June 30, 2022

#ThrowbackThursday – 30 June

From the boom of a major industry to a literal boom of earth-shattering proportions over in Siberia, take a look at these three historical events that went down on 30 June:

1898 – Save a Horse, Ride a … Car?

Back in the days of yore, horse-drawn carriages were one of the primary means of transportation, particularly when it came to overland journeys or travelling short distances. And, unlike today’s cars – which rely on petrol and general maintenance once in a while – horses required sustenance, shelter and general care on a daily basis.

Then along came this particular advertisement by Winton Motor Carriage Company (one of the pioneer automobile manufacturers based in the US state of Ohio) in the 30 June edition of “Scientific Edition”, a renowned science publication.

The advertisement read as follows: “Dispense with a horse and save the expense, care and anxiety of keeping it. To run a motor carriage costs about ½ cent a mile.”

The ad went on to describe its vehicles as “handsomely, strongly and yet lightly constructed, and elegantly finished”, complete with a hydrocarbon motor, suspension wire wheels, pneumatic tyres, and ball bearings – all without the hassle of “odours” and “vibrations” that your run-of-the-mill mustang gives off.

Winton went on to sell over 20 cars later in 1898, all because of the ad in question. The company went on to manufacture cars until 1924 when it switched to making stationary engines; Winton would then be bought by General Motors in 1930.

Still, one would think the way we maintain and fuel our cars these days, it’s just as expensive as caring for a horse!

1908 – Tree-Felling on an Astronomical Level

Eighty million. That’s the number of trees that were flattened when the largest asteroid impact took place in Russia.

It was an early summer morning in central Siberia, Russia, when what is known as the “Tunguska event” transpired: an explosion measuring the equivalent of 15 megatons of TNT went off near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River.

The force of the explosion was so powerful that an estimated 80 million trees located in a forestland area measuring 2 150 square km fell flat across the ground almost immediately, splintering and aflame.

Even the energy of the explosion was enough to kill the local wildlife, namely reindeer,while also emitting a shockwave so powerful that Russian citizens who were living hundreds of kilometres away were knocked off their feet (to say nothing of their house windows shattering on the spot). Miraculously, no human life was lost.

It would take decades before the affected forestland could start regrowing; in that same amount of time, scientists began piecing together what prompted the Tunguska event: many agree that a comet had exploded in the atmosphere above Earth, based on eyewitness accounts which claimed that a bright fireball sailed across the sky. As such, the ensuing explosion caused what is known as an “air burst”, whereby the force subsequently caused the aforementioned damage.

1937 – 999, What’s Your Emergency?

No doubt if 999 existed back in 1908, those Russians would have called it in the aftermath of the Tunguska event.

Alas for them, this famous emergency call system was only established 29 years later. It was launched on 30 June in London, England – based on a special indication signal, the system allowed telephone operators to recognise that anyone who was making a 999-call needed immediate attention (and most likely immediate assistance).

The system was established by the British government two years after a local man wrote to the local newspaper, complaining about being put in a telephonic queue for the fire brigade when his neighbour’s house went up in flames. 

As for why 999 was chosen, the British government chose these now-recognisable digits because it would be easy to memorise, and – in the event the telephone is located in a dark or smoke-filled area – callers would be able to dial the number by touch.

Nowadays, most countries utilise 999 as their primary emergency number or a similar three-digit code in order to call for an ambulance, the police, the fire brigade, and even the coast guard!