April 15, 2021

#ThrowbackThursday – 15 April

From a tragic sinking to a much-needed shearing, take a look at these five memorable events that went down in history on 15 April:

1612 – Booking an Escape

After three years’ life imprisonment at Loevestein Castle for his involvement in religious and state disputes of the Dutch Republic, a legal scholar named Hugo Grotius escaped to Paris, France … albeit in quite an unusual, daring way.

Crammed into a book chest brought in by his wife and his maidservant, Grotius hid inside it. With the help of the prison’s oblivious guards, the chest was carried from the castle onto a ship destined for Gorinchem, South Holland. From there, its sole occupant crossed the border into France.

On 15 April, Grotius arrived in Paris as a free man. There, he spent the next 20 years writing philosophical books. As for the book chest, two Dutch museums claim to have the original in their possession.

1912 – The Sinking of the “Titanic”

At precisely 2:20AM on Monday morning, the RMS “Titanic” sunk into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, nearly three hours after it struck an iceberg.

Dubbed “the unsinkable ship” by the media, the British passenger liner embarked on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City in the United States of America. Alas, “Titanic” would never arrive.

After hitting the iceberg, water began flooding her forward six compartments, thus dooming her to her watery fate. Of the estimated 2 224 souls aboard the ship, approximately 1 514 died in the sinking. Only 713 people, consisting of passengers and crewmen, survived the tragic ordeal.

1989 – The Hillsborough Stadium Disaster

What was supposed to be an exciting soccer game turned into a nightmare, when 96 people lost their lives and hundreds of others were injured during a stampede.

In a bid to avoid acts of hooliganism, the FA Cup semi-final between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool saw thousands of their fans having to enter Hillsborough Stadium through different entrances. However, this led to an overcrowding of Liverpool fans in the Leppings Lane end of the building.

As a result, Liverpool fans who were already in the stand were pushed from behind, leading to their being crushed against the safety fences. To this day, no one has ever been charged for the deaths that occurred, despite attempts from the aggrieved families to seek justice.

2004 – The Shearing of Shrek

For six years, a merino sheep had been on the run after escaping from his enclosure in New Zealand’s Otago region.

In 2004, the sheep’s luck ran out, for he was discovered in a cave in Tarras. He was called “Shrek”, because his fleece had grown to gargantuan proportions – in fact, it weighed 27 kilograms!

Shrek was sheared on national television 17 days later, and soon became an icon in his home country. He passed away at the venerable age of 16 in 2011.

2010 – Icelandic Ash Cloud Darkens Europe

Starting from 15 April, the airspace over Europe was closed following the eruption of a volcano in Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull ice cap the day before.

Volcanic ash clouds that spewed into the air quickly spread over northern Europe, forcing the closure of its airspace. As a result, flights into and out of the continent were suspended, thus affecting at least 10 million travellers.

Come 20 April, these suspensions were lifted as the clouds became less dense. It was only a month later that the eruption finally subsided, and the clouds were no longer being produced.