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Catastrophe -

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(generated from captions) of the dream that was begun And so it's the final realisation by a very different set of people of seeing the world back in 1901. with a very different set of ways of the Australian immigration story, For an interactive version go to sbs.com.au/immigrationnation. Captions copyright SBS 2011 Red Bee Media Australia when you're somewhere like this It's easy to forget a series of global catastrophes - that the world has suffered from 99% of all the species disasters that have wiped out that have ever lived. many of our ancestors But the forces that wiped out are still at work today. is a wisp of atmosphere All we have to protect us is a thin crust. and all we have to stand on

dominant species to face extinction. Mankind could be the next of how vulnerable we really are. This is the story by an endless cycle Our planet has been shaped of destruction and renewal. that have ever lived are now extinct. The result - 99% of all the species But we tend to forget that the very forces that created all this havoc

are just as powerful as ever. We've been lucky so far. by a truly global crisis yet, We humans haven't been confronted more at risk than we might think. but history reveals that we're much just around the corner. Another big one could be of earth's 4.5-billion-year history, To understand the sheer scale on a clock. imagine it as the 24 hours Earth formed at midnight.

disaster struck. Just nine minutes later, Our planet collided with another. But earth survived and life evolved. the entire planet froze over. Then, at 8:30pm, another disaster - poisoned the planet. 10:40pm, massive volcanic eruptions Life was nearly wiped out. killed off the dinosaurs, And at 11:38pm, a giant asteroid leading to the rise of the mammals. of the day It was only in the closing minutes a place we'd recognise. that our planet became

to midnight... Finally, at under a minute towards world domination. ..a tough new species marched adapting to every challenge. They spread rapidly, This new species was Homo sapiens - us.

just heading out of Africa. 85,000 years ago, we were Today, we're everywhere. since humans walked the planet, This is the story of what happened

we really are. and it shows just how vulnerable confronted catastrophes. Again and again, our ancestors All of them were different, stopped human civilisation but any one of them could have in its tracks. 74,000 years ago. The first disaster struck India found in the most unlikely place - Today, evidence for this event can be inside the cells of our bodies. is written in our genes. The story of the human race not only what we look like, Our genes control of past disasters. they also record evidence it's a crucial clue. For geneticist Stephen Oppenheimer, As you move away from Africa, reduces in different populations the overall genetic diversity Native American populations, until you get to the diversity of all. which have the least there's an anomaly - that's India. But there is one place where much, much lower than it should be. In India, genetic diversity is

some kind of disaster Oppenheimer believes

India's early settlers - must have struck descendants' genetic diversity something so severe that their is still affected today. Whatever it was, to wiping out the whole Subcontinent. this ancient disaster came close the size of reduction, It's difficult to estimate to about 600 people. but it might have been down In the whole of India. it was absolutely devastating. Whatever struck India, to wipe out most of the population. Something powerful enough a very obvious catastrophe There is of course in the right time zone, which is clearly dated and that is Toba. Toba is an Indonesian supervolcano. by volcanologists as megacolossal. Its last eruption is described

That's as big as it gets. The date - 74,000 years ago, of the Indian disaster. the estimated time Was it a coincidence? nearly killed off India's people? Or was it the catastrophe that what they seem. WOMAN: Things aren't always Take these two Cruze CDs. They look the same. This one has iPod connectivity all your favourite tracks. so you can stream So does this one. bonus alloy wheels. This one comes with

So does this one. are identical In fact, both these Cruze CDs at $22,990 driveaway except this one's 2010 plated, a $1,000 factory cashback. which means it also comes with while stocks last Hurry into your Holden dealer

and spot the difference. Holden. Go better. I learnt maths from my dad... Are you coming? No. Willpower is like a muscle. ANNOUNCER: The more you use your willpower, the stronger it gets to resist cigarettes. and the easier it gets

you get used to not smoking. So, over time,

Every cigarette you DON'T smoke makes your willpower stronger. On our clock of the earth's history, to midnight. it's less than two seconds supervolcano Toba erupted. 74,000 years ago, the Indonesian faced with a terrifying threat. Our ancient ancestors were powerful forces on the planet. Volcanoes are one of the most and even affect global climate. They can devastate whole regions off the coast of Alaska. This is Mount Augustine, It's not a supervolcano, of even a fairly small eruption. but it does illustrate the raw power

It last blew in 2006. Volcanologist John Power since then. is monitoring how it's changed to Augustine Volcano. We're on our way volcanoes in the Cook Inlet region. It's one of the most active

