Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"The Mail Must Go Through!!" Voice of America.

BOB DOUGHTY: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I'm Barbara Klein. This week on our program, we tell you about the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. We explain its place in the history of the first stagecoaches that carried mail to the American West.


BOB DOUGHTY: Across the United States, the speed limit on fast roads is generally eighty-eight kilometers an hour. But in the western United States, there are highways where the speed limit is one hundred twenty-five kilometers an hour.

These are usually in areas with little traffic but lots of open country. The roads are good, a driver can see far -- and a trip hundreds of kilometers long can take just a few hours. And if that is not fast enough, then people can drive to another part of the modern transportation system: the airport.

There used to be a time when the quickest way to travel across the western United States was in a stagecoach. A stagecoach was a large, enclosed wagon pulled by teams of horses or mules. The driver tried for a speed of about eight kilometers an hour.

BARBARA KLEIN: Our story really begins in Washington, D.C. Lawmakers in Congress wanted to make it possible to send mail all the way across the United States by land. Mail was usually carried west on ships that sailed around the bottom of South America and then north to California. That could take several months.

So, in eighteen fifty-seven, Congress offered to help any company that would try to deliver mail overland to the West Coast. A man named John Butterfield accepted this offer. He developed plans for a company that would carry the mail -- and passengers, too.

Congress gave John Butterfield six hundred thousand dollars to start his company. In return, he had to promise that the mail would travel from Saint Louis, Missouri, to San Francisco, California, in twenty-five days or less.

BOB DOUGHTY: It was not possible to travel straight through because of the Rocky Mountains and the deep snow that fell in winter. So the stagecoach would travel south from Saint Louis to El Paso, Texas, then over to southern California, then north to San Francisco. The distance was about four thousand five hundred kilometers.

John Butterfield hired more than one thousand men who knew the Southwest. Some carefully planned the way the stagecoach would travel. Others built small structures to house stagecoach workers and animals along the route.

BARBARA KLEIN: Two hundred of these stations were built, each about thirty-two kilometers apart. The workers were to quickly change the horses or mules whenever a stagecoach reached the station. There could be no delay.

Each stagecoach was to travel nearly two hundred kilometers a day. Two-man teams were responsible for the safety of the mail, the passengers and the stagecoach. John Butterfield ordered his men never to let the mail out of their sight.

The Butterfield Overland Mail company operated from eighteen fifty-eight until eighteen sixty-one. It went out of business because of the Civil War, which began that year.

BOB DOUGHTY: One hundred stagecoaches were built specially for the job. Each one was painted red or dark green. These were the most modern coaches that money could buy. They cost one thousand five hundred dollars each.

They were designed to hold as many as nine passengers and twelve thousand pieces of mail. The seats inside could be folded down to make beds. Passengers either slept on them or on the bags of mail.

The cost would be one hundred fifty dollars to travel from Saint Louis to San Francisco. If a passenger was not going all the way, the cost was about ten cents a kilometer. The passengers had to buy their own food at the stations. The stagecoach would stop for forty minutes, two times a day.

But the Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach needed to travel as fast as possible. It had to keep moving to reach San Francisco in twenty-five days as required by the government contract.

The company warned passengers about the possible dangers. A poster said: "You will be traveling through Indian country and the safety of your person cannot by vouchsafed by anyone but God."

BARBARA KLEIN: The Butterfield stagecoaches passed through dangerous areas. Some Indians did not want anyone to get too near their settlements.

These lands were home to the Chiricahua, Membreno, White Mountain and Mescalero Apaches. Two of their chiefs became very famous in stories of the American West. They were Cochise and Geronimo.

The Native Americans were experts at surviving in the mountains and deserts of the Southwest. They were also fierce fighters.

Butterfield workers were instructed not to incite the Apaches in any way. Often the company would use mules instead of horses to pull its stagecoaches because the Indians had no interest in mules. But there was still trouble. Workers were killed, animals were stolen and stations were burned.


BOB DOUGHTY: The first Butterfield Overland Mail stagecoach left Missouri on September sixteenth, eighteen fifty-eight, on its way to California. It made the trip in twenty-three days, twenty-three hours.

The only passenger on that first stage to travel all the way through to San Francisco was a newspaper reporter named Waterman Ormsby. He worked for the New York Herald. He wrote several stories about the trip; later, they were put together in a book, "The Butterfield Overland Mail." Here is part of what he wrote about that trip.

READER: "We finally got under way again and pursued our weary course along the edge of the plain, thumping and bumping at a rate which threatened not to leave a whole bone in my body. What with the dust and the sun pouring directly on our heads … I found that day’s ride quite unpleasant, and at our several camps readily availed myself of the opportunity to plunge into the Pecos, muddy as it was; and I was heartily glad when about 10 p.m. we reached a station fifty-eight miles from our starting point in the morning ... "


BARBARA KLEIN: Today people can visit the ruins of one of the Butterfield stagecoach stops, now located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. To reach the park, visitors drive through the Guadalupe Pass, more than one thousand five hundred meters high.

