After exploring the area of the Pacific Northwest that we now know as British Colombia, George Vancouver wrote in the 1700s that the channel at Seymour Narrows was “one of the vilest stretches of water in the world.” On this date in 1958, it was cleared with 1,270 metric tons of Nitramex 2H explosive, which resulted in one of the biggest non-nuclear intentional explosions in history.
More than 250 feet deep, Seymour Channel held a mountain under its waves, dubbed Ripple Rock. The mountain’s twin peaks reached to within a few feet of the surface of the waters, which created a hazard that had claimed more than 100 boats and dozens of lives. Knowing that an invisible danger lay just below was a navigation nightmare. For decades, civil engineers studied the feasibility of destroying the mountain peaks with a controlled explosion.
The explosion launched 600,000 metric tons of rock 900 feet into the air. When the day came, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation used the event to broadcast Canada’s first-ever coast-to-coast live moment (below the fold):
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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death by Judge Irving Kaufman under Section 2 of the Espionage Act of 1917 on this date 65 years ago. They were each executed by electrocution two years later. Charged with spying for the Soviet Union, it is now understood that Julius was indeed a spy, but one who passed secrets that were neither valuable nor particularly secret, and that Ethel was charged alongside him (and executed) to get him to talk.
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Allen Ginsberg died 19 years ago today. Saul Bellow died 11 years ago today. Kurt Cobain killed himself 22 years ago today. Charlton Heston died on this date in 2008.
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“The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”—Thomas Hobbes, “Leviathan,” opening of Ch. 13.
Thomas Hobbes was born on this date in 1588.
Spencer Tracy was born on this date in 1900. Melvyn Douglas was born on this date in 1901. Bette Davis was born on this date in 1908. Herbert von Karajan was also born on this date in 1908.
“You occasionally tell a story that doesn’t come off. You say to yourself, ‘Why did I tell that story? It flopped. I must remember not to tell that one again.’ … The entertainer goes away and licks his wounds. But since he deals in dreams and illusions, and is not the most realistic-minded fellow anyway, he soon begins to think of the next story he wants to tell.”—Gregory Peck
Gregory Peck was born 100 years ago today.
Roger Corman is 90 today. General Colin L. Powell is 79. Agnetha Fältskog is 66. Paula Cole is 48. Pharrell Williams is 43. He’s:
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