8 January 1973

The Soviet space mission Luna 21 is launched.

Forty-five years after the Soviet Lunokhod-2 robot explored the lifeless surface of the moon, a declassified document sheds new light on the legendary project.

The 125-page technical report published this week was written in the months immediately following the 1973 mission by members of the Lunokhod communications team, who were responsible for controlling cameras and radios aboard the eight-wheeled rover and monitoring its health.

The second, and what turned out to be the last, Soviet rover to operate on the lunar surface blasted off on January 8, 1973, and landed on the moon eight days later. Officially dubbed Luna-21, it came down inside a 34-mile-wide crater called Le Monnier, a little over 100 miles north of where NASA’s Apollo 17 astronauts had explored just a month earlier.

After rolling off its landing platform, Lunokhod-2 traveled for 23 miles, beaming 69,000 TV images back to Earth and producing 86 panoramas of the surrounding landscape. It also probed the strength of the lunar surface in numerous locations and received laser beams fired from Earth.

To the people who worked on Lunokhod-2, the lander was known as Article E8 No. 204. The newly released document details the months of painstaking preparations that led up to launch, including a series of failures in the rover’s programming timer during tests at the launch site in September and October 1972. Engineers had to remove the entire unit from the rover and take apart its components. The problem was eventually traced to a massive short-circuit in an avionics box, due to mechanical damage that resulted from its being forced into position in its holding compartment. After replacing the unit, engineers repeated the entire test routine for the communications system, which seriously shortened its lifespan during the actual mission. This finally explains why Lunokhod-2 survived only around four months on the moon, as compared to 10 months for its predecessor, Lunokhod-1.

The rover’s Earth-based drivers compensated for this shortened lifespan with much faster driving, which produced its own drama. According to the report, the first lunar day of Lunokhod-2’s journey went smoothly, with only a few minor glitches. But when driving resumed on February 11 after a period of hibernation, the operators experienced their first serious problem. Lunokhod-2 refused to immediately stop when the team spotted a crater ahead and issued a stop command. “The motion of the rover was observed based on the shifting of the images on the VKU screen of the MKTV system,” the report says.

Only after repeating the stop command three times did the stubborn vehicle finally come to a halt. The problem was traced to a signal scrambler in the radio system, which led mission controllers to switch to a secondary scrambler.

Harsh temperatures on the moon also forced them to reduce the number of panoramic images taken by the rover. Still, Lunokhod-2 successfully completed its second lunar day on February 22, and hibernated until March 9.

Problems with the secondary radio scrambler got worse during the third lunar day, however, and the engineers switched to another radio channel operating on a different frequency.

By May 10, during the 503rd communications session, engineers discovered that the temperature inside Lunokhod-2 had soared as high as 47 degrees C. Flight controllers immediately turned off onboard systems and ended the communications session, but all subsequent attempts to talk to Lunokhod-2 proved fruitless, according to the report. The document gives the exact time of Lunokhod’s death as May 10, 1973, at 15:25.

Previous accounts of the mission appeared to blame the rover’s demise on a May 9 incident in which its solar panel scraped a particularly steep crater wall and became covered with dust. However, the newly declassified report stresses that by the time Lunokhod-2 stopped talking to mission control, its transmitters were already well past their warranty date—which appears to attribute the rover’s end to the communications system failure.

At the time Lunokhod-2 died, the team was still hoping to apply its engineering lessons to Lunokhod-3 and -4. One drawback they wanted to fix was the inability to rotate the cameras independently of the rover’s body. The authors of the report also recommended installing the cameras at least six feet above the surface to provide a better view for the drivers.

That somebody listened to their recommendations is evident from the flightworthy model of Lunokhod-3 now displayed in a museum at the NPO Lavochkin company near Moscow. Unfortunately, the Soviet lunar program had lost momentum by that time, and Lunokhod-3 never had a chance to fly.

7 January 2012

A hot air balloon crashes near Carterton, New Zealand. All 11 people on board are killed.

On 7 January 2012, a scenic hot air balloon flight from Carterton, New Zealand, collided with a high-voltage power line while attempting to land, causing it to catch fire, disintegrate and crash just north of the town, killing all eleven people on board.

An inquiry into the accident by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission concluded that the balloon pilot made an error of judgement when contact with the power lines became imminent, trying to out-climb the power lines rather than using the rapid descent system to drop the balloon quickly to the ground below. Toxicology analysis of the balloon pilot after the accident tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, suggesting he may have been under the influence of cannabis at the time of the crash, which ultimately led to the error in judgement. The crash was the sixth accident in ten years the TAIC had investigated which involved key people testing positive for drugs or alcohol, and the commission has called for the government to enact stricter measures in regards to drug and alcohol use in the aviation, marine and rail industries.

