American Frederick Cook claimed to have reached the North Pole in 1908. American Robert Peary claimed to have done so the next year. Cook’s account was widely declared unproven in 1909, and Peary became the celebrated adventurer who conquered the North Pole. But recent analyses of Peary’s journal suggest he did not actually make it.
Which means that in 1948, the Soviets became the first (confirmed) humans to reach the North Pole when they airlifted a team in.
The USSR military had extremely accurate maps of almost the entire world. This is their 1982 map of New York City, with Lower Manhattan in the upper right-hand corner, and Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the mid-left side. The map even includes the dimensions, and building materials, of the bridges.
In the 1970s, after years of tension, formal relations between the communist states of China and the USSR began to break down. Early in the decade China decided to start a “thawing” with the US government because they perceived the Soviets to be that much of a threat to China’s security. By 1976, China and the USSR had no diplomatic communications. An armed conflict was feared. And then China was hit with one of the deadliest earthquakes in history.
Called the Tangshan Earthquake, it started at 3:24 am on July 28. Most of the buildings in the city of Tangshan collapsed. At least 240,000 people were killed and many more injured. Many of the survivors from Tangshan and the surrounding towns immediately thought it was the dreaded Soviet attack, and it made sense: Tangshan was an industrial city, an obvious military target. Plus, shortly before the earthquake, survivors reported that they could see big flashes of light in the sky. Although those flashes were an obscure natural phenomenon, “earthquake lights,” it was reasonable to think they were caused by a nuclear explosion.
Although the earthquake was not the result of a nuclear bomb, it had the power of one. It is estimated that the event released the same energy as 400 Hiroshima atomic bombs.