On this day in history, December 17

103 and still achieving holes-in-one. That’s some golfing!

103 and still achieving holes-in-one. That’s some golfing!

Published Dec 17, 2023


What happened today, back in the day

1398 Mongol warlord Timur (Tamerlane) captures and sacks Delhi, defeating Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud’s armies by setting camels loaded with hay alight and charging them at the Sultans armoured elephants.

1652 Johan Anthoniszoon ‘Jan’ van Riebeeck, reports the first comet discovered from South Africa. Similarly to many other charted comets, it has not returned to earth’s view.

The first powered flight takes place at Kittyhawk.
Wilbur Wright and balloonist Ernest Zens sit in the Wright Model A Flyer at Camp d'Auvours, France in the early 1910s

1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first powered, controlled airplane flights at Kill Devils Hill, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, giving birth to the airplane industry. It would be another seven years before a woman, Bessica Raiche, flew. Raiche was considered a "new" woman of the 20th century because she drove a car and wore bloomers. In addition to being an accomplished musician, painter, and linguist, she also took part in typically “masculine” activities as swimming and shooting. She and her husband, Francois, built their first plane – a Wright type – in their living room and began a profitable business. Forced to give up flying for health reasons, she turned to medical studies, becoming one of first woman specialists with a practice in obstetrics and gynaecology in the US.

1919 Es’kia (Ezekiel) Mphahlele, doyen of African letters, is born in Marabastad, Pretoria. Nominated in 1968 for a Nobel literature prize, he wrote a series of stories published in Drum magazine. The Lesane Stories helped consolidate the short story tradition in South African literature.

1935 First flight of the supremely rugged and reliable Douglas DC-3 Dakota, which is still in service around the world, including in the South African Air Force.

1938 Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.

1939 The battleship and German raider Admiral Graf Spee is scuttled off Montevideo.

1959 On The Beach – a terrifying tale of nuclear holocaust – is the first film to première on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

1961 The Niteroi Circus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil catches fire after a disgruntled employee sets fire to the big top. About 320 people die.

2010 Street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi sets himself on fire in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, and becomes a catalyst for the Arab Spring.

2014 103-year-old Gus Andreone records the 8th ace of his career on the 113-yard, 14th hole of the Lakes Course in Florida. He is the oldest golfer to record a hole-in-one.

2017 French sailor François Gabart sets a round-the-world record for fastest solo navigation of the globe (42 days and 16 hours).

2018 A US poacher, convicted of killing hundreds of deer in Missouri, is sentenced to watch the film Bambi repeatedly during his jail term of one year.

2019 China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier, the Shandong, enters naval service.