The crash was the deadliest air disaster to occur in mainland New Zealand since the July 1963 crash of New Zealand National Airways Corporation Flight 441 in the Kaimai Ranges, and the deadliest crash involving a New Zealand aircraft since the November 1979 crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 into Mount Erebus. As of September 2016, it is the deadliest ever ballooning disaster in New Zealand, and the fourth deadliest worldwide, surpassed only by the balloon crash in Australia in 1989 that killed 13, the balloon crash in Texas in 2016 that killed 16 people, and the 2013 crash in Egypt that killed 19 people.

The balloon was a Cameron A-210 model, registered ZK-XXF and named Mr Big. The envelope was manufactured in the United Kingdom in 1997, and was initially used in the United Kingdom before being purchased and imported into New Zealand by Early Morning Balloons Ltd in 2001. The basket and burner system, capable of carrying ten passengers plus pilot, were manufactured in 1989 and were previously used with a Thunder and Colt 160A envelope before the envelope was retired at the end of its useful life.

The balloon took off at 6:38 am from its launching area in Carterton, a town of 4100 people in north-eastern Wellington Region, on a 45-minute scenic flight over the Carterton area, carrying ten passengers. The Masterton-based pilot was one of New Zealand’s most experienced balloon pilots, with more than 10,000 hours flying time, and was the safety officer for the “Balloons over Wairarapa” hot air balloon festival, held annually in March around the Carterton and Masterton area. The ten passengers were all from the greater Wellington Region: two husband-and-wife couples from Masterton and Wellington, a couple from Lower Hutt, a boyfriend and girlfriend from Wellington, and two cousins from Masterton and Paraparaumu. At the time, the weather was clear, with sufficient light and little wind. Data collected from weather stations at six nearby vineyards confirmed that the wind was mostly calm with occasional gusts up to 11.4 kilometres per hour from the north-east.

The accident occurred around 7:20 am, when the balloon was attempting to land after completing a partial figure-8 flight pattern over the Carterton area. The pilot had indicated to the chase team he was likely to land near Somerset Road, a rural through road just north of Carterton in the locality of Clareville. At first the balloon was heading north-east over Somerset Road, around 700 metres east of the road’s intersection with State Highway 2. Around 400 metres north of Somerset Road, the balloon reversed direction and headed back towards the road. The two chase vehicles, carrying some of the family members of the passengers, positioned on the road ready to assist with the landing.

Eyewitnesses saw the balloon climb and drift east towards a ten-metre high 33,000-volt power line running perpendicular to the road, one of the two lines that connected the Clareville zone substation, which supplied Carterton and the surrounding rural area, to the national grid at Transpower’s Masterton substation. The pilot was heard shouting “duck down” as the balloon came in contact with the power line around 85 metres from the road. One of the conductor wires was caught over the top of the pilot’s end of the basket, and the pilot attempted to get the balloon to climb, but the tension of the wire prevented it rising and instead the balloon slid along the conductor. Around 20 seconds later, electrical arcing occurred as the balloon caused a phase-to-phase short circuit, tripping the line and causing the 3800 properties supplied by the Clareville zone substation to lose power. The arcing caused one of the four liquefied petroleum gas bottles supplying the burners to rupture, and a fire subsequently started.

Two of the passengers jumped from the balloon to avoid the fire, falling ten metres to their deaths below. As the fire intensified, it caused the air inside the balloon to heat and force it to rise. Eventually, the conductor wire on the power line snapped, sending the balloon shooting upwards. The fire soon engulfed the whole balloon, and 150 metres in the air, the envelope disintegrated, causing the balloon to fall towards the ground, with the wreckage landing in a field just south of Somerset Road, around 600 metres east of the SH2 intersection.

Emergency services were on the scene within seven minutes but, shortly after they arrived, ambulance staff found that all eleven people had died at the scene, and this was later confirmed by police. The bodies of the two people who jumped from the balloon were located 200 metres from the crash site.

It took two days until 9 January to remove the last victims’ bodies from the crash site. All eleven victims’ bodies were taken to Wellington Hospital to be formally identified.

The wreckage was examined at the scene, before being packed into a shipping container and transported to the TAIC’s secure workshop in Wellington.

Power to the Carterton area was restored shortly after the crash using the remaining subtransmission line and spare capacity in the 11,000-volt distribution network until the damaged line was repaired. The damaged power line conductors were removed from the scene for examination.

