Archive for the ‘North America’ Category

An Unlikely Survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn

Monday, April 26th, 2010
Comanche, the only U.S. Army survivor in the Battle of Little Bighorn, photographed in 1887

Comanche, the only U.S. Army survivor in the Battle of Little Bighorn, photographed in 1887

There were many notable characters that history has documented from the Battle of Little Bighorn.

First, there was the notorious Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, a former Civil War hero with an ego and recklessness that led him and his men to complete defeat in Montana. As the military leader of the U.S. Army’s 7th Calvary, he led 263 soldiers and various personnel into Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne territory on June 25, 1876, with tragic results.

Then there was Crazy Horse, a well-respected Oglala Lakota warrior who was instrumental in the defeat of Custer. He led a surprise attack with more than 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne fighters against Brigadier General George Crook’s own force of 1,000 and his allied crew of 300 Crow and Shoshone warriors. This separate conflict, called the Battle of the Rosebud, meant that Crook could not join the 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn and left Custer without enough men. The result was only one survivor.

The only survivor of the U.S. 7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn was actually a horse of mustang lineage named Comanche. A burial party that was investigating the site two days later found the severely wounded horse. He was then sent to Fort Lincoln, 950 miles away, to spend the next year recuperating from his injuries. Even though the horse remained with the 7th Calvary, it was ordered that he never be ridden again and be formally excused from all duties. The horse’s primary responsibility going forward was at formal military functions where he was draped in black, with stirrups and boots reversed, at the head of the Regiment.

Comanche eventually died at the age of 29 of colic on November 7, 1891. The officers of the 7th Calvary wanted to preserve the horse, so after the taxidermist completed the project, Comanche was put on display in the Chicago Exposition of 1893.

Today, you can visit Comanche at Dyche Hall at the University of Kansas. The Museum of Natural History at the University now keeps him on display to the public in a  humidity controlled glass case.

Who is your favorite famous horse from history? Share Below.

Photo: Exploring Extremes

Monday, March 15th, 2010
Earth from Apollo 17. NASA Image #AS17-148-22727

Earth from Apollo 17. NASA Image #AS17-148-22727

Scientists at the Smithsonian love to study extremes. From animals to space travel, we love learning about the biggest, fastest, largest, and highest. Most of us started learning quirky science facts when we were kids and our fascination never went away. That’s why we’ve  introduced our new Destination Smithsonian!: Exploring Extremes: From the Ocean Floor to Outer Space for families with kids ages 9 -12. In case you need to inspire your little scientist, here are five fun facts you can share when you are visiting the National Air and Space Museum.

1. Applesauce was the first food ever eaten by an American astronaut in space. John Glenn ate the yummy snack from an aluminum tube during the Mercury mission in 1962. Today, the astronauts have a pantry-style food system on the International Space Station with foods labeled in Russian and English.

2. Astronauts orbiting Earth see up to 16 sunrises and sunsets every day- one about every 90 minutes.

3. From Earth you always look at the same side of the moon. In 1959, the Soviet Union sent a spacecraft called Luna 3 around the side of the moon that faces away from Earth and took the first photographs.

4. Astronauts’ footprints stay on the moon forever because there is no wind to blow them away. This means Neil Armstrong’s “One Small Step” is still there along with a 2-foot wide panel studded with 100 mirrors pointing at Earth: the “lunar laser ranging retroreflector array.” Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong put it there on July 21, 1969, about an hour before the end of their final moonwalk. Thirty-five years later, it’s the only Apollo science experiment still running.

5. On Jupiter, there is a hurricane that was discovered in the early 17th century, and it’s still going! Since there is no land mass to slow it down, the energy continues to churn in the atmosphere, forcing the “Great Red Spot” to keep spinning for many years to come.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Check out our NEW family package Destination Smithsonian!: Exploring Extremes: From Ocean Floor to Outer Space this summer in Washington, DC!

Photo: Language and Storytelling Southern Style

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Experience vibrant Gullah traditions in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The Lowcountry areas of South Carolina and Georgia are known for many things: good music, excellent food, and continuing southern traditions. But there are no communities in the South that have preserved their history, culture and language quite like the Gullah people.

The Gullah, who originated as slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries and eventually created their own communities, have preserved their language, which is based on English with strong influences from West and Central African languages such as Mandinka, Fula, Mende, Vai, Akan, Ewe, Kongo, and Kimbundu. There are an estimated 250,000 people who still speak the Gullah language today. One of the most famous speakers is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who grew up in the coastal region of Georgia.

Their storytelling traditions have successfully blended not only their African traditions, but their historical experiences in America as well. The result is a collection of trickster tales that teach youngsters moral lessons while celebrating ancestor tales of clever and self-assertive slaves, the most well-known being Br’er Rabbit.

The Gullah language was originally believed to be a showing of low socio-economic status and corrupted African Americans from learning proper English, but in the 1930’s and 1940’s a linguist named Lorenzo Dow Turner did a study of the language based on field research in the coastal areas. He identified over 300 loanwords from African languages and found people in remote seaside communities who could recite songs, stories, and count in the Mende, Vai, and Fulani languages of West Africa. Today, the Gullah Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina celebrates these longstanding cultural traditions.

Have you been to the Gullah Festival? Share Below.

If you haven’t been to the Gullah Festival, check out The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum Presents: Word, Shout, and Song: Experiencing South Carolina’s Gullah Traditions and join the celebration!

Video: Reasons to Attend the Toronto International Film Festival

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Why go the Toronto International Film Festival? We’ll give you three reasons:

1) Stars like Matt Damon and Scott Bakula
2) The best movies from all over the world
3) Book with us and get an Industry Pass, whisking you way past the velvet rope without the long lines.

Check out this interview with Damon and Bakula, stars of The Informant, from the 2009 Festival.

New Year’s Travel Resolutions

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Vietnam’s Evocative Ha Long Bay – a great place to go in 2010

Where do you want to go in 2010? Here are some of our top 2010 picks…

Relaxing in Japan – with tranquil gardens, quiet temples, and the enlightening possibilities of tea.

Tackling the Amazon – for river dolphins, scarlet macaws, and really poisonous frogs.

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda -  one of life’s incomprable adventures.

Cruising in Alaska – for kayaking around icebergs, checking out the humpback whales, and sailing Glacier Bay.

Stargazing in Hawaii - for a possible glimpse of the newly discovered super-Earth, and for the search for the real Pandora.

Wherever the new year may take you, we wish you all the best in 2010. Thanks for reading our blog, and for sharing your stories with us!