" A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature. "
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Back in the day


Vasco Núñez de Balboa Reaches Pacific Ocean

Balboa was a Spanish conquistador and founder of the Panamanian colony of Darién, the 1st permanent European settlement in the mainland of the Americas. He crossed the Isthmus of Panama in search of gold, reaching the Pacific Ocean after a 25-day expedition. Then, carrying both his sword and an image of the Virgin Mary, Balboa waded into the water and laid claim to the Pacific and all of its adjoining lands. What did he call the Pacific Ocean?




Petroglyphs are images created in rock by incising, pecking, carving, and abrading the rock surface. These rock carvings are found across the world and are often associated with prehistoric communities. The oldest known petroglyphs have been dated to about 12,000 years ago, and are thought to have been an early form of symbolic communication or perhaps a sort of “pre-writing.” What is the one continent on which petroglyphs have not been discovered?

Born on a day like today


Dmitri Shostakovich

Although Shostakovich was the most popular Soviet composer of his generation, he was denounced several times by the authorities and had his work banned during his lifetime. He used traditional forms in his music, which is accessibly tonal, yet distinctly 20th century. His response to life in the USSR has been the subject of much political and musical controversy, though it is generally agreed that he was nationalistic. What was Stalin's opinion of Shostakovich's compositions?

Last updated on Tuesday, 25th September 2007

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