History


The Bermuda Triangle: A Breeding Ground for Rogue Waves or a Pit of Human Mistakes?

The Bermuda Triangle, a mysterious stretch of ocean between Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the tip of Florida, has allegedly, throughout the years, swallowed a horde of unsuspecting ships, planes and people.

Many tales have been told about the vanishings. Aliens captured the humans for research. Some geomagnetic storm confused the pilots’ navigational systems. The lost continent of Atlantis sucked the vessels into its grasp with a mysterious, unidentified force. Better yet, strong vortexes slurped the victims straight into another dimension.

But scientists throughout the years have pointed out that there are plausible explanations for the vanishings, and that the risks of traveling through the Bermuda Triangle are no different than other spots in the ocean.

New life has been breathed into one such theory: that the vessels could have easily been overcome by giant and unexpected rogue waves. This hypothesis isn’t new, but a group of U.K. scientists recently discussed the evidence for freak waves and other theories (including the role of human error) in a three-episode documentary series “The Bermuda Triangle Enigma,” produced by the BBC for Channel 5.

“There is no doubt this area is prone to rogue waves,” Simon Boxall, an oceanographer at the University of Southampton and one of the scientists on the team, told Live Science. They are possible “anywhere you get multiple storms coming together.”

Rogue waves are steep and tall, like “walls of water,” and they often hit unexpectedly, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The tip of South Africa, for example, is very prone to them, where waves from storms in the South Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean all come together at once, Boxall said. Indeed, there were similar disappearances of big container vessels and tankers off the tip of South Africa throughout the years, he said.

This also holds true for the Bermuda Triangle, where storms can comefrom all directions, like Mexico, the equator and farther east in the Atlantic. If each wave can reach over 30 feet (10 meters) tall, occasionally they can coincide at the right moment and create a rogue, or “freak,” wave that can be over 100 feet (30 m) high.

Engineers at the University of Southampton in England built some ship models, including one of the USS Cyclops, a vessel that vanished in the Bermuda Triangle in 1918 with over 300 people on board.

They simulated rogue waves in a wave tank and found that, indeed, ships can sink quickly if hit by them. The bigger the ship, the bigger the difficulty staying afloat, they found. Small ships can get swamped by them, but sometimes they can ride the wave if they hit it bow-on, Boxall said. But big ships — designed to be supported in the front by the top of one wave and in the back by the top of another — snap in two.


Gas bubbles, magnetic anomalies…humans being humans?

People often talk about weird magnetic anomalies over the Bermuda Triangle, Boxall said. “There aren’t any,” he said. There are magnetic anomalies in the world that have to do with the Earth’s mantle moving beneath the crust, but the nearest one is about 1,000 miles [1,600 km] south, off the coast of Brazil — a long way away from the Bermuda Triangle, he said.

Another theory has to do with pockets of explosive methane gas that could, due to some disturbance, float up toward the water’s surface and cause the water to be less dense than the ship, leading the ship to sink. However, no experiment to date has been able to prove that this is possible, Boxall said.

“Theoretically, it could be happening, but there are lots of places in the world where this can happen,” not just in the Bermuda Triangle, Boxall said. Instead, he thinks the most common cause for the mysterious vanishings is human error.

The famous disappearance of Flight 19 — five U.S. Navy aircraft that vanished during a training mission in 1945 — that led one journalist in 1964 to give the area its current name, probably occurred because the crew got lost and ran out of fuel, Boxall said.

About a third of all registered and privately owned ocean craft in the U.S. are in the states and islands of the Bermuda Triangle area, he said. And according to the most recent 2016 figures from the Coast Guard, 82 percent of incidents in this area that year involved people who had no formal training or experience of being at sea, he added.

“So, you take a third of the entire boating population of the U.S., you dump them in the Bermuda Triangle,” and what you get is mysterious vanishings, Boxall said. You don’t need any licensing or specific equipment like radios or navigation maps to take a boat to sea, he added.

“A number of times, working at sea, we’ve come across people who are navigating using a road map, who are relying on their mobile phones as their means of communication, discovering … you get 30 miles offshore [and] you lose the signal,” Boxall said.

In addition, “environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances,” NOAA wrote on its website. “The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place.”

