On 29 May 1953, 3 years before I was born and 65 years earlier than 2018, New Zealand’s Edmund Hillary (b 1919, d 2008) and his mountaineer Tenzing Norgay, climbed to the top of Mt Everest. They were the first men in the world to do this, and set a record that many others would attempt to break. He was knighted in 1953. Later, 20 January 1957, Hillary was one of New Zealand's main presence in Antarctica, and helped to establish the Scott Base. Returning back there in 1967, he was one of a group who climbed Mt Hershel (3,335 metres) for the first time.
In 1958 the Wairakei Power Station was commissioned. It was New Zealand's first geothermal power station, and only the second large-scale geothermal power station in the world. The NZ National Film Unit had a pictorial of Wairakei (2:32 into the film) and other power stations built at the same time, at Mercer and the Atiamuri man-made lake. I used to work as a payroll officer in 1973, going each week to pay out in cash at eight Waikato River dams: Aratiatia (1964), Ohakuri (1961), Atiamuri (1958), Whakamaru (1949), Maraetai (1953), Waipapa (1961), Arapuni (1929, first built) and Karapiro (1948, closest to Hamilton where I lived and worked, was built second).
From July 9-10 1958 an earthquake in Alaska in Lituya Bay triggered the largest megatsunami on record. The wave washed 525 meters (1722 feet) up a mountain, and yet only five people were killed – three people who were standing on a beach which was subsided 100 metres under sea level, and two others who died on their boat in Lituya Bay. The University of Alaskan Fairbanks said:
“Neil Davis, a Fairbanks author, geophysicist, and emeritus professor at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, flew over Lituya Bay in a Super Cub two days after the earthquake. ‘When I got there, it was a truly amazing sight,’ Davis said. ‘The bay was filled with icebergs and trees, and there was a tongue of trees and ice going out to sea outside the bay.’”
The Auckland Harbour Bridge, 1020 meters (3,348 feet) in length, was opened on 30 May 1959, after four years of construction. It started with only four lanes, but that was very quickly discovered to be not wide enough. The “add-ons” (Nippon clip-ons) were done in 1969, but 15 years later were found with fatigue in the joints. They had to be replaced. Toll charges were paid on the bridge until 1984, but were removed then. This bridge is still a main road from Auckland CBD to the north side.
Pic: By Archives New Zealand from New Zealand - Auckland Harbour Bridge, CC BY-SA 2.0,
On 14 July 1960 Jane Goodall, with her mother (because the British authorities “were so shocked at the thought of a young girl going to live with animals in the jungle”), went to Gombe Stream National Park. Goodall “devoted her life to living among the chimps” and “stud[ied] them in their natural environment”, as the biography website said, and found out some very interesting information about the chimps:
- chimpanzees used tools, challenging the belief that only humans used tools (when Jane's research mentor Professor Louis Leakey received an excited telegram from Jane describing her discoveries he made his infamous response: "Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.")
- they have close relationships within groups of chimps, sometimes marked by sharing food and primate grooming
- relationships between a mother chimpanzee and her children
- war against local rivals
- losing their conservation may leave them homeless.
Goodall had spent nearly 50 years working with the chimpanzees until, in 2003, Queen Elizabeth II named Dr Goodall a Dame of the British Empire.
What happened on 13 August 1961, when I was only 5 years old, saddened me. East Germany began constructing the Berlin Wall, and soldiers stood in front of the construction on East German territory with orders to shoot anyone who attempted to defect. I have met people over my life who were in Berlin when it was built, and others who were in Berlin when it was demolished 28 years later on 9 November 1989. I celebrated – East Berliners were now part of the German democracy! Pink Floyd’s lovely The Division Bell has a song, A Great Day for Freedom which I have always seen as their celebration of the Berlin wall demolition. There are other songs listed on the First Post website, and a history about the wall on the History website.
Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring was published on Sep 27 1962. In June excerpts were published in New Yorker magazine, and President Kennedy read some of it. Carson was a marine biologist and a scientist who cites evidence for her claims. Carson’s website said: “Silent Spring began with a ‘fable for tomorrow’ – a true story using a composite of examples drawn from many real communities where the use of DDT had caused damage to wildlife, birds, bees, agricultural animals, domestic pets, and even humans.” A storm of protest and hyperbole rose from chemical companies, including Monsanto, and a few scientists friendly with the chemical industry. This gave her book more publicity and stimulated the environmentalist movement.
In May 1961, South Africa had left the British Commonwealth and became entirely independent, but their apartheid had worked for years before that. On 12 Jun 1964, Nelson Mandela and seven others were sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Robben Island prison by the South Africa government. Mandela was not a criminal, yet the South African apartheid (Afrikaan word used since 1929) still worked then. It had officially started in 1948, until 1990 when the South African government finally let Mandela out. Their apartheid was abolished in mid-1991. Mandela, born in 1918, anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist who became President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, died on 5 December 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
I hope these interest you, because they are world events, whether or not in your lifetime. Maybe I will continue this on my next post.