1859 – Charles Blondin walks a tightrope over Niagara Falls

One of the most celebrated tightrope walkers of his era, Charles Blondin was an extreme sports legend more than a century before extreme sports was invented by bored rich people. Blondin’s most famous exploit was walking a tightrope that had been stretched across Niagara Gorge not far downstream of the falls (near the current location of Rainbow Bridge).

The tightrope was 340m in length, 8.3cm in diameter and hung 49m above the river below. Blondin first performed this feat on June 30, 1859, and repeated it several times thereafter, always adding some variation to increase the challenge. Recorded variations include blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man (his manager, Harry Colcord) on his back, standing on a chair with only one chair leg on the rope, and sitting down midway while he cooked and ate an omelet – he pushed a wheelbarrow containing the necessaries out onto the rope to do this, and also lowered parts of the cooked omelet to passengers on a boat below him.

Beat that, extreme sports fans.

Referenced in:
Blondin Makes an Omelette — Gareth Liddiard

1908 – The Tunguska Event

There has never been anything quite like it.

On June 30, 1908, something – we still don’t know what – streaked across the skies of Siberia, and exploded in the vicinity of Tunguska. At that time, Siberia was even more wild and uninhabited than it now is. The nearest witnesses were miles away, and most of the world remained blissfully unaware that anything had happened there.

But in 1920, Russian scientists began an investigation of the site that is still going on. They have discovered that the event was mostly likely a meteor that detonated in the air above Tunguska, devastating the taiga for miles in every direction in a manner very similar to that of a large thermonuclear explosion. If the course of the object had varied by only a few degrees, it might easily have hit somewhere else, where the damage and loss of life would have been considerably greater. As it is, there were no known deaths – although records, particularly of the nomadic Evenki people who lived in the region at that time, were not well-maintained.

Theories abound as to what might have caused the enormous explosion, and it says something that the crash-landing of alien spaceship is one of the tamer ones.

Referenced in:

Tunguska – Darkest Hour
Return to Tunguska – Alan Parsons Project
I Saw The Sky In The North Open To The Ground And Fire Poured Out – The Red Sparowes

1987 – “Children in Darkness” is published

While it had been rumoured in certain circles for years that child prostitution was alive in well in South East Asia, it was an article titled “Children in Darkness”, published in The Christian Science Monitor‘s June 30, 1987 edition that first began to bring it to the attention of mainstream article. Sara Terry, the journalist who produced the piece (along with with fellow reporter Kristin Helmore and photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman), wrote a series of painstakingly researched articles on the subject across the late Eighties.

But for all the outrage it generated, and the efforts of well-meaning activists and missionaries, child prostition still thrives in Bangkok and other cities throughout the Third World, catering mostly to the jaded and perverted tastes of Western tourists. Because ending this atrocity just isn’t as important as winning the next election.

Referenced in:

Shopping for Girls — Tin Machine