A memorial was erected in January 2016 near the site of the disaster.

6 January 1912

The German geophysicist Alfred Wegener first describes his theory of continental drift.

article is about the development of the continental drift hypothesis before 1958. For the contemporary theory, see plate tectonics. For the Russell Banks novel, see Continental Drift. For the fourth film in the Ice Age franchise, see Ice Age: Continental Drift.

The continental drift of the last 250 million years

Antonio Snider-Pellegrini’s Illustration of the closed and opened Atlantic Ocean.
Continental drift is the theory that the Earth’s continents have moved over geologic time relative to each other, thus appearing to have “drifted” across the ocean bed. The speculation that continents might have ‘drifted’ was first put forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596. The concept was independently and more fully developed by Alfred Wegener in 1912, but his theory was rejected by many for lack of any motive mechanism. Arthur Holmes later proposed mantle convection for that mechanism. The idea of continental drift has since been subsumed by the theory of plate tectonics, which explains that the continents move by riding on plates of the Earth’s lithosphere.

Abraham Ortelius, Theodor Christoph Lilienthal, Alexander von Humboldt, Antonio Snider-Pellegrini, and others had noted earlier that the shapes of continents on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean seem to fit together. W. J. Kious described Ortelius’ thoughts in this way:

Abraham Ortelius in his work Thesaurus Geographicus … suggested that the Americas were “torn away from Europe and Africa … by earthquakes and floods” and went on to say: “The vestiges of the rupture reveal themselves if someone brings forward a map of the world and considers carefully the coasts of the three.”

In 1889, Alfred Russel Wallace remarked, “It was formerly a very general belief, even amongst geologists, that the great features of the earth’s surface, no less than the smaller ones, were subject to continual mutations, and that during the course of known geological time the continents and great oceans had, again and again, changed places with each other.”[8] He quotes Charles Lyell as saying, “Continents, therefore, although permanent for whole geological epochs, shift their positions entirely in the course of ages.”[9] and claims that the first to throw doubt on this was James Dwight Dana in 1849.

In his Manual of Geology, Dana wrote, “The continents and oceans had their general outline or form defined in earliest time. This has been proved with respect to North America from the position and distribution of the first beds of the Silurian – those of the Potsdam epoch. … and this will probably prove to the case in Primordial time with the other continents also”. Dana was enormously influential in America – his Manual of Mineralogy is still in print in revised form – and the theory became known as Permanence theory.

This appeared to be confirmed by the exploration of the deep sea beds conducted by the Challenger expedition, 1872-6, which showed that contrary to expectation, land debris brought down by rivers to the ocean is deposited comparatively close to the shore on what is now known as the continental shelf. This suggested that the oceans were a permanent feature of the Earth’s surface, and did not change places with the continents.

Apart from the earlier speculations mentioned in the previous section, the idea that the American continents had once formed a single landmass together with Europe and Asia before assuming their present shapes and positions was speculated by several scientists before Alfred Wegener’s 1912 paper. Although Wegener’s theory was formed independently and was more complete than those of his predecessors, Wegener later credited a number of past authors with similar ideas: Franklin Coxworthy, Roberto Mantovani, William Henry Pickering and Frank Bursley Taylor. In addition, Eduard Suess had proposed a supercontinent Gondwana in 1885 and the Tethys Ocean in 1893, assuming a land-bridge between the present continents submerged in the form of a geosyncline, and John Perry had written an 1895 paper proposing that the earth’s interior was fluid, and disagreeing with Lord Kelvin on the age of the earth.

For example: the similarity of southern continent geological formations had led Roberto Mantovani to conjecture in 1889 and 1909 that all the continents had once been joined into a supercontinent; Wegener noted the similarity of Mantovani’s and his own maps of the former positions of the southern continents. In Mantovani’s conjecture, this continent broke due to volcanic activity caused by thermal expansion, and the new continents drifted away from each other because of further expansion of the rip-zones, where the oceans now lie. This led Mantovani to propose an Expanding Earth theory which has since been shown to be incorrect.

Continental drift without expansion was proposed by Frank Bursley Taylor, who suggested in 1908 that the continents were moved into their present positions by a process of “continental creep”. In a later paper he proposed that this occurred by their being dragged towards the equator by tidal forces during the hypothesized capture of the moon in the Cretaceous, resulting in “general crustal creep” toward the equator. Although his proposed mechanism was wrong, he was the first to realize the insight that one of the effects of continental motion would be the formation of mountains, and attributed the formation of the Himalayas to the collision between the Indian subcontinent with Asia. Wegener said that of all those theories, Taylor’s, although not fully developed, had the most similarities to his own. In the mid-20th century, the theory of continental drift was referred to as the “Taylor-Wegener hypothesis”, although this terminology eventually fell out of common use.

