The 8 Most Incredible Things Slapped Together in a Day
It's time again for everyone who hasn't filed their taxes to start freaking out about how much work they've left to the last minute. Fortunately, people have been up against much more uncomfortable walls with much less time to spare. And they've done some pretty mind-blowing things ...
Macedonia Plants 6 Million Trees in One Day
Of all the troubling statistics that hippies shout at us as we pretend to be on our phone to avoid signing their petitions, the ones about how much rain forest is cut or burned down each day are always some of the most troubling. In 2008, after two summers of wildfires laid waste to their forests, the citizens of Macedonia didn't need anyone to tell them their forests were in trouble. And so they decided to put all those trees back ... in one day. The simplistic plan must have been the laughingstock of the green movement. Everyone knows you have to get Bono to attend one of your parties before your nonprofit is taken seriously.
"Remember to budget the $300 per hour for the lady who points at the word 'strategy' all day."
Not realizing that they hadn't done any of that, on November 19, 2008, the citizens of Macedonia got together and planted a total of 6 million trees -- three trees for every human in the country. Thousands of people were bused around the country to planting sites. "Just as we take care of our homes, we should take care of our planet," said one of the citizens who took part in the planting, and then "I don't know what you're talking about" when asked which ad agency had come up with that slogan.
By the way, here's how big Macedonia is compared to a chunk of the United States:
The next year, when the fires took their toll again, Macedonians had another planting day, where they put down another 6 million trees. They did it again last year, when they put down 7 million. By November 2011, they had planted 44 million new trees (with only two days of planting a year).
Macedonia: Now buried beneath three layers of trees.
In addition to helping out their homeland, the organizers were hoping to send the world a message about how much you can do to fight global warming if you put just a little effort into it. You have to admit that a tiny country of 2 million people planting 6 million trees in a single day makes that point a lot better than some hippie shaming you with buzzwords.
George Washington Builds a Frozen City in the Night Like It Ain't a Thing
One of the key battles of the Revolutionary War was won not by fighting but by pushing a lot of heavy things around in the middle of the night. George Washington's army was moving on British-occupied Boston, but with the British well-defended and able to see them coming, they needed some kind of edge.
Well, yes, this is obvious to us now, but remember that they had much smaller brains back then.
Washington went with what we will call the "instant fort" plan, where the British would go to bed to an empty hillside and wake up in the shadow of a fortified bank of cannons pointing down at them. This involved sneaking over 60 cannons up a hill right in front of the town, as well as all the materials for fortifications.
On March 4, 1776, they wrapped their wagon wheels with straw to deaden the sound, put hay bales between whatever they were moving and the city and did the impossible, just like Washington asked.
Stealth equipment in the 1700s was not as cool-looking as it is today.
By morning, there was an impressive fortification staring down on the city, stirring British general William Howe to say, "The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month." Which implies that either the Revolutionary Army had accomplished an extraordinary feat or that the British Army was mostly worthless.
Howe's first plan was to attack, but a sudden storm gave him some time to think about it, as well as giving Washington some time to keep building his fortifications. By the time the storm cleared up, Washington's instant fort was impressive enough that Howe decided to head out. Washington had basically managed to take a city with the military equivalent of flexing his muscles.
"You think this is nonchalant? I can get at least 15 percent more nonchalant than this."
Empty Lot of Land Becomes Guthrie, Oklahoma, in One Day
April 22, 1889 marked the astonishing one-day transformation of an empty expanse of prairie land into a town of 10,000, all between noon and sundown. It also marked the last time anyone was anxious to get into Oklahoma.
You see, due to a perfect conjunction of laws and stealing land from Indians, there was suddenly a ton of free land to be had in Oklahoma for anyone who could get there and put a tent on it first. But the law said that nobody could cross the border until noon on April 22 for some reason. In the days prior to the 22nd, hordes of land-hungry carpetbaggers began to pile up on the border, waiting to pour through the gates like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday.
Like this, only with a lot more horse carts and dysentery.
Unlike Black Friday, there aren't any records of anyone being trampled to death, but there were quite a few people illegally camping out inside the territory, which is basically like going into Walmart the day before Thanksgiving and hiding yourself in a display of Pepsi cans, and then popping out at 4 a.m. on Black Friday and shouting, "First!"
These people were called "sooners," and Oklahomans are apparently proud of this behavior, because it's their state nickname (the Sooner State) and the Oklahoma University team name.
"Whoooo! We like cutting in line!"