NOAA also says the area could be prone to accidents because of the Gulf Stream, a strong and fast ocean current that can cause “rapid, sometimes violent, changes in weather,” and shallow waters around the Caribbean islands that can prove fatal for ships.

“You can extend the Bermuda Triangle to ever bigger areas…what you’ll find is that the Bermuda Triangle covers the entire globe,” Boxall said. “Rogue waves can hit lots of different places, methane bubbles can hit lots of different places, and wherever you get a high concentration of amateurs without any experience you’re going to get a high concentration of mysterious disappearances.”

But, you know, maybe it is aliens capturing unsuspecting humans using vortexes that lead straight into their laboratories that they’ve set up in the lost city of Atlantis.Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Aug. 3. The original map showing the Bermuda Triangle was incorrect. The so-called Bermuda Triangle is an area between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.



St. Charles’ Ties to the Titanic exhibit to open at St. Charles History Museum

The St. Charles History Museum’s summer exhibit, Tip of the Iceberg: St. Charles’ Ties to the Titanic, will explore local connections to the most infamous disaster in maritime history, the 1912 sinking of the Titanic.

The St. Charles History Museum’s summer exhibit, Tip of the Iceberg: St. Charles’ Ties to the Titanic, will explore local connections to the most infamous disaster in maritime history, the 1912 sinking of the Titanic.

According to a news release from the St. Charles History Museum, Alice Berg Johnson and her two children, Harold and Elanor, were returning home to their hometown of St. Charles after visiting Alice’s ill father in Finland. Alice Johnson purchased three third class tickets to set sail on the Titanic for what would be its first and final journey across the Atlantic Ocean.



 History of Osaka, Japan’s City of Water

An Ancient Transport Hub

Stretching along Osaka Bay and crisscrossed by rivers and canals, Osaka is known as the “city of water.” Its abundant waterways spurred its development and laid the groundwork for a thriving community. Many of Osaka’s most famous tourist sights lie along canals, rivers, or the seashore, including the bustling Minami district—home to Dōtonbori street and its giant billboards—the cluster of public facilities on the river island of Nakanoshima, the moat-enclosed fortress of Osaka Castle, and the bay area where Universal Studios Japan and Osaka Aquarium are situated.

A boat tours the Dōtonbori canal in Osaka’s Minami district. (© Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau)


Osaka’s connection with water stretches back to its very beginnings. The city is situated on alluvial deposits of the Yodo and Yamato Rivers. Sediment accumulated over millennia, forming a small peninsula called the Uemachi Plateau and producing numerous sandbars known collectively as Naniwa Yasoshima.

It was here that a port was built linking a succession of imperial capitals constructed from the sixth to eighth centuries along the upper reaches of the Yamato River in modern-day Nara Prefecture to the sea. Naniwa, as the area was then known, grew into a major settlement rivaled in importance only by the shifting capitals. It was the starting point for ships carrying Japanese missions to Sui and Tang China, and for nine years from 645 and one year from 744 it even served as Japan’s imperial capital.

The name Naniwa itself, although written with different characters over the ages, has always been rendered with characters that bring to mind an area of fast-flowing water beside the sea.

The site of Naniwakyō, the historic palace of the capital for one year from 744. (© Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau).

The ancient Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine still brings to mind the maritime roots of the city. The sacred space hosts a line of three halls that face westward to the sea like a fleet of ships, their respective deities either masters of the water or patrons of sailors.

The Kitchen of the Nation

From the fifteenth century, Naniwa came to be known as Osaka. It grew in significance both militarily and as a transportation center, and leaders through the ages strove to control the area. In 1532, the Buddhist priest Rennyo established the fortified temple town of Ishiyama Honganji there. After the complex was destroyed in battle half a century later, powerful warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi built Osaka Castle on the site in 1583.

In 1615, the recently established Tokugawa shogunate snuffed out the remaining power of the Toyotomi clan with victory at the Siege of Osaka Castle before taking the city under its direct control. It then set out to excavate a network of waterways, establishing Osaka as a full-fledged castle town. Engineers strengthened the soft, damp soil, turning trenches dug for water drainage into canals for transportation. Merchants and craftsmen moved to the city in droves, laying the foundations for the prosperity that continues to this day.