Alfred Wegener first presented his hypothesis to the German Geological Society on 6 January 1912. His hypothesis was that the continents had once formed a single landmass, called Pangaea, before breaking apart and drifting to their present locations.

Wegener was the first to use the phrase “continental drift” and formally publish the hypothesis that the continents had somehow “drifted” apart. Although he presented much evidence for continental drift, he was unable to provide a convincing explanation for the physical processes which might have caused this drift. His suggestion that the continents had been pulled apart by the centrifugal pseudoforce of the Earth’s rotation or by a small component of astronomical precession was rejected, as calculations showed that the force was not sufficient. The Polflucht hypothesis was also studied by Paul Sophus Epstein in 1920 and found to be implausible.

The theory of continental drift was not accepted for many years. One problem was that a plausible driving force was missing. A second problem was that Wegener’s estimate of the velocity of continental motion, 250 cm/year, was implausibly high. It also did not help that Wegener was not a geologist. Other geologists also believed that the evidence that Wegener had provided was not sufficient. It is now accepted that the plates carrying the continents do move across the Earth’s surface, although not as fast as Wegener believed; ironically one of the chief outstanding questions is the one Wegener failed to resolve: what is the nature of the forces propelling the plates?

The British geologist Arthur Holmes championed the theory of continental drift at a time when it was deeply unfashionable. He proposed in 1931 that the Earth’s mantle contained convection cells which dissipated radioactive heat and moved the crust at the surface. His Principles of Physical Geology, ending with a chapter on continental drift, was published in 1944.

Geological maps of the time showed huge land bridges spanning the Atlantic and Indian oceans to account for the similarities of fauna and flora and the divisions of the Asian continent in the Permian era but failing to account for glaciation in India, Australia and South Africa.

Geophysicist Jack Oliver is credited with providing seismologic evidence supporting plate tectonics which encompassed and superseded continental drift with the article “Seismology and the New Global Tectonics”, published in 1968, using data collected from seismologic stations, including those he set up in the South Pacific.

It is now known that there are two kinds of crust: continental crust and oceanic crust. Continental crust is inherently lighter and its composition is different from oceanic crust, but both kinds reside above a much deeper “plastic” mantle. Oceanic crust is created at spreading centers, and this, along with subduction, drives the system of plates in a chaotic manner, resulting in continuous orogeny and areas of isostatic imbalance. The theory of plate tectonics explains all this, including the movement of the continents, better than Wegener’s theory.

5 January 1919

The German Workers Party is founded. It later becomes the Nazi Party.

On 5 January 1919, the German Workers’ Party was founded in Munich in the hotel Fürstenfelder Hof by Anton Drexler, along with Dietrich Eckart, Gottfried Feder and Karl Harrer. It developed out of the Freier Arbeiterausschuss für einen guten Frieden league, a branch of which Drexler had founded in 1918. Thereafter in 1918, Harrer, convinced Drexler and several others to form the Politischer Arbeiterzirkel. The members met periodically for discussions with themes of nationalism and antisemitism. Drexler was encouraged to form the DAP in December 1918 by his mentor, Dr. Paul Tafel. Tafel was a leader of the Alldeutscher Verband, a director of the Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg and a member of the Thule Society. Drexler’s wish was for a political party which was both in touch with the masses and nationalist. With the DAP founding in January 1919, Drexler was elected chairman and Harrer was made Reich Chairman, an honorary title. On 17 May, only ten members were present at the meeting and a later meeting in August only noted 38 members attending.

After World War I ended, Adolf Hitler returned to Munich. Having no formal education or career prospects, he tried to remain in the army for as long as possible. In July 1919, he was appointed Verbindungsmann of an Aufklärungskommando of the Reichswehr to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate the DAP. While monitoring the activities of the DAP, Hitler became attracted to founder Anton Drexler’s anti-Semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas. While attending a party meeting at the Sterneckerbräu beer hall on 12 September 1919, Hitler became involved in a heated political argument with a visitor, Professor Baumann, who questioned the soundness of Gottfried Feder’s arguments against capitalism and proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and found a new South German nation with Austria. In vehemently attacking the man’s arguments, he made an impression on the other party members with his oratory skills and, according to Hitler, Baumann left the hall acknowledging unequivocal defeat. Impressed with Hitler’s oratory skills, Drexler encouraged him to join. On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party. Although Hitler initially wanted to form his own party, he claimed to have been convinced to join the DAP because it was small and he could eventually become its leader.

