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.
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May 6 is the 126th day of the year (127th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 239 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1994, English Channel tunnel opens.
In a ceremony presided over by England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President François Mitterand, a rail tunnel under the English Channel was officially opened, connecting Britain and the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age.
The channel tunnel, or “Chunnel,” connects Folkstone, England, with Sangatte, France, 31 miles away. The Chunnel cut travel time between England and France to a swift 35 minutes and eventually between London and Paris to two-and-a-half hours.
As the world’s longest undersea tunnel, the Chunnel runs under water for 23 miles, with an average depth of 150 feet below the seabed. Each day, about 30,000 people, 6,000 cars and 3,500 trucks journey through the Chunnel on passenger, shuttle and freight trains.
Millions of tons of earth were moved to build the two rail tunnels–one for northbound and one for southbound traffic–and one service tunnel. Fifteen thousand people were employed at the peak of construction. Ten people were killed during construction.
Proposals and attempts
In 1802, French mining engineer Albert Mathieu put forward a proposal to tunnel under the English Channel, with illumination from oil lamps, horse-drawn coaches, and an artificial island mid-Channel for changing horses.
In the 1830s, Frenchman Aimé Thomé de Gamond performed the first geological and hydrographical surveys on the Channel, between Calais and Dover. Thomé de Gamond explored several schemes and, in 1856, he presented a proposal to Napoleon III for a mined railway tunnel from Cap Gris-Nez to Eastwater Point with a port/airshaft on the Varne sandbank at a cost of 170 million francs, or less than £7 million.
In 1865, a deputation led by George Ward Hunt proposed the idea of a tunnel to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day, William Ewart Gladstone.
After 1867, William Low and Sir John Clarke Hawkshaw promoted ideas, but none were implemented. An official Anglo-French protocol was established in 1876 for a cross-Channel railway tunnel. In 1881, British railway entrepreneur Sir William Watkin and French Suez Canal contractor Alexandre Lavalley were in the Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company that conducted exploratory work on both sides of the Channel. On the English side a 2.13-metre (7 ft) diameter Beaumont-English boring machine dug a 1,893-metre (6,211 ft) pilot tunnel from Shakespeare Cliff. On the French side, a similar machine dug 1,669 m (5,476 ft) from Sangatte. The project was abandoned in May 1882, owing to British political and press campaigns advocating that a tunnel would compromise Britain’s national defences. These early works were encountered more than a century later during the TML project.
In 1919, during the Paris Peace Conference, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George repeatedly brought up the idea of a Channel tunnel as a way of reassuring France about British willingness to defend against another German attack. The French did not take the idea seriously and nothing came of Lloyd George’s proposal.
In 1955, defence arguments were accepted to be irrelevant because of the dominance of air power; thus, both the British and French governments supported technical and geological surveys. Construction work commenced on both sides of the Channel in 1974, a government-funded project using twin tunnels on either side of a service tunnel, with capability for car shuttle wagons. In January 1975, to the dismay of the French partners, the British government cancelled the project. The government had changed to the Labour Party and there was uncertainty about EEC membership, cost estimates had ballooned to 200% and the national economy was troubled. By this time the British Priestly tunnel boring machine was ready and the Ministry of Transport was able to do a 300 m (980 ft) experimental drive. This short tunnel would however be reused as the starting and access point for tunnelling operations from the British side.
In 1979, the “Mouse-hole Project” was suggested when the Conservatives came to power in Britain. The concept was a single-track rail tunnel with a service tunnel, but without shuttle terminals. The British government took no interest in funding the project, but Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she had no objection to a privately funded project. In 1981 British and French leaders Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand agreed to set up a working group to look into a privately funded project, and in April 1985 promoters were formally invited to submit scheme proposals. Four submissions were shortlisted:
a rail proposal based on the 1975 scheme presented by Channel Tunnel Group/France-Manche (CTG/F-M),
Eurobridge: a 4.5 km (2.8 mi) span suspension bridge with a roadway in an enclosed tube
Euroroute: a 21 km (13 mi) tunnel between artificial islands approached by bridges, and
Channel Expressway: large diameter road tunnels with mid-channel ventilation towers.
The cross-Channel ferry industry protested under the name “Flexilink”. In 1975 there was no campaign protesting against a fixed link, with one of the largest ferry operators (Sealink) being state-owned. Flexilink continued rousing opposition throughout 1986 and 1987. Public opinion strongly favoured a drive-through tunnel, but ventilation issues, concerns about accident management, and fear of driver mesmerisation led to the only shortlisted rail submission, CTG/F-M, being awarded the project.
1527 – Spanish and German troops sack Rome; some consider this the end of the Renaissance. 147 Swiss Guards, including their commander, die fighting the forces of Charles V in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape into Castel Sant’Angelo.
