August 26, 2021

#ThrowbackThursday – 26 August

Life is full of surprises. There will always be obstacles, mishaps and events that will occur, most often with unpredictable results. These five events that took place on 26 August certainly prove these sentiments true:

1682 – Halley and the Comet

Three hundred and thirty-nine years ago, a 26-year-old British astronomer calculated the orbit of a famous comet that now bears his name.

Based on various astronomers’ observations of supposedly different comets that have been appearing since 467 BC, Edmond Halley hypothesised that it was actually just one comet. By calculating its orbit, he predicted that the comet becomes visible every 74-79 years, and that it would make its appearance in 1758.

And Halley was right: the comet was seen in December 1758. Named after him, Halley’s Comet was last seen in February 1986 – it is now predicted to return in late July 2061.

1907 – Houdini’s Great Underwater Escape

World-famous illusionist Harry Houdini did not shy away from performing seemingly impossible challenges, and his next one came in a particularly daunting form: being chained up while underwater.

Taking place at San Francisco’s Aquatic park, Houdini had his hands cuffed behind his back, and was bound with a chain weighing 34kgs. He then plunged into the waters of San Francisco Bay. Fifty-seven seconds later, he surfaced, having escaped from his shackles.

A journalist who was present at the event wrote: “Everybody will tell you how [Houdini] does the trick, but no two bodies will tell you the same way.  He is as mysterious as salad, and yet, apparently, as ingenious as a detective.”

1930 – Farewell, Man of a Thousand Faces

At the age of 47, legendary actor Lon Chaney passed away in Los Angeles, California due to a throat haemorrhage.

Beginning his Hollywood career in 1912, Chaney appeared in silent and Western films – mostly uncredited roles – before making a mark in the well-received 1917 movie, “The Piper’s Price”. Two years later, however, his true breakthrough came after starring as a contortionist in the drama flick, “The Miracle Man”.

Thereafter, Chaney became famous for his incredible make-up and contorting skills, which helped him play iconic roles such as the deaf-and-blind hunchback Quasimodo (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, 1923), the grotesque Phantom (“The Phantom of the Opera”, 1925), and an arm-less knife-thrower (“The Unknown”, 1937).

These skills helped Chaney earn the moniker “The Man of a Thousand Faces”, as well as cemented his status as a top-tier actor.

2012 – Golfer, 15, Wins Tournament

Lydia Ko of New Zealand made history as the youngest winner of the 2021 Ladies Professional Golf Association’s (LPGA’s) Canadian Open.

At the age of 15, Ko finished the competition with a five-under-par 67 to win by three shots. Not only did she break the record set by Lexi Thompson in the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama the year before, but she also became the fifth amateur golfer to win a pro tournament.

Stacy Lewis, who was in the final group with Ko, congratulated her opponent on her victory: “I was most impressed with her demeanor, you would have never known it was the final round of a LPGA event. She played like she had been there before. It was an impressive round for a LPGA pro, let alone a 15-year-old.”

As for Ko’s thoughts? She said: “It feels amazing. It’s always awesome to be able to play with the pros, but it’s great to win.”

2013 – Epic Exam Fail

Question: of the 25 000 candidates who applied to the University of Liberia in 2013, how many failed to pass the entrance exam? Answer: all of them.

Confusion and anger abounded when they flunked the exam, which had been managed and administered by a private consultant, and cost each applicant $25 to undertake.

According to university officials, the applicants lacked enthusiasm and did not have a basic grasp of English. Others argued that the education system was compromised due to the effects of the civil war, despite it ending in 1996.

Nevertheless, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf intervened at the university, which allowed 1 800 candidates to study at the institution in the following academic year.

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