In his description of that first trip west, Waterman Ormsby explained why the station was called "the Pinery."

READER: " ... on account of the number of pine trees that grow in the gorge of the mountain in which it is situated. As we approached the mountain, the hills and gulleys bore the appearance of having been created by some vast, fierce torrent rushing around the base of the peak, and tearing its way through the loose earth. ... [I]t seems as if nature had saved all her ruggedness to pile it up in this colossal form of the Guadalupe Peak …

"The great peak towers as if ready at any moment to fall, while huge boulders hang as if ready, with the weight of a rain drop, to be loosened from their fastenings and descend with lumbering swiftness to the bottom, carrying destruction in their paths.”

BARBARA KLEIN: The Pinery Station was a series of three connected buildings. The walls were made of local limestone and bricks of sun-dried mud called adobe. The roofs were also mud. A wagon repair shop and blacksmith barn stood nearby.

The Butterfield mail coaches used the buildings until August of eighteen fifty-nine. Then a new road replaced the one through Guadalupe Pass. It was better protected from Indian attacks because it passed by two Army forts. But the buildings at Guadalupe continued to be used by soldiers and others who passed that way.

BOB DOUGHTY: Today, the buildings are no longer there, just the outlines of where they stood, and some of the original bricks. But visitors to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas can still get a sense of their historic importance. The company is said to have never broken its contract with the government in its two and a half years of operation.

At the end of September two thousand eight, the park celebrated the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Butterfield Overland Mail. There were stage coach rides, living history programs and demonstrations of shoeing a mule.

It's easy to imagine those long-ago days of cowboys and Indians, and the spirit of adventure that led travelers to ride the stagecoach west.


BARBARA KLEIN: Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Barbara Klein.

BOB DOUGHTY: And I'm Bob Doughty. Doug Johnson was our reader. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs can be found at Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.


1. Eighty-eight kilometers per hour is about _____________________ .
a: 100 miles per hour 
b: 40 miles per hour
c: 55 miles per hour
d: 88 miles per hour
2. John Butterfield received $100,000 to start his mail transport company from _____________________ .
a: Apache Indians
b: Wall Street investors
c: Bill Gates
d: the U.S. government
3.The mail coaches began their journey in St. Louis, Missouri and ended in ____________________ .
a: New York City, New York
b: Portland, Oregon
c: San Francisco, California
d: the Pecos River
4. The Butterfield Overland Mail Company went out of business in 1861 because of _________________ .
a: competition from the railroads  
b: theft and corruption
c: the beginning of the U.S. Civil War
d: flying saucers from outer space
5. The stage coaches transported the U.S. mail and also ___________________ .
a: human passengers 
b: pigs and vegetables
c: musical instruments
d: red or dark green books
6. The government contract required the trip to be made within ___________________ .
a: 24 hours
b: 5 days
c: 52 weeks
d: 25 days
7. A newspaperman named Ormsby described the trip as ____________________ .
a: pleasant 
b: exciting
c: unpleasant
d: a major tourist attraction
8. The Pinery station was located in ________________________ .
a: downtown St. Louis 
b: the Guadalupe mountains in west Texas
c: the Sierra Nevada mountains in California
d: the Sierra Madre mountains in northern Mexico
9. Today visitors to the Pinery Station can see _______________________ .
a: only the outlines of the buildings and some of the original bricks
b: Disneyland replicas of the stage coaches
c: a statue of John Butterfield
d: descendants of the original horses and mules that pulled the stage coaches
10.Another name for this story could be _________________________ .
a: Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis
b: The American Civil War
c: The Panama Canal
d: Overland Mail Delivery in the American West

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Earth Day" from Voice of America.

FAITH LAPIDUS: I’m Faith Lapidus.

BOB DOUGHTY: And I’m Bob Doughty with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. April twenty-second marks the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day. Former United States Senator Gaylord Nelson started the observance in nineteen seventy. The aim of this day is to urge local action and increase awareness about the state of the world’s environment. The creation of Earth Day is widely considered the beginning of the modern environmental movement.


FAITH LAPIDUS: Gaylord Nelson was a Democrat from the state of Wisconsin. He had always been interested in environmental issues and worked hard to improve the environment in his state. The American public was also increasingly becoming aware of the huge environmental problems the country faced.

In nineteen sixty-nine two environmental problems caught the nation’s attention. The first was a huge oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. More than eighty thousand barrels of crude oil from the spill severely damaged over sixty kilometers of coastline. The second was increased news reporting about a river so polluted that it caught on fire. This was the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio.