Osaka rapidly developed into a trade center and came to be called the “kitchen of the nation.” Markets around the city sold goods brought in across the Seto Inland Sea along with international wares from a burgeoning Pacific Ocean network. Osaka was also connected to the imperial capital Kyoto along the Yodo River and was a major stop along the newly built network of roads.

A print shows a fleet of cotton ships jostling for space at the mouth of a river as they set sail for Edo. Goods from around the country were transported to Osaka by water and stored in domain warehouses. (Courtesy Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library)


Warehouses in Osaka owned by the domains played a major role in supporting the city’s economic activities. Regional lords needed to pay taxes to the shogunate and would exchange rice collected through their own land taxation activities and stored at their riverside warehouses in Osaka for money, gauging when rates were most favorable. The world’s first futures trading also took place at the Dōjima Rice Exchange.

Dōjima Rice Exchange, where the first futures trading took place. (Courtesy Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library)

Osaka also became a center for Genroku culture that flourished from the second half of the seventeenth century to the early eighteenth century. The increased wealth of townspeople during the Edo period (1603–1868) allowed many residents to devote time to scholarship and the appreciation of art, literature, and performances of kabuki and ningyō jōruri puppet theater. Great writers of the period like Osaka-born Ihara Saikaku, known for his novels depicting the lives of merchants and other local citizens, and playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon won great popularity in the city. It was during this time that Dōtonbori developed into an entertainment district lined with playhouses.

Industrial Growth

In the mid-nineteenth century, early foreign visitors to Osaka saw resemblances to European cities like Paris and Venice. As Japan modernized in the Meiji era (1868–1912), however, the city’s industrialization led it to be nicknamed the “Manchester of the East.” The Meiji government constructed facilities like the Osaka Mint and the Osaka Arsenal along waterways, while private enterprise promoted the machinery industry and shipbuilding. The growth of the textile industry, including cotton spinning, particularly drew comparisons to the British city.

Buoyed by industrial development, Osaka’s population soared. It was further spurred on by an influx of migrants from Tokyo after the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. In 1925, the city incorporated 44 neighboring towns and villages to secure new land for homes and industry, swelling in size to 181 square kilometers and a population of 2.1 million. For a time it even surpassed Tokyo to become one of Asia’s largest commercial cities, ranking alongside New York, London, Paris, and Berlin on the global stage.

Around this period, improvements were made to infrastructure like roads, rail lines, water supplies, and sewer services. The early twentieth century was also when important cultural facilities like Osaka City Central Public Hall, Osaka Science Museum, Tennōji Zoo, and the reconstructed central keep that acts as a history museum at Osaka Castle were built.

Osaka City Central Public Hall was designated as an important cultural property in 2002. (© Osaka Convention and Tourism Bureau)

Osaka followed Western models to modernize the facilities on Nakanoshima Park and its central wholesale markets. On major thoroughfare Midōsuji, authorities buried electric wires and installed streetlights to give it an attractive appearance on par with international standards, adding lines of ginkgo trees to demonstrate pride in being a top Asian city.

The city developed a modern urban culture typified by lavish department stores along streets like Shinsaibashisuji and Sakaisuji, and Western-style cafés packed with customers. Rail lines extended out to the suburbs to service new residential areas inspired by Britain’s garden cities. Railway companies also began to manage sports facilities, beaches, and amusement parks. On weekdays, trains ferried workers to the heart of the city, and at weekends the same locomotives took families out on leisure trips. Umeda and Nanba Stations became centers of amusement and shopping, with their station buildings boasting department stores and cinemas and theaters nearby.

Osaka remained an important port in prewar Japan. American automakers constructed plants in the harbor district, and sea routes plied by large passenger liners connected the city to the Korean Peninsula, China, and Southeast Asia.

Looking Ahead to Expo 2025

The 1970 Osaka Expo, held in the Senri Hills to the north of the city with the theme of “Progress and Harmony for Mankind,” became a symbol for Japan’s high-growth period. The first World Exposition to take place in Asia, it attracted a record 64 million visitors. Then in 1990, the International Garden and Greenery Exposition promoted the importance of plants and vegetation in urban spaces.

