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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

September 4, 2006

This is the first Tuesday Timeline for the month of September, and I for one am excited.  I have some great topics lined up for this month, and I hope all of you will enjoy them.

September is a time for reflection, and also a time for new beginnings.  And, our subject today is one that does both.  We’ll reflect on the contributions this person did, as well as the new beginnings that took place after this person departed this world.

So, by now, I suppose you have figured out that today’s Tuesday Timeline will focus on an individual who has passed away.  But before we speak of the dead, we should take a look at the living, and start this discussion by listing some famous faces celebrating a birthday today.

Celebrating a birthday this fourth day of September are Bert Olmstead, Mitzi Gaynor, Dawn Fraser, Merald “Bubba” Knight, Jennifer Salt, Ron Ward, Gary Duncan (Quicksilver Messenger Service), Martin Chambers (The Pretenders), Judith Ivey, Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.), Khandi Alexander, Dr. Drew Pinsky, George Hurley (Minutemen), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Damon Wayans, Kevin Kennedy, Sam Yaffa (New York Dolls), Jeff Tremaine, John DiMaggio, Mike Piazza, Phill Lewis, Kristen Wilson, Ione Skye, Jason David Frank, Carmit Bachar (The Pussycat Dolls), Kai Owen, Wes Bentley, Beyonce Knowles, and Whitney Cummings.

And here are some of the historical events for today.

1666 – The most destructive day of the Great Fire of 1666 in London, England

1774 – During the second voyage of Captain James Cook, Europeans discover New Caledonia

1781 – 44 Spanish settlers found the city that would come to be known as Los Angeles, California

1812 – The Siege of Fort Harrison begins when the fort is set ablaze during the War of 1812

1870 – Napoleon III is deposed, and the Third Republic is declared in France

1884 – The United Kingdom ends its policy of penal transportation to Australia

1888 – George Eastman receives a patent for a camera that uses roll film, and trademarks the brand name “Kodak”

1923 – The first flight of the first American airship, the USS Shenandoah takes place

1944 – Finland exits from combat in World War II along with the Soviet Union

1948 – Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands abdicates throne due to illness

1949 – The Peekskill riots occur following a concert by Paul Robeson

1950 – The first NASCAR race takes place at Darlington Raceway

1956 – The first commercial computer to utilize magnetic disk storage, the IBM RAMAC 305 is introduced to the public

1957 – Ford Motors introduces the Edsel

1963 – Swissair Flight 306 crashes in Switzerland, killing all 80 people aboard

1967 – Operation Swift begins during Vietnam War

1972 – Mark Spitz becomes the first person to win seven Olympic medals at a single Olympic Games

1977 – Golden Dragon Massacre takes place in San Francisco, California

1998 – Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two students at Stanford University, create the popular search engine Google

2010 – A powerful 7.1 earthquake strikes New Zealand, causing widespread damage and power outages

That’s a lot of history to digest isn’t it?  Well, there’s one more section that I want to talk about as well.  There were quite a few public figures that passed away on September 4.  Dottie West passed away on September 4, 1991.  Herve Villachaize died on September 4, 1993.

And today’s blog subject ended up passing away on September 4, 2006.

Six years ago, we lost someone who was a real champion for wildlife conservation.  For years, he dedicated his whole life to studying animals, as well as leading the fight to protect animals and their natural habitats.  In his later years, he developed several television programs and specials, while serving as an ambassador for tourism in his native Australia.  His death on September 4, 2006 at the age of 44 was one of the most shocking deaths that year, and when the news was released, some websites in Australia actually crashed because they could not handle the amount of traffic that flowed in the days after he died.

Today’s blog topic is all about Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter”.

It seems hard to believe that had he not been fatally attacked by a stingray that fateful September day, he would be fifty years old today.  I can remember being completely blown away by him.  When I was in my late teens, I watched his show on the Discovery Channel all the time.  I don’t know whether it was his larger than life personality, his dedication towards wildlife, or the fearlessness he displayed each time he picked up a snake with his bare hands, I loved his shows.

Apparently, so did everyone else at my former university campus, as we even created a Crocodile Hunter drinking game.  Of course, with everyone taking a swig of alcohol each time Steve Irwin said “Crikey!”, none of us stayed sober for very long!  J

Stephen Robert Irwin was born on February 22, 1962 to Lyn and Bob Irwin just outside of Melbourne, Australia.  Interestingly enough, he was born on his mother’s birthday!  Right from an early age, Steve was destined to pursue a career involving zoology.  After all, when you consider that he described his father as a wildlife expert, and his mother was a wildlife rehabilitator, it was already in his blood.  For Steve’s sixth birthday, he received a gift of a 12-foot long python! 

By the time his family relocated to Queensland when Steve was ten, Steve was already dedicating his life towards animals.  His family opened up the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park which allowed Steve to have many adventures that most boys only dreamed of.  He wrestled his first crocodile at the age of nine (under his father’s supervision), and volunteered in Queensland’s East Coast Crocodile Management Program where he captured at least one hundred crocodiles, of which many were relocated.