In less than a week, Hitler received a postcard stating he had officially been accepted as a member and he should come to a committee meeting to discuss it. Hitler attended the committee meeting held at the run-down Altes Rosenbad beer-house. Normally, enlisted army personnel were not allowed to join political parties. In this case, Hitler had Captain Karl Mayr’s permission to join the DAP. Further, Hitler was allowed to stay in the army and receive his weekly pay of 20 gold marks a week. At the time when Hitler joined the party, there were no membership numbers or cards. It was in January 1920 when a numeration was issued for the first time and listed in alphabetical order Hitler received the number 555. In reality, he had been the 55th member, but the counting started at the number 501 in order to make the party appear larger. In his work Mein Kampf, Hitler later claimed to be the seventh party member and he was in fact the seventh executive member of the party’s central committee. After giving his first speech for the DAP on 16 October at the Hofbräukeller, Hitler quickly became the party’s most active orator. Hitler’s considerable oratory and propaganda skills were appreciated by the party leadership as crowds began to flock to hear his speeches during 1919–1920. With the support of Drexler, Hitler became chief of propaganda for the party in early 1920. Hitler preferred that role as he saw himself as the drummer for a national cause. He saw propaganda as the way to bring nationalism to the public.

The small number of party members were quickly won over to Hitler’s political beliefs. He organized their biggest meeting yet of 2,000 people for 24 February 1920 in the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus in München. Further in an attempt to make the party more broadly appealing to larger segments of the population, the DAP was renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party on 24 February. Such was the significance of Hitler’s particular move in publicity that Harrer resigned from the party in disagreement. The new name was borrowed from a different Austrian party active at the time, although Hitler earlier suggested the party to be renamed the Social Revolutionary Party. It was Rudolf Jung who persuaded Hitler to adopt the NSDAP name.

4 January 46 BC

Julius Caesar fights Titus Labienus during the Battle of Ruspina.

The Battle of Ruspina was fought on 4 January 46 BC in the Roman province of Africa, between the Republican forces of the Optimates and forces loyal to Julius Caesar. The Republican army was commanded by Titus Labienus, Caesar’s former supporter who had defected to the Republican side at the beginning of the civil war.

Titus Labienus commanded the Optimate force and had his 8,000 Numidian cavalry and 1,600 Gallic and Germanic cavalry deploy in unusually close and dense formations for cavalry. The deployment accomplished its goal of misleading Caesar, who believed them to be close-order infantry. Caesar therefore deployed his army in a single extended line to prevent envelopment, with his small force of 150 archers up front and the 400 cavalry on the wings. In a surprising move, Labienus then extended his cavalry on both flanks to envelop Caesar, bringing up his Numidian light infantry in the center. The Numidian light infantry and cavalry began to wear the Caesarian legionaries down with javelins and arrows. This proved very effective, as the legionaries could not retaliate. The Numidians would simply withdraw to a safe distance and continue launching projectiles. The Numidian cavalry routed Caesar’s cavalry and succeeded in surrounding his legions, who redeployed into a circle to face attacks from all sides. The Numidian light infantry bombarded the legionaries with missiles. Caesar’s legionaries threw their pila at the enemy in return, but were ineffective. The nervous Roman soldiers bunched up together, making themselves easier targets for the Numidian missiles.

Titus Labienus rode up to the front rank of Caesar’s troops, coming very near in order to taunt the enemy troops. A veteran of the Tenth Legion approached Labienus, who recognized him. The veteran threw his pilum at Labienus’s horse, killing it. “That’ll teach you Labienus, that a soldier of the Tenth is attacking you”, the veteran growled, shaming Labienus in front of his own men. Some men however began to panic. One aquilifer attempted to flee but Caesar grabbed the man, spun him around and shouted “the enemy are over there!”.

Caesar gave the order to make the battle line as long as possible and every second cohort to turn around, so the standards would be facing the Numidian cavalry in the Romans’ rear and the other cohorts the Numidian light infantry to the front. The legionaries charged and threw their pila, scattering the Optimates infantry and cavalry. They pursued their enemy for a short distance, and began to march back to camp. However Marcus Petreius and Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso appeared with 1,600 Numidian cavalry and a large number of light infantry who harassed Caesar’s legionaries as they retreated. Caesar redeployed his army for combat and launched a counterattack that drove the Optimates forces back over high ground. Petreius was wounded at this point. Completely exhausted, both armies withdrew back to their camps.

