A Ford Excursion in 2009March 16, 1844: Albert Moor of Hampden, Maine receives a patent for a "bomb lance," the first explosive harpoon deployed by whaling fleets. An explosive charge attached to a barbed harpoon hastens the death of a whale, greatly increasing whalers' ability to wipe them out.

March 16, 1978: A major winter storm damaged the rudder of the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Amoco Cadiz. The ship drifted and ran aground the next day, dropping 69 million gallons of crude oil into the English Channel. Its identical sister ship, the M/T Haven, ran aground and spilled an estimated 45 million gallons off — and on — the Italian Riviera thirteen years later.

March 16, 1979: "The China Syndrome", a film starring Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas, is released. The story features a near-nuclear meltdown at a mythical California nuclear power plant. Twelve days later, at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, life imitates art as a reactor suffers a partial meltdown.

March 16, 1999: The Ford Excursion makes its debut at the Dallas Auto Show (a later model of the vehicle is show at right). With Ford on a campaign to sell its environmental virtue, and with environmentalists on the warpath against gas-guzzlers, the massive, 12 mile-per-gallon SUV draws fire. Dan Becker of the Sierra Club calls the car a "suburban assault vehicle."

March 16, 2000: Fourteen beaked whales, two minke whales and a spotted dolphin go into a sand bar in the northern Bahamas. The marine mammals beach themselves, and all are discovered to have ruptured eardrums. The U.S. Navy concedes that its sonar testing was responsible.

Photo: AFresh1/Flickr

This feature is compiled by Peter Dykstra, an MNN contributor and publisher of Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate.

March 16
'The China Syndrome' is released, and the Ford Excursion makes its debut.