BOB DOUGHTY: Senator Nelson knew there was growing public concern about the country’s polluted air, rivers and land. He had been searching for a way to make the environment a subject of national interest to the country’s politicians and leaders. He had observed that students at colleges across the country had been organizing “teach-in” demonstrations to protest the war in Vietnam. He realized that this “teach-in” method would be a useful way for the public to express concern about the environment to federal and state officials.

FAITH LAPIDUS: In September of nineteen sixty-nine Senator Nelson announced his aim to create a national version of an environmental teach-in. The idea immediately received wide popular support from students, teachers, religious centers and other community groups. It was so popular that his Senate office alone could not deal with the many responses.

So, Senator Nelson created an independent nonprofit group called Environmental Teach-In, Inc to help organize what would become an environmental revolution.

BOB DOUGHTY: Gaylord Nelson hired a student and activist named Denis Hayes to lead this special campaign. The aim was to get people young and old across the United States to act locally in solving environmental problems in their areas. Senator Nelson did not want the campaign to be about the changes and actions he wanted for the environment.

The movement was to be driven by the American public on a “grassroots” or local level. It was to be an event not just supported by students. Women, labor unions, religious groups, political groups, scientists and environmental organizations would also support the event.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The planning for a national protest on the environment soon began to receive national media attention. The Environmental Teach-In group began to educate people about how to take action locally and spread the news of the event. The group stated that the national day for the environment would be “more than a day of fruitless talking.” And, they created a new name for their national teach-in event: Earth Day.

BOB DOUGHTY: The hard work of this grassroots effort resulted in the first Earth Day on April twenty-second, nineteen seventy. An estimated twenty million people took part in this event. In New York City, Fifth Avenue was closed to traffic as people marched through the streets. At demonstrations in Atlanta, Georgia, and Miami, Florida people protested to demand a cleaner environment.

Gaylord Nelson later said that “Earth Day worked because of the immediate response at the grassroots level.” He said that the event organized itself.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Lawmakers in Washington seemed to have understood the public demand for a cleaner environment. In December of nineteen seventy, a new federal agency began its work.

The Environmental Protection Agency aimed to bring together federal research, supervision, and enforcement of environmental matters. By nineteen seventy-four several other environmental laws had been signed. These include the Clean Water Act, the Pesticide Control Act, and the Endangered Species Act.


BOB DOUGHTY: Earth Day is now a worldwide event. One of its official organizers in the United States is a Washington based nonprofit group called Earth Day Network. Susan Bass is the vice president of programs and operations at Earth Day Network. She says that Earth Day is still very much about activism and fighting for the environment on a local level.

SUSAN BASS: “That’s the wonderful thing about Earth Day is that it really provides a platform, an opportunity for grassroots organizations and community organizations to really focus on what’s happening in their neighborhoods and their homes in their communities, in their businesses and to focus on the priority problems and to engage people maybe for the first time in taking environmental action.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: Earth Day Network works on environmental programs around the world.

SUSAN BASS: “We are active now in one hundred ninety countries and it’s estimated that one billion people participate in Earth Day events around the globe now.”

FAITH LAPIDUS: One event in Rabat, Morocco. will celebrate the country’s new Charter for Environment and Sustainable Development. Its aim is to guide the country’s environmental policies and future laws to protect natural resources and ensure safe economic development.

Susan Bass says that this year’s Earth Day will be a busy one in the United States.

SUSAN BASS: “We’re going to be active all over the United States; we have events across the country from Santa Monica to New York, to the heartland of the country.”

BOB DOUGHTY: Susan Bass tells about an important event in Washington.

SUSAN BASS: “And then our flagship event will be on April twenty-fifth. It will be the Climate Rally where we’ll be inviting people from all walks of life to join us on the National Mall to call on you.”

BOB DOUGHTY: The goal of this event is to demand that lawmakers pass new legislation on climate change and clean energy in two thousand ten. The event is expected to include performances by musicians including Sting, John Legend, and the Roots.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Some cities and communities will hold Earth Day activities and celebrations for an entire week, not just on April twenty-second. Events in Novato, California will include an art exhibit called “Where You Are.” The exhibit at the Marin Community Foundation will show artwork influenced by the environment and by Earth Day.

In Irving, Texas people can attend an event called “Earth Day… Naturally.” People can gather to listen to music, eat healthful foods and learn about new green technologies. They can also bring their electronic devices to be recycled instead of thrown away.

And, the Oregon nonprofit SOLV has organized a clean-up day called SOLV IT. People across the state will work together on one hundred twenty-five local projects to clean trash, remove invasive plants and improve water areas.