Steve’s family ran the reptile and fauna park until 1991, when the then 29-year-old Irwin took over the management.  In 1992, he changed the name of the park to “Australia Zoo”, and twenty years later, the park still holds that name.

It was right around the time that Steve Irwin took over management of the park that he ended up meeting the woman that would eventually become his wife.  In 1991, Steve met Terri Raines, an American who was visiting Australia at the time.  For Terri and Steve, it was love at first sight, and just four months later, the couple got engaged, marrying in Terri’s hometown of Eugene, Oregon in June 1992.

Now, you would think that most people when they go on a honeymoon, they would end up seeing sights, visiting national landmarks, and various...well...indoor recreational activities.  Would you like to know what Steve and Terri Irwin did on their honeymoon?  They trapped crocodiles together!  In fact, the footage that the couple filmed while they were trapping crocodiles together ended up being spliced together to create the pilot episode of the television series that made Steve and Terri Irwin stars!

“The Crocodile Hunter” debuted in Australia in 1996, and followed suit in North America the following year, and the show featured Steve Irwin observing creatures in their natural habitats and picking up various creatures.  Filming the show could be risky, particularly since Steve often had the penchant of handling the most dangerous and deadly animals in the world.  However, the formula worked, and his show exploded in popularity.  By 2000, “The Crocodile Hunter” was airing in 130 countries, and an estimated 500 million people had seen at least one episode of the series.  The show aired for seven years, concluding its run in December 2004.

Steve and Terri Irwin also continued to run the Australia Zoo during the filming of the series, and in July 1998, the pair became first-time parents when their daughter, Bindi Sue Irwin was born.

TRIVIA:  The name Bindi Sue came from a couple of animals that were living at the Australian Zoo at the time she was born.  The “Bindi” came from the name of a saltwater crocodile, and the “Sue” came from a Staffordshire bull terrier.

A second child, Robert “Bob” Clarence Irwin was born in December 2003.  You might remember Bob from an incident in January 2004 where Steve Irwin held him in his arms while feeding a crocodile, which caused quite the outrage from child welfare and animal rights groups.  Despite the controversy, Steve and Terri maintained that they would never put their children in harm’s way intentionally, and no charges were laid.

“The Crocodile Hunter” was the program that put Steve Irwin on the map, but it was far from being his only contribution to the world of entertainment.  He made frequent guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, he presented a documentary entitled “The Ten Deadliest Snakes in the World”, appeared on a Wiggles video, and in 2001 acted in a cameo role in the film, “Dr. Doolittle 2”.

And, in 2002, Steve Irwin appeared in his very own feature film loosely based on “The Crocodile Hunter” series entitled, “The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course”.  The film didn’t exactly get the best reviews, but it did make double its budget at the box office, and won a Young Artist Award for Best Family Feature Film.  Take a look at the trailer for the film below, if you like.

Steve Irwin was also involved in several media campaigns.  In most cases, he appeared in advertisements promoting Australian tourism, but he also lent his name to some more high-profile causes.  He was a key figure for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to raise awareness of Australia’s strict quarantine and customs regulations.  He was also a huge public figure in the conservation of the environment and protection of wildlife sanctuaries. 

And, did you know that Steve Irwin actually has a couple of animal species named after him?  In 1997, a species of turtle was discovered by Irwin while he was on a fishing trip with his father.  He was given the honour of naming the species, and he decided to name it Irwin’s Turtle (Elseya irwini), after his family’s name.  In 2009, three years after Irwin’s death, a species of air-breathing land snail was posthumously named after Irwin (Crikey steveirwini).

It’s been six years since Steve Irwin passed away, but his legacy continues to live on.  His widow, Terri, continues to manage the Australia Zoo, and in 2006 was made an honourary Member of the Order of Australia for her services to the wildlife and tourism industries.  Terri officially became a citizen of Australia in 2009 as a tribute to her late husband, and has essentially taken over where Steve left off.

Even Steve’s children have followed in their father’s footsteps.  At the time that Steve Irwin was killed, he was filming footage to be used in a show that his daughter Bindi would be presenting for Discovery Kids (did I mention that at the time of Steve’s death, Bindi was just eight years old?).  That show would come to be known as “Bindi the Jungle Girl”, and ran from June 2007 until May 2008.  Her work on the program helped earn the young star a Daytime Emmy Award.  At the time, Bindi was nine years old, and was the youngest person to ever win a Daytime Emmy Award.  Recently, Bindi hosted the 2012 Australian game show “Bindi’s Bootcamp”, and is currently filming the sequel to the film “Nim’s Island”, due out in 2013.

But perhaps the one television appearance that most people might remember Bindi for is the one that aired on September 20, 2006, when she delivered the eulogy in honour of her father just sixteen days after his death.  A crowd of 5,000 gathered at the Australia Zoo to hear the little girl speak, and an estimated worldwide audience of 300 million viewed the eulogy on their television sets or through online news sites.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the life of Steve Irwin than by hearing his then eight-year-old daughter talk about him.

And, that’s what happened on September 4, 2006.

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