Friday, January 11, 2008

Snow Falls in Baghdad

Call it a miracle, call it global warming-

Call it what you want but for the first time in memory, snow fell in Baghdad, Iraq Friday January 11, 2008. The flakes melted quickly but not before many people were delighted and mystified by the event.

Mark your calendars because some think this might be a sign of good luck. A possible foreshadowing of events to come. Peace and prosperity for all the people of Iraq. But what about all of the Presidential candidates who's campaigns are based on bringing the troops home? Will they have to change strategies now based on the miracle snow? Well, let's not go down that road. Here's where I'm really headed.... I find it interesting that after 100 plus years of official record keeping, and as long as anyone living in or around Baghdad can remember there has never been snow. Now all of a sudden the conditions were right and it snows and there are witnesses. So has something really changed in the global weather patterns or is this a one in two hundred years freak phenomenon? I'm not completely sure what the answer is here but I see an opportunity to promote some of my goofy travel photos and present a quick history lesson. See if you can keep up with me while I digress slightly......

Back when I was in elementary school, we would have about one library visit a week. It was kind of a fun time. We were free to roam freely and left to our own devices. Once we had the requisite "Dewey Decimal System" briefing and learned the protocol for our library time we were free to explore, read, and then check out 2 books per visit. I always found myself attracted to the Biography section. More specifically, I liked the section with the action figures. There was a group of approximately 40 books that included names like Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone, Sitting Bull, Neil Armstrong, Crazy Horse, Jackie Robinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses Grant, George Washington Carver.... I'm sure you know the list of names.

Anyway, one day I pulled out a book about a great explorer named Matthew Henson. I sat down and read a few pages about this great man who lost his parents at an early age and then ran off on his own after an abusive uncle took him in. After several years sailing the Seas as a cabin boy and learning reading, math, and navigation, he joined up with Robert Edwin Peary and set out to reach the North Pole. On Peary's sixth attempt, his team of 6 Intrepid explorers: Peary, Henson, and 4 Eskimos (Oatah, Egingwah, Seegloo, and Ookeah) planted the American flag on the geographic North Pole on April 09, 1909. It was an exciting story for me to read as a kid. What a great and famous man he surely must have been.

Mathew Henson - Born in Maryland in 1866

Later, as an adult, I was disconcerted to learn of all of the controversy that surrounded this famous expedition. For on their return, Peary and Henson learned that another American, Frederick Cook was claiming to have reached the North Pole a whole year earlier than they did. Cook was eventually proven to be a liar and a fake and spent time in jail. Peary was declared the first man to reach the North Pole. But that just seemed to open whole new can of worms when reports surfaced that Matthew Henson, in fact, was the first man to reach the pole. The story reads that Henson, racing ahead of the four Eskimos who were pulling Peary on a sled (his feet were frostbitten), actually planted the American flag on the North Pole. Peary maintained that he had planted the flag and the dispute continued. It wasn't until years later that Henson was given the recognition that he deserved.

So last year when I was presented with the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China I gladly took it. The Bonus; we would be flying a polar route to get there. North out of Washington, D.C. into Canada and Greenland; over the Pole and down into Russia, and China. I had the pleasure of flying from Washington D.C. to Beijing nearly 100 years after Peary's team planted the flag and returned to doubters, disbelievers, and controversy. As we soared high above the ice and cold in April 2007, I couldn't help but ponder the present day controversy: Global Warming. Is the icecap really melting? So with camera in hand, I eagerly waited as we approached the geographic North Pole. Below you'll see some photos I snapped en route. The very bottom photo was take approximately 100 miles from the North Pole. I know these shots aren't great quality and may be a bit anti climatic but what do you expect? It's cold down there and it was a long way down (smile). But you be the judge. I haven't seen Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" but I now own the DVD and the first chance I get, I'll take a look. Clearly, the snow falling in Baghdad and my pictures from last year have really got me thinking!

You all take care now.

Here are a few good links to learn more about Matthew Henson and Robert Peary.

This picture was taken closest to the North Pole. Click on the picture for better viewing.


Mee mOe said...

that looks very cold !!!

intrepidideas said...

Yep... Cold and wet. Not a good combination. (smile)

Anonymous said...

I heard about this. Amazing. Guess anything can happen. Love the Blog!!