Sure, the sinking of the Titanic gets all the press — but the engineering that went into her and her sister ships in the Olympic-class was impressive for their time, and still is today. Bill (“Engineer Guy”) Hammack explains all:
Some years ago, I told you about the (very inaccurately named) Montezuma’s Castle structure in Arizona. Today, you get to see the remains of a pithouse down the road from it, just uphill from the (similarly inaccurately named) Montezuma Well:
A pithouse is a structure built partially underground, and partially above ground. Most pithouses found in the southwest were family residences — this one is large enough that it is thought to have been home to several families, or more likely, a community structure used by them. One of four pithouses in the area, this structure dates to about 1050 AD, and resembles similar structures from the same period built by the Hohokam culture near modern Phoenix.
The two largest holes in the dirt floor once held the main roof support timbers. The holes around the edge reveal the outline of the structure, where wall posts were placed in the ground. That notch in the far side of the structure marks where the building’s entrance once stood.
The pithouse was excavated over the course of three weeks in 1958, by the University of Northern Arizona and a team of local volunteers. The fragile dirt floor was stabilized with soil cement, and a roof erected over it in order to provide both public viewing and protection from the elements. The pithouse is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
February 11, 2015 was the fifth anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft. SDO captures images of the whole sun 24 hours a day, taking more than one image per second. In the process, it’s given us an unprecedentedly clear picture of how massive explosions on the sun grow and erupt. The imagery isn’t just scientifically useful — it’s also captivating, as the constant ballet of solar material through the sun’s atmosphere (the corona) carries on.
On display at the Viking World museum near Iceland’s Keflavik Airport, it’s the Islendingur (“Icelander”) — a modern-day recreation of a Viking longship:
But to be specific, this was no attempt to build a “typical” Viking ship — it’s a nearly exact recreation of what’s known as the Gokstad ship — a Viking ship built around 890 AD and uncovered in the 19th century in a burial mound on a farm in Norway. The Gokstad ship was built during the heyday of Viking expansion in the British isles, and could have carried as many as 70 men at a time on some mix of commercial and raiding trips.
The Islendingur was built nearly single-handedly by a Icelandic shipwright named Gunnar Marel Eggertsson between 1994 and 1996. In 2000, Eggertsson and his crew of 8 sailed the Islendingur from Iceland to L’anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, recreating a voyage made by Leif Eriksson 1000 years previously. In 2002, she was brought back to Iceland, and became the focal point of the Viking World museum when it opened in 2008.
At 22.5 meters in length, the Islendingur is on the short side for a Viking longship. It’s thought that the Gokstad ship it copies may have been an experiment at combining the best qualities of longships (longer, but ill-suited for rough seas) and knarrs (shorter, and deeper, for greater cargo capacity and improved rough water handling).
If you happen to find yourself in the neighborhood of Flagstaff, Arizona, I’d highly recommend a side-trip to see Barringer Crater (a.k.a. Meteor Crater). It’s only about 56 km (35 miles) east of Flagstaff, and not terribly expensive to visit. Some 50,000 years old, it’s also said to be the best-preserved meteor crater on earth.
If you were curious about what a meteor crater rim would look like from the outside, this is that very view for Barringer Crater from its access road (it has its own exchange off Interstate 40). If you didn’t know any better, you could drive right past it, thinking this was just a low line of hills.
The crater is named for Daniel M. Barringer, a mining engineer who in 1903 first suggested that it may have been caused by a meteor impact. But solid proof of this was not in hand until 1960, when Gene Shoemaker discovered shocked silica in the crater — something not otherwise seen on earth, except in craters left over from nuclear test explosions. While many impact craters have since been found on the earth’s surface, Shoemaker’s discovery means that Barringer Crater holds the title as being the first definitive evidence of impacts on earth.