Caesar had been defeated, having failed in his mission of gathering supplies. However, his army remained intact; Caesar fortified his camp at Ruspina and equipped sailors as light infantry to serve on land. The army’s craftsmen manufactured slingshots and javelins and Caesar sent messages to bring up as much grain and other supplies as possible.

Metellus Scipio joined forces with Labienus and Petreius and they set up camp three miles from Caesar’s.

3 January 1956

Fire damages the top part of the Eiffel Tower.

An electrical fire briefly engulfed a top corner of the Eiffel Tower today, startling tourists and alarming people across the city.

There were no injuries and the fire was quickly extinguished. But the image of thick white smoke pouring from the city’s signature landmark was nonetheless unsettling after months of periodic terrorist threats in the French capital. Nearly a decade ago, French commandos foiled a plot by Algerian hijackers to fly a plane into the tower.

Commandant Christian Decolloredo, a spokesman for the Paris Fire Department, said the blaze was an ”electrical wire fire in a standard equipment room.”

The fire broke out at 7:21 p.m. in an area off limits to tourists. It started as a wisp of white smoke and quickly spread until orange flames could be seen from the ground. Cherry Quevy, 27, on vacation with her family, caught the fire on video while filming the top of the tower. People on the video could be seen dashing back and forth on the top outdoor observation deck, partly obscured by the smoke and flames.

About 2,000 to 3,000 visitors were evacuated down the 1,070-foot tower’s winding stairs.

”They were yelling at me to go down, and grabbed my arm and put me in front of the stairs,” said Jasper Noltes, 22, a student from the Netherlands.

About 125 firefighters and 20 fire trucks responded to the blaze and a red Civil Security helicopter circled the tower, filming the fire, which was put out in about an hour. The grounds beneath and surrounding the tower were cordoned off by the police. Many firefighters used the tower’s elevators, which are designed to work even during a fire.

Continue reading the main story
It was not the first blaze at the tower, which opened in 1889. A safety net caught fire in 2000, and there was a kitchen fire in a lower-level restaurant in 1998. On Jan. 3, 1956, a fire in a television transmitter swept through the top of the tower.

City officials said the tower would be open on Wednesday.

Frank Engelan, 23, a physical education teacher from the Netherlands, said he saw a visitor arguing to be allowed up to the top because he had paid 3.20 euros, about $3.60, for the elevator ride.

”I’m very disappointed,” said Mr. Engelan, who is to leave Paris on Wednesday. ”I want my money back, too.”

2 January 1833

British sovereignty is reasserted over the Falkland Islands.

In 1765, Captain John Byron explored Saunders Island, which lies 1.5 miles off the coast of West Falkland. He named the harbour Port Egmont, and claimed this and other islands for Britain, on the grounds of prior discovery. The next year Captain John MacBride established a British settlement at Port Egmont. The British presence in the west continued, until interrupted by Spain, during the Falkland Crisis from 10 July 1770 to 22 January 1771. Economic pressures led Britain to unilaterally withdraw from many overseas settlements in 1774.

On 20 May 1776 the British forces under the command of Lieutenant Clayton formally took their leave of Port Egmont, leaving a plaque asserting Britain’s continuing sovereignty over the islands. The Falkland Islands remained an important outpost for whalers and sealers who used the islands to shelter from the worst of the South Atlantic weather. By merit of their location, the Falkland Islands have often been the last refuge for ships damaged at sea. Most numerous among those using the islands were British and American sealers, where typically between 40 and 50 ships were engaged in hunting fur seals.

In 1823, after its war of independence against Spain, the United Provinces granted land on East Falkland to Luis Vernet, who first travelled to the islands the following year. That first expedition failed almost as soon as it landed, and a second attempt, in 1826, sanctioned by the British, also failed after arrival in the islands. In 1828, the United Provinces government granted Vernet all of East Falkland, including all its resources, with exemption from taxation if a colony could be established within three years. He took settlers, some of them British, and before leaving once again sought permission first from the British Consulate in Buenos Aires. After receiving consent, Vernet agreed to provide regular reports to the British consul and expressed the desire for British protection for his settlement should they decide to re-establish their presence in the islands.

On Vernet’s return to the Falklands, Puerto Soledad was renamed Puerto Luis. The United Provinces proclaimed Luis Vernet as governor of the islands in 1829. British diplomatic protests at the appointment and declarations of sovereignty were ignored. The United Provinces also granted Vernet exclusive rights to seal hunting in the islands. This too was disputed by the British and US consulates at Buenos Aires but once again the diplomatic protests were ignored. Vernet continued to provide regular reports to the British consul throughout this period.

