6 Horrible Historical Disasters (We Actually Saw Coming)
What separates a disaster from an accident is that we can generally see disasters coming -- like a hurricane, or an overconfident jock facing a scrappy underdog. And in just about every accident that's happened in recorded history, humanity has needed to find someone to blame, only to be blueballed by tragedy. Well, worry no more. We've got some finger pointing to do.
The Titanic Crew Were Warned About Icebergs
The great cruise liner Titanic was doomed from the beginning, if for no other reason than the fact that it was dubbed "unsinkable" by people who have clearly never seen the effect of water on metal (read: rust) in their lives. That was apparently the karmic equivalent of trying to make toast in the shower before work, because sure enough, the Titanic sunk.
What makes this pretty awful is that the ship's crew should totally have known about the impending iceberg, but were trying to field more incoming messages than a Comcast customer service line the week after a particularly heavy thunderstorm. Lost among the "Wish You Were Here!" notes were warnings sent out to every ship in the vicinity of a huge field of icebergs.
Unfortunately, they were all sent to spam by the radio operator.
Several hours before the ship bumped into its Celine-Dion-scored doom, another ship, Mesaba, had sailed through the same area. Upon seeing Jack Frost's idea of a honeymoon location, they sent out a message to all ships in the region (including the Titanic) warning of a "great number large icebergs." With that, they considered their job done, and hoped that nobody was foolish enough to ignore their message.
The crew of the Titanic had received all of the messages sent by Mesaba. Unfortunately, several days beforehand, the ship's radios had broken, leading to a massive backlog of messages to be received, transcribed, and hand-delivered to their respective passengers. And unlike so many of those texts from a clingy ex, many of these messages required replies. All in all, the crew was going through about 250 messages per day -- so about the same amount of daily texts from that clingy ex. One of the radio operators eventually collected the Mesaba's message for delivery. However, he didn't realize how important a giant field of icebergs would be, and ignored it until he'd finished his other deliveries.
"Meh. If it's important, then they'll send it again."
At the post-sinking inquiry, it was determined that the failure of the crew to deliver this message to the bridge had directly led to the ship's sinking. After all, binoculars are all well and good, but the best way of avoiding an icy grave is to not go there in the first place. Although being "unsinkable" couldn't have hurt, either.
The 1970 Yungay Avalanche
As far as avalanches go, most of them are cooler than the Chevrolet version. The Yungay Avalanche of 1970 is not one of those. As one of the deadliest avalanches in history, it wiped out the Peruvian town of Yungay, killing most of its 20,000 residents. Triggered by an undersea earthquake, an apocalyptic wave of rock, ice, and mud travelling at 120 mph smashed into the town. And all of this could have been avoided if the government had listened to a pair of mountaineers who warned them about this exact same thing eight years earlier.
David Bernays and Charles Sawyer were climbing the nearby Mount Huascaran when they noticed a large amount of loose bedrock underneath a glacier that was imaginatively called "Glacier 511." Knowing how this area was prone to earthquakes -- as it happens, this particular glacier was responsible for another earthquake in 1962 -- they returned to civilization and began warning everyone they could find.
If only they didn't wait 'til the end of their damn vacation photo slideshow to tell everyone.
Proving that the media has never known how to report the news properly, they exaggerated Bernays and Sawyers' warning like they were teenagers deciding on a condom size, with some claiming that the "mountaineers and scientists" had predicted a "Dante-esque" and "gigantic" avalanche. Like we said, teenagers deciding on a condom size.
Understandably, the government wasn't happy with Bernays and Sawyer. Believing the media's hype, they ordered the pair to take back their story or face prison time, because it's simply easier to give an "lol jk" about the forthcoming snowpocalypse. They also ordered the panicked residents of Yungay to return to their homes and place their faith in God. Which was handy, because anyone still placing their faith in the mountaineers was prosecuted for "disrupting public tranquility."
Plus, if they were right after all, the residents could just sue God for the same thing.
Understandably, Bernays and Sawyer left the country. Several years later, the public tranquility was disturbed by something much worse than proto-clickbait and incompetent governance.
Alexander Fleming Foretold The Rise Of Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs In 1945
One of the biggest arguments the anti-vaccine sheep will make is that vaccines are pointless because diseases will always find ways to evolve. This is possibly the world's worst oversimplification, but some infections have developed an immunity to commonplace antibiotics, and as such, they wreak havoc on unsuspecting human bodies. They also have a nasty habit of hiding in hospitals, which tend to be full of people with weakened immune systems.
According to the CDC, these bugs are annually responsible for 23,000 deaths, two million bouts of illness, and zero superheroes.
Well that's sad. Maybe we should have listened to British Bill Nye here.
We can't say that we weren't warned, however. Alexander Fleming, inventor of penicillin and the basis for many a painkiller addiction, was calling this out back in 1945. In a speech given after receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine that year, he thanked the audience by conjuring up images of a future in which humanity's only hope of surviving germageddon is downing shot glasses of penicillin. He then uttered an evil laugh and disappeared into his volcano lair, conveniently safe from the first outbreak of superbugs in ... 1946? Man, the human race sucks at medicine.
We accidentally invented anesthesia because we wanted to party as hard as possible. Go figure.
Georg Sieber Outlined The Olympic Munich Massacre In Precise Detail
Germany is like the acoustic guitar of hosting the Olympics; you allow it to happen with an open mind, but it isn't long before everybody wants to go the fuck home. The Munich Games in 1972 were hardly better than the Nazi-themed prequel in 1936, but the organizers were at least ahead of the game by not attempting to resurrect Hitler.