BOB DOUGHTY: On Earth Day, the artist and building designer Maya Lin will launch a Web site about the Earth’s endangered plants and animals. The project is called “What is Missing?” The Web site, a book and a series of art projects around the world will bring attention to the disappearing biodiversity on our planet. The project will help people understand the many threats to the natural environments where endangered plants and animals live. The goal of the project is to raise awareness about the species that are disappearing and to tell people what can be done to help the situation.


FAITH LAPIDUS: Denis Hayes was the activist who helped organize Earth Day forty years ago. He has spent his career working to support environmental issues. He recently wrote an article about the meaning of Earth Day in two thousand ten.

Denis Hayes said lawmakers in Washington have repeatedly failed to make the environment a central issue. But he says the American public can force Congress to pay more attention to this subject. He says Congress can only act intelligently and boldly on the issue of climate change if the American public gives it no other choice. So, he says Americans must use their votes to elect officials for whom the environment is important.

Denis Hayes also discusses two climate bills currently being proposed by American lawmakers. He says each new version of one bill is weaker and less effective than the one before it. He suggests that lawmakers who ignore climate change should start losing their jobs in the next election.


BOB DOUGHTY: This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Bob Doughty.

FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus. What is your country doing to celebrate Earth Day? You can comment at our Web site, Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Edward Hopper" a Great American Painter from VOA.

"Hotel Lobby" by Edward Hopper


I’m Shirley Griffith.


And I’m Doug Johnson with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell about artist Edward Hopper. He painted normal objects and people in interesting and mysterious ways.



Edward Hopper's "Cape Cod Morning"

In June of two thousand-six, visitors entered the redesigned Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. for the first time. When these people walked into the building, they saw two simple, colorful paintings. These paintings showed normal scenes from American life. But they looked mysterious and beautiful. American artist Edward Hopper painted both of these famous pictures.


Edward Hopper was born in eighteen eighty-two in Nyack, a small town in New York state. From a young age, Edward knew he wanted to be a painter. His parents were not wealthy people. They thought Edward should learn to paint and make prints to advertise for businesses. This kind of painting is called commercial art. Edward listened to his mother and father. In nineteen hundred, he moved to New York City to study commercial art. However, he also studied more serious and artistic kinds of painting.


One of Hopper’s teachers was Robert Henri, a famous American painter in the early twentieth century. Henri was a leader of a group of artists who called themselves the Ashcan School painters. The Ashcan artists liked to paint normal people and objects in realistic ways. Henri once expressed his ideas about painting this way: “Paint what you feel. Paint what you see. Paint what is real to you.”

Edward Hopper agreed with many of these ideas about art. He told people that Henri was his most important teacher.


Hopper studied with Henri in New York City for six years. During those years, Hopper dreamed of going to Europe. Many painters there were making pictures in ways no one had ever seen before. Many of them had begun to paint pictures they called “abstract.” The artists liked to say these works were about ideas rather than things that existed in the real world. Their paintings did not try to show people and objects that looked like the ones in real life. Most American artists spent time in Europe. Then they returned to the United States to paint in this new way.


With help from his parents, Hopper finally traveled to Europe in nineteen-oh-six. He lived in Paris, France for several months. He returned again in nineteen-oh-nine and nineteen-ten.

Unlike many other people, however, Hopper was not strongly influenced by the new, abstract styles he found there. “Paris had no great or immediate impact on me,” he once said. At the end of these travels, he decided that he liked the realistic methods he had learned from Robert Henri.



When Edward Hopper returned from Paris for the last time, he moved into a small apartment in the Greenwich Village area of New York City. He took a job making prints and paintings for businesses. However, the paintings he made outside of his job were not helping him earn money or recognition. He had a show of his work at a gallery in New York. However, most people were not interested in his simple, realistic style. Very few people bought his paintings.


Things began to improve in nineteen twenty-three. He began a love relationship with an artist named Jo Nivison. Soon they married. His wife sometimes said that Edward tried to control her thoughts and actions too much. However, most people who knew them said they loved each other very much. They stayed married for the rest of their lives. Also, Jo was the model for all of the women in Hopper’s paintings.

Success in art soon followed this success in love. In nineteen twenty-four, Hopper had the second show of his paintings. This time, he sold many pictures. Finally, at age forty-three, he had enough money to quit his job painting for businesses. He could now paint what he loved. Edward and Jo bought a car and began to travel around the country to find interesting subjects to paint.



"The House by the Railroad"

Most people say that Hopper’s nineteen twenty-five painting “The House by the Railroad” was his first mature painting. This means that it was the first painting that brought together all of his important techniques and ideas.

