Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Throwback 200 years to 1816, part two

The year 2016 is both a birthday for the town of Logan, Ohio, which turns 200, and a birthday for Fox’s Hocking Hills Canoe Livery, which turns 20.  Our Throwback series takes a peek back to those times.


 The year without a summer

Mount Tambora eruption

200 years ago the Town of Logan, Ohio was formed.  That summer was unlike any other.  A super-colossal volcanic explosion in Indonesia caused one of the greatest magic tricks in history, it made summer disappear!  There are only 4 volcanic eruptions in the last 10,000 years ranked as high on the Volcanic Explosivity Scale,as this particular one on  Mount Tambora, ejected so much ash and debris into the atmosphere that it caused world wide short term climate change and led to one of the greatest subsistence crisis known to man, and changed humanity.

However most people didn't know that at the time, and blame for the calamity ranged from the wrath of god destroying the sinners ala Noah's Ark, to Benjamin Franklin disrupting the balance of nature when he flew his kite into a thunderstorm and captured electricity for the first time.  In some places panic reigned supreme.

In America, the spring and summer of 1816 found parts of the country swathed in a red tinged veil, a kind of fog, but less opaque, and completely independent of weather conditions, which by all accounts were topsy-turvy.  The actual winter months were pretty mild, with winter conditions hitting hard in April and May and continuing throughout the summer months.  There are many accounts of wildly fluctuating temperatures, with early summer days over 100 degrees, only to plunge to below freezing in the the next 48 hours.  Flowers never bloomed and the green shades of summer were mostly non-existent. 

frozen cropsUpstate New York experienced deep snow and solidly frozen ground in mid-June.  Farmers in Virginia battled frost, at the same time lake ice was still pounding against the shores of Erie County, Pennsylvania, in August.  It’s estimated only 10% of crops in New England were actually harvestable.  The cost of virtually everything that could be eaten rose sharply.  The price of oats rose from 12 cents a bushel to 92 cents a bushel in less than a year.  
America, during this time, was primarily an agrarian society, a major percentage of the population relied on farming in order to survive.  Most tried over and over again to plant on warm days hoping for the best, only to have meager crops wither and freeze during a cold snap.  Without well-developed trade or transportation networks, families relied primarily on food from within their localities, and farmers with south facing slopes became saviors in their towns.

Whether the wrath of god, or a cruel trick of nature, many Americans had no reason to stay put in New England.  They gave up and in desperation began to strike out past the Appalachians in droves looking for better places to grow food.   Thus began the great westward expansion of America.    

one of the first bicyclesIt wasn’t just Americans who experience “The year without summer”. It precipitated the worst famine in all of 19th-century Europe.  With no cause known and hunger pangs severe , the populace begins to stage demonstrations in front of bakeries and graineries, with towns and cites throughout Europe disintegrated into mob violenceInterestingly, the lack of grains to feed his horse, lead a German man to develop the first balancing bicycle type contraption, leading to pretty much all forms of mechanical land transportation.  Proof that necessity is the mother of invention!

Asia fared just as bad,  with a deadly combination of crop killing cold and a disruption in the monsoon season which lead to monstrous flooding, which in turn created a spike in waterborne contaminates spreading deadly disease.  The entire globe was affected and humanity suffered and stretched it's abilities to adapt.

In short, viewed from our perspective, it would have been a crappy canoe season!

If you’re more the auditory type try: 

Did you miss part one?  Throwback 200 years to 1816, part one 

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