondered what caused the cork to pop.

Sule Umare, a cattle herder from Cameroon described the event that killed 99% of the people in his village. “We thought that rain was coming,” he recalled. “I went out and saw the moon shining. I wondered how rain could come without clouds.” Sule was enveloped in a flood of carbon dioxide before he lost consciousness.

Another survivor, Margaret Wandia remembers she was, “breathing very hard and had no strength.” She woke to find three of her four daughters dead beside her.

Some scientists concluded that an underwater landslide disrupted the layers and caused the gas to bubble up that fateful day. Others wondered if volcanic magma below the lake caused the release.

While studying the lake, scientists realized gas levels were rising again. They concluded that gas was gradually leaking into the lake from deep in the earth. In order to prevent a future explosion, scientists started venting the gas with a 672-foot pipe, that when lowered to the bottom, performed like a big straw – sucking the gas upward where it vented gradually into the air.

A second Cameroon lake experienced a similar, but smaller eruption in 1984 and 37 people died.

If you’d like to learn more about the disaster at Lake Nyos, search our archives!

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July 5th: First Casualty of the Korean War

Robert F. Kennedy Fatally Shot: June 5, 1968

If your understanding of the Korean War comes from watching the TV show M*A*S*H, you’re not alone. The Korean War has been referred to as the forgotten war. July 5th marks the 68th anniversary of the first American casualty of the war. With North Korea dominating headlines again, we’ve explored our archives to give you a brief overview of the Korean War from the headlines as it happened.

Korean War Ends
At the end of WWII, Korea was divided into zones. The Soviets occupied North Korea where communism reigned, and the US occupied South Korea. Both Koreas longed for unification —but each on their own terms. The communist leader of the North, Kim II Sung, attempted to unify the Koreas by force when on June 25, 1950, he ordered 75,000 soldiers to spill over the 38th parallel line into the South. Five days later, President Harry S. Truman ordered US troops into action as America sought to stop the spread of communism.

By August, North Korean troops had taken control of Seoul and much of the country. In September, under General Douglas MacArthur, the US launched a major counter-offensive and drove Northern troops back to the 38th parallel line and continued across it until troops nearly reached the Chinese border. The Chinese government fearing invasion sent 200,000 soldiers to bolster North Korea.

With the help of China, and support from the Soviets, North Korea pushed US troops back across the 38th parallel again. Fighting was intense. Among significant battles were the Battle of Inchon and the Battle of Chosin. US losses and a disagreement in strategy spurred President Truman to fire General MacArthur. General Matthew B. Ridgway took over command.

Nearly three years after the war started, it ended right where it started – at the 38th parallel line. The US lost 36,500 soldiers. There was no clear winner and no peace treaty established. An armistice was adopted designating a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) that separated North from South. Nearly 70 years later, the Korean peninsula remains divided.

Kim II Sung remained the North’s leader until his death in 1994 when his son Kim Jong II took over. After Kim Jong II’s death in 2011, Kim Jong Un, the son of Kim Jong II and grandson of Kim Sung II was named Supreme Commander.

Do you have a relative that fought in the Korean War? Tell us about it! You can search our archives to find more articles about the war! You can also access Korean War casualty records on Fold3.com.

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Robert F. Kennedy Fatally Shot: June 5, 1968

Robert F. Kennedy Fatally Shot: June 5, 1968

Fifty years ago this month, Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles moments after stepping off the stage where he claimed victory in the California presidential primary election. Kennedy died the next day. The gunman was 22-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan who later confessed to the crime.

Senate pays tribute to Robert F. Kennedy
The news stunned the world. Senators paid tribute to Kennedy, and religious leaders exclaimed, “Something’s wrong with us!” When word of the shooting made its way to Vietnam, one American soldier responded saying, “What the hell is going on back there?”

Kennedy campaigned aggressively in California, crisscrossing the state. He won with a narrow victory. The mood was celebratory the night of June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel. Kennedy addressed the crowd shortly after midnight and exited the ballroom through a kitchen. Sirhan rushed towards him in a narrow corridor and shot him at close range.

The gun was wrestled away as Sirhan continued firing resulting in five others being wounded including William Weisel, Paul Schrade, Elizabeth Evans, Ira Goldstein, and Irwin Stroll. The cheers and applause heard seconds before quickly turned to screams and panic when the shots rang out.

Kennedy was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital where doctors performed surgery but were unable to save him. At the time of Kennedy’s assassination, presidential candidates did not have Secret Service security. His death stirred Congress to pass a law providing that protection for future candidates.

Kennedy’s death came just five years after that of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. Robert Kennedy’s body was flown to New York, where he lay in repose at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral before burial. The nation mourned with Kennedy’s widow Ethel and his 10 young children. An eleventh child was born after Kennedy’s death.