“The House by the Railroad” shows a large, white house. The painting does not show the bottom of the house. It is blocked by railroad tracks. Cutting scenes off in surprising ways was an important part of Hopper’s style. He became famous for paintings that are mysterious, that look incomplete or that leave viewers with questions.

Shadows make many parts of the home in “The House by the Railroad” look dark. Some of the windows look like they are open, which makes the viewer wonder what is inside the house. However, only dark, empty space can be seen through the windows. Strange shadows, dark spaces, and areas with light were important parts of many Hopper paintings.

There are no people in the painting, and no evidence of other houses nearby. Hopper was famous for showing loneliness in his art. People often said that, even when there were many people in his paintings, each person seems to be alone in his or her own world.


During the great economic depression of the nineteen thirties, many people saw Hopper’s lonely, mysterious paintings of everyday subjects. They liked the pictures because they seemed to show life honestly, without trying to make it happier or prettier than it really was. As a result, Hopper continued to sell many paintings during those years, even though most Americans were very poor.



In nineteen forty-two, Hopper painted his most famous work, “Nighthawks.” The painting shows four people in an eating-place called a diner late at night. They look sad, tired, and lonely. Two of them look like they are in a love relationship. But they do not appear to be talking to each other. The dark night that surrounds them is mysterious and tense. There is no door in the painting, which makes the subjects seem like they might be trapped.

Hopper painted “Nighthawks” soon after the Japanese bomb attack against the United States at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Many people thought the painting showed the fear and unhappiness that most Americans were feeling after the attack. The painting became very famous. Today, most Americans still recognize it. The painting now hangs in a famous museum in Chicago, Illinois.


“Nighthawks” was not Edward Hopper’s only great success. In nineteen fifty, he finished a painting called “Cape Cod Morning.” It shows a brightly colored house in the country. In the middle of the painting, a woman leans on a table and looks out a window. She looks very sad. However, nothing in the painting gives any idea about why she would be sad. Today this painting hangs in a special place in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington. It is one the paintings we noted at the beginning of this program.



Edward Hopper began to struggle with his art during the nineteen fifties and sixties. He had trouble finding interesting subjects. When he did find good things to paint, he struggled to paint them well.

At the same time, the artistic community became less interested in realistic paintings. In the nineteen fifties, the Abstract Expressionist style became very popular. These artists refused to have subjects to paint. They wanted to “paint about painting” and “paint about ideas.” They thought Hopper’s style was no longer modern or important. As a result, the paintings he did complete met less success than during the earlier years.

Edward Hopper died in nineteen sixty-seven. His wife Jo died less than a year later.

Many years after his death, Hopper’s work is still popular in this country and outside America. In two thousand four, the famous Tate Art Gallery in London had a show of his paintings. This show brought the second-largest number of visitors of any show in the history of the museum. Today, people say Edward Hopper was one of the best American artists of the twentieth century.



This program was written by Sarah Randle and produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Shirley Griffith.


And I’m Doug Johnson. You can read, listen to and download this program at our Web site, Join us again next week for People in America in VOA Special English.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"An Electric Idea" from Edcon Publishing

Something you will read about: horsepower: a unit of measurement for the power of engines and motors.

A modern version of the early electric engine may be the answer to more efficient and economical cars.

John Santini, a twenty-four year old electrical engineer, disregards convention and dares to be different. What makes him stand out is the fact that he drives between his Centereach home and his Farmingdale job on Long Island each day without ever stopping for gas. There happens to be a simple explanation for this unusual practice. If John were to pull in at a gas station, the attendant would have a difficult time locating the gas tank, since there is none. Upon lifting the car's hood, the curious attendant would be in for another surprise. Instead of an engine,he would find a set of
golf-cart batteries.

John purchased an eight year old Chevrolet Corvette convertible in 1975. He decided to try something he'd always dreamed of - to convert a regular car engine to one that uses electrical energy. Keeping much of the car's original equipment, he got rid of its V -8 engine and some exhaust pipes and replaced them with eighteen golf-cart batteries. He also decided on the installation of a 24
horsepower electric motor.

The last two items, the eighteen batteries and the 24 horsepower motor, were not just lucky guesses. In order to determine how many batteries and how large a motor to use, John used a computer. An instrument on the dashboard shows him how much electricity he is consuming. He can tell very easily how many more miles he can go until the next recharge because he programmed a small computer to determine this information any time he requires it.

The concept of electrically powered cars is not a new one. Motoring history dates from the 1890's, with thousands of automobiles on the road by 1903 and auto shows being held in Europe and America.

The first national auto show, held in New York City in 1900, offered three different kinds of engines - gas, steam and electric. No one seeing these early cars would have guessed that the gas model would turn out to be the most popular. After all, the steam-powered ones were less noisy and less smelly. Of the three, the electric cars were the smoothest, quietest and easiest to operate.

