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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wilmington Middle School -- March 23

42° 32' 51" N
71° 11' 17" W 
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Movement is one of the five major themes of geography, and the town of Wilmington's situation has given it a very special place in the movement of goods, particularly between the Merrimack River and the city of Boston. From 1803 to 1852, the Middlesex Canal carried many products through the town, including hops and later textiles. In 1835, the Boston and Lowell Railroad opened, also passing through Wilmington, and leading eventually to the closing of the canal. Operating under various names, this is now the longest-running railroad in the United States, and continues to carry freight and commuters through the town.

The railroad, of course, is still quite evident as it passes through the center of Wilmington. The canal, abandoned 160 years ago, is no longer visible, but for the most part it ran very close to the railroad (see the Map Book from Middlesex Canal Commission to see if your house is near the old canal). One place where the canal was a bit further from the tracks is the wooded area shown below. The neighborhood to its south has two toponyms -- Towpath Drive signifies the path along the canal for towing barges by mule, while Apple Tree Lane may be related to Wilmington as the home of the Baldwin apple variety.

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During our EarthView visits, we sometimes mention events of geographic significance that have occurred on the same date as our visit. For the Wilmington visit, one of those events is occurring on the exact day of our program. The European Space Agency will be launching the first of a new kind of rocket from its Spaceport in the extreme south of France. In fact, the space station is being resupplied from Kourou, which is in a part of France most people do not realize is in the country. The Globe Lady is a native speaker of the French language who taught French before becoming a geography teacher. She will be highlighting this special part of France. Our French Prince blog post includes links to a map, a story, and music from French Guiana. This department of France was the original destination of Katie Spotz in her Row for Water project in 2010, though strong currents there forced her to land in Guyana instead.

Also on March 23 ...

In 1965, the United States launched Gemini I, sending two people into space for the first time.

In 2010, President Obama signed the new health-care law.
In 2002, girls in Afghanistan went to school for the first time in many years.
In 1983, President Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, known as the "Star Wars" proposal.
In 1982, General Rios Montt took over the government of Guatemala in a military coup.
In 1964, the first UNCTAD meeting was held in Geneva. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development has been held a dozen times, with UNCTAD XIII coming up this April. The first UNCTAD led to the creation of the Group of 77 a few months later.
In 1957,  the US Army sold its last homing pigeons, though the Coast Guard did try using them again on a trial basis. Pigeon racing continues as an active -- and very geographic -- hobby in the United States and elsewhere.
In 1956, Pakistan became the world's first Islamic republic.
In 1950, the United Nations World Meteorological Union was formed.
In 1948, Jack Kerouac of Lowell (very close to Wilmington) wrote his first novel, which was published two years later. He became his home city's most famous writer, and his later work On the Road popularized the idea of the "road trip" -- an informal kind of long-distance geographic exploration.
In 1942, the U.S. began moving 120,000  Japanese-Americans from western states into interment camps elsewhere in the country. (An official apology came in 1988.)
In 1933, the German Reichstag gave Adolf Hitler power through its Enabling Act.
In 1919, Benito Mussolini began his fascist movement in Italy.
In 1912, the Dixie Cup was invented, the start of a century of increasingly easy access to disposable products.
In 1909, former president Theodore Roosevelt began a safari in Africa, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society.
In 1857, Elisha Otis had his first elevator installed in New York City. This started a change in the geography of cities that continues to this day, since it allowed for previously impossible densities of population to be achieved.
In 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, having reached the Pacific Ocean, began their return journey toward the East.
In 1775, Patrick Henry is said to have declared, "Give me liberty, or give me death!"

And finally: 
Although it did not happen on March 23, the first day of spring -- the vernal equinox -- took place earlier this week, at 1:14 a.m (Wilmington time) on Tuesday, March 20. John Roach of National Geographic explains why the days were already slightly longer than the nights by the time the equinox occurred.

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