Roots to the Past

Diane Lynn Tibert
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Natural disasters change the course of history

The world has been rocked in the past few years with one natural disaster after another.

The news has been inundated with tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes. Some people say the earth’s gone crazy. Others say it was predicted by the Mayans with the end of their calendar in 2012. Still others see it as Earth’s natural cycle.

If we look past all the drama presented on the all-day news channels, we might get a different view: major disasters have occurred since the beginning of time, and our ancestors experienced no less tragedy. The major difference between yesteryear and today is the access to information. Two centuries ago, the news about natural disasters occurring on the other side of the planet was not received via satellite. When or if the news trickled in, it was old, shocking to some, but did not disturb the day to day routine.

One of the earliest recorded disasters was the 1138 earthquake in Syria, Aleppo which killed 230,000 people. A little more than 60 years later in July 1201, the deadliest earthquake struck the eastern Mediterranean, killing about 1.1 million, mostly in Egypt and Syria. Other historical earthquakes include those taking place in 1556 (Shaanzi, China, 830,000 killed), 1730 (Japan, 137,000 killed), 1755 (Lisbon, Portugal, earthquake and resulting tsunami killing more than 100,000) and 1780 (Tabriz, Iran, 200,000 killed). The last century also had its share of disasters, including the 1923 earthquake in Japan which killed between 140,000 and 200,000 people.

Volcanoes have also made history. Mount Tambora on Sumbawa Island erupted in April 1815. It was rated as a 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, the largest eruption in recorded history.

Between 11,000 and 12,000 people died as a direct result of the eruption. In the months following, more than 61,000 people died from starvation and disease because of the ensuing volcanic winter.

Who hasn’t heard of the city of Pompeii? The Italian city was covered in four to six meters of ash and pumice during a two-day eruption of Mount Vesuvius. An estimated 20,000 people were killed.

By far, famines triggered by natural disasters such as drought and floods have caused more deaths than the actual disaster. For example, the 1769 drought in India killed 10 million people while the 1958-61 drought in China saw 20 million people die.

With 2012 right around the corner, many believe the current natural disasters predict the end of the world is near, but looking back through history, I don’t see an increase in disasters, only an increase in knowledge of them.

The end of the world has been predicted hundreds of times, and each date turned out to be... just another date on the calendar.

Isaac Newton said the Apocalypse will take place in 2060. However, Nostradamus predicts the end in 3786 or 3797. There are several others making predictions, but these are by the two most notable figures in history.

Researcher’s File

Who were William Muir’s parents? William (born about 1831, Shelburne) married Augusta Locke.Census records show they stayed in the Shelburne area. Contact: Pam Jones, PO Box 206, North Clarendon, Vermont 05759 USA; email:

Diane Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer based in central Nova Scotia. She is the alter-ego of Candy McMudd, author of Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove. Submit a query. It’s free! 1787 Highway 2, Milford, Hants County, NS, B0N 1Y0; or visit The Family Attic, home to Roots to the Past:

Organizations: Roots

Geographic location: Syria, China, Japan Aleppo Eastern Mediterranean Egypt Lisbon Portugal Tabriz Iran Shelburne Pompeii India North Clarendon Nova Scotia Hants County

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