One consequence of these various experiments with engines was that two early makers of buses built gas/electric models. In these Mack and Yellow Coach buses a gas engine drove a direct-current generator. The output of the generator provided electric power for the rear wheels' driving motors. But none of the very early models could have gone very fast,judging by some old laws on record, in addition to their capabilities.

In Great Britain in the 1890's, the driver of a self- propelled vehicle could not disregard the other travelers on a public highway. He had to follow a man on foot who carried a red flag to warn those on the road ahead. Things really moved along, however, and in 1896 the speed limit was raised to 14 miles per hour. By 1904, British motorists were permitted to zoom at the dizzying speed of 20 miles per hour!

As a consequence of design changes, such as putting the engine in front, the speed of gas-powered cars grew. And so did their sales. With their massive hoods and exposed levers, shafts and chains, these models were built to express power and speed: Their looks appealed mainly to young men of the "sporty set" while electric cars were used mostly by women.

In fact, the early electric cars (except for commercial vehicles like delivery vans and milk trucks) were purposely given a feminine look. Curtains were made for the windows and the seats were covered in brocade or other fine fabrics. Still another dainty touch was the installation of flower vases.

As the popularity of gas-powered cars increased, that of electrically powered ones declined. Why have the electrics failed to catch on? In 1972 Jerry Flint, a New York Times reporter wrote, "Engineers have so far been unable to find a relatively inexpensive power source that will give a car the speed and range needed." He wrote that experiments to convert gas to electric models has continued because the energy crisis which spurred research for alternate sources of power has affected transportation as well. The U.S. Postal Service, for instance, has ordered 600 electric jeeps from American Motors for mail delivery. In four European countries, new electric models have been used since 1977. In addition to the energy crisis as a motive to switch to electric cars, the matter of air pollution was another factor for the change.

In Sweden, two Volvos, a 13 horsepower two-seater and an 11 horsepower four-seater, are being test driven. Powered by regular six-volt lead batteries which are mounted on a slideout container, these Volvos reach top speed of 43.5 m.p.h.

In Italy, an experimental car, shaped like a teardrop, is being tried out. Called the X 1/23, this 1,800 pound car uses nickel-zinc batteries. These have nearly twice the capacity of lead·acid batteries and give the car a top speed of 47 m.p.h. The 370 pound 105 volt battery pack is stored at the rear of the car for easy handling. Its major shortcoming IS that of all the electric cars - a limited range. This one is restricted to a 45 mile travel range before needing a recharge.

Among the latest of European electrics is the EVR- , produced by Electraction Ltd. of England. It looks like a cross between a car and a light truck and its range is restricted to 50 miles on a charge. Its front mounted 7.5 horsepower motor produces a top speed of 30 m.p.h.

For those who, unlike John Santini, are unable to convert their gas - powered cars and would like to own an electric car, PILCAR of Switzerland has a plastic-bodied hatchback available. The manufacturer claims that its lead-acid batteries have a 28% greater capacity than the standard ones and that a special form of braking charges the batteries as the car slows down. The rear mounted 22 horsepower motor gives this PILCAR a 55 m.p.h. top speed. Good news in the range department, too. It is not quite as limited as most other electrics and goes 70 miles on a charge.

John Santini's used Corvette originally cost him $2,100. The 24 horsepower electric motor he installed cost $2,600. He figures this goodlooking sports car to be worth about $9,000. It performs very well, having had only one breakdown caused by a loose cable which he himself forgot to connect. It can go 50 miles between recharges in any ordinary 120-volt outlet. He is quite satisfied with the car's maximum speed of 61 m.p.h.

On a typical weekday morning, John noiselessly pulls into the parking lot of his Farmingdale company and heads for his own special spot. Although his Corvette is equipped with its own 140-foot extension cord, he doesn't use it. He takes the one waiting at his parking spot instead. This he connects to his own car, recharging it for the trip home.

As we watch him going through these motions, a thought crosses our minds. Are we witnessing the actions of a young man who is daringly different? Or are we getting a glimpse of something all of us will be doing in the not-too distant future?

1. John Santini's car has no _____
a. electric motor.
b. batteries.
c. gas tank.
d. hood.

2. Motoring history dates from _____
a. 1903.
b. the 20th Century.
c. after 1910.
d. the 1890's.

3. The first national auto show offered _____
a. three different kinds of motors.
b. four different kinds of motors.
c. plastic bodies.
d. high-speed racers.

4. Of the engines offered, the smoothest, quietest and easiest to operate was the ___
a. electric.
b. steam.
c. gasoline.
d. solar.

5. Design changes in the gas powered cars, such as putting the engine in front, caused an increase in______
a. speed and accidents.
b. speed and sales.
c. safety.
d. prices.

