Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Today's Twiddle and Answer...

What is the smallest locally proclaimed National Forest in America?

Adak National Forest, a.k.a. The Christmas Tree Forest.

Made up of 33 evergreens, Adak National Forest began as a tree-planting project designed to improve soldier moral during WWII. Local residents placed a sign, which humorously reads Enter and Leaving the Adak National Forest, next to the grove some time in the early 1960s.

While the base was under military command, residents annually decorated the entire “forest” in Christmas tree lights. Today the base is closed, and Adak has become part of the National Parks System.



Today's History Twiddle and Answer

What common natural disaster took an estimated 60,000 lives along the Austrian and Italian front during WWI?

…it was the avalanche alone…that would account for a third of the total combatants killed in the higher, western half of the Alpine front…


Twittle Side Note:
I originally began researching this Twittle because of an entry on Thinkquest claiming that avalanches were deliberately used as weapons during WWI.

"The World War 1 Tyrolean Avalanches

Avalanches were used as highly effective weapons during World War 1. This disastrous weapon started when lot's of snow fell in the Alp's during the December of 1916. People could tell that the avalanche risk was high. A big avalanche killed 250 soldiers while tumbling down on the barracks. Some unknown person got the idea that avalanches could make a highly effective weapon. The avalanche war had begun. Avalanches could be started and even directed by just bombing a mountain. History has not yet calculated the exact number of deaths. Deaths have been estimated as high as 40,000 on each fighting side. Humans are responsible for these death causing, disastrous avalanche killer."


However, historian Richard Galli has this to say on the subject:

"It has been said that opposing forces deliberately set off bombs, or fired artillery over columns of troops and transport to cause avalanches during WWI. This author finds these accounts unbelievable fiction or modern exaggerations for several reasons. The Alpini I knew said they had never heard these tales. "This sounds like Hollywood….perhaps in some other war, but we could never do such a thing," I was told. All "reports" of these deliberate avalanches seem to come from post-World Wat II studies about avalanches, not accounts of alpine warfare in the Great War. Not that I have read every tale of the Italian front, but nothing I have yet come across mentions this peculiar utilization of nature.

In truth there was little combat or movement in the Alpine front in winter; just surviving nature was enough of a struggle. Deep snow severely limits movement of ski patrols, let alone regiments or batteries. Monelli's personal accounts of mountain warfare states "during the winter months the engagements were few, almost as if only to stretch oneself out a bit, to surprise an outpost or mock an opponent." Perhaps a patrol was caught too close to a front line gun and suffered a fate worse than shellfire, but in 1915 a mountain offensive in winter was logistically impossible. [5] Hence, planned avalanche ambushes seem improbable.

A final reason to discount the idea of deliberately set avalanches is found in the live-and-let-live attitudes of the soldiers of the Great War towards their adversaries, especially on the front line. This factor would seem likely to be greater on the Alpine front. For generations these Austrians and Italians had been meeting frequently on summit and pass, at markets and weddings. Would the men of the Alps knowingly have tried to bury their neighbors alive? There are, however, stories passed down of cease-fires called after avalanches, with both sides assisting in rescue efforts, that seem more revealing of the soldiers true feelings on the matter. [6]"


So what's the lesson?

Don't believe everything you read, always search for primary sources, and happy historybusting...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Answer to today's Twiddle

What is the location of the northernmost golf tournament in the world?

Mount Dundas, which overlooks the polar ice cap, three glaciers, and Thule Air Base in Greenland, is the location of the Annual Mount Dundas Open, the world’s northernmost golf tournament.

Participants meet at the bottom of Mount Dundas, toss their golf clubs and other equipment onto helicopters, and then race 800 feet up the loose shale mountainside in order to reach Dundas’s rock filled golf course. The final 75 feet of the race features a rope climb up shear rock.

All participants are allowed extra golf balls to compensate for any that might fly off the mountain.

Here are a couple fun links written by those who have played on the course, as well as a few links about life on Thule Air Base:

Where is Thule?

Photo source:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Today's Riddle: What is the western hemisphere’s oldest constitution?

Okay, let me think. I know that bunch really cool radical thinkers, who eventually became sanctified as America’s founding fathers, signed some document in 1776.

No wait, that was the Declaration of Independence. The United States Constitution wasn’t written let alone ratified until after the Revolutionary War.

I’m guessing that this is a trick question.