In 1831, Luis Vernet seized three US vessels hunting seals in Falklands waters, confiscating their catch and arresting their crews. Vernet returned to the mainland, bringing senior officers of the US vessels to stand trial for violating restrictions on seal hunting. The US consul protested violently against the seizure of US ships and the USS Lexington sailed to the Falklands. The log of the Lexington reports only the destruction of arms and a powder store, though in his claim against the US government for compensation Vernet stated that the settlement was destroyed. The Islands were declared free from all government, the seven senior members of the settlement were arrested for piracy and taken to Montevideo, where they were released without charge on the orders of Commodore Rogers.

This latter incident finally convinced the British Foreign Office to reassert its sovereignty claim over the islands. Throughout much of 1832, the United Provinces did not have a government representative in the islands. The Buenos Aires government commissioned Major Esteban Mestivier as the new governor of the islands, to set up a penal colony, but when he arrived at the settlement on 15 November 1832 his soldiers mutinied and killed him. The mutiny was put down by Major José María Pinedo, commander of the United Provinces schooner Sarandí. Order was restored just before the British arrived.

Under the command of Captain John James Onslow, the brig-sloop HMS Clio, previously stationed at Rio de Janeiro, reached Port Egmont on 20 December 1832. It was later joined by HMS Tyne. Their first actions were to repair the fort at Port Egmont and affix a notice of possession.

Onslow arrived at Puerto Louis on 2 January 1833. Pinedo sent an officer to the British ship, where he was presented with the following written request to replace the Argentine flag with the British one, and leave the location.

I have to direct you that I have received directions from His Excellency and Commander-in-Chief of His Britannic Majesty’s ships and vessels of war, South America station, in the name of His Britannic Majesty, to exercise the rights of sovereignty over these Islands.

It is my intention to hoist to-morrow the national flag of Great Britain on shore when I request you will be pleased to haul down your flag on shore and withdraw your force, taking all stores belonging to your Government.

Pinedo entertained plans for resisting, but finally desisted because of his obvious numerical inferiority and the want of enough nationals among his crew. The British forces disembarked on 3 January and switched the flags, delivering the Argentine one to Pinedo, who left on 5 January.

Recognising Vernet’s settlement had British permission, Onslow set about ensuring the continuation of that settlement for the replenishment of passing ships. The gauchos had not been paid since Vernet’s departure and were anxious to return to the mainland. Onslow persuaded them to stay by paying them in silver for provisions and promising that in the absence of Vernet’s authority they could earn their living from the feral cattle on the islands.

The British vessels did not stay long and departed two days later, leaving William Dickson in charge of the settlement. Dixon was provided with a flagpole and instructed to fly the British flag whenever a vessel was in harbour.

Argentina claims that the population of the islands was expelled in 1833; however, both British and Argentine sources from the time, including the log of the ARA Sarandí, suggest that the colonists were encouraged to remain under Vernet’s deputy, Matthew Brisbane.

1 January 1995

The World Trade Organization comes into existence.

The World Trade Organization is an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade. The WTO officially commenced on 1 January 1995 under the Marrakesh Agreement, signed by 124 nations on 15 April 1994, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which commenced in 1948. It is the largest international economic organization in the world.

The WTO deals with regulation of trade in goods, services and intellectual property between participating countries by providing a framework for negotiating trade agreements and a dispute resolution process aimed at enforcing participants’ adherence to WTO agreements, which are signed by representatives of member governments:fol.9–10 and ratified by their parliaments. The WTO prohibits discrimination between trading partners, but provides exceptions for environmental protection, national security, and other important goals. Trade-related disputes are resolved by independent judges at the WTO through a dispute resolution process.

The WTO’s current Director-General is Roberto Azevêdo, who leads a staff of over 600 people in Geneva, Switzerland. A trade facilitation agreement, part of the Bali Package of decisions, was agreed by all members on 7 December 2013, the first comprehensive agreement in the organization’s history. On 23 January 2017, the amendment to the WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement marks the first time since the organization opened in 1995 that WTO accords have been amended, and this change should secure for developing countries a legal pathway to access affordable remedies under WTO rules.

Studies show that the WTO boosted trade, and that barriers to trade would be higher in the absence of the WTO. The WTO has highly influenced the text of trade agreements, as “nearly all recent [preferential trade agreements reference the WTO explicitly, often dozens of times across multiple chapters… in many of these same PTAs we find that substantial portions of treaty language—sometime the majority of a chapter—is copied verbatim from a WTO agreement.”

