Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"The Lewis and Clark Expedition, Early 1800s"


This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith, with the VOA Special English program, Explorations. Today we continue our story of Lewis and Clark. Their exploration in the early 1800s led to the opening of the American West.


Last week we told how President Thomas Jefferson suggested the trip to his private secretary Meriwether Lewis. The president said Lewis and a group of men should travel northwest up the Missouri River as far as possible and then continue west to the Pacific Ocean. The explorers were to report about the land, people, animals and plants they found.

Lewis asked his friend William Clark to join the group. Clark accepted and the two men agreed to act as equal leaders of the group they named the Corps of Discovery. Their trip began on May fourteenth, 1804.


It was one hundred sixty-four days into the trip. Lewis and Clark had traveled about 2,420 kilometers when they were stopped by the cold winter weather. They named their winter home Fort Mandan. Mandan was the name of an Indian tribe that lived nearby.

At Fort Mandan, Lewis and Clark met French Canadian hunter Toussaint Charbonneau. He was living with the Indians. He asked to join the Corps of Discovery. He also asked if his Indian wife could come too. Her name was Sacagawea. She was pregnant. Lewis and Clark agreed to let them join their group for two reasons. The first was that Charbonneau spoke several Indian languages. The second concerned Sacagawea. She came from the Shoshoni tribe that lived near the Rocky Mountains in the far West.

She had been captured as a young girl by another Indian tribe. Lewis and Clark knew that no Indian war group ever traveled with women. They knew that Sacagawea's presence with them would show Indians that the Corps of Discovery did not want to fight. Sacagawea gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, on February eleventh, 1805. The baby, too, would make the long trip to the Pacific Ocean. He was the youngest member of the Corps of Discovery.

In early April, the Corps of Discovery prepared to travel west. The smaller group of soldiers that had aided them during their trip to Fort Mandan prepared to return south to Saint Louis. The soldiers took the larger of the three boats the group had used to follow the Missouri River. They also took Lewis and Clark's first maps, animals, plants and reports to President Jefferson. These reports provided much detail about the land and what was on it. For example, Lewis used more than one thousand words to tell about one bird.

Today, visitors to President Jefferson's home in the southeastern state of Virginia can see many things collected by Lewis and Clark. Animal heads and weapons made by the Mandan Indian tribe are among them.


The Corps of Discovery again moved up the Missouri River as soon as the warm weather of spring began to return. Lewis wrote of seeing thousands of animals: American bison, deer, huge elk and very fast antelope. Lewis saw thousands of animals all feeding together.

Lewis and Clark soon decided to leave behind important information, plants and things collected from Indians. They were having problems carrying everything they were gathering. They also decided to leave extra food behind. They did this by digging a deep hole and burying everything to protect it from animals. They would do this again and again on their way west. They would collect everything on their return trip.

The explorers soon reached an area where a series of waterfalls blocked passage on the river. This area is near the modern city of Great Falls, Montana. Here, the Corps of Discovery pulled the boats from the water and took them over land to the river. They carried the boats almost thirty kilometers. To make the trip easier, they made wooden wheels for their boats. Later they buried the wheels with more food and things they had collected.

On July twenty-fifth, 1805, Meriwether Lewis and two other men saw a small river that was flowing to the west. All rivers before had flowed east or southeast. Lewis correctly guessed he had reached the line that divides the North American continent. Rain falling to the west of the imaginary line becomes rivers that flow to the Pacific Ocean.

Rain that falls to the east of the line forms rivers that flow to the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Meriwether Lewis became the first American to cross this continental line. At that point, Lewis could tell from the huge mountains he saw ahead that they would find no waterway across the continent. A lot of the trip would have to be over land.

Meriwether Lewis met two Shoshoni Indian women in this same area. About sixty men from the tribe quickly arrived riding horses. They were dressed and painted for war. It was something that few white men ever saw -- a Shoshoni war party prepared to fight. Lewis made peace signs. There was no trouble.

Two days later, Clark arrived with the main group. The Corps of Discovery met with the Indians. At the meeting, Sacagawea began to cry as she looked at the Shoshoni chief, Cameahwait. Cameahwait was her brother. She had not seen him since she was kidnapped many years before.

Lewis and Clark could communicate with the Shoshoni Indians.

But it was not easy. Sacagawea would listen to the Shoshoni. She would then speak to her husband, Charbonneau, in the Hidatsa language. He would speak in French to a soldier in the group, Francis Labiche, who then spoke in English to Lewis. It took a long time, but it worked.