During the last eruption here, 65 million cubic metres of rock. Augustine blasted out by around 70 metres. So much debris that the summit grew The eruption here was big, the power that could be unleashed though it was nothing compared to by a supervolcano. like Augustine But studying smaller eruptions gives scientists an insight into the incredible power of the Toba eruption

74,000 years ago. We're sitting on Augustine Island, which is the home of Augustine Volcano, which you see behind us. We are at the very northern end of what's called the Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is the chain of volcanoes that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. It's the world's most volcanically active region. Mount Toba lies in Indonesia, at its western edge. Here, at many of these volcanoes in the Ring of Fire, you have very explosive types of eruptions, very powerful things, that throw ash and so on in the atmosphere. out into very high elevation There's no place where things are quite as active as Indonesia. Indonesian volcanoes have produced some of the most violent explosions on the planet. The Toba eruption was the biggest on earth for 2 million years. The forces are quite extreme during one of these large, explosive volcanic eruptions. You have magma that's coming up underneath the volcano. Inside that magma, you have a lot of gas and so on that's absorbed inside the magma itself, and it's really this gas pressure

that is driving a lot of the eruption. An average volcano might contain enough gas and magma for the eruption to last for hours. Toba must have erupted for days. But while such eruptions are rare, disturbingly, the volcanoes that cause them aren't. 47 supervolcano sites have been discovered worldwide. But a few are, and they pose a real threat to human society. The most famous one of all lies in the United States. Yellowstone.

This bizarre landscape attracts over 3 million visitors every year. They come here to witness the raw power of the park's famous geysers. Yellowstone has the largest collection of such hydrothermal features anywhere on earth. Two-thirds of the world's geysers are in this one park. That takes a lot of heat. In fact, it takes a supervolcano like Toba, only hidden below ground. The last supereruption here was 640,000 years ago, long before humans ruled the planet. you can still see evidence of this ancient blast, and the volcano itself remains active. One day it will erupt again. For geophysicists like Bob Smith, For decades, Smith has been studying the Yellowstone Caldera, the giant volcanic crater in the centre of the park. His work reveals just how devastating the eruption of Toba would have been. We're standing here on the east side of Yellowstone Lake and this sharp hill in front of us is actually the caldera boundary. And the caldera essentially occupies this entire expanse of the landscape that we can see. This whole system exploded out during the last giant eruption. This is a giant caldera, probably one of the biggest and this is active. The sheer size of the Yellowstone system makes it a key location for the study of the ancient Toba super eruption. The Yellowstone caldera compares to Toba roughly in the same dimensions,

of about 60 kilometres by 40 kilometres. Toba has a large lake occupying the caldera, So it's very similar in size. These hills and rocks were sculpted by immense forces. The whole landscape has been shaped by the giant volcanic furnace below. The magma chamber. This is the zone where molten rock gathers under immense pressure deep below the caldera. The bigger the magma chamber, the deadlier the eruption. Smith's work here at Yellowstone shows Toba's magma chamber would have been huge. This is his laboratory. We're here at a site on the east side of the caldera, where we have a seismograph, which records ground motions that relate to the vibrations of the earth when we have the passage of seismic waves. So, we record 2,000 to 3,000 earthquakes a year here. By mapping his seismic data, Bob can estimate the size of the magma chamber. His results are stunning. This simulation shows Yellowstone Park lies near the middle,

its boundary marked in green. Yellowstone Lake is marked in blue, the edge of the volcanic caldera in red. Bob's seismic data, plotted below the surface, shows the enormous size of the magma system beneath the caldera.

Yellowstone's magma chamber is an astounding 16 miles wide, 31 miles long and 5 miles deep. That's 500 times the size of the City of London. That's an awful lot of magma. that Toba's magma chamber Scientists now believe was roughly the same size, and the scary thing is that if that amount of magma erupted again, it would be absolutely devastating and the aftermath would affect us all. But the problem wouldn't be the red-hot magma. The real killer would be volcanic ash. POWER: When the magma actually finally makes it to the surface, the gas pressure will drive that magma, fracture it, pulverise it into what a volcanologist would call ash. This is pulverised rock and minerals all ground up together by the explosive forces, and that stuff can be thrown out into the atmosphere

to great altitude. It's thought that Toba's eruption column reached the very edge of space. This footage from the space shuttle of the Russian volcano Mount Klyuchevskoy erupting shows how high ash can be blasted into the atmosphere. But at Toba 74,000 years ago, this was just the beginning. As all those gases and pulverised rock rise up, it's hot, very hot - about 1,100 degrees Centigrade. Then, as it begins to cool,

it will become too heavy for the atmosphere to support and it will rush back down the sides of the volcano. This creates a very hazardous phenomenon These superheated ash flows can be immense. At Toba, they buried the landscape up to 200 metres deep. Any humans nearby would have been annihilated. But even those outside this initial danger zone weren't safe. Toba's volcanic ash travelled for thousands of miles. It was a massive release of ash.

