The Great Eastern

Lead: In November, 1857, Isambard Kingdom Brunel tried to launch his magnificent creation. Great Eastern, the heaviest object anyone had ever attempted to move, got stuck.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Brunel was one of the most successful engineers of his day. He constructed what was at that time, the world’s longest tunnel, several unusual railroad bridges, and finally, Great Eastern. Conceived as the first luxury liner, the ship was designed to carry 4,000 passengers in complete comfort, haul enough coal for a non-stop round-trip from England to Australia, and earn her inventors’ money back in a couple of years. No such luck. No profit was ever made with Great Eastern.

Windmills

Lead: Evoking visions of the charming Dutch countryside, the tilting object of slightly confused Spanish knights, and fights between green power and wealthy islanders, one of things that modernized rural America was the windmill.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: In 1854, Daniel Halladay, a New England inventor, submitted a patent application for a self-regulating windmill, an ingenious device that automatically closed its blades during high winds so as to protect itself from damage. According to essayist Stuart Leuthner, this inaugurated the era of the American windmill.

History’s Turning Points: Japan Discovers the Gun II

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider history’s turning points: Japan rediscovers the gun.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: In 1543, visiting Portuguese explorers jumped from the deck of a Chinese commercial ship into Japanese shallow waters and with their muskets shot a duck. The unfavorable results on the duck were duly noted by Lord Tokitaka, who purchased from the Portuguese two guns and commissioned his swordsmiths to copy these new weapons. Within a century firearms were playing a widespread, destructive role in the dynastic and feudal warfare consuming the Japanese upper class. These weapons were very good, indeed the Japanese significantly improved on comparable European designs. One such innovation was waterproof rain protection for the ignition platform, but soon the Japanese abandoned firearms and mostly returned to hand-held weapons such as the sword and the bow and arrow.

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History’s Turning Points: Japan Discovers the Gun I

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider history’s turning points: Japan rediscovers the gun.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: Japan has taken a well-earned place in the modern era as a seat of much industrial innovation. Within 60 years of the visit of Commodore Perry in 1855, Japan had wrenched itself so significantly into the contemporary world that its navy had inflicted havoc on Russian naval forces at the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War, sending the pride of the Czar’s fleet to the bottom of the Sea of Japan. In another thirty-six years, Japan would temporarily humble the world’s preeminent industrial power at Pearl Harbor.

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Spy Satellites

Lead: It was mid-August 1960. In a White House ceremony, President Dwight D. Eisenhower displayed a United States flag that been recovered from an environmental satellite orbiting the earth. He wasn’t exactly telling the whole truth.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Actually, the flag had been carried into orbit aboard Discoverer XIII and was returned to earth in an ejected capsule which was then recovered from its splash down point northwest of Hawaii by a Navy taskforce. It was the first time an object had been catapulted into earth orbit and brought back without mishap, but this exercise was far more than patriotic chauvinism. The Discoverer program was a ruse, a clever cover-up for a secret reconnaissance operation known as Corona.

Suez Canal III

Lead: Facing almost universal skepticism, the Suez Canal Company under Ferdinand de Lesseps raised the money and dug the Canal.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Prime Minister Palmerston of Britain called him a swindler and a fool. Bankers such as Baron de Rothschild rejected his pleas for capital. Yet, de Lesseps succeeded against all odds. Raising money from small investors and operating with a design approved by the International Commission for the Piercing of the Isthmus of Suez, he broke ground in 1859 near the future Port Said. It took ten years to construct the canal. At any given point 30,000 workers were employed often under harsh, forced conditions. More than a million were so engaged and thousands of laborers died on the project. Progress was often delayed by labor disputes and the outbreak of diseases such as cholera, but in the end the canal was completed primarily due to the importation of giant French-designed steam shovels and dredges.

Suez Canal II

Lead: In 1869, finally, the land bridge between Egypt and Suez was pierced with a canal, thanks in large measure to Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: He was no engineer, had no great fortune, had no access to capital, and was in no way an effective administrator, unanimated by tedium. Yet, if anyone might be called the Father of the Suez, it was de Lesseps. Other than his indefatigable energy and dedication to the project, he largely succeeded in building the canal because of his personal connection to two people.

Suez Canal I

Lead: In 1869 French engineers and Egyptian laborers completed work eliminating one of the world’s two great blocks to navigation. They opened the canal at Suez.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Until the 19th and 20th centuries there were two significant places in the world where the passage of oceangoing commerce and transportation were impeded by relatively short land bridges. The Isthmus of Panama fell before the assaults of U.S. doctors and engineers in 1914. Creating a passage between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea was much longer in coming. It had attracted the attention of rulers such as Ramesses II of the 12th Egyptian dynasty in the 2nd Millennium BCE and Persian conqueror Darius I. They built narrow canals from the Nile to the Red Sea but these soon fell into disuse.