Friday, April 30, 2010

Louisiana Purchase

Today in History:

On April 30, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was sold to the United States by France. Although France had ceded the territory to Spain in 1762, the Treaty of San Ildefonso, signed in 1800, regained the Louisiana Territory. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821), or Napoleon I of France, was set on creating an French Empire in America along with a French Empire in Europe. This American Empire was going to be centered around the island of Hispaniola. Unfortunately, Haitian slaves under Toussaint L'ouverture (1743-1803) had revolted and taken over the city of Santo Domingo on Hispaniola. Although Napoleon had sent an army to put down the rebellion, many soldiers died in battle and of yellow fever. This destroyed Napoleon's American Empire dream, so he decided to sell the land to help fund his military in France. Although President Thomas Jefferson of the United States had already sent James Monroe and Robert R. Livingston to negotiate the purchase of a portion of the land, he was delighted when Napoleon offered the whole territory to him. The purchase was sold on this day for 60 million francs or about $15 million. The land was 2 million sq. kilometers (800,00 sq. miles) stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. This doubled the size of the United States and lead it to expansion across North America. It is strange to think what might have happened if Napoleon had stopped the slave revolt and started the American Empire of France. The United States would be limited to the East Coast of North America and France would have a very large influence on the culture of all of the Americas.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ontario's CN Tower

The Communications Network Tower (The CN Tower) is a tower standing high over the city of Toronto, Canada. This great tower was created by a private company called CN Tower Ltd, an affiliate of Canadian National Railways. A revolving restaurant sits near the top, at 1,148 ft (350m), just above this, there is an observation deck at 1,509 ft (460m) high, but what makes this building great is that its spire is at 1,816 ft (553m) high, making it the third tallest tower in the world (not including guyed masts and drilling platforms). The tower is only behind TV & Sightseeing Tower and the Burj Khalifa. The construction of the CN Tower began in February 1973 and finished in
June of 1976. The tower stands on a foundation plate 17 ft ( 5.5m) thick with a diameter of 229 ft (70m).
The floor of the bottom observation deck is made of glass, fully of glass, but because of the height, some people refused to get out of the elevator when they saw the ground, the floor was carpeted except for one small area of the floor, where people still look down at the ground in amazement. The CN Tower now is the regarded as the most artistically significant telecommunications tower and as the symbol of Toronto.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

England's Palace of Westminster

In 1834, the old House of Parliament in London burned down. A year later, a design competition was announced, stating that the building had to be of Gothic or Tudor design, which was bad for all the leading architects, who all built classical buildings. The winner of this competition was Charles Barry, who also made buildings of classical design, but was able to create a Gothic design as requested. The building included new chambers for the Commons and the Lords, along with smoking rooms, kitchens, and libraries. The building ended up being 914ft (289m) long with two main towers, the Victoria Tower to the south and the Clock Tower (holding Big Ben) to the north. Big Ben, the bell in the clock tower, is probably the most famous part of the Palace, but took much time to get working. At first, the casting broke, and the bell was not raised until
1858, and then drowned out the parliamentary speakers, and soon before it was planned to be taken out, an adjustment of the hammer fixed the problem. Charles Barry had another man,
Augustus Welby Pugin, worked on the interior of the Palace. After many years of problems and having to garrison the building to withstand a siege, the Lords and Commons were both finally installed in their chambers in 1852. The whole building was finally finished in 1867, and now stands as one of the greatest sights in London, with the Clock Tower standing high over much of the city.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Elephant Seal

This blog is called the History Dropoff because it is where I drop off facts on mainly history, but I use this blog to keep my family from having to listento me, so I also dropoff other information, like this post.

The Elephant Seal is a species of seal that comes in two types of species. The Northern Elephant Seal is known as Mirougna angustirostris and lives on the coast of California and Mexico, while the Southern Elephant seal, Mirougna leonina, lives only in the southern hemisphere, in places such as New Zealand, South Georgia, Antartica, etc. Elephant seals are marine mammals that come together only to breed. The Northern variety breed in January and February, but the Southern species mates from September to October. Although Elephant Seals are clumsy on land, they can swim with great power deriving from the alternating hind flippers, which they can use to catch fish and squid. The most unique feature of an elephant seal is its large nasal cavity, which only appears on males and takes 8 years it to fully develop. During mating season, the cavity fills with blood and is able to amplify aggressive roars. Along with having an odd nose, male elephant seals also have many other traits that females do not, which the bulls use during battles for dominance. Males can weigh up to 2300kg more than a female, weighing in at about 3200kg (7055lb). Males are also longer than females and can be 4.9m (16ft) long. Other outstanding battle traits used by bull Elephant Seals are tough neck skin acquired as a youth and enlarged canines. Elephant seals can have cubs when the male is 4 to 6 years old and the female is 2 to 3 years old, and after 11 months, the seal gives birth to a youth, which will hopefully live for another 20 years. Although Hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) also have traits like those of an Elephant Seal, they're not as large as Elephant seals, and their nasal cavities are no match to those of an Elephant Seals, the Elephant of the Sea.