12.5 million square miles of the earth's surface were covered in ash. Anyone living in the fallout faced starvation. OPPENHEIMER: The Toba ash fall would have affected the vegetation in a big way in India. And the immediate effect of that would be that the game that humans relied on didn't have any vegetation to eat. And then, of course, the human predators, being at the top of the chain, suffer much more. The ash was deadly. But volcanoes have an even deadlier weapon in their arsenal. The gas sulfur dioxide. Toba may have released as much as 3 billion tons of it. Volcanologist Bill McGuire has studied how sulfur dioxide can affect the entire planet. When sulfur dioxide gets into the atmosphere, which it does with a big volcanic eruption, it combines with water vapour and it forms a fine mist of sulfuric acid.

Billions of these tiny little sulfuric acid droplets in the atmosphere, they act like tiny mirrors. So, they reflect solar radiation back into space. The result - the planet cools down and enters a volcanic winter. McGUIRE: There's some debate about how much of a temperature fall Toba actually led to, but in the extreme case, it could have reduced global temperatures by 5 to 6 degrees Centigrade for a period of several years, and that would have literally caused most of the world's vegetation to die off. The effects of another supereruption today hardly bear thinking about. Starvation would wipe out huge numbers of people. If we saw a supereruption today that resulted in that same temperature drop, then we would experience global harvest failure. Now, I can't see any way that that can NOT result in billions of deaths. If another of earth's active supervolcanoes does what Toba did 74,000 years ago, it would be a disaster for us all. Supereruptions, on average, seem to occur about every 50,000 years or so. But, of course, the earth doesn't operate to a timetable, so when the next one's going to occur, we really haven't a clue. The Toba supervolcano affected vast numbers of people in India. But 70,000 years ago, the survivors faced a new threat - this time, one that would affect the whole planet. A global big freeze. Half a second to midnight on our clock of world history - 21,000 years ago. The planet was in the middle of an ice age. Throughout history, icesheets have helped form the story of the earth. The biggest one was 650 million years ago,

when the planet was virtually engulfed in ice and we had a lucky escape when volcanoes broke through it and warmed the planet again. In the millions of years since that big one, icesheets have frequently returned, just as they will again one day in the future. 21,000 years ago, earth was gripped by the most recent of these big freezes. across the Northern Hemisphere. Glaciers steadily advanced For our ancestors, there was no escape. Glaciations occur on a regular cycle caused by variations in earth's movement through space. Sometimes earth moves further from the sun, so the planet cools and the icecaps expand.

The glaciers of the last ice age

reached their furthest point south 21,000 years ago, a period known as the Last Glacial Maximum. was about as bad as it can get, and that meant an icecap three miles thick which covered half of Britain. And around that icecap to the south was a polar desert, which didn't have ice on it but also didn't have much vegetation or people. For our ancestors, it was migrate or perish. They didn't return until the big thaw began around 7,000 years later. And when the glaciers retreated, it changed everything. Released from the grip of the ice, civilisation was finally free to begin. the Industrial Revolution, banks - Agriculture, cities, you get the picture. The end of the ice age made it all possible. But the irony is our civilisation is now so complex that we'd be helpless if the glaciers advanced again. And if there's one thing that's certain, it's that one day, the ice will return. Even now, earth's orbit is taking it further from the sun.

Another glacial advance is due anytime. The return of the ice would be a brutal shock. In 1998, we got a glimpse of just how brutal. An ice storm hit the city of Montreal. Freak weather conditions created a relentless build-up of ice. 1,000 electricity pylons collapsed under its weight. The power supply failed. Millions of inhabitants were left without heating. And the temperature continued to fall.

