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Arctic shipping lane opens due to ice melt; cargo ship completes the journey

March 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On September 28, 2018, the cargo ship Venta Maersk docks in St. Petersburg, Russia, more than a month after departing from Vladivostok on the other side of the country. The successful traversal of the Russian Arctic was a landmark moment for the international shipping industry, as well as a sobering reminder of the extent to which the Earth’s ice caps had melted.

The search for a fast way to move cargo from one end of Eurasia to the other by sea had begun centuries ago, and was a major driver of European exploration of North America. Until the 2000s, the fastest means of making the journey was to go around South Asia and reach Europe via the Suez Canal. As climate change led to a decrease in ice around the North Pole, however, opportunities arose to for shipping companies to use waters that were previously impossible to navigate.

The Venta was not the first ship to make the journey through the Russian Arctic, and it needed assistance from an icebreaker for several days. The Northern Sea Route, as it is commonly called, is still not a regular shipping lane, and it is only usable by “ice-class” ships like the Venta. Nonetheless, the Venta’s journey, and shipping companies’ recent investment in building more vessels capable of repeating it, signal that climatologists and businesspeople alike believe it’s a safe bet that Arctic ice will continue to melt.

READ MORE: Climate Change History

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Source: HISTORY

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GE finally initiates cleanup of Hudson River

March 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

After decades of environmental damage and legal wrangling, General Electric finally begins its government-mandated efforts to clean the Hudson River on May 15, 2009. One of America’s largest and most prestigious corporations, GE had dumped harmful chemicals into the river for years and spent a fortune trying to avoid the cleanup.

GE’s plants at Hudson Falls and Port Edward, two towns in upstate New York, dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a harmful compound manufactured for GE by Monsanto, into the Hudson from 1947 to 1977. The State of New York banned fishing in the Upper Hudson in 1976 due to the pollution, and in 1984 a roughly 200-mile stretch of the river was declared a Superfund site, requiring GE to pay for the cleanup. Via lawsuits, lobbying efforts, and public relations campaigns, GE fought back until 2002, when the Environmental Protection Agency announced a final decision that the corporation would, in fact, have to foot the bill. Even then, GE dragged its feet for seven years before dredging finally began.

The dredging, which cost GE $1.6 billion, lasted from 2009 until 2015. By all accounts, significant progress was made, and observers have applauded the return of some of the river’s wildlife. Still, few believe that GE truly cleaned up its mess. Despite the removal of 3 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments, the state has challenged the EPA’s assertion that GE held up its end of the bargain, pointing to studies that show significant levels of PCBs in the Hudson. The state still warns children and those who may bear children against eating fish and other wildlife caught in the Hudson, advising adult men to limit their consumption, as well as counseling citizens to try to avoid swallowing the river’s water.

READ MORE: The Shocking River Fire That Fueled the Creation of the EPA

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Source: HISTORY

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"Pale Blue Dot" photo of Earth is taken

March 10, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On Valentine’s Day, 1990, 3.7 billion miles away from the sun, the Voyager 1 spacecraft takes a photograph of Earth. The picture, known as Pale Blue Dot, depicts our planet as a nearly indiscernible speck roughly the size of a pixel.

Launched on September 5, 1977, Voyagers 1 and 2 were charged with exploring the outer reaches of our solar system. It passed by Jupiter in March of 1979 and Saturn the following year. The gaps between the outer planets are so vast that it was another decade before it passed by Neptune and arrived at the spot where it was to take a series of images of the planets, known as the “Family Portrait” of our solar system.

Of the Family Portrait series, Pale Blue Dot was certainly the most memorable. The furthest image ever taken of Earth, it lent its name to popular astronomer Carl Sagan’s 1994 book. Sagan, who advised the Voyager mission and had suggested the photo, wrote the following: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

Voyager 1′s journey continues. In 1998, it became the most distant human-made object in space, and on August 25, 2012, it left the furthest reaches of the sun’s magnetic field and solar winds, becoming the first man-made object in interstellar space.

READ MORE: 6 Fascinating Facts About Space Probe Voyager 1

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Source: HISTORY

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Did Cleopatra Really Die by Snake Bite?

March 10, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

The venom of an asp—or even a cobra—supposedly killed the legendary queen of Egypt. But is it true?

Cleopatra’s death appears to have played out as dramatically as the life she lived.

After the Egyptian queen and her longtime lover, the Roman general Mark Antony, saw their combined forces decimated in the Battle of Actium in 31 B.C., they retreated to an uncertain future in Alexandria. Months later, with the Roman army of Octavian at the city’s gates, a desperate Antony fell on his sword.

Faced with the prospect of losing her kingdom, …read more

Source: HISTORY