Infromation from...
The Encyclopedia of Animals
Consultant Editor: Dr. Per Christiansen

Friday, April 9, 2010

France's Louvre Museum

The Palais du Louvre is a complex of buildings added on to the first structure, which was started in 1546 by architect Pierre Lescot under King Francois I. Other parts of the Louvre were built by rulers such as Henri IV, who built the Grand Galerie, and Catherine de Medici, who built the Tuileries. The Louvre was the royal headquarters in Paris until Louis XIV built Versailles in 1682. Although he disliked the Louvre, Louis XIV's chief minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert, advised the King to build public buildings, so Louis created the Place du Carrousel. Louis also asked Le Vau, the architect who would later create Versailles, to design new buildings for the Cour Carree part of the Louvre. For the eastern facade, Le Vau, the Italian architect, Bernini, and the King's architect, Jules Hardouin Mansart all submitted designs, but were rejected. In the end, an unknown designer, Claude Perrault, was chosen. Although Perrault was only an amateur architect, his design impressed Colbert, and the eastern facade was completed in 1670. After the French Revolution, the Louvre was turned into the national gallery of France, and was added onto by both Napoleon I and Napoleon III.During the Paris Commune of 1871, the part of the Louvre built by Catherine de Medici, the Tuileries, was destroyd. In the 1980's, the French President Francois Mitterand asked Ieoh Ming Pei to reinvent the Louvre to accommodate the many visitors of the great building, so Pei added some pyramids in the middle of the complex, the main pyramid used as an entrance, the centerpiece of an underground entrance complex, and giving natural light to the underground levels. The Louvre now is one of the most famous and visited museums in the world. The Louvre now contains the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, a coffee shop, and 4+ gift shops.

Information from...
The World's Greatest Buildings
Consultant Editor: Trevor Howells and...
The Greatest Buildings of the World
Editor: Kelly Knauer

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Belize's Xunantunich

Xunantunich is a Mayan temple and the second tallest building in Belize. Xunantunich means “Lady of the Rock” in ancient Mayan. Unlike most Mayan temples, Xunantunich does not have stairs running all the way to the top of the pyramid. Instead, the stairs go only part way up. A ramp, which starts where the stairs finish, leads to a hill on the side of the pyramid where a small room is. The ramp continues out the back door of this room and back onto the backside pyramid, when the ramp is two levels lower than the top level, the ramp stops and a new flight of stairs continues up to the top of the pyramid. Archaeologists suspect that one of the Mayan rulers of this city was loosing the support of the city’s people so he built the pyramid with these unique features. He would climb up the first short flight of stairs and go up the ramp into the small room, where servants were waiting to dress him in fancier clothing. He would then go up the ramp and climb the next flight of stairs to the top where he would reappear in front of his people. This made it seem like he had left, a human, and came back as a god. This might have help gain the people’s trust.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

#01- Marco Polo

01 Marco Polo

In 1260, two Venetian merchants, Maffeo and Nicolo Polo, made their way East, to the palace of Kublai Khan, the Emperor of the Mongols. When they made it to the capital of the Mongol Empire, Kublai Khan was most hospitable and when he sent them away, he also sent a letter to Pope Clement IV, asking for 100 learned men to teach on Christianity. Although the Pope did not send the men, he sent a letter and precious gifts back to Asia in 1271 with Nicolo, Maffeo, and Marco Polo (1254-1324), Nicolo's son. Marco Polo soon became a favorite of the Great Khan's and went on several special missions to China, Burma, and India during his 17 years in the Khan's court. After coming back to Venice in 1294, Polo served in a war against the city of Genoa, and was captured. During his year in prison, Marco dictated an account of his time in Asia to Rustichello of Pisa, a writer of romances. The book was published and is now known as The Description of the World or The Travels of Marco Polo. Although Polo's book was accused of being full of lies, which it probably was, the book was read all over Europe. After he was set free, Polo was still left with some precious items from Asia. These items and Polo's book inspired and basically started the Age of Exploration. Marco Polo is the Number 1 explorer because his book and items from Asia almost fully started the Age of Exploration in Europe and inspired some of the other great explorers, such as the well-known Christopher Colombus.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Gunpowder Plot

The Gunpowder Plot was a plot created by Catholics to get rid of the Protestant King James I and bring England back to Catholicism. The Catholics were doing this because James had pushed them to the breaking point. He had passed laws against Catholics who refused to attend worship services preformed by the Church of England. The plot's basic idea was to blow up the Parliament building while James was there. On November 5, 1605, the Catholic radicals were about to set the fuse, when Guy Fawkes, who was supposed to detonate the gunpowder, was caught in the act. The guards were able to catch Fawkes because a member of the Catholic group, Francis Tresham, warned his brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle, a Parliament member, about the plot. Monteagle passed the word on and saved Parliament, the King, and England from Catholic rebellion. The day Guy Fawkes was caught is now celebrated in England as Guy Fawkes Day.

Information from...
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Kings and Queens of England
By Charles Phillips

Thursday, April 1, 2010

#02- Ferdinand Magellan

02 Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) was a Portuguese navigator who worked for the Spanish king, Charles I. Magellan claimed that he knew where the passage through the New World to Asia was, so in September of 1519, with five ships (the Trinidad, the San Antonio, the Concepcion, the Victoria, and the Santiago) Magellan set out west with 270 men. After almost a year of sailing and two unsuccessful mutiny attempts, Magellan found a passage to the Pacific, which he named the Strait of All Saints. This strait was later renamed the 'Strait of Magellan'. During the Voyage through the Strait of All Saints, the captain of the ship, the San Antonio, turned around and went back towards Spain. Because the San Antonio was a supply ship, the men had to lower their rations for the trip through the Pacific. Soon, men were surviving on sawdust, leather strips of sails, and rats, and scurvy ran rampant through the crew. The crew finally got fresh fruit again in March of 1521, when the ships reached Guam. Later in that month, they made it to the Philippines, where Magellan befriended a local king. Unfortunately, this made him enemies with another local king, Lapulapu. On April 27, 1521, Magellan was killed in a battle. The remaining ship was led to Spain by Sebastian del Cano. Although only 18 men survived the whole trip, the spices and goods collected during the voyage cost more than all the 5 ships put together. The only ship to return, the Victoria, was the first ship to circumnavigate the world. Although Magellan didn't finish the trip, he was the designated leader, fought starvation, local wars, and mutiny, and was rewarded by getting 18 men around the world.
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