In 2016, Sirhan was denied parole for the 15th time and remains in prison today. What do you remember about the day Robert F. Kennedy was shot? You can search our archives to find more articles on his life and death. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for trending news and updates!

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Haymarket Riot: May 4, 1886

Haymarket Riot: May 4, 1886

On May 4, 1886, a bomb was detonated during a peaceful labor demonstration in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. The bomb and ensuing violence left seven policemen and a number of civilians dead and many others wounded.

Headline about the Haymarket Riot
The day before the incident at Haymarket Square, two striking workers had been killed at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company during an altercation with police. The following day, thousands of people gathered in Haymarket Square to protest the police violence and to listen to a number of labor leaders speak in support of better working conditions.

The gathering was peaceful and, due to poor weather, eventually dwindled to about three hundred people. When 180 policemen were dispatched to disperse the crowd, someone threw a bomb at the police. The police (as well as some in the crowd) responded by opening fire, and when things finally calmed down, one policeman and at least four civilians had been killed (six other policemen would later die of their injuries); numerous other policemen and bystanders were wounded.

Although the person who threw the bomb was never identified, eight labor activists were arrested and put on trial. Seven received death sentences, and the other was given 15 years in prison. Of the seven who were sentenced to death, four of them were hanged in 1887, one committed suicide, and two had their sentences commuted to life in prison. In 1893, the surviving three were pardoned by the governor based on the unfairness of the original trial.

Public opinion immediately following the Haymarket Riot generally landed on the side of the police. Because the eight defendants (and others involved with the labor movement) were immigrants and socialists or anarchists, the public increasingly saw the labor movement as a hotbed of foreign-born radicals. Anti-anarchist hysteria grew, spurred by the exaggerated accounts of many newspapers. However, for those within the labor movement, the Haymarket Riot came to represent the struggle for workers’ rights, and the event inspired many future labor activists.

Do you have any family stories about the Haymarket Riot or the labor movement? Share them with us! Or learn more about the event by searching Newspapers.com.

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The Great Blizzard of 1888 Hits the Northeast:
March 11–14, 1888

Memorable Moments in Winter Olympics History

During the night of March 11–12, 1888, heavy rain falling across the northeastern United States turned into snow, heralding the start of a blizzard that would kill hundreds of people and cut off major hubs like New York City from the rest of the country for days.4.

Great Blizzard of 1888The weather had been warm and mild leading up to the blizzard, but a cold, snowy storm moving in from the Great Lakes region collided with a warm, wet storm moving up from the south, creating a blizzard that not only dumped 20–60 inches of snow but was also accompanied by hurricane-force winds and below-freezing temperatures.

The blizzard was at its worst on the 12th and 13th. The wind blew so hard that snow accumulated in drifts sometimes dozens of feet high. Trains were unable to run for days, telegraph lines were knocked down across the northeast, and hundreds of boats along the coast were sunk or beached. Due to the cold temperatures and whiteout conditions, people froze to death in the streets and livestock died in the fields.

On the 13th, while New York City was still in the grips of the blizzard, the New York Tribune described the previous day of the storm:

“The forcible if not elegant vocabulary of pugilism supplied the phrases which will, perhaps, best reveal to the popular imagination the effect of the storm that visited New York yesterday. New York was simply ‘knocked out,’ ‘paralyzed,’ and reduced to a condition of suspended animation. Traffic was practically stopped, and business abandoned. […] Chaos reigned, and the proud, boastful metropolis was reduced to the condition of a primitive settlement.”

The storm had mostly dissipated by the 14th, but the cleanup was only beginning. Mountains of snow had to be cleared from the roads and train tracks, communications lines had to be repaired, and debris blown around during the storm had to be removed. To make matters worse, when the weather warmed back up, flooding from the snowmelt occurred in some places.

The consequences of the storm made a big impression on local officials, and as a result, major cities like New York began moving their trains and communication lines underground.

Do you have any family stories about the Great Blizzard of 1888? Share them with us! Or find more articles about the storm on Newspapers.com.

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Valentine’s Days of the Past

Memorable Moments in Winter Olympics History

How did your grandparents, great grandparents, and even earlier ancestors celebrate Valentine’s Day? Through the eyes of newspaper readers of the past, we can transport ourselves back to earlier decades to see how affection was shown and sentiments exchanged on February 14.

An 1839 column in the New Orleans Daily Picayune quotes Shakespeare on the subject and discusses 15th-century British customs where “the first woman seen by a man, or man seen by a woman, on St. Valentine’s day, is marked as their Valentine for the ensuing year. “It notes another contemporary custom of “young people sending complimentary or satirical letters … accompanied with a carricature engraving” which numbered fifteen thousand posts in New York alone in 1831.