Expo 70’s Tower of the Sun, surrounded by droves of visitors. (© Jiji)

Osaka has been an international city throughout its history. It grew as a commercial and transport center strongly aware of its connections to the wider world.

This has fostered open attitudes among Osakans and a willingness to take in different values and new forms of culture. Today, Osaka is a city rich in diversity where the tendency is for residents to affirm and show interest in people with fresh ideas and a sense of individuality.

In 2018, Osaka was again chosen to host the World Expo in 2025. This time, the venue will be Yumeshima, an area of reclaimed land in Osaka Bay. The theme has been set as “Designing Future Society for Our Lives” with an emphasis on international cooperation and contributing to the meeting of sustainable development goals set by the United Nations. Planners hope the event will send out a new message to the international community about the future.



World Cup from 1975 to 2015, a brief history of India at cricket’s biggest event

World Cup 2019: From 1975 to 2015, a brief history of India at cricket’s biggest event

Virat Kohli’s India will kickstart their quest for a third title at cricket’s biggest event when they take on South Africa at ICC Men’s World Cup on Wednesday in Southampton.

India are the last of the 10 teams to launch their challenge in England and Wales and they start against a South Africa side that is struggling after losing their first two matches.

And ahead of India’s 12th campaign, we take a look at the colourful history of the two-time world champions.

From underdog champions in 1983 to having to forfeit a semi-final at home because of rowdy crowd in 1996, from the crushing final loss in 2003 to becoming the first team to lift the trophy at home in 2011, there is no shortage of drama whenever India play at the marquee event.

In between 1983 and 2011, India has seen the best of World Cup cricket, especially when a certain Sachin Tendulkar played, and the worst of losses that actually prompted the entire World Cup format to change. The team has reached the semi-finals thrice (1987, 1996 and 2015) and have been knocked out in the Group stage four times (1975, 1979, 1992 and 2007), to go with the two titles.

The second edition in 1975 was not any better: a disastrous campaign marked by the low of losing to then-minnows Sri Lanka. Not once did India cross 200 in their three matches (in the 60-over format back then).

But third time was the charm as Kapil’s Devils pulled off one of the greatest underdog triumphs of all time by beating two-time defending champions West indies not once but twice, including the 1983 final.

In their first tournament as defending champions, India were out in the semi-finals in 1987. After a famous one-run defeat against Australia in the group stages, India’s other defeat came in the semi-final against England, led by Graham Gooch’s century.

While this was Gavaskar’s last international outing, the next was Sachin Tendulkar’s first. India played Pakistan for the first time at a World Cup in 1992 and kick-started a win streak that is yet to end. But the campaign was a dud overall.

In 1996, high-flying Indian side, riding on Tendulkar’s incredible batting form, was brought crashing down to earth in the semi-finals against Sri Lanka in Kolkata.

The 1999 was a start-stop campaign that fizzled out in the Super Six stages where India finished last. Defeating Pakistan was the high point, an earlier defeat against Zimbabwe the definite low.

The next edition in 2003 was a very important one for India. Overcoming poor form ahead of the tournament, Ganguly led his team brilliantly till the final where Ricky Ponting’s Australia overpowered them. India’s only two defeats came against the eventual champions in the tournament.

The 2007 one was a forgettable tournament for many a reason. One of the strongest Indian sides on paper crashed out in the group stages after defeats to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This had far-reaching effects on the format.

In 2011, India became champion for the second time and the first host nation to win the World Cup as Tendulkar finally had the trophy in his hands, in his sixth attempt.

Despite a difficult summer preceding the 2015 tournament in Australia, India went on an unbeaten run (riding on superb bowling displays) before the eventual champs ended that streak in the semi-finals. No shame in that well-fought campaign, though.

India’s top performers at the World Cup

No one name in Indian history is as closely associated to the World Cup as that of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. One could write a separate article on just Tendulkar’s journey from his first edition in 1992 to the most satisfying end in 2011. The Master Blaster jointly holds the record of appearing in most editions, tied alongside Javed Miandad at six. In terms of matches played, only Ricky Ponting can better Tendulkar’s 45, thanks mainly to Australia’s habit of going deep in the tournament in the last two decades.

All in all, India boast a rich history at cricket’s biggest event: many memorable, some forgettable moments.