The Montreal ice storm exposed our society's Achilles heel - our reliance on near-perfect conditions. If the glaciers were to advance once again,

there's not much we could do to protect ourselves. Inevitably, a new ice age, if it occurred very rapidly, would lead to complete social and economic breakdown. People would move towards the equator from the northern countries like the United States, the UK, Europe. That would be a recipe for war and conflict, without any doubt. The civilisation that makes our lives so comfortable also makes us vulnerable. But 13,000 years ago - that's less than a second to midnight on our clock - our Stone Age ancestors were luckier. They had simply migrated south and survived off the land. Humans had now made it through a supereruption and an ice age. The risk of lightning striking a third time seemed remote. Sadly, it wasn't. The planet had done its worst, but there was still space to be reckoned with. Asteroids have struck earth throughout history. In the ancient past, they even caused mass extinctions. And scientists are now beginning to wonder

if humans could have also been affected by a cosmic catastrophe. This is Ohio, in the USA. MAN: This is the site of a major catastrophe. Something happened which had a profound effect on the life of the times. Archaeologist Ken Tankersley believes that at the end of the last ice age, 13,000 years ago, this region suffered a catastrophe that originated in space. These days, most of Ohio is farmland, but one small area of marsh remains. It's just as it was 13,000 years ago - except for these. Back then, the area was home to an impressive collection of beasts. There were megamammals roaming this area, which included mammoths and mastodons. (LOWS) (BELLOWS) These megamammals were food for the continent's top predators - humans. TANKERSLEY: The people who lived here, we refer to as Clovis. They were Stone Age hunter-gatherers. They were hunting wild game and gathering wild plant foods and living in extended families. And then came a catastrophe.

The megamammals went extinct. Their livelihood was gone forever. Clues to the cause of this catastrophe lie 10 metres below ground. This is Sheriden Cave. It's a natural time capsule. Its secrets might solve the mystery of the missing megamammals. Tankersley's work in the cave has unearthed a treasure-trove of archaeological remains,

all of them dating to the time of the disaster. It's a long descent down to the bottom of the cave... ..and a journey back in time. Recent excavation has revealed a dull red layer which marks the exact moment

that the megamammals vanished from the fossil record. It's known as the Clovis layer. We're looking at the Clovis layer. It's a very distinct layer here in the cave. Beneath it, we have megamammal remains. Above the layer, there are no more megamammals.

This literally represents the extinction event. And you can find the same thing at more than 20 other sites across America. The sediment layer marks the exact moment the megamammals disappeared. One of the things that intrigues me and about this site about this time period is we have no clear-cut answer as to what caused the extinction of these megamammals. Overhunting - people killing these animals - just does not fit. And when we look at all the other ice ages which came to an end, these megamammals did not go extinct. So, why now and why here? This is one of the most intriguing questions that I've ever faced. Excavation here continues. Even after a decade, they're still digging up bones. Even though this bone looks fresh, it is actually 13,000 years old. It dates to the extinction event. And it suggests a violent death. What's really exciting about this particular specimen is there's clear evidence of burning - literally a blackened colour. This is the tibia of a now extinct pig-like creature the size of a modern-day wild boar. In order to burn the flesh off of an animal the size of a European wild boar, we're talking about temperatures

between 300 and 600 degrees Centigrade. This is not an animal that was subjected to a cooking fire. This animal was incinerated, and so was the entire landscape. We're talking about a massive fire, almost an explosion of heat and pressure. The question is why. It's nearly midnight on our clock of the earth's history. 13,000 years ago, a disaster struck America. The megamammals were wiped out and the people who hunted them lost their main food source. The cause of this disaster has long been a mystery,

but deep in these Ohio caves, archaeologist Ken Tankersley has discovered something which might provide the answer. This is a meter which measures the magnetism - the amount of iron. The higher the iron content, the greater the magnetic susceptibility of this layer. I'll first put the probe in this grey area. Below the Clovis layer is a perfect spot. And we check the magnetism. (DEVICE BEEPS) We see that it has a magnetism of 8. Now what we're going to do is compare that with the layer above it. (DEVICE BEEPS)

The reading is 50 times the iron content. the magnetic susceptibility In other words, is 50 times higher than the area that's grey. A basic experiment reveals just how rich in iron the Clovis layer really is. A magnet dragged across the surface is left covered with iron particles. It's a simple test with an astonishing implication. It suggests this region was hit by an asteroid. (EXPLOSION) This suggests that there was some type of catastrophic explosion, but one that was also intense in temperature and pressure.

An asteroid strike meant North America's megamammals were doomed. They couldn't adapt to the challenging conditions that followed the disaster. But humans could, and the survivors flourished. It's a controversial theory. But it wouldn't be the first time that death had come from space. an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, leaving behind a giant crater. The trouble is, for the Clovis event, no crater exists. But one man has a theory which Planetary geologist Peter Schultz has come to this NASA research centre in California to conduct an experiment with this giant gun. It's so powerful, it can fire projectiles at over 15 times the speed of sound. This is one of the big guns - the fastest gun in the west. This is where we have a chance to actually fire small bullets, small BBs, at very high speed. Schultz and his team will be firing the gun

to find out if an object from space could strike the earth without leaving a crater. Schultz is testing a theory - that glaciers could have protected the earth's surface. much of North America was covered by a vast icesheet up to a mile thick, a remnant of the last big freeze. Schultz hopes a scale experiment will show whether glaciers could have prevented an asteroid from leaving a crater in the underlying rock. The question we really want to address is, will the ice actually protect the earth below?