Column about Valentine's Day

Parade magazine, published in the 9 February 1958 edition of the Long Beach, CA, Independent Press Telegram, wondered if “you know all about love” and offered a quiz with a more scientific slant to its readers. Even Dennis the Menace flustered his father that year by questioning the history of a day that tormented him as he received “about sixty million valentines.”

Loveland, Colorado, became “Sweetheart Town,” when the president of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce realized the town’s postmaster was remailing valentines in the 1940s as requested by romantics in other parts of the country. He took advantage of the opportunity and notices of “Cupid’s Haven” appeared in newspapers around the nation in 1947, promising remailed valentines complete with the Loveland cancellation stamp.

Valentine’s Day commercialism was as prevalent in decades past as it is today. Publishers ramped up readership with enticing recipes for Valentine desserts in 1953, and promoted unusual floral fashion trends in 1941. Retailers used the sentimental day to increase sales. Ads offered everything from racy, spicy, sparkling cards for soldiers in 1863 wartime America, to televisions and telephones, not to mention dry cleaning services, in more recent publications. Who knew that in 1932 Montana, chiffon stockings could mend a broken heart?

Whether through Valentine’s Day sentiments of the past or via more modern traditions, love, hope, and infatuation monopolize our culture and our newspapers every February 14th.

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Death of Queen Victoria: January 22, 1901

Death of Queen Victoria: January 22, 1901

On January 22, 1901, Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, passed away at the age of 81 at the royal residence on the Isle of Wight, marking the end of her 63-year reign.

Queen Victoria's Diamond JubileeVictoria had celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, which marked the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne and made her Britain’s longest-reigning monarch up to that point. By this time, old age had begun to take its toll, and the queen suffered from failing eyesight and had trouble walking, among other health issues. By Christmastime of 1900, which she spent at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, her health had further declined, and after the New Year she suffered a stroke and was confined to her bed.

Her family was alerted to her poor health, and her children who were able gathered at her bedside—as did her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. Victoria passed away at 6:30 p.m. on January 22. She had written her funeral wishes three years earlier, which included being dressed in white and laid in her coffin with various mementos and keepsakes. Per her request, Victoria was given a military funeral and was laid to rest at Frogmore Mausoleum, in Windsor, alongside her husband Albert, who had died in 1861.

People around the world mourned Victoria’s death. Her reign had lasted 63 years, and for many people, she had been queen for their entire lives. The London Times wrote, the day after her death:

To most of us the whole course of our lives as subjects of the Queen has been the proof of the admirable way in which this unique woman—whose small frame was permeated, so to speak, with Royal dignity, whose home life was so simple and pure, and whose intelligence […] was […] formed by work and long experience into a powerful instrument of life—has met the difficulties of the longest and the fullest reign in English history.

The queen’s death was literally the end of an era. Her death marked the end of the Victorian Era, which spanned 1837 to 1901, the years of her reign. Though just 18 years old at the time she became queen, over the course of her life Victoria oversaw Britain’s transition to an industrialized nation, as well as its expansion into the British Empire.

Find more articles about Queen Victoria on Newspapers.com!

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Prohibition Ends: December 5, 1933

Prohibition Ends: December 5, 1933

On December 5, 1933, Prohibition came to an end with the repeal of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which had outlawed the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol since 1920.

Utah ends prohibition for nationThe passage of the 18th Amendment had been the result of decades of work by religious and progressive groups to permanently eliminate the consumption of alcohol in the United States. Groups such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League believed that getting rid of alcohol would remove many of society’s ills. Brewery-owned saloons, in particular, were seen by temperance and prohibition groups as the root of many evils, and these establishments were targeted by activists such as Carrie Nation, who became famous for smashing up saloons.

Finally, by late 1917, there was enough support in Congress to pass the 18th Amendment, which was ratified by the states in early 1919. Prohibition was set to go into effect in 1920, and in preparation, the National Prohibition Act (more commonly known as the Volstead Act) was passed in late 1919. Under the Volstead Act, it was illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport any beverage with an alcohol content of more than 0.5%. Exceptions were made for medical or religious needs, and it was still legal to drink in your own home and to make wine for personal use.

Though Prohibition did see an overall decline in alcohol consumption in the country, it had many unintended consequences. It was illegal to sell alcohol, but it wasn’t illegal to buy or drink it, which led to the rise of a black market alcohol industry of bootleggers and smugglers. This strengthened organized crime syndicates, who made significant amounts of money off illegal alcohol. Gang violence increased, perhaps most notoriously in Chicago, and criminals such as Al Capone became household names. With so much money to be made from black market alcohol, bribery of Prohibition agents, police, judges, and politicians was rampant.

