On this day in history, January 4

South Africa’s only active volcano.

South Africa’s only active volcano.

Published Jan 4, 2024


Real people, real stories – more than just dates and boring facts

1698 Most of the Palace of Whitehall in London, the main residence of the English monarchs, is destroyed by fire.

1809 Louis Braille is born in France. Blinded as a boy, he later invents a reading system for the blind using punch marks in paper.

1847 Samuel Colt sells his first revolver pistol to the US government.

1853 After having been kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South, Solomon Northup regains his freedom; his memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, later becomes an international best seller, and movie.

1887 Thomas Stevens is the first man to cycle around the world.

1906 South Africa beat England by one wicket in their first Test win.

1948 The South African flag is hoisted on Prince Edward Island the much-larger Marion Island, which contains South Africa’s only active volcano. The annexed islands lie about 1 900km south-east of Cape Town.

1951 Chinese and North Korean forces capture Seoul during the Korean War.

1958 A New Zealand team, led by Edmund Hillary, reaches the South Pole. It is the first to reach the pole overland using motor vehicles and the first since Roald Amundsen in 1911 and the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott in 1912.

1970 More than 15 000 people are killed in Tonghai County, China, by an earthquake.

1975 Ice thickness is measured at 4 776m in Wilkes Land, Antarctica.

1981 British police arrest Peter Sutcliffe, the much-publicised ‘Yorkshire Ripper’.

1989 Over the Mediterranean, US F-14s shoot down two Libyan jet fighters, which the Americans believe are going to engage them, as had happened eight years earlier.

1990 A passenger train collides with an empty freight train, killing 307 people.

2010 The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 829.8m in height, officially opens in Dubai.

2018 A train hits a truck near Kroonstad, in the Free State. Twenty people die.

2022 Toyota becomes the second biggest car maker in the world, second only to Volkswagen, and ahead of Daimler, Ford and Honda.

2023 Thirty nine people are killed in car bomb attack in Hiraan province, Somalia, with the al-Qaeda linked group al-Shabab claiming responsibility.