Friday, April 27, 2012

Trivia and Fun Facts: Of Abyssinia, Ethiopia and Ethiopians ... In Their Eyes




Ethiopia has a very long history – one of the longest in the world. Ethiopians know that. But there are some non-Ethiopians out there that have gotten an insight into that history, have actually liked it so much and have even gone on to name things and animals after Ethiopia, Abyssinia or someplace related to Ethiopia.
Here are some trivia and fun facts; more will be added upon discovery:

SS Abyssinia 

The SS Abyssinia was an English mail liner. It was launched in 1870 and was originally the property of Cunard Line, a leading operator of passenger ships that plied the North Atlantic waters for over century (and is still in operation). Among its substantial fleet was the RMS Carpathia that became famous for rescuing survivors from the ill-fated Titanic.

SS Abyssinia, Vancouver harbor - 1887
SS Abyssinia, Vancouver harbor - June, 1887

The SS Abyssinia was sailing from New York to Liverpool when its cargo of cotton caught fire off the coast of Newfoundland at 12:40 PM on December 18th, 1891.   Captain G.S. Murray ordered the ship to be abandoned when it became obvious that they couldn’t put the fire out. All passengers and crew were moved on to another liner that had spotted the fire, the Spree, by 4:15 PM.

SS Abyssinia sunk shortly after.

HMS Abyssinia 

The HMS Abyssinia was a boat that was built specifically to defend Bombay (Mumbai) harbor which was then in British India. She too was launched in 1870. She was built at a cost of £116,549.

HMS Abyssinia circa. 1870
HMS Abyssinia circa. 1870


Sadly, the Abyssinia spent her entire career at anchor in Bombay harbor, apart from short trips for firing practice. She was sold as scrap when the Indian Harbor Defense Service was discontinued in 1903.

HMS Magdala 

The HMS Magdala was another ship that was built in 1870. The name was given to her to commemorate the Battle of Magdala (1867) between Abyssinian and British soldiers where Emperor Tewodros II committed suicide rather than face surrender. Ironically, the pistol he shot himself with was a present from Queen Victoria herself – the same queen that had sent the British forces to capture him.

HMS Magdala 1870

HMS Magdala was made as a companion for HMS Abyssinia and was made specifically for the defense of Bombay harbor. She cost £132,400.

She too spent her entire career at anchor in Bombay harbor except for gunnery practice. She was finally sold for scrap in 1903.

Ethiopia – The Australian Derby Champ 

One of the most prestigious derby’s in the world is the Perth Derby. Jockeys and horses alike come from all over the world to take chance at the $1.5 million purse.

Ethiopia and his Jockey Rhys McLeod

The 2012 champion was a four-year-old horse named Ethiopia. He caused a major upset by beating all the favorites, who had more experience racing, after only four starts – not unlike the Ethiopian athletes that continue to upset world record holders time and time again.

Abyssinian Cat 

While Ethiopia is blessed with abundant flora and fauna, the Abyssinian cat isn’t one of them. Although the name suggests that it came from Ethiopia, it actually never did - or so they say.

An Abyssinian Cat
An Abyssinian Cat

Scientists claim to have followed the DNA of the cat and traced it to the coast of the Indian Ocean. But the first cat to be named an Abyssinian was a kitten that a British soldier brought back home when he returned from Alexandria, Egypt in 1868. The kitten’s name? … It was “Zula”. Coincidence?

For those not in the know, Zula (Zeila in Amharic) was the main port for the Axumite Empire and was a part of Ethiopia.


2 comments: