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Sudden Death Overtime: England vs. the Spanish Armada

A few months before launching an attack on England, the commander of the Spanish Armada drops dead, and is replaced by a man with no naval experience. Most of their pilots are Castillian who have no experience sailing the Atlantic. The Spaniards usually hire the Portuguese for ocean sailing, but they are busy in the Philippines. The plan is to establish a beachhead in southern England and wait for a follow-on force to continue the invasion. (FYI, it never arrives. The Dutch have them blockaded.) The English ships spot the Armada and tack upwind to take the weather gauge position. For sailing, this is like taking the high ground before a battle. After two days of fighting, the English set fire to several of their own ships and float them in among the Spanish at anchor. Most of the Armada cut their anchor cables and scatter. The swifter English ships get in close and fire. Five Spanish ships go to the bottom. The Armada escapes north but as the Armada rounds Scotland they turn south too soon, bringing them too close to shore as a storm hits. 5,000 Spaniards lose their lives as their ships sink or are driven ashore in Ireland because they have no anchors to stabilize their ships. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The Spanish Armada missed the turn south for two reasons: they had no reliable way to figure longitude and there was a strong opposing current that subtly pushed them back as they seemed to move forward. Something similar happens with airplanes as they fly into headwinds. Their engines are working just as hard as ever, but they don't advance as far because the headwind keeps pushing the plane back. In 1947, a few minutes before coming in for a landing at the Santiago airport in Chili, an airplane suddenly stopped its radio transmission to the tower. The plane never landed and the missing plane remained a mystery for 50 years until some wreckage was found on the other side of the Andes mountain range. The plane had been flying against the jet stream but didn't realize it, so the pilot thought he had already passed the Andes. He flew right into a mountain. [4]

The First Potatoes Reach Vienna *

A novelty from the New World comes to Vienna. A few varieties of potatoes are brought to the Old World from the Andes after the conquering of the Incas. (By "a few varieties," I mean these are NOT a full cross section of what is available in Peru.) Over the years the government will realize that this plant could save them from famine. In fact the potato will be responsible for 1/4th of the growth in the European population in the next 100 years and the sweet potato will save the Chinese people. The potato and the sweet potato (which is not a real potato) will build nations... and virtually destroy them when the potato blight comes through, but that is in the future. For now it is just a novel plant with pretty flowers. [5] [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The serious drop in temperature from the 1580 to 1600 was due to the Little Ice Age. This increased storm activity and the cold wiped out crops across Europe. Millions died of starvation in Russia during those decades. Coupled with inflation due to the silver glut, the poor could no longer afford food. To have a cold-weather crop like the potato come along at this time must have seemed like a God-send. Unfortunately part of the reason that the potato fell prey to the potato blight was the attempt to apply mono-crop methods to potato production and a lack of variety in potato species cultivated in Europe.

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1588, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Kamen, Henry (2003). Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492-1763. HarperCollins, 170-171. ISBN 9780060194765. 
  2. Spanish Armada - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 2 June 2015.
  3. Weather gage - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 2 June 2015. “An upwind vessel is able to manoeuvre at will toward any downwind point, since in doing so the relative wind moves aft. A vessel downwind of another, however, in attempting to attack upwind, is constrained to trim sail as the relative wind moves forward and cannot point too far into the wind for fear of being headed. In sailing warfare, when beating to windward, the vessel experiences heeling under the sideward pressure of the wind. This restricts gunnery, as cannon on the windward side are now elevated, while the leeward gun ports aim into the sea, or in heavy weather may be awash.”
  4. 1947 BSAA Avro Lancastrian Star Dust accident - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 3 June 2015. “During the final portion of Star Dust's flight, heavy clouds would have blocked visibility of the ground. It has therefore been suggested that, in the absence of visual sightings of the ground due to the clouds, a large navigational error could have been made as the aircraft flew through the jet stream—a phenomenon not well understood in 1947, in which high-altitude winds can blow at high speed in directions different from those of winds observed at ground level.”
  5. Historical Timeline of Vienna (PDF). Expat Center Vienna. Retrieved on 2014. “1588 - The potato is first introduced in Vienna by court botanists.”
  6. Nunn, Nathan; Qian, Nancy (2011). "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from a Historical Experiment". Quarterly Journal of Economics 126 (2): 593-650. Template:Citation/identifier. Archived from the original on May 25, 2013. 20110705043431/http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/nunn/files/Potato_QJE.pdf. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  7. Potato: History - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 4 June 2015. “According to conservative estimates, the introduction of the potato was responsible for a quarter of the growth in Old World population and urbanization between 1700 and 1900.”

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