To be sure, they asked police psychologist Georg Sieber to dream up some scenarios in which the scheisse could hit the fan. He devised 26, which ranged from the IRA attacking to a plane crash. It was the 21st scenario which raised a few eyebrows, though.
"I threw in #17 (Nazi Robot Clones) just to screw with them."
In Scenario 21, Sieber predicted that a group of armed Palestinians would infiltrate the Olympic Village and break into the apartment containing the Israeli athletes at 05:00 hours. From there, they would kill two hostages, demand the release of several prisoners from Israeli jails, and request a plane to fly them away.
Actually, the attack happened at 4:10 a.m.
On September 5th, a group of armed Palestinians infiltrated the Olympic Village and broke into the apartment containing the Israeli athletes, killing two and taking the remainder hostage. From there, they demanded the release of 236 prisoners -- including the founders of the left-wing militia, Red Army Faction -- and a plane to take them to Cairo.
You'd think that with his previously hidden psychic ability, the police would want Sieber's help in coordinating a response. They didn't, instead settling for ambushing the terrorists at the airport, which led to a calamitous shootout and the deaths of the remaining hostages, one police officer, and five of the eight terrorists.
The only happy ending we can think of is that Germany hasn't hosted the Olympics since.
But don't worry, Munich has only reapplied a bunch more times!
Harry Markopolos Exposed The Madoff Ponzi Scheme In 1999, And Brooksley Born Saw The 2008 Financial Crash Coming
In December 2008, it was revealed that shitty Robert DeNiro lookalike Bernie Madoff had spent the last decade running a $65 billion scam on his rich (and, sadly, not-so-rich) clientele. As you can guess, someone knew about it from the outset -- and it wasn't just because his last name brings to mind someone laughing maniacally in a getaway car.
Madoff's scheme was originally uncovered by Harry Markopolos, a financial analyst working for a competing investment company. Asked by his bosses to steal Madoff's strategy, Markopolos crunched the numbers and discovered that either a) Madoff had created a financial product so brilliant that it violated all known laws of economics and mathematics, or b) Madoff was a lying little turd.
"Or c) framed by evil twin?"
"Nice try, dick."
Wisely going for the second option, Markopolos blew the whistle on Madoff. In 2001, he contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as several journalists and politicians. They all told him to fuck right off, probably in fancy legalese terms. Undeterred, Markopolos sent the SEC a gigantic dossier on Madoff in 2005 titled "The World's Largest Hedge Fund is a Fraud," because subtlety is not an art that New York financial types seem to have mastered.
At least it's not like anyone predicted the most recent financial crash, wherein we were all one poorly-managed derivative away from exchanging food and shelter for sexual favors and piggyback rides.
In 1996, Brooksley Born was named head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to grand applause. Then she unveiled her plan to regulate the then-booming trade-in credit default swap derivatives, which not even our lawyers could fully explain. It basically meant that investors had to measure their piles of money with rulers as opposed to dollar signs, and this didn't go down well with the people sitting on green paper thrones.
Admittedly, telling people that you have "six meters" of money
doesn't sound nearly as cool.
Feeling threatened, the bigwigs of Wall Street called in support from everyone, including regulators, congressmen, and even the fucking presidential administration. If this had taken place in the modern day, it would have been termed DerivativeGate (or something equally stupid) and driven down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers.
In the end, the rich guys won. And to ensure that no one would ever try to prevent them from making exorbitant amounts of money through a process that no one understands, special legislation was enacted to prevent any more interference from Born.
Well, only Brooksley Born. Nobody said anything about Jason.
The Pepto-Bismol pantsuit doesn't exactly scream "secret Blackbriar government agent," but hey.
The Designers Of The Challenger's Parts Tried To Stop Its Launch
It's hard to believe that someone could keep quiet about a disaster involving the Challenger. After all, it was the culmination of a decade-long engineering program, years of missed birthdays and forgotten anniversaries working overtime, and -- most importantly -- a gigantic pot of money earmarked solely for getting up in the Universe's grill.
During the inquest into the space shuttle's explosion, it transpired that a special type of seal known as an 'o-ring' had become loose as a result of the cold temperatures before the shuttle's launch. This allowed hot pressurized gas to escape and rupture one of the main fuel tanks, leading to the destruction of the shuttle. So why wasn't NASA warned about the risk of launching in cold weather? They were.
"Sorry, we didn't get that in control. Something about my o-face?"
In 1985, a group of engineers at Morton Thiokol, the engineering firm which built the shuttle's fuel boosters, warned their bosses about how cold weather would often cause the o-rings to stiffen and unseal themselves -- a significant issue, considering that the launch was penciled in for January. It wasn't until the day before the launch that the engineers were able to persuade the higher-ups that this was a big problem.
All that they had to do now was warn NASA. Which they did, only to receive the suggestion that they go and fire a booster rocket up their own asses. NASA refused to believe the date provided by Morton Thiokol, with one manager exclaiming "When do you want me to launch -- next April?"
"Who knows if the moon will still be there?"
Still, this didn't matter, because NASA couldn't launch with Morton Thiokol telling them "no." When the guys who build your rockets tell you to back the fuck off, you tend to listen. Therefore, the organization applied some pressure to the firm's managers. Frightened of losing their biggest customer, the Morton Thiokol folks caved and OK'd the launch.
Deflated, the engineers returned home, with one glibly telling his wife that, "It was a great day. We just had a meeting to go launch tomorrow and kill the astronauts, but outside of that, it was a great day."
For more from Adam, check out 6 Common Things You Do In Video Games (That Are War Crimes) and 8 Acts Of Rock Star Debauchery That Would Destroy You. You can also contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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