6. Four European countries tried new electric model jeeps before _____
a. John Santini bought his used Chevrolet.
b. electric cars were given a feminine look.
c. Italy tried out an experimental teardrop shaped car.
d. Jerry Flint wrote his New York Times article.

7. John Santini's actions are considered _______
a. usual.
b. ordinary.
c. extraordinary.
d. typical.

8. John Santini probably has the least interest in the location of _____
a. his home in Centereach.
b. gasoline stations.
c. his Farmingdale company.
d. auto parts stores.

9. Another name for this selection could be ______
a. "The Future of the Electric Car."
b. "John Santini's Car."
c. "The Speed of Electric Cars."
d. "The Shortages of Gasoline."

10. This story is mainly about ________
a. the possibility of a steam car becoming popular.
b. the possibility of the gasoline car becoming popular.
c. the possibility of electric cars becoming popular.
d. the manufacturing of electric cars in the United States.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Eleanor Creesy: She Guided One of the Fastest Sailing Ships. From VOA.


I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today, we tell about Eleanor Creesy. She helped to guide one of the fastest sailing ships ever built.



The name Eleanor Creesy is almost unknown today. But in the middle eighteen hundreds she was a famous woman. Those were the days of wooden sailing ships. It was a time before ships had engines. Cloth sails were used to catch the wind to move a ship through the water.

A ship that sailed from New York to San Francisco had to travel around the bottom of South America. Such a trip could take two hundred days to complete. Not all ships completed the trip. The high winds and angry seas in this area of the world created deadly storms. Ships often sank. No one could survive the freezing waters in this dangerous area if the ship went down.


One hundred fifty years ago, women did not receive much education. Most women were expected to learn to read and write. But they almost never held positions of great responsibility.

Eleanor Creesy was different. She was the navigator for a ship. A navigator is responsible for guiding a ship safely from one port to another.

Eleanor's father taught her to navigate. She wanted to learn this difficult skill because she liked the mathematics involved. A navigator also had to know how to use a complex instrument called a sextant. It was used to gather information about the sun, moon, and some stars to find a ship's position at sea.

Eleanor married a captain of a ship, Josiah Perkins Creesy, in eighteen forty-one. It was not unusual for a ship captain to take his wife with him on long trips. A captain's wife often acted as a nurse, which Eleanor did. But she did a lot more. Josiah Creesy quickly learned that his wife was an extremely good navigator.

Eleanor was the navigator on each ship that Josiah commanded during all their years at sea. They were husband and wife, but they also enjoyed working together.


Eleanor and Josiah Creesy are forever linked to one of the most famous ships in American history. That ship is the Flying Cloud. It was designed and built at the shipyard of Donald McKay in the eastern city of Boston. Grinell, Minturn and Company bought it. Captain Creesy worked for Grinell, Minturn. Company officials chose him to be the captain of the new ship.

The Flying Cloud was a new kind of ship. The front was very narrow and sharp. This helped it cut through the water. The ship itself was narrow and long. This also added to its speed. A New York newspaper wrote a story about the ship when it was new. The paper said it was extremely beautiful. The world soon learned it was one of the fastest sailing ships ever built.

The large number of sails the Flying Cloud could carry increased the speed of the ship. It usually carried at least twenty-one large sails. The crew often added many more to increase the speed.


It was the second day of June, eighteen fifty-one. Goods and passengers had been loaded on the Flying Cloud. The ship quietly sailed out of New York City on its way to San Francisco.

Very quickly it became evident the ship was special. Part of Eleanor Creesy's work was to find out how far the ship had traveled each day. This involved doing complex mathematics and usually took Eleanor several hours. The first time she completed her work, she could not believe the results. She did the mathematics again, carefully looking for mistakes. There were none.

The ship had traveled almost four hundred eighty kilometers in twenty-four hours. This was an extremely fast speed. Few ships had ever sailed this fast.


The captain of a ship keeps a written record of each day's events when a ship is at sea. This record is called a ship's log. On May fifteenth, just seventeen days after leaving New York, Captain Creesy wrote this in the Flying Cloud's log:

"We have passed the Equator in two days less time than ever before. We have traveled five thousand nine hundred and nine kilometers in seventeen days!"

As the Flying Cloud sailed south, each day was extremely exciting. As it neared the South Atlantic, however, storms began to cause great concern.

For Eleanor Creesy to learn the correct position of the ship each day, she had to be able to see the sun, the moon or stars. This was impossible when the ship entered an area of storms. It was then that her greatest skill as a navigator became extremely important.


When bad weather prevented navigators from seeing the sun, moon or stars, they had to use a method called "dead reckoning" to find the ship's position.