The Corps of Discovery decided to leave the boats and continue west on horses. Sacagawea helped Lewis and Clark trade for horses. She also helped them find an Indian guide to lead them. His name was Toby. It was already the month of September when they reached the high mountains. It was also extremely cold. The explorers began to suffer from a severe lack of food. They were forced to kill and eat several of their horses.

In October they found the huge Columbia River. High winds and rain slowed the group's progress. On November seventh, they reached the Pacific Ocean. Clark recorded that five hundred fifty-four days had passed since they left their camp at Wood River near Saint Louis. They had traveled six thousand six hundred forty-eight kilometers.

For several days the Corps of Discovery camped in an area that is now the extreme southern part of the state of Washington. But the hunting was poor. Indians told them the hunting would be better across the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark decided to hold a vote and let the Corps of Discovery decide. The Corps of Discovery voted to move south across the river into what is now the state of Oregon.

William Clark's black slave York and the Indian guide Sacagawea were included in the vote. History experts say this was the first free, democratic election west of the Rocky Mountains. And they say it was the first time in American history that a black slave and a woman voted in a free election.

The explorers quickly built a camp of wooden buildings on the Columbia River. They would stay there during the winter months between 1805 and 1806. They named the buildings Fort Clatsop. "Clatsop" was the name of a nearby group of friendly Indians. The area of Fort Clatsop is very near the present city of Astoria, Oregon. Visitors to that area today can walk through a copy of Fort Clatsop that was built in 1955.

The group stayed at Fort Clatsop for four months. It rained all but twelve days. During the long winter months, the explorers hunted and preserved food. They used animal skins to make new clothes and shoes. They also studied the Indians, fish, animals and lands near the area of the fort. Clark made extremely good maps of the area. Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the other members of the Corps of Discovery were prepared for their return trip to Saint Louis. That
will be our story next time.

You have been listening to the Special English program, Explorations. This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith. Our program today was written and produced by Paul Thompson. Join us again next week on the Voice of America as we finish our story of Lewis and Clark and the land they explored.


1. Toussaint Charbonneau ___________________ .
a: disliked The Corps of Discovery
b: was a French Canadian Soldier
c: was married to an Indian woman
d: spoke only a little of the Hidatsa language

2. The youngest member of The Corps of Discovery was ____________________________ .
a: William Clark
b: Jean Baptiste Charbonneau
c: Meriwether Lewis
d: Sacagawea

3. The Columbia River flows _____________________________ .
a: to The Pacific Ocean
b: to The Gulf of Mexico
c: to The Atlantic Ocean
d: to The Great Lakes

4. Sacagawea _____________________ .
a: slowed down the expedition
b: took the expedition in the wrong direction
c: learned to speak fluent English
d: was very important to the expedition

5. At Fort Mandan, a group of soldiers returned to Saint Louis because ____________________.
a: they were exhausted and not strong enough to continue
b: they had a conflict with Lewis and Clark
c: they had to take reports, plants, and maps back to President Jefferson
d: they were needed in order to fight a war with the English

6. When Meriwether Lewis saw huge mountains west of the falls, he realized that ________________________ .
a: the rest of the journey would be impossible
b: he would find no waterway across the continent
c: he would need to build stronger and larger boats
d: he would have to take a long detour south using other rivers

7. Sacagewea's presence in the expedition made wars with different Indian tribes __________________ .
a: more likely
b: less likely
c: neither more likely nor less likely
d: almost certain

8. Cameahwait was _________________ .
a: able to speak fluent French
b: a member of the Mandan tribe
c: Jean Baptiste Charbonneau's uncle
d: a member of the Corps of Discovery

9. Another name for this article could be "________________".
a: "Sacagawea Leads The Corps of Discovery"
b: "The Discovery of The Continental Divide"
c: "Lewis and Clark Expedition: Fort Mandan to Oregon"
d: " Meeting Sacagawea's Long Lost Relatives"

10. This article is mainly about _________________ .
a: The Corps of Discovery's journey to the Pacific Ocean
b: the search for a waterway extending across the continent
c: the rich culture and scenery along the Columbia River
d: Sacagawea's invaluable contribution to the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition

Lewis and Clark: Introduction
Lewis and Clark Expedition: Part Two

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Project Mercury: The Space Program Begins" from VOA.

