This Week In History

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Cat Madish, Editor-In-Chief

  • On Jan. 9, 1493, Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids. Columbus claimed they were “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” This was the first written record of manatees in North America, and it was the claim that they were mermaids! This may seem really strange, but it is actually really common for manatees to be mistaken for mermaids and sirens. So common, in fact, that their taxonomic order is known as sirenia, a name derived from the sirens of Greek mythology.
  • The idea of a circus is not new, as it first appeared in ancient Rome, but circuses did not always look like they did today. This is credited towards Englishman Philip Astley who, on Jan. 9, 1768, staged the first modern circus in London. It started off with Astley performing shocking stunts on the back of a horse, where he performed seemingly impossible feats. This first performance received such a good response that Astley hired other performers and built a structure that he called structure Astley’s Amphitheatre. Astley even performed for King Louis XV! People began opening circuses elsewhere, and later, smaller traveling circuses began popping up.
  • On Jan. 12, 1962, the American government launched Operation Ranch Hand against Vietnam. This was part of the chemical warfare program called Operation Trail Dust, and involved spraying a multitude of herbicides designed to expose roads and trails used by the Viet Cong as well as deprive them of food. Over the course of almost 10 years,  U.S. personnel dumped an estimated 19 million gallons of these herbicides over 10-20% of Vietnam. The herbicides used, also known as the rainbow herbicides, have caused many long-term ecological problems and health issues for the Vietnamese people l such as cancer, birth defects, congenital malformations, and even miscarriages. Exposure to herbicide orange alone is thought to have caused the health issues of 3 million and birth defects of 1 million.
  • During 12-day trade trip around Asia, President George H.W. Bush attended a dinner on Jan. 8, 1992, hosted by the Prime Minister of Japan,  Kiichi Miyazawa, where he ended up vomiting on the lap of the host. He had appeared to be fine, even played doubles tennis with the Emperor of Japan and his son that morning. However, while at this dinner party Bush suddenly leaned forward, fell to his side, and regurgitated upon the lap of Miyazawa, fainting as his wife, aides, and the secret service attended to him. Later, doctors stated that he was only suffering acute gastroenteritis, easily remedied by an anti-nausea pill. Bush apologized for the incident, but that did not keep this incident from becoming one of the most memorable presidential gaffes in history. Comedians in both the United States and Japan were quick to pick it up. Hilariously, the phrase Busshusuru (ブッシュする)  became a popular slang term for vomiting after the incident, which roughly translates to “to pull a Bush”.