This Week in Geographic History, January 23 – 29

Here’s an advance look at some of the “This Day in Geographic History” (TDIGH) events coming up this week. For each date, we’ve matched it with a map or visual, background information, and a classroom activity so you can plan ahead.

Monday, January 23

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Jacques Piccard and his team paddle toward their bathyscaphe above the Mariana Trench, near Guam. Photograph by Thomas J. Abercrombie, National Geographic.

TDIGH: Piccard and Walsh Go Deep

In 1960, explorers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh traveled to the deepest point on Earth: the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

Map: Photos, maps, and more info about ocean trenches

Background: Collection of resources about the Mariana Trench and a short video

Activity: Explore this interactive GeoStory about James Cameron’s 2012 journey to the Challenger Deep—where Don Walsh was a part of his crew.


Tuesday, January 24

TDIGH: Caliph Ali Assassinated

The assassination of Muhammad’s relative, Caliph Ali, in 661 ignited a debate over the leadership of Islam, dividing followers into two sects: Sunni and Shia.

Map: 1,200 Years of Iraq’s Turbulent History

Background: AStudy Guide about how Sunni and Shia Islam differ

Activity: Watch “Crash Course World History: Islam” and ask students to point out some misconceptions Americans have about Islam.


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Fifty years after the California Gold Rush, a similar gold rush took place in Canada’s Klondike region, where this gold was found. Photograph by George F. Mobley, National Geographic.

TDIGH: California Gold Rush Begins

James Marshall’s discovery of gold in the American river in 1848 sparked a mass migration to California.

Map: California’s historic gold mines

Background: The discovery of gold in California

Activity: Read this article. What were the long-term effects of the California Gold Rush?


Friday, January 27

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A rabbi views a display of shoes that belonged to victims at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Photograph by James L. Stanfield, National Geographic.

TDIGH: International Holocaust Remembrance Day

The UN created this day in 2006 to honor the victims and survivors of the genocide carried out by the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s.

Visual: Timeline and photos from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Background: Wannsee Conference outlines the “Final Solution”

Activity: Listen to a Holocaust survivor share his view on “The Nature of Evil” and importance of speaking out.


Saturday, January 28

TDIGH: Space Shuttle Explodes

All seven crew members were lost in the 1986 Challenger explosion, which resulted in a temporary suspension of NASA’s space shuttle program.

Visual: Photo of the Challenger crew, including Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe. 

Background: The first space shuttle and more info about NASA’s space shuttle program

Activity: Read this reflection on the Challenger disaster and discuss why failure is “part of the process of exploration and discovery.”

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