EXPLORATIONS -- a program in Special English by the Voice of America.

(SOUND) "... 12, 11, 10, 9, ..., 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0. ..."

That announcement was made May 5, 1961. It was the first manned flight of project Mercury. Today, Tony Riggs and Larry West tell about the beginning of the United States space program that carried humans into space.

The United States entered the Space Age in 1945, at the end of World War Two. German rocket scientists, with the support of the German government, had spent fifteen years developing rockets as weapons. Near the end of the war, Germany began firing huge rocket bombs at Britain.

Called V-2 rockets, the German weapons carried a ton of explosives three hundred twenty kilometers. They flew as high as eighty kilometers.

When the war ended, American forces found the parts for about one hundred V-2 rockets. They brought the German rockets to America and launched sixty-six of them.

The army opened the V-2 launch program to American scientists at several universities. Civilian scientists used the V-2 rockets to study the Earth's atmosphere. They gathered much new information and learned much about designing instruments for scientific rockets and satellites.

Many of Germany's top rocket scientists came to the United States after the war. They worked with American scientists and engineers to develop and test new rockets for military and scientific use. In 1956, the United States launched a Jupiter military rocket that flew more than five thousand kilometers.

Military officials immediately offered to use the Jupiter to put a scientific satellite into orbit around the Earth. But the American government said no. Officials decided not to mix military and civilian rocket programs. The United States said it would not launch a scientific satellite until a non-military rocket -- the Vanguard -- could be completed to carry it into space.

Navy scientists were building the Vanguard for scientific purposes. They planned to launch it in 1958.

The twenty-two meter long rocket would put a little scientific satellite into orbit as one of the events of the international geophysical year. The satellite itself would weigh less than two kilograms. But it would contain many tiny electronic instruments for scientific research.


Soviet scientists also were working on rockets and satellites.

In 1957, a Soviet military rocket carried a small satellite into Earth orbit. The eighty-three kilogram satellite, called Sputnik, had two radios that sent signals as it circled the world. One month later, a larger Sputnik was launched with a dog inside. The dog survived the launch. But there was no way to return it to Earth. So it died in space.

A few months later, the Soviet Union put a one thousand three hundred sixty kilogram satellite into space.

The Soviet successes with its Sputnik satellites caused the United States to change its space plans. Officials decided to launch the Vanguard as soon as possible.

The attempt was made on December sixth, soon after the first two Sputnik launches. The attempt failed. The rocket exploded during the launch. Less than two months later, however, the United States put its first satellite into orbit.

The rocket was an army Jupiter. The satellite was Explorer One. It weighed only fourteen kilograms. But it carried a great many electronic instruments for scientific research.


The instruments reported much new information about conditions in space. The most important was the discovery of a belt of radiation around the Earth. It was what we now call the Van Allen Belt.

Support was growing, in Congress and among scientists, for a United States civilian space agency. Soon, Congress passed a bill creating NASA -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. President Eisenhower signed the bill into law.

Its job: the scientific exploration of space. Its major goal: sending the first Americans into space.

The new space agency was given a lot of money and thousands of engineers and technicians from military and civilian agencies. Within three months, the man-in-space program had a name: Project Mercury. The name came from the ancient Greeks. Mercury was the speedy messenger of the Greek gods.

Much work had to be done before Project Mercury could put an American astronaut into space. Dependable rockets needed to be built and tested. A spacecraft had to be designed and built. A worldwide radio system was needed to communicate with orbiting astronauts. And astronauts had to be chosen and trained.


To save time, NASA decided to work on all parts of the program at the same time. It placed orders for four different kinds of military rockets for Mercury flights. It chose the McDonnell Aircraft Company to design and build the Mercury spacecraft. And it began to look for men who would be astronauts.

NASA said its astronaut candidates had to be between twenty-five and forty years old and in excellent health. They could be no taller than one hundred eighty centimeters. Candidates had to be highly intelligent, with an education in science or engineering.

NASA also said the first astronauts had to be military pilots with experience in test flying airplanes. Test pilots already were trained to make quick, correct decisions in dangerous situations.

One observer said in a joking way that the space agency was just looking for a group of "normal, everyday supermen." But it was not a joke. NASA found seven normal, everyday supermen in a group of five hundred candidates.

On April 7, 1959, the space agency introduced the first American astronauts. They were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard and Donald Slayton.

