April 12, 2012 - Russia + Exploration Day

Including Yuri's Night!

On this day in 1829, Russia's czar Nicholas I asked German explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt to study the previously uncharted regions of Siberia. Among other things, Humboldt took temperature measurements and noted that locations at the same latitude and altitude varied in temperature according to their distance to the ocean.

Do you think that locations in Siberia closest to the ocean had warmer or colder temperatures than locations that were far inland? (For the answer, scroll down.)

Przhevalsky's horse
On this date in 1839, Nikolai Przhevalsky was born in Russia. He grew up to become an explorer and geographer who traveled and studied regions in Siberia and in Central Asia, such as Turkestan. He described many species of animals and plants that were previously unknown to Europeans, including the only species of wild horse still alive, which is called Przhevalsky's horse.


Do you know why free-roaming horses in the U.S. (called mustangs) are not properly called “wild horses”? (For the answer, scroll down.)

And on this date in 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space! Space exploration is exciting to me—partly because there is so much more to explore up there! Perhaps the world feels that way, too, because today is celebrated as Cosmonaut's Day, International Day of Human Space Flight, and Yuri's Night. Check out this and this other post about Yuri Gagarin and celebrations of humanity's first-ever spaceflight.

Siberia inland
Oceans have a “moderating effect” on temperatures. That means that land near oceans tends to have more “medium” weather—cooler weather when it is hot inland and warmer weather when it is cold inland. In Siberia, famous for freezing cold temperatures, the coastal lands tend to be warmer.

Siberia's coast
Mustangs are sometimes called “wild horses” because they are unowned and uncontrolled, like other wild animals. However, their ancestors were domesticated horses first brought to North America by Spaniards. Therefore, the proper term for them is “feral” rather than “wild.”

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