March 19, 2020
Day 79 of 366
March 19th is the seventy-ninth day of the year. It is Kashubian Unity Day in Poland, a commemoration of the first written mention of Kashubians in Pope Gregory IX’s Bull of March 19, 1238. So, who are the Kashubians? They are a West Slavic ethnic group native to the historical region of Pomerelia in modern north-central Poland.
It’s also the vernal equinox, a day when the duration of night and day are equal and the subsolar point appears to leave the Southern Hemisphere and cross the celestial equator. All that science to say, “Welcome to Spring!” Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, then “Welcome to Autumn!”
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Certified Nurses Day, National Chocolate Caramel Day, National Let’s Laugh Day, National Poultry Day, and National Farm Rescuer Day. That last one is typically observed on the third Thursday in March.
Historical items of note:
- In 1848, Wyatt Earp was born.
- In 1918, the United States Congress established time zones and approved daylight saving time.
- In 1928, Irish-American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter Patrick McGoohan was born.
- In 1931, gambling was legalized in Nevada.
- In 1936, actress and model Ursula Andress was born.
- In 1947, actress and producer Glenn Close was born.
- In 1955, actor and producer Bruce Willis was born.
- In 1962, Bob Dylan released his first album, Bob Dylan, for Columbia Records.
- In 1979, the United States House of Representatives began broadcasting its day-to-day business via the cable television network C-SPAN.
- In 2018, the last male northern white rhinoceros, named Sudan, died. Sudan lived at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic from 1975 to 2009. After that, he lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya. He was one of the last three white rhinoceroses in the world, and his death ensured a chance of extinction for the species.
In 1863, the SS Georgiana was destroyed on her maiden voyage. The wreckage was discovered exactly 102 years later, in 1965, by teenage diver and pioneer underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence.
The Georgiana was reportedly the most powerful cruiser built for the Confederate States of America. She was a brig-rigged, iron-hulled, propeller steamer with room for fourteen guns and over four hundred tons of cargo. After being built in Scotland, she was en route to Charleston, South Carolina to be outfitted and crewed, carrying a cargo of munitions, medicines, and merchandise then valued at over $1 million. She was commanded by Captain A. B. Davidson, a retired British naval officer, and had 140 men on board for the transit.
On March 19, 1863, the Georgiana attempted to run past the Federal Blockading Squadron at Charleston. She was spotted by the yacht America, the first winner of the America’s Cup racing trophy, which alerted the blockade fleet with colored flares. After a desperate chase, Georgiana was sunk by the USS Wissahickon. Captain Davidson surrendered and scuttled the ship before escaping with all hands on land.
Lieutenant Commander John Davis, commanding the Wissahickon, set the wreck afire to prevent guerrillas from salvaging the valuable cargo.
In 1965, E. Lee Spence discovered the wreck only five feet under the surface of the water. She is currently home to various fauna and flora, including coral. Spence recovered sundries, munitions, and medicines valued at over $12 million, but did not locate the rumored 350 pounds of gold that the ship carried. If found, Georgiana‘s value could easily top $50 million.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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