When the clock struck noon on the 22nd, the crowds piled onto trains and went racing into the territory, many of them getting off at the first station -- Guthrie -- at 1:25 p.m., where they found a handful of sooners already staking their claims. Seeing that they weren't the first to get there, and noticing that lots of the people on the train were as impatient as they were, the campers sprang into action, and the town went from 0 to 10,000 in the course of an afternoon. And since this was back when elbow grease was America's number one export, tire axle lubricant and preferred soup base, the sudden citizens had already laid out the streets, staked out lots and started forming a government by the time midnight rolled around.
"Dibs on Minister of Rocking Out!"
Four months later, the town was pretty well built out, with the directory listing "six banks, 16 barbers, 16 blacksmiths, 17 carpenters, two cigar manufacturers, five newspapers, seven hardware stores, 15 hotels, 19 pharmacists, 22 lumber companies, 39 doctors, 40 restaurants" and, of course, 81 lawyers.
U.S. Navy Delivers Aircraft-Carrier-Shaped Magic Trick
In World War II's Battle of the Coral Sea, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown had a hole ripped through its flight deck by a Japanese bomb, which penetrated several decks and exploded inside the ship, killing or seriously injuring 66 men. Despite its gaping wound, the Yorktown was able to make it back to the Pearl Harbor naval yard for repairs, forever proving that the Titanic was a wimp.
"We're going to need four, maybe five tubes of caulk."
The bomb damage, plus all the other damage sustained in the battle, was expected to take three months to repair, although crews estimated that they could get her just barely patched up enough in two weeks to return to the U.S. mainland for serious repairs. Admiral Nimitz, channeling his best Captain Kirk, told them they had three days -- and not just to get the ship limping back to the mainland, but to send her out to fight.
Soon after that order, his shirt ripped open.
Several sleepless days later, the USS Yorktown was on her way to Midway like a freaking magic trick. The sheer impossibility of the Yorktown being afloat, let alone ready to fight, led the Japanese to assume they must be looking at a new carrier. The Yorktown took down four Japanese carriers before doing what it did best and was shot to pieces. This time, the ship sank like a stone, but the Americans who went down with it had done their damage, and the battle where the U.S. Navy made Japan think they were being attacked by a freaking ghost ship ended up being one of the keys to turning the tide of the war. The battle put the Japanese behind in terms of ships and manpower, and they never caught up.
The ragtag team of hot female mechanics that we like to imagine fixed the ship.
Ford Builds One Bomber Per Hour in World War II
During World War II, the key to victory was being able to build lots of weapons as fast as humanly possible -- and sometimes faster. FDR had promised to deliver 50,000 military aircraft per year, which happened to be more aircraft than existed in the entire world at the time. Factories were busting their asses to turn out one complete B-24 bomber per day, which is nothing to sneeze at when you consider that each bomber meant a team of thousands of laborers had to put together a 100,000-part aircraft without the aid of computers, and without the aid of many of the men who had been working in the factory before the war started.
We're torn between "arousal" and the uncomfortable awareness that she might be one of our grandmas.
Charles Sorenson, vice president of production for Ford, had one day to get that time down from one bomber per day to one bomber per hour. The reason for this self-imposed deadline was that on a visit to a Consolidated Aircraft bomber plant, he couldn't resist commenting on how crappy their process was, which led to them asking if he supposed he could do better, which led to him promising he'd have something by morning.
"There. They only fly upside down now, though. Is that a problem?"
Thanks to opening his big mouth, he was up all night making calculations and rearranging stacks of paper on the floor, trying to solve the puzzle of how to get 100,000 bomber parts together in the right order in one hour. He had the plans drawn up by morning for what would become the Willow Run plant, which eventually did produce one bomber an hour, as promised.
A couple dozen B-24s, seen here putting the most productive day of your life to shame.
By the end of the war, Willow Run had produced 8,685 B-24 bombers, which probably shut those Consolidated assholes right the hell up.
Iowans Build a 380-Mile Road on Their Lunch Break
Around the beginning of the 20th century, Americans discovered cars, and then shortly afterward discovered that driving cars over grass and mud really sucked, especially in the cars they made back then.
Well, there's your problem. You're using wheels from a 10-speed bicycle.
Iowa decided to get down to business and build a real road across the entire state, and to do it, for some reason, in one day. Presumably, the state of Iowa's schedule was booked solid for the remainder of the week.