1536 – King Henry VIII orders English language Bibles be placed in every church.
1542 – Francis Xavier reaches Old Goa, the capital of Portuguese India at the time.
1659 – English Restoration: A faction of the British Army removes Richard Cromwell as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth and reinstalls the Rump Parliament.
1682 – Louis XIV of France moves his court to the Palace of Versailles.
1757 – Battle of Prague – A Prussian army fights an Austrian army in Prague during the Seven Years’ War.
1757 – English poet Christopher Smart is admitted into St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in London, beginning his six-year confinement to mental asylums.
1801 – Captain Thomas Cochrane in the 14-gun HMS Speedy captures the 32-gun Spanish frigate El Gamo.
1816 – The American Bible Society is founded in New York City.
1835 – James Gordon Bennett, Sr. publishes the first issue of the New York Herald.
1840 – The Penny Black postage stamp becomes valid for use in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
1844 – The Glaciarium, the world’s first mechanically frozen ice rink, opens.
1857 – The British East India Company disbands the 34th Regiment of Bengal Native Infantry whose sepoy Mangal Pandey had earlier revolted against the British and is considered to be the First Martyr in the War of Indian Independence.
1861 – American Civil War: Arkansas secedes from the Union.
1861 – American Civil War: Richmond, Virginia is declared the new capital of the Confederate States of America.
1863 – American Civil War: The Battle of Chancellorsville ends with the defeat of the Army of the Potomac by Confederate troops.
1877 – Chief Crazy Horse of the Oglala Sioux surrenders to United States troops in Nebraska.
1882 – Thomas Henry Burke and Lord Frederick Cavendish are stabbed and killed during the Phoenix Park Murders in Dublin.
1882 – The United States Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act.
1889 – The Eiffel Tower is officially opened to the public at the Universal Exposition in Paris.
1910 – George V becomes King of the United Kingdom upon the death of his father, Edward VII.
1935 – New Deal: Executive Order 7034 creates the Works Progress Administration.
1935 – The first flight of the Curtiss P-36 Hawk.
1937 – Hindenburg disaster: The German zeppelin Hindenburg catches fire and is destroyed within a minute while attempting to dock at Lakehurst, New Jersey. Thirty-six people are killed.
1940 – John Steinbeck is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Grapes of Wrath.
1941 – At California’s March Field, Bob Hope performs his first USO show.
1941 – The first flight of the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.
1942 – World War II: On Corregidor, the last American forces in the Philippines surrender to the Japanese.
1945 – World War II: Axis Sally delivers her last propaganda broadcast to Allied troops.
1945 – World War II: The Prague Offensive, the last major battle of the Eastern Front, begins.
1954 – Roger Bannister becomes the first person to run the mile in under four minutes.
1960 – More than 20 million viewers watch the first televised royal wedding when Princess Margaret marries Anthony Armstrong-Jones at Westminster Abbey.
1981 – A jury of architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Ying Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from 1,421 other entries.
1983 – The Hitler diaries are revealed as a hoax after examination by experts.
1984 – 103 Korean Martyrs are canonized by Pope John Paul II in Seoul
1989 – Cedar Point opens Magnum XL-200, the first roller coaster to break the 200 ft height barrier, therefore spawning what is considered to be the “coaster wars”.
1994 – Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and French President François Mitterrand officiate at the opening of the Channel Tunnel.
1994 – Former Arkansas state worker Paula Jones files suit against President Bill Clinton, alleging that he had sexually harassed her in 1991.
1996 – The body of former CIA director William Colby is found washed up on a riverbank in southern Maryland, eight days after he disappeared.
1997 – The Bank of England is given independence from political control, the most significant change in the bank’s 300-year history.
1998 – Kerry Wood strikes out 20 Houston Astros to tie the major league record held by Roger Clemens. He threw a one-hitter and did not walk a batter in his 5th career start.
1999 – First elections to the devolved Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly held.
2001 – During a trip to Syria, Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to enter a mosque.
2002 – Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn is assassinated by an animal rights activist.
2010 – The second largest intraday point swing in Dow Jones Industrial Average history occurs.
* Christian Feast Day:
Evodius of Antioch (Roman Catholic Church)
Gerard of Lunel
Lucius of Cyrene
Petronax of Monte Cassino
St George’s Day related observances (Eastern Orthodox Church):
Day of Bravery, also known as Gergyovden (Bulgaria)
Durdevdan (Gorani, Roma)
Shen Gjergji (Albania and Kosovo)
Yuri’s Day in the Spring (Russian Orthodox Church)
May 6 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
* Earliest day for Military Spouse Day, while May 12 is the latest, celebrated on the Friday before Mother’s Day. (United States)
* International No Diet Day
* Martyrs’ Day (Lebanon and Syria)
* The first day of Hidirellez (Turkey)