Apr 02 2011

On This Day In History April 2

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.

April 2 is the 92nd day of the year (93rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 273 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1513, Ponce de Leon discovers Florida. Near present-day St. Augustine, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon comes ashore on the Florida coast, and claims the territory for the Spanish crown.

Although other European navigators may have sighted the Florida peninsula before, Ponce de Leon is credited with the first recorded landing and the first detailed exploration of the Florida coast. The Spanish explorer was searching for the “Fountain of Youth,” a fabled water source that was said to bring eternal youth. Ponce de Leon named the peninsula he believed to be an island “La Florida” because his discovery came during the time of the Easter feast, or Pascua Florida.

First voyage to Florida

Ponce de Leon equipped three ships with at least 200 men at his own expense and set out from Puerto Rico on March 4, 1513. The only contemporary description known for this expedition comes from Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, a Spanish historian who apparently had access to the original ships’ logs or related secondary sources from which he created a summary of the voyage published in 1601. The brevity of the account and occasional gaps in the record have led historians to speculate and dispute many details of the voyage.

The three ships in this small fleet were the Santiago, the San Cristobal and the Santa Maria de la Consolacion. Anton de Alaminos was their chief pilot. He was already an experienced sailor and would become one of the most respected pilots in the region. After leaving Puerto Rico, they sailed northwest along the great chain of Bahama Islands, known then as the Lucayos. By March 27, Easter Sunday, they reached the northern end of the Bahamas sighting an unfamiliar island (probably Great Abaco).

For the next several days the fleet crossed open water until April 2, 1513, when they sighted land which Ponce de Leon believed was another island. He named it La Florida in recognition of the verdant landscape and because it was the Easter season, which the Spaniards called Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers). The following day they came ashore to seek information and take possession of this new land. The precise location of their landing on the Florida coast has been disputed for many years. Some historians believe it occurred at St. Augustine; others prefer a more southern landing at a small harbor now called Ponce de Leon Inlet; and some argue that Ponce came ashore even further south near the present location of Melbourne Beach.

After remaining in the vicinity of their first landing for about five days, the ships turned south for further exploration of the coast. On April 8 they encountered a current so strong that it pushed them backwards and forced them to seek anchorage. The tiniest ship, the San Cristobal, was carried out of sight and lost for two days. This was the first encounter with the Gulf Stream where it reaches maximum force between the Florida coast and the Bahamas. Because of the powerful boost provided by the current, it would soon become the primary route for eastbound ships leaving the Spanish Indies bound for Europe.

 1513 – Juan Ponce de Leon sets foot on, and names, Florida, becoming the first European known to do so.

1755 – Commodore William James captures the pirate fortress of Suvarnadurg on west coast of India.

1792 – The Coinage Act is passed establishing the United States Mint.

1801 – Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Copenhagen – The British destroy the Danish fleet.

1863 – Richmond Bread Riot: Food shortages incite hundreds of angry women to riot in Richmond, Virginia and demand that the Confederate government release emergency supplies.

1865 – American Civil War: The Siege of Petersburg is broken – Union troops capture the trenches around Petersburg, Virginia, forcing Confederate General Robert E. Lee to retreat.

1865 – American Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis and most of his Cabinet flee the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.

1885 – Cree warriors attacked the village of Frog Lake, North-West Territories, Canada, killing 9.

1900 – The Congress passes the Foraker Act, giving Puerto Rico limited self-rule.

1902 – Dmitry Sipyagin, Minister of Interior of the Russian Empire, is assassinated in the Marie Palace, St Petersburg.

1902 – “Electric Theatre”, the first full-time movie theater in the United States, opens in Los Angeles, California.

1911 – The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducts the country’s first national census.

1917 – World War I: President Woodrow Wilson asks the U.S. Congress for a declaration of war on Germany.

1930 – After the mysterious death of Empress Zewditu, Haile Selassie is proclaimed emperor of Ethiopia.

1945 – Diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Brazil are established.

1956 – As the World Turns and The Edge of Night premiere on CBS-TV. The two soaps become the first daytime dramas to debut in the 30-minute format.

1962 – The first official Panda crossing is opened outside Waterloo station, London.

1972 – Actor Charlie Chaplin returns to the United States for the first time since being labeled a communist during the Red Scare in the early 1950s.

1973 – Launch of the LexisNexis computerized legal research service.

1973 – The Liberal Movement breaks away from the Liberal and Country League in South Australia.

1975 – Vietnam War: Thousands of civilian refugees flee from the Quang Ngai Province in front of advancing North Vietnamese troops.

1975 – Construction of the CN Tower is completed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It reaches 553.33 metres (1,815.4 ft) in height, becoming the world’s tallest free-standing structure.

1980 – President Jimmy Carter signs the Crude Oil Windfall Profits Tax Act in an effort to help the U.S. economy rebound.

1982 – Falklands War: Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.

1984 – Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma is launched aboard Soyuz T-11, and becomes the first Indian in space.

1989 – Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in Havana, Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro in an attempt to mend strained relations.

1991 – Rita Johnston becomes the first female Premier of a Canadian province when she succeeds William Vander Zalm (who had resigned) as Premier of British Columbia.

1992 – In New York, Mafia boss John Gotti is convicted of murder and racketeering and is later sentenced to life in prison.

2002 – Israeli forces surround the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem into which armed Palestinians had retreated. A siege ensues.

2004 – Islamist terrorists involved in the 11 March 2004 Madrid attacks attempt to bomb the Spanish high-speed train AVE near Madrid.

Their attack is thwarted.

2006 – Over 60 tornadoes break out; hardest hit is in Tennessee with 29 people killed.

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day

         o Franciscus of Paola

         o April 2 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * International Children’s Book Day

   * Latest day on which Sizdah be dar may fall. (Iran)

   * Malvinas Day (Argentina)

   * Thai Heritage Conservation Day (Thailand)

   * World Autism Awareness Day (International)