Iowans along the route spent months stocking up on supplies, and one Saturday in the summer of 1910, everyone went to the road at 9 a.m. sharp and started paving. One hour later, the road was done, and by evening, all the road signs were up.
And a ceremony was held for the fleeing wildlife now permanently encased in concrete.
The fact that they'd built a 380-mile-long road in one hour was pretty amazing, but the funniest part is what happened next, in the convoluted journey the road took from physically existing to officially existing as a state highway.
First, they had to wait three years for the Iowa State Highway Commission to come into existence in 1913 as an independent state organization. Three years after that, one of the road's sponsors finally sent a letter asking to register it with the state. Letters then went back and forth with lags of up to eight months in between, and together with that and an almost farcical amount of incomplete paperwork and bureaucratic mix-ups, it was 1918 before the road was formally registered with the state.
And by then, everyone had one of these. True story.
It had taken one day to physically build the road and eight years to get it registered with the government, which, depending on your perspective, is either a cute funny story about the stupidity of bureaucrats or something to rile up the crowd at your next Tea Party rally.
Transcontinental Railroad -- 10 Miles of Track in Less Than 12 Hours
The Transcontinental Railroad across the Western United States was finished in 1869, the most giggle-worthy year of the 1800s. It was built by two companies working from either side, the Union Pacific from the east and the Central Pacific from the west, so there was a bit of a rivalry going on.
At the closing ceremony, making nice for the camera before going back to circling each other slowly with their dukes up.
However, what really got the rivalry going was the Union Pacific boasting about laying 4.5 miles of track in a single day. When the media began fawning over the claim, Charlie Crocker, the Central Pacific labor boss, directed his crews to beat the record, which they did, laying 6 miles of track.
The Union Pacific boss wasn't going to let that stand, so he bravely sacrificed hours of other people's sweat and manual labor to top that record, and even cheated by having the "workday" go from 3 a.m. to midnight, generously giving the people three hours to sleep between shifts of 21-hour-long grueling labor. The cheating paid off -- they laid 8.5 miles of track.
"That's with time lost to accidentally building, like, four, five guys into the tracks."
With 14 miles of track to go before their railroads met up, Crocker bet the Union Pacific boss $10,000 that his Central Pacific boys could lay 10 miles of track in one day. Knowing that he'd needed to cheat just to get 8 miles of track down, the Union Pacific boss gladly accepted. At 7:15 the next morning, as orchestral music swelled in the background, crews of Irish and Chinese immigrants hit the rails and worked their hearts out to earn $10,000 for a rich white guy, and also probably to prove to the world they were the best track layers that ever lived.
They had already proven they had the best hats.
By 7 p.m., and without cheating, they had laid 10 miles of solid track that you could drive a train over at 40 mph -- which someone promptly did. They built new, permanent track at almost 1 mile per hour, at certain points going as fast as a person might walk. Even today, with human labor mostly replaced by automated machinery, 10 miles in one day is considered pretty impressive.
The Day After D-Day: The Allies Build a Floating City
Everybody's familiar with World War II's D-Day, where Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy at great human cost while Steven Spielberg's camera crews stood there filming, not lifting a finger to help.
After the big battle, though, the Allies had to keep pushing on into Europe, and they needed more than the bunch of wet soldiers that had just landed. They needed more soldiers, and tanks, and trucks, and thousands of tons of fuel and supplies, on a scale that required daily dumps from full-sized cargo ships, not rowboats landing on a beach. The problem was that cargo ships need harbors, and Normandy was a beach. All the harbors that could handle big enough ships were controlled by the Germans. So the Allied troops brought their own harbors from home.
"Yeah, hi, I got a harbor here that someone needs to sign for?"
Known as Mulberry Harbours (they were developed by the English, so they were allowed to misspell it), these artificial harbors were massive structures built out of concrete blocks, sunken ships and wooden roadways, all floated over in pieces, moved into position and locked down, making it by far the largest Lego project ever undertaken.
At about 1 mile long, each harbor was like a floating city, with depots, docks and roadways sturdy enough to drive tanks on.
All of this was built in roughly the same amount of time it takes a group of Internet comedians to set up one tent.
The skeleton was mostly laid out in a day, the bridges were usable within three and the whole thing was completely assembled within a week. Over the course of 109 days, the week's worth of work allowed 2.5 million troops and 17 million tons of equipment to pour into occupied France and finish Nazi Germany for good.
Why, what'd you do at work this week?
For more innovative genius, check out 5 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World and 5 Simple Things You Won't Believe Are Recent Inventions.