The WTO’s predecessor, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, was established by a multilateral treaty of 23 countries in 1947 after World War II in the wake of other new multilateral institutions dedicated to international economic cooperation – such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. A comparable international institution for trade, named the International Trade Organization never started as the U.S. and other signatories did not ratify the establishment treaty, and so GATT slowly became a de facto international organization.

Seven rounds of negotiations occurred under GATT. The first real GATT trade rounds concentrated on further reducing tariffs. Then the Kennedy Round in the mid-sixties brought about a GATT anti-dumping Agreement and a section on development. The Tokyo Round during the seventies represented the first major attempt to tackle trade barriers that do not take the form of tariffs, and to improve the system, adopting a series of agreements on non-tariff barriers, which in some cases interpreted existing GATT rules, and in others broke entirely new ground. Because not all GATT members accepted these plurilateral agreements, they were often informally called “codes”. Several of these codes were amended in the Uruguay Round and turned into multilateral commitments accepted by all WTO members. Only four remained plurilateral, but in 1997 WTO members agreed to terminate the bovine meat and dairy agreements, leaving only two. Despite attempts in the mid-1950s and 1960s to establish some form of institutional mechanism for international trade, the GATT continued to operate for almost half a century as a semi-institutionalized multilateral treaty regime on a provisional basis.

31 December 1501

The First Battle of Cannanore starts.

The First Battle of Cannanore was a naval engagement between the Third Portuguese Armada under João da Nova and the naval forces of Calicut, which had been assembled by the Zamorin against the Portuguese in order to prevent their return to Portugal.

The battle was fought over two days, between 31 December 1501 and 2 January 1502, and was the first major Portuguese naval engagement in the Indian Ocean. Although badly outnumbered, da Nova’s bold tactics, better trained and prepared men and superior weaponry proved decisive for the Portuguese to defeat the blocking force of Calicut, break out of Cannanore, and emerge victorious from the battle.

The battle is also historically notable for being one of the earliest recorded deliberate uses of a naval line of battle, and for resolving the battle by cannon alone. These tactics would become increasingly prevalent as navies evolved and began to see ships less as carriers of armed men, and more as floating artillery. In that respect, this has been called the first ‘modern’ naval battle at least for one side. After it, João da Nova returned to Portugal.

30 December 1936

The United Auto Workers union stages its first sitdown strike.

At 8 p.m. on December 30, 1936, in one of the first sit-down strikes in the United States, autoworkers occupy the General Motors Fisher Body Plant Number One in Flint, Michigan. The autoworkers were striking to win recognition of the United Auto Workers as the only bargaining agent for GM’s workers; they also wanted to make the company stop sending work to non-union plants and to establish a fair minimum wage scale, a grievance system and a set of procedures that would help protect assembly-line workers from injury. In all, the strike lasted 44 days.

The Flint sit-down strike was not spontaneous; UAW leaders, inspired by similar strikes across Europe, had been planning it for months. The strike actually began at smaller plants: Fisher Body in Atlanta on November 16, GM in Kansas City on December 16 and a Fisher stamping plant in Cleveland on December 28. The Flint plant was the biggest coup, however: it contained one of just two sets of body dies that GM used to stamp out almost every one of its 1937 cars. By seizing control of the Flint plant, autoworkers could shut down the company almost entirely.

So, on the evening of December 30, the Flint Plant’s night shift simply stopped working. They locked themselves in and sat down. “She’s ours!” one worker shouted.

GM argued that the strikers were trespassing and got a court order demanding their evacuation; still, the union men stayed put. GM turned off the heat in the buildings, but the strikers wrapped themselves in coats and blankets and hunkered down. On January 11, police tried to cut off the strikers’ food supply; in the resulting riot, known as the “Battle of the Running Bulls,” 16 workers and 11 policemen were injured and the UAW took over the adjacent Fisher Two plant. On February 1, the UAW won control of the enormous Chevrolet No. 4 engine factory. GM’s output went from a robust 50,000 cars in December to just 125 in February.

Despite GM’s enormous political clout, Michigan Governor Frank Murphy refused to use force to break the strike. Though the sit-ins were illegal, he believed, he also believed that authorizing the National Guard to break the strike would be an enormous mistake. “If I send those soldiers right in on the men,” he said, “there’d be no telling how many would be killed.” As a result, he declared, “The state authorities will not take sides. They are here only to protect the public peace.”

Meanwhile, President Roosevelt urged GM to recognize the union so that the plants could reopen. In mid-February, the automaker signed an agreement with the UAW. Among other things, the workers were given a 5 percent raise and permission to speak in the lunchroom.