What Happened on August 27?

  • The first successful oil well in the US was drilled. (1859) The oil well, which is also considered the world's first successful commercial well, was drilled outside Titusville, Pennsylvania by Edwin L. Drake. The first wells in world history date back to 347 in China; they were dug about 800 feet deep with bamboo poles.

  • The shortest war in world history was fought. (1896) The Anglo-Zanzibar War between Zanzibar and the United Kingdom lasted 45 minutes. The Zanzibar forces suffered 500 casualties; the British suffered only one.

  • The world's first jet plane took flight. (1939) Erich Warsitz piloted the Heinkel He 178, the first turbojet-powered aircraft. The jet was manufactured by the Heinkel company in Germany.

  • The Krakatoa volcano erupted, ultimately causing 36,000 deaths. (1883) The eruption caused tidal waves that drowned the Java and Sumatra islands in Indonesia.

  • Mars came closer to the Earth than it had in 60,000 years. (2003) Mars made its closest passing at about 35 million miles (56 million kilometers) from Earth. Because the planets have different orbits, the distance between the two varies. At its furthest distance, Mars is about 250 million miles (401 million kilometers) from Earth.

  • NASA launched the Mariner 2 space probe on its path toward Venus. (1962) The unmanned probe reached Venus in December of the same year. Mariner 2 was the first of the Mariner missions to be successful, and was the first probe to successfully encounter another planet.

  • A new world land speed record was set. (1937) George Eyston actually broke his own world speed record, achieving a speed of 345.49 miles per hour (556 kilometers per hour) in a Thunderbolt automobile. Eyston's previous record was set in 1936 when he achieved a speed of 311.42 miles per hour (501.18 kilometers per hour).

  • Serial killer Edmund Kemper killed his first victims — his grandparents — when he was 15 years old. (1964) Kemper's mother had sent him to live with his grandparents because he had been mutilating his sister's dolls. After killing his grandfather he said, "I just wondered how it would feel to shoot Grandma." After being inexplicably released from a mental institution, Kemper went on to kill, mutilate and defile eight more women, including his mother. When he called the police to confess they initially hung up on him, thinking it was a prank. Kemper was eventually sentenced to life in prison.

  • The world's fourth tallest tower caught fire. (2000) The Ostankino Tower in Moscow is the tallest tower in Europe, reaching a height of 1,770 feet (540 meters). Incredibly, the fire, which shut down all TV broadcasts in Moscow, only killed three people. The tower was eventually rebuilt.

  • The Rainbow Bridge connecting Tokyo and Odaiba island for the first time was completed. (1993) The suspension bridge is lit at night by solar power in shades of red, white and green. The bridge spans 1,870 feet (570 meters) — the world's longest suspension bridge spans 6,532 feet (1,991 meters).

Discussion Comments


I remember all the fuss around the close passing of Mars on August 27 a few years ago now. I was fairly excited about it and had bought a telescope and everything, with the intention of using it as an educational activity for my kids.

But it was extremely cloudy that night and we weren't able to see anything! Mars was pretty bright on the nights surrounding it, if I remember correctly, but we were very disappointed that the big night wasn't really going to happen.


@irontoenail - It could have been very deadly if you were around on that day, since quite a few people died from the tsunami and the hot ashes. They estimate that the temperature of the whole world dropped because the smoke was obscuring the sun.

The scary thing is, there's nothing to stop something similar happening today. I don't think many people ever think about volcanoes as potential disasters, especially if they aren't near one, but if the wrong one erupts it could affect people all around the world.


I've heard that when Krakatoa erupted, the sound was so loud it was heard thousands of miles away and the smoke basically drifted all over the world. In fact, it's considered to be the loudest sound ever recorded in human history.

It must have been so strange to be alive on that day and to hear the sound and see the smoke, but not know where it came from. I imagine some people were fairly superstitious about it.



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