On this day in history, August 4

Significant and interesting snippets of news with a South African angle, from this day in history

Sama al-Hamad, a 6-year-old Syrian who lost her left eye in a cataclysmic explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, points at the blast site from the roof of her damaged house. Picture: AFP

Published Aug 4, 2023


Significant and interesting snippets of news with a South African angle, from this day in history

1693 Date ascribed to French Catholic monk Dom Perignon’s ‘invention’ of champagne.

1782 The British East Indiaman Grosvenor runs aground on a reef in foul weather near the Umzimvubu River mouth, along what is today the Eastern Cape coast. Although 136 of the 150 crew and passengers reach the shore, only 17 survive the arduous trek to Cape Town. (A few from the grounding are believed, like survivors from other wrecks, to have been assimilated into local tribes.) The wreck of the Grosvenor is one of South Africa's most famous maritime events. The ship is said to have been the richest East Indiaman lost. It carried at least 2.6 million gold coins, 1 400 gold ingots and 19 chests of emeralds, rubies and sapphires.

1881 A European record is set when 50°C is measured in Seville, Spain.

1901 British general Lord Methuen destroys Schweizer-Reneke, burning every building.

1914 Work is stopped at the Kimberley mine after 43 years because it is uneconomical.

1918 Adolf Hitler receives the Iron Cross, first class, for bravery, ironically, on the recommendation of his superior, Lieutenant Hugo Gutmann, who was a Jew – a people Hitler launched genocide against.

1944 A Dutch informer leads the Gestapo to an Amsterdam warehouse where they arrest Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family, who have been hiding in the hopes of escaping deportation to a concentration camp.

1967 The Defence Amendment Act means young white South African men have to report for military service.

1991 The cruise ship Oceanos sinks in heavy seas off the Wild Coast; all 571 people on board are rescued by helicopters, navy divers and a troupe of magicians and comedians after the captain and crew had beat a hasty ‘path’ to safety.

2012 Oscar Pistorius becomes first double-leg amputee to compete at the Olympics; but that’s not what he’s remembered for.

2020 The UN says Covid-19 has created the biggest educational disruption in history.

2020 A fire started by welding triggers blasts at a Beirut, Lebanon, warehouse which is storing 2 750 tons of ammonium nitrate. The cataclysmic blast kills more than 214 people – some of them vaporised – and injures over 6 000. The explosion sends a mushroom cloud into the air and a supersonic blast wave radiating through the city, damaging many buildings and blowing out windows at Beirut International Airport, 9km away. It left a 140-metre-wide crater, which then filled with sea water. Several ships sank, including a cruise ship. It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. (In 2017 a fire also started by welding devastated an enormous warehouse near the harbour in Durban. Scores of firefighters manage to stop the flames from reaching stores of ammonium, stopping a similarly devastating explosion from happening.)

2021 Rihanna, worth $1.7 billion, is the world’s wealthiest female musician, says Forbes.