It is probably something that I never learned about in school. Something called The Constitution of the Five Nations, or The Iroquois Book of the Great Law, which some historians believe existed as early as 1390 A.D., while others insist was first created between 1450-1500 A.D…” source

Either way, they beat the American Constitution by a few hundred years. And you know something else? Portland State University had put together an amazing website about the influence of the Iroquois Constitution on our own United States Constitution. It turns out that we modern Americans owe the Iroquois Confederacy quite a lot.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself at

As always, Happy Historybusting...

The answer to today's riddle...

How is it that Obama can be America's 44th president, yet only be the 43rd American to have ever become president?

Hint: It has nothing to do with his birth certificate.

Answer: It has something to do with our 22nd president.
Or was it our 24th president?
Let me think for a moment.
Oh yeah, America's 22nd and 24th president were the same guy.
I think his name was Grover something, and he was a popular president at the time.

Here is Grover Cleveland's biography from the White House's Official Website

Another fun fact about President Cleveland: He is the only American president who was elected as a single man and married during his term in the White House.

Have fun and happy histroybusters...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

How do I sign up for Historybuster's Twitter Riddler Program?

Simple enough...

First: You must sign up for your own free Twitter account. It's easy, and Twitter will walk you through it. Here is the link to sign up:

Second: Once you have your account, simply click on the option to Find People and run a search for Historybuster

Once you have found the Historybuster username, simply click on the option to follow.

As a follower of our histoybusting twitterings, you will recieve a daily fun factoid or riddle to share with your kids...

Take care and happy hisotrybusting....

Answer to today's tweet riddle...

What famous Russian Tsar placed a tax of 100 rubbles on men who refused to shave their beards? Answer: Peter the Great, who lived from 1682 to 1725.

Peter wanted to modernize his citizens, so he instituted many reforms designed to "Europeanize" them. Here is an excerpt from Jean Rousset de Missy's book, Life of Peter the Great, written about 1730.

The tsar labored at the reform of fashions, or, more properly speaking, of dress. Until that time the Russians had always worn long beards, which they cherished and preserved with much care, allowing them to hang down on their bosoms, without even cutting the moustache. With these long beards they wore the hair very short, except the ecclesiastics, who, to distinguish themselves, wore it very long. The tsar, in order to reform that custom, ordered that gentlemen, merchants, and other subjects, except priests and peasants, should each pay a tax of one hundred rubles a year if they wished to keep their beards; the commoners had to pay one kopek each. Officials were stationed at the gates of the towns to collect that tax, which the Russians regarded as an enormous sin on the part of the tsar and as a thing which tended to the abolition of their religion.

These insinuations, which came from the priests, occasioned the publication of many pamphlets in Moscow, where for that reason alone the tsar was regarded as a tyrant and a pagan; and there were many old Russians who, after having their beards shaved off, saved them preciously, in order to have them placed in their coffins, fearing that they would not be allowed to enter heaven without their beards. As for the young men, they followed the new custom with the more readiness as it made them appear more agreeable to the fair sex.

From the reform in beards we may pass to that of clothes. Their garments, like those of the Orientals, were very long, reaching to the heel. The tsar issued an ordinance abolishing that costume, commanding all the boyars [i.e., the nobles] and all those who had positions at court to dress after the French fashion, and likewise to adorn their clothes with gold or silver according to their means. As for the rest of the people, the following method was employed. A suit of clothes cut according to the new fashion was hung at the gate of the city, with a decree enjoining upon all except peasants to have their clothes made on this model, upon penalty of being forced to kneel and have all that part of their garments which fell below the knee cut off, or pay two grives every time they entered the town with clothes in the old style. Since the guards at the gates executed their duty in curtailing the garments in a sportive spirit, the people were amused and readily abandoned their old dress, especially in Moscow and its environs, and in the towns which the tsar often visited.

The dress of the women was changed, too. English hairdressing was substituted for the caps and bonnets hitherto worn; bodices, stays, and skirts, for the former undergarments. . . The same ordinance also provided that in the future women, as well as men, should be invited to entertainments, such as weddings, banquets, and the like, where both sexes should mingle in the same hall, as in Holland and England. It was likewise added that these entertainments should conclude with concerts and dances, but that only those should be admitted who were dressed in English costumes. His Majesty set the example in all these changes. . .


All for now and Happy Historybusting

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Answer to today's tweet riddle...

How could a man be born in 1967 but die in 1821?

Answer: He lived from 1967 to 1821 B.C.