Dead reckoning is not exact. A navigator would take the last known position of the ship, then add the ship's speed. The navigator also had to add any movement of the ship to the side caused by waves or the wind. But this information was only a guess. Even a good navigator could be wrong by many kilometers.

If a ship was sailing in the middle of the ocean, a navigator could make mistakes using dead reckoning and no harm would be done. However, when a ship was near land, dead reckoning became extremely dangerous. The ship might be much closer to land than the navigator knew. In a storm, the ship could be driven on to land and severely damaged or sunk. Using dead reckoning near the southern most area of South America called for an expert.

The Flying Cloud was near land at the end of the South American continent. Eleanor Creesy used all her skill to find a safe path for the huge ship.


Captain Creesy was responsible for the safety of the Flying Cloud, the passengers and crew. He would be blamed for any serious accident. Most captains did their own navigating. Perhaps no other captain sailing at that time would think to have a woman do this extremely important work. However, Josiah Creesy never questioned his wife's sailing directions.

He would often stand on the deck of his ship, in the cold rain and fierce winds. He would shout below to Missus Creesy and ask for a new sailing direction. She would quickly do the work required for a new dead reckoning direction and pass the information to her husband. Captain Creesy would give the orders to turn the big ship.


The storm began to grow. The crew put out the fires used for heat and cooking. Fire was a great danger at sea. No fires were ever permitted on a ship during a storm. Not even lamps were lit. Everyone ate cold food. The temperatures were now near freezing.

Hour after hour Eleanor Creesy worked to find the ship's dead reckoning position.

When the storm ended, the crew of the Flying Cloud could see the very southern coast of South America -- a place called Tierra del Fuego. They could see the snow-covered mountains and huge amounts of blue ice. It was an area of deadly beauty. And, it was only eight kilometers away. Eleanor Creesy had guided the ship perfectly.



The Flying Cloud sailed north toward San Francisco traveling at speeds no one thought possible. On July thirty-first, the ship traveled six hundred and one kilometers in only twenty-four hours. No ship had ever sailed that far in one day. The Flying Cloud had set a world record. That record belonged to the ship, the crew, the captain and the navigator.

On August thirty-first, the Flying Cloud sailed into San Francisco Bay. The Flying Cloud had set a record for sailing from New York to San Francisco. It made the trip in eighty-nine days, and twenty-one hours. Newspapers across the country spread the news. Josiah and Eleanor Creesy were famous. Newspapers wrote stories about them and their beautiful ship. People wanted to meet them. But soon the two were back at sea.Two years later Captain Creesy and his wife again took the Flying Cloud from New York to San Francisco.

This time they made the trip in eighty-nine days, eight hours. This record would stand unbroken for more than one hundred years.


Josiah and Eleanor Creesy went on to sail in other ships. They continued to work as a team until they left the sea in eighteen sixty-four. They retired to their home in Massachusetts.

Captain Josiah Creesy died in June of eighteen seventy-one. His wife lived until the beginning of the new century. She died at the age of eighty-five, in August of nineteen hundred.

Eleanor Creesy is remembered by anyone who loves the history of the sea. She is honored for her great skill as navigator of the Flying Cloud, one of the fastest sailing ships the world has ever seen.



This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Steve Ember.


And I'm Shirley Griffith. You can read scripts and download audio on our Web site, Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

1. Eleanor Creesy's main contribution was as a __________
a. seamstress.
b. housewife.
c. navigator.
d. nurse.

2. In the eighteen hundreds, ships ran by __________
a. steam engines.
b. cloth sails.
c. propellers.
d. heavenly guidance.

3. The Creesy's ship was called the __________
a. "Indomitable."
b. "San Francisco Bound."
c. "Tierra del Fuego."
d. "Flying Cloud."

4. The sailors used more sails to increase the ship's __________
a. weight.
b. speed.
c. endurance.
d. safety.

5. A navigator must have a good understanding of __________
a. astronomy.
b. physics.
c. geography.
d. mathematics.

6. The trip from New York to San Francisco usually took around __________
a. 6 months.
b. two years.
c. 2 months.
d. thirty days.

7. When weather prevented the navigator from using the sun and moon, she relied on a method called "__________"
a. women's intuition.
b. the sextant.
c. dead reckoning.
d. guess work.

8. The Creesys set a world record for the journey from New York to San Francisco __________
a. on their first trip.
b. on their second trip.
c. on a new ship.
d. after they retired.

9. Another name for this story could be __________
a. "The Dangers of Sailing."
b. "The First Woman Navigator."
c. "San Francisco Bay in 1800."
d. "The Life of Josiah Creesy."

10. This story is mainly about __________
a. a fast ship.
b. a great sea captain.
c. a woman with a unique skill.
d. a perilous sea journey.