This is your morning Open Thread. Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
On this day in 1947, Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completes a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti. Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands by drifting on ocean currents.
Heyerdahl and his five-person crew set sail from Callao, Peru, on the 40-square-foot Kon-Tiki on April 28, 1947. The Kon-Tiki, named for a mythical white chieftain, was made of indigenous materials and designed to resemble rafts of early South American Indians. While crossing the Pacific, the sailors encountered storms, sharks and whales, before finally washing ashore at Raroia. Heyerdahl, born in Larvik, Norway, on October 6, 1914, believed that Polynesia’s earliest inhabitants had come from South America, a theory that conflicted with popular scholarly opinion that the original settlers arrived from Asia. Even after his successful voyage, anthropologists and historians continued to discredit Heyerdahl’s belief. However, his journey captivated the public and he wrote a book about the experience that became an international bestseller and was translated into 65 languages. Heyerdahl also produced a documentary about the trip that won an Academy Award in 1951.
322 BC – Battle of Crannon between Athens and Macedon.
626 – The Avar and Slav armies leave the siege of Constantinople.
936 – Coronation of King Otto I of Germany.
1420 – Construction of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore begins in Florence.
1427 – The Visconti of Milan’s fleet is destroyed by the Venetians on the Po River.
1461 – The Ming Dynasty Chinese military general Cao Qin stages a coup against the Tianshun Emperor.
1606 – The first documented performance of Macbeth, at the Great Hall at Hampton Court.
1679 – The brigantine Le Griffon, commissioned by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, is towed to the south-eastern end of the Niagara River, to become the first ship to sail the upper Great Lakes of North America.
1782 – George Washington orders the creation of the Badge of Military Merit to honor soldiers wounded in battle. It is later renamed to the more poetic Purple Heart.
1789 – The United States War Department is established.
1791 – United States troops destroy the Miami town of Kenapacomaqua near the site of present-day Logansport, Indiana in the Northwest Indian War.
1794 – U.S. President George Washington invokes the Militia Law of 1792 to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.
1819 – Simon Bolivar triumphs over Spain in the Battle of Boyaca.
1879 – The opening of the Poor Man’s Palace in Manchester.
1890 – Anna Mansdotter becomes the last woman in Sweden to be executed, for the 1889 Yngsjö murder.
* 1927 – The Peace Bridge opens between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.
1930 – The last lynching in the Northern United States occurs in Marion, Indiana. Two men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, are killed.
1933 – The Simele massacre: The Iraqi Government slaughters over 3,000 Assyrians in the village of Sumail. The day becomes known as Assyrian Martyrs Day.
1940 – World War II: Alsace Lorraine is annexed by the Third Reich.
1942 – World War II: the Battle of Guadalcanal begins – United States Marines initiate the first American offensive of the war with landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.
1944 – IBM dedicates the first program-controlled calculator, the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (known best as the Harvard Mark I).
1947 – Thor Heyerdahl’s balsa wood raft the Kon-Tiki, smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands after a 101-day, 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi) journey across the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to prove that pre-historic peoples could have traveled from South America.
1947 – The Bombay Municipal Corporation formally takes over the Bombay Electric Supply and Transport (BEST).
1955 – Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering, the precursor to Sony, sells its first transistor radios in Japan.
1959 – The Lincoln Memorial design on the U.S. penny goes into circulation. It replaces the “sheaves of wheat” design and is still in use.
1959 – Explorer program: Explorer 6 launches from the Atlantic Missile Range in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
1960 – Cote d’Ivoire becomes independent.
1964 – Vietnam War: the U.S. Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution giving US President Lyndon B. Johnson broad war powers to deal with North Vietnamese attacks on American forces.
1964 – Prometheus, a bristlecone pine and the world’s oldest tree, is cut down.
1965 – The infamous first party between Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and motorcycle gang the Hells Angels takes place at Kesey’s estate in La Honda, California introducing psychedelics to the gang world and forever linking the hippie movement to the Hell’s Angels.
1966 – Race riots occur in Lansing, Michigan.
1967 – Vietnam War: the People’s Republic of China agrees to give North Vietnam an undisclosed amount of aid in the form of a grant.
1974 – Philippe Petit performs a high wire act between the twin towers of the World Trade Center 1,368 feet (417 m) in the air.
1976 – Viking program: Viking 2 enters orbit around Mars.
1978 – U.S. President Jimmy Carter declares a federal emergency at Love Canal.
1981 – The Washington Star ceases all operations after 128 years of publication.
1985 – Takao Doi, Mamoru Mohri and Chiaki Mukai are chosen to be Japan’s first astronauts.
1988 – Rioting in New York City’s Tompkins Square Park.
1989 – U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland (D-TX) and 15 others die in a plane crash in Ethiopia.
1998 – The United States embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya kill approximately 212 people.
1999 – Second Chechen War began.
2007 – Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants breaks baseball great Hank Aaron’s record by hitting his 756th home run.
2008 – Georgia launches a military offensive against South Ossetia to counter the alleged Russian invasion, starting the South Ossetia War.