[You could say that given it's appearance, perhaps the coelacanth can be forgiven for being so bashful that it had never been seen by human eyes until this day in 1938; then again, given the track record humans have with preserving animal species perhaps it was canniness rather than low self-esteem that kept it away. You could say that, but you'd be both wrong and guilty of anthropomorphism; try not getting all your information about nature from animated Disney movies in future. Actually, the coelacanth is a deep water fish - living as deep as 700 m (2300 ft) below sea level, but more usually found at depths of 90 to 200 m - which was the secret of its successful reclusion.]
679 CE - Dagobert II was murdered on a hunting trip, dying without a male heir, making him the last Merovingian to reign as king of Austrasia on his own - with the obvious exception of Charles Martel's dubious candidate Clotaire IV, obviously; after a power struggle involving Pippin II, Theuderic III was named to replace Dagobert II, becoming king of all the Frankish lands.
1230 - Richard the Lionhearted's erstwhile queen, Berengaria of Navarre, died at the abbey in L'Epau.
1493 - Georg Alt's German translation of Hartmann Schedel's Nuremberg Chronicle was published.
1783 - George Washington resigned as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army at the Maryland State House in Annapolis.
1823 - The poem A Visit From St. Nicholas (AKA The Night Before Christmas) was first published in the Sentinel of Troy, New York.
1888 - Vincent van Gogh cut off the lower part of his left ear, took it to a brothel, and gave it to a prostitute named Rachel for safekeeping; in case you should find yourself strapped for a last-minute Christmas present, don't do this.
1893 - Engelbert Humperdinck's opera Hänsel und Gretel was first performed.
1913 - The Federal Reserve Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, creating the US Federal Reserve.
1916 - During World War I's Battle of Magdhaba Allied forces under Australia's Harry Chauvel decisively defeated forces of the Ottoman Empire in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, thereby securing the continued use of the Suez Canal for the British Empire.
1938 - Considered a living fossil, the coelacanth had been thought extinct since the end of the Cretaceous Period; that is, until one was caught by Hendrik Goosen, captain of the Nerine, at the mouth of the Chalumna River off the coast of East London, South Africa.
1947 - The transistor was first demonstrated at Bell Laboratories.
1948 - Seven Japanese convicted of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East - including Doihara Kenji, Hirota Koki, Itagaki Seishiro, Kimura Heitaro, Matsui Iwane, Muto Akira, and the country's notorious wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo - were executed at Tokyo's Sugamo Prison.
1958 - Tokyo Tower, the world's highest self-supporting iron tower, was dedicated.
1972 - The 16 survivors of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 were rescued after 73 days, having survived many and sundry rigours in the wilderness not least of which was cannibalism - as chronicled in the 1993 film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes.
1973 - Irna Phillips - the innovator of the American soap opera and mentor to both Agnes Nixon and William J. Bell - died discreetly of undisclosed causes; in other words, in the least soap operatic manner possible.
1986 - Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, landed at Edwards Air Force Base, becoming the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world.
1992 - The text of the Queen's Christmas Speech was leaked to the press early... This was a 'scandal' only because the papers called it one; I mean, I love Her Majesty with all my love, but I'll be the first to admit she essentially gives the same speech every year.
2004 - An 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean; despite being one of the strongest seismic events ever recorded it caused almost no damage and rattled fewer than 50 people, which small number constitutes the entire human population of the place.
2007 - There occurred a grand conjunction in which the solar system aligned with the galactic center.
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