Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Year There Was No Summer

I'm exactly a quarter century old and I've never had the chance to learn cycling until last week. Finally I made it! Ibn-i Batuta and I cycled approximately 10km yesterday -that is a good distance for such a beginner like me- and planned our much longer journeys which we'll go by bike. I guess you wonder what this has to do with that summerless year. Well, our story doesn't have anything to do with that, but bicycles automatically have, as their predecessors, velocipedes or Draisines, were invented mainly as a result of this unlucky year of many Westerners.

The Year There Was No Summer: Poverty Year, Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death, The Year Without a Summer. All of these refer to the same year: 1816. Very unfortunate for the people from England to Canada, from North America to Germany.

It began with a usual winter. Everything was just as normal as it had always been, until Spring came...

It all started in the beginning of May. On the 12th of May, cold waves started to sweep around beginning from northeastern Canada. Frosts hit Quebec City, New England, Connecticut, New Haven, Rhode Island. Cold fronts traveled across the area. Although there was a couple of days break causing farmers and dwellers to cheer up, the cold came back much worse in July and August.

The cold weather, frosts and so forth kept striking the areas during June and July, killing most of the crops (e.g. 90% of the usual crop in New England) and causing terrible famines. Finally, in Autumn, things went back to normal and the people had a warmer winter than usual. On the right, there is a chart I got from Wikipedia:
"The development of global average temperatures during the last thousand years. A significant drop shortly after 1800 is visible in the majority of concurrent reconstructions."

Well, why? Let's also explain that. There had been 3 significant volcanic eruptions in the near past. First one was in 1812, the La Soufrière eruption on Saint Vincent in the Caribbean. The second was in 1814, the Mayon (above) eruption in the Philippines. And, finally, in 1815 volcanic eruptions of Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. As previous eruptions caused massive volcanic dust to mix in the air, the final eruption of Mount Tambora prepared the necessary conditions for a dramatic temperature decrease. As this post keeps getting longer and longer, I'll cut it short for now and explain volcanic dusts and temperature changes in my future posts.

Then, what happened? Of course, famine, riots, floods, national emergency declarations from England to Switzerland, from France to China; and a death toll of 200,000 people.

Here comes the best part of this whole unfortunate year: People could not feed horses in Germany due to hay shortage. Karl Drais, wanted to invent some horseless transportation vehicle, and came up with the Draisines (above)!

For more and detailed information about the subject, including journals and news of that year, please click on the title of this post.

It is really upsetting to learn that the predecessors of these vehicles called bicycles, providing such a feeling of freedom, emerges from such terrible conditions. Hmm, well, who cares! I'll go and get my bike! *evil laugh fading out*


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