Many of us don’t enjoy studying history and talking about it because we find it too serious or too boring. But when you read these cool historical facts that are not known to many, your perception about history is bound to change. Did you know we once had a year without summer due to a volcanic eruption, or that in 1752, the 3rd through 13th of September did not happen in England due to the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar? Keep reading for more such facts! You would love to share them with your friends.
1. The second officer of the Titanic refused to get off the ship until he had helped the others and got trapped underwater. A boiler exploded that set him free. He then served in World War II and saved the lives of 127 men at Dunkirk.
Known as the man who survived two world wars and two ship sinkings, Charles Lightoller was the second officer aboard the Titanic. He was the seniormost member to have survived the sinking and is known to be the one who enforced the protocol of helping women and children out of the ship first followed by the men. He stayed on board until the end trying to help the others and was sucked under a grate and submerged under water until the warm air from a boiler explosion set him free. He served in World War I and World War II as an officer of the Royal Navy.
The second ship disaster in his life was aboard the Falcon, a ship that should have been scrapped long before he was given charge of it. On one of its many adventures, the Falcon collided with the trawler John Fitzgerald. Despite the crew’s attempts to save the ship, it sank. This time, too, Lightoller was the last to get off.
He is known to have played a role in the Dunkirk evacuation when all the boats that could help the soldiers at Dunkirk were called in. Lightoller steered his boat Sundowner and rescued 127 soldiers, sailing them to safety while dodging enemy aircraft while at the sea. (1,2)
2. Canada and Denmark have had one of the funniest border disputes in history over an island. Each nation’s military will visit the place, uproot the other country’s flag, and leave a welcome note with a bottle of schnapps or Canadian Club depending upon their nationality.
A strange dispute has been going on for over three decades now over the barren Hans Island located far in Arctic north. No one knows why Canada and Denmark have been fighting over this half-a-square-mile territory for so long. The crux of the dispute is that, according to international law, countries can claim territories up to 12 miles from their shores, but Hans Island lies within 12 miles of both countries. It was declared to be a Danish territory by the League of Nations, but after that body dissolved, there has been no certainty about its status.
The dispute began sometime in 1984 when a minister from Denmark placed the Danish flag there with a welcome note and a bottle of brandy. This started a battle of sorts. Today, if the Canadian army visits the territory, they leave a note that says, “Welcome to Canada” and a bottle of Canadian Club. If the Danish army visits, they leave a bottle of schnapps with a similar note. This war has been dubbed as the “Whiskey War,” and the governments have kept a good sense of humor over it. Plans are underway to make Hans Island a shared territory. (source)
3. Philip II of Macedon wanted to conquer Sparta. He sent a warning to the Spartans that read “If I win this war, you will be slaves forever.” The Spartans replied with just one word, “If.” Their boldness paid off, and Philip II left Sparta alone.
The king of Macedon from 339 BCE to 336 BCE, Philip II was the father of Alexander the Great. He had a dream of expanding the Macedonian empire and many Greek cities had submitted to him. Thereafter, he turned to famous Sparta. This is one of the lesser-known Spartan stories. Philip II sent the Spartans a note that read “If I win this war, you will be slaves forever.” Another version of the note read, “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your cities.” The Spartans, known for their bravery, replied simply, and according to all the accounts in history, their reply was the same. They wrote, “If.” The Spartans’ bravery worked. Philip II did not attack Sparta and neither did his son, Alexander. (source)
4. For over three decades from 1845-1879, the Peruvian economy’s backbone was seagull poop. This bird poop also caused the War of the Pacific.
Seabirds like the Guanay cormorant, the pelican, and the Peruvian booby have supported Peru’s economy for quite a long time now. From 1845 to 1879, the poop from these birds accounted for most of Peru’s revenue. The country is the world’s largest producer of organic fertilizer (yes, the bird poop) which is used to boost crop yield. This bird poop known as “guano” is rich in nitrogen and often needs to be excavated. Peru has 21 guano islands which once had 60 million birds living on them producing poop in high quantities.
There is an eight-month collection period for guano when all the collection has to be done by hand as no machines can be used to prevent scaring the birds away. The laborers who work to collect the poop earn two to three times the amount than what they would earn otherwise taking home a monthly average of $428 which is much more than Peru’s minimum wage. Guano, which is exported to Europe and the United States, has sparked diplomatic disputes and actual wars. The War of the Pacific was indirectly caused by it between 1879 and 1884. The population of guano birds has drastically decreased today with only five million of them left alive. The future of the industry largely depends on the conservation efforts of Peru. (source)
5. Some 2,400 years ago when the Gallic troops tried to sack Rome, the city was saved by a flock of holy geese that honked so loud that the guards were alerted who then defeated the attacking troops.
In history, Rome has been sacked innumerable times. Some 2,400 years ago, Gallic troops had conquered most of it except the Capitoline Hill which was defended vigorously by the Romans. On one night, the Gauls tried to quietly enter the area but did not know that some geese would make their efforts futile. While climbing the hill, the Gallic troops disturbed a flock of sacred geese that lived in the temple of Juno. Once disturbed, the geese began honking loudly which alerted the Roman guards who fought and threw the Gallic troops off the hill preventing the sacking. Rome was saved, then, by unexpected saviors. (source)