All were married and had children. All were from small towns or cities. All were about the same height, weight and age. And all were experienced military test pilots.

Each of the new astronauts, however, brought his own special knowledge and skills to the Mercury project.

Navy pilot Scott Carpenter, for example, was well trained in communications and navigation. So he helped with Mercury's communications and navigation systems. Walter Schirra, another Navy flier, was an expert on the pressure suits worn by navy divers. He helped design the space suits that would protect the Mercury astronauts in space.

Air Force pilot Gordon Cooper became an expert on the Redstone Rocket that would launch Mercury astronauts on short training flights. Donald Slayton, another Air Force flier, worked on the long-range Atlas Rocket. Marine John Glenn was an expert on airplane instruments. So he helped design easy-to-use instruments for the Mercury spacecraft.

Navy pilot Alan Shepard helped plan Mercury's worldwide communication system. And Virgil Grissom, of the Air Force, worked on Mercury's electrical systems.


NASA made its first unmanned test flight of the Mercury spacecraft nine months after the project started. The launch was made from the space center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The flight tested the heat shield. The shield protected the spacecraft from the great heat produced when it returned through the Earth's atmosphere.

Many other unmanned test flights followed in the next two years.

The final test flight was made at the end of January, 1961. It carried a chimpanzee named Ham on a seven hundred kilometer flight over the Atlantic Ocean. Several problems developed. But Ham survived the launch and the landing in the ocean. However, he never wanted to get close to a space capsule again.

Space officials announced that astronaut Alan Shepard would become the first American in space. He would be launched early in May, 1961, on a short, fifteen minute flight. That will be our story next week.


You have been listening to EXPLORATIONS -- a program in Special English by the Voice of America. It was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano and Frank Beardsley. Your narrators were Tony Riggs and Larry West. I'm Shirley Griffith. Listen again next week to the second part of the story of the Mercury program that took the first American astronauts into space.


1. A chimpanzee named Ham survived the launch of a spacecraft and its landing in the ocean. After that, he _________________________ .
a: never wanted to get close to a space capsule again
b: traveled into space several more times
c: was accompanied by a female chimp on his next flight
d: refused to leave the space capsule

2. Walter Schirra helped design space suits that would protect Mercury astronauts in space because he was an expert on __________________________ .
a: clothing worn by pilots
b: pressure suits worn by navy divers
c: outfits worn by mountain climbers
d: suits worn by workers in navy factories

3. An astronaut would not be selected if he __________________________ .
a: were under one hundred and eighty centimeters tall
b: had experience as a flier
c: were fifty years old
d: were educated in physics

4. What became known as the "Space Race" began ____________________ .
a: after the Soviets successfully launched Sputnik in 1957
b: after the first US Vanguard flight failed
c: after the first human was launched into space
d: after the German V2 rockets were used to explore Earth's atmosphere

5. None of the seven selected astronauts were ____________________ .
a: pilots
b: in good health
c: trained in science or engineering
d: single

6. What is the name of a German weapon used in World War II which subsequently was used by civilian scientists in the United States?
a: the Messerschmitt single-engine sports and touring aircraft
b: the Focke-Wulf Fw fighter biplane
c: The V-2 ballistic missile
d: The U-Boot or Unterseeboot, a fighter submarine

7. The satellite, Explorer One, _________________________ .
a: was carried into space by the first Vanguard
b: carried a dog who died in space
c: weighed only fourteen kilograms
d: didn't carry many electronic instruments

8. President Eisenhower signed a bill creating NASA, an agency whose purpose was to _____________________.
a: explore the military advantages of space exploration
b: exploit the commercial possibilities of space travel
c: make scientific discoveries and eventually send the first Americans into space
d: explore the behavior of animals in space

9. "We have liftoff" means _____________________________ .
a: We have a problem with our computer
b: Our spacecraft is leaving the ground
c: Our instrument panel has come loose
d: Our bodies are beginning to float in the air

10. The Van Allen Belt is _____________________________ .
a: a special projective belt worn by astronauts
b: a belt of radiation surrounding the earth
c: a protective shield for spacecraft leaving earth's atmosphere
d: a belt worn by the Greek God Mercury

A 1963 documentary about Project Mercury from Youtube. Challenge your listening skills with this video. You will be surprised at how much of it you can understand. There is a short ad that last for 6 seconds. To leave the ad, click on "Skip Ad".

Project Mercury: Part Two