Thursday, 15 October 2009

The California Gold Rush

In the early 1840s, California was a distant outpost that few Americans had seen. John Sutter (left) was a Swiss emigrant who had come to California in 1839 with the idea of building a vast empire. At the end of 1847, Sutter sent a group of men, including James Marshall, to build a new sawmill near the river. The sawmill was nearly complete when, on 24 January 1847, Marshall spotted something shining in the river.
The metal was tested and confirmed as gold. However, Sutter wanted the area to be his empire and did not want to attract others to the area so it was decided to keep the discovery secret. But it was not long before news of the discovery leaked out. The gold rush that followed was to make California the richest state in America.
Sam Brannan was a San Francisco merchant who spread news of the discovery throughout San Francisco. He got rich quick, but not through mining. As he spread the word about the discovery of gold he bought every pick axe, shovel and pan in the region. A metal pan that he bought for 20 cents was sold for 15 dollars. In nine weeks Brannan made 36,000 dollars.
Many overland travellers were not prepared for the harshness of the journey. Supplies ran out very quickly and replacements were expensive. Sugar rose to $1.50 per pint, coffee $1.00 per pint, alcohol $4.00. Many were forced to pay $1, $5 or even $100 for a glass of water. Those without money died.
The overland routes west became crowded with wagons. Dust was kicked up by those in front, making it difficult for those behind to see and breathe. Wagons camped together overnight for safety. They dug toilet pits,often close to rivers resulting in polluted water supplies.
1849 saw huge numbers of people flooding into California all with dreams of discovering gold and growing rich. They were known as the forty-niners. But by the middle of 1849 the easy gold had gone. A typical miner spent 10 hours a day in freezing water sifting through the mud with no end result but frustration and depression. Men drowned their sorrows in the saloons and bars. Crime was on the increase and the jails were overcrowded. Some gave up and went back to the east. Others stayed on hoping that tomorrow would be the day. For most of them tomorrow never never came.

The Golden Years

Dinosaur Prints Found In France

I must admit, when I was a young boy, unlike most other young boys, I had little interest in dinosaurs. I suppose it was because I always regarded them as mythical creatures and found it hard to accept they really existed. As I grew older I realised that dinosaurs were not fictional and really did inhabit the earth, from that point on I began to find them fascinating. A recent announcement that French fossil hunters have discovered huge dinosaur footprints, said to be among the biggest in the world, quickly gained my attention. The footprints were made about 150 million years ago by sauropods - long-necked herbivores - in chalky sediment in the Jura plateau of eastern France (pictured above).
The depressions are about 1.5m (4.9ft) wide corresponding to animals that were more than 25m long and weighed about 30 tonnes. French experts say the find at Plagne, near Switzerland, is 'exceptional'. "The tracks formed by the footprints extend over dozens, even hundreds, of metres," the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) said,
"Further digs will be carried out in the coming years and they may reveal that the site at Plagne is one of the biggest of its kind in the world."(Pictured left: The 30 tonnes dinosaurs may have looked like this.) The footprints, from the Upper Jurassic era, were found in April this year by a pair of amateur fossil hunters, but have only now been authenticated by scientists.
Another layer of sediment, now rock-hard , had preserved the footprints. They were revealed when local tree-felling exposed the earth underneath, French media report.
The region was near a shallow, warm sea at the time the sauropods lived there.

Little Johnny

It was Palm Sunday but because of a sore throat, five-year-old Little Johnny stayed home from church with a sitter. When the family returned home, they were carrying several palm fronds. Johnny asked them what they were for.
"People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by," his father told him,.
"Wouldn't you know it," Johnny fumed, "the one Sunday I don't go and he shows up

Funny Signs