These and other issues—such as the onset of the Great Depression—as well as the rise of powerful anti-Prohibition groups (such as the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform), finally turned the tide against Prohibition. The 1932 Democratic Party platform was anti-Prohibition, and when Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidential election, anti-Prohibition forces passed the 21st Amendment in Congress. The amendment, which repealed Prohibition, was quickly ratified by the states, with Utah casting the deciding vote in favor of repeal on December 5, 1933.

Do you have any family stories about Prohibition? Share them with us! Or find more articles and other information about Prohibition by searching Newspapers.com!

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King Tut’s Tomb Discovered: November 4, 1922

King Tut's Tomb Discovered: November 4, 1922

On November 4, 1922, the first stair to what would eventually be uncovered as Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in Egypt by the team of British archaeologist Howard Carter. King Tut’s tomb would quickly gain fame for being among the most intact pharaonic tombs, as well as for the curse that some said affected those who were involved in the tomb’s discovery.

New Tomb Found Egypt's GreatestHoward Carter had been excavating in the Valley of the Kings under the patronage of Lord Carnarvon since 1917, but by 1922 he still had not made any finds of major significance. When Lord Carnarvon threatened to withdraw his funding, Carter convinced Carnarvon to bankroll a final excavation season. The request paid off, and on November 4, 1922, Carter’s team discovered the top of a staircase. Further digging revealed a door to what would turn out to be Tutankhamen’s tomb, and Carter sent word to Carnarvon, who joined him in Egypt.

The tomb was officially opened on November 29 (though Carter, Carnarvon, and others had secretly entered before that), and they discovered that though the tomb appeared to have been robbed twice in antiquity, the majority of the treasures and other items remained inside. With such a host of artifacts, work on the tomb was slow and painstaking. It took months after the tomb’s discovery for the burial chamber to be opened, and three years after the discovery for the archaeologists to finally view Tutankhamen’s mummy itself. In total, it would take eight years for all the objects in the tomb to be documented and removed.

As soon as word got out about the discovery in 1922, the world was fascinated with the wonders that were uncovered from the 3,000-year-old tomb. Despite the ancient grave robbing attempts, Tut’s tomb was still among the best-preserved pharaoh’s tombs ever discovered. However, another factor also increased King Tut’s fame: the so-called “curse of the pharaohs.”

Beginning with Lord Carnarvon’s illness and death in April 1923 (due to complications following an infected mosquito bite), rumors of the curse grabbed the public’s attention. From then on, the deaths of any of the people associated with the tomb’s discovery were attributed to a curse that was said to affect anyone who had disturbed Tutankhamen’s rest. In all, dozens of deaths were claimed to be the result of the curse—though Howard Carter himself would live for more than 15 years after the discovery.

Find more articles about King Tut on searching Newspapers.com!

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Soviet Union Launches Sputnik: October 4, 1957

Soviet Union Launches Sputnik: October 4, 1957

October 4 marks 60 years since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik— the first manmade satellite—into orbit in 1957, one of the instigating events of the Cold War Space Race and one that ignited fears in the United States regarding perceived Soviet superiority.

Sputnik headline
In 1955, the United States—and a few days later the Soviet Union—announced that it would launch an artificial satellite during 1957, the International Geophysical Year, which was set aside as a time to focus on scientific research. Though the United States had the missile technology to launch a satellite, the Soviet Union beat them to it, launching Sputnik—a 2-foot sphere carrying a radio transmitter—on October 4 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, in what is today Kazakhstan. The satellite’s radio signals, heard as a series of beeps, could be picked up by amateur radio operators around the world as Sputnik orbited the earth.

Then, a month later, on November 3, before the United States could launch its own satellite, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, which carried a dog into space. The U.S. finally announced its own satellite, to be carried by the Navy’s Vanguard rocket, but the actual launch on December 6 ended in failure. It wasn’t until January 31, 1958, that the United States successfully launched a satellite known as the Explorer 1, using a Juno I rocket based on a pre-existing Army-designed missile.

The Soviet launch of Sputnik months before America launched its own satellite sparked what became known as the “Sputnik crisis,” as the American public grew worried that the launch of Sputnik indicated a Soviet technological and scientific superiority. Anxiety also grew over national security, as the Soviet satellite launch seemed to confirm a “missile gap” between the two nations, with the Soviets appearing to come out on top. In response to these fears, President Eisenhower announced the creation of NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), and the U.S. also revamped its education system to emphasize math, science, and engineering.

The Space Race between the U.S. and Soviet Union peaked in 1969 with the United States’ moon landing, though it would continue with varying intensity until the USSR’s dissolution in 1991.

Do you have any stories about Sputnik? Share them with us! Or find more newspaper stories about the event by searching Newspapers.com.

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