This is our projectile. It's just an eighth of an inch, about 3 millimetres or so, and we're going to be firing this at a speed of about 5 kilometres per second. The team prepares the gun for firing. A number of ultra-high-speed cameras will film the impact for later analysis. Inside the impact chamber, Schultz prepares the target. The red sand represents the surface of the earth. This will add some colour at least to the surface layer, and this way we can tell whether or not we've punctured through the surface or not. So, we have loose sand underneath and we have the red layer on top. We're going to do one experiment when we slam just into this target like we have it, and the other one where we put a thin layer of ice. And the idea behind that is whether or not this ice will act as a flak jacket. Now we just have to go hit it. Let's see what happens. The gun is raised into the firing position. And the countdown begins. (ALARM BUZZES) The team waits in a sealed bunker well away from the gun itself. (GUN FIRES) Whoa! Wow! Now, that...that did some damage. So, this is big. So, we've got to slow this up now and take a look at the slow-mo. Ka-pow! So, this is now the entire impact - the streak through and the impact. Stuff that's going downrange at extremely high speed. That clears away and we have the crater forming. And now the crater just grows and grows and grows and grows and keeps growing. High-speed footage shows the devastating impact

on the exposed sand surface. But the best evidence is inside the impact chamber itself. Sweet. Oh, that's nice. Now...now, that did some damage. So, this impact was a good-size impact. This was hypervelocity. It slammed in. It excavated stuff from below. If we scaled this up to a big crater on the earth, it would last for millions of years. So, the next stage is to repair this target, make it look like it was before we had the impact, but this time, let's put down a slab of ice, kind of resembling what might have been on the earth when there were glaciers. Now we have the ice on top of the target, and what we want to know

is whether or not this ice actually buffers or protects the underlying target from the impact. (ALARM BUZZES) (GUN FIRES) Ah! Alright. Sweet! And we see that the vapour expands and we're seeing a little bit of ice come out. And the ice clears away. And the real question - I'm really anxious to see - is whether or not we really produced a crater. Right now, I don't see a crater. Let's see what we did. (GRUNTS) Oh, man. Well, that's remarkable. The ice was here and it really protected the target underneath, and that's just simply loose sand. So, with time, these pieces disappear, they melt away, and all we have is a tiny little crater. And if this were the earth, it can be easily eroded away. So, when that ice disappears, there's just nothing left. It's the perfect crime. It's only a scale model, but it shows an icesheet could have masked the evidence of a powerful impact 13,000 years ago. Maybe the megamammals WERE wiped out by a cosmic catastrophe. One day we may face a similar disaster. Advanced warning will be essential for our survival. Something astronomers in Arizona are working to provide. This is Mount Lemmon Station, part of the Steward Observatory. Here, asteroid hunter Ed Beshore combs space for near-earth objects - NEOs. There are millions out there right now, governments worldwide consider them a real threat. Well, the earth travelling around the sun is much like a race car travelling around a circular track. And a NEO collision might be very much like a car coming suddenly out of the pits in front of the race cars, representing an immediate impact threat. And, of course, the consequences of a collision would be devastating. Each night, Beshore's team photograph the skies, searching for anything that moves. Hey, Andrea. Have a look at this. It's moving fast. Yeah, it's quite bright. It's 19th magnitude and it's got a score of 100. Let's check if it is known. Yeah. There's no ID on this. This object is new. The team have found an NEO. It's painstaking but vital work. We take four images spaced over about 45 minutes, So, here you see four images being shown in sequence. Our computers register the images so that the stars don't move, but any object which is moving on the sky is revealed like you see the object here. Fortunately, this near-earth object is probably harmless. This object is in fact what's called a virtual impactor, which means that there is a small, a very small, probability that there might be an impact in the future. It's big, but luckily, it poses little risk. But for every large object in space, there are many thousands of smaller ones, and they can pose a real threat. The asteroids are like gravel. If you pick up a handful of gravel,

you're going to find that there's a few large objects in there

but there's a whole lot more smaller objects.

And it may be these smaller objects that in fact might be on a collision course with the earth. And you don't have to look far to see what even a small asteroid can do. This is Meteor Crater in Arizona. 50,000 years ago, this impact devastated hundreds of square miles and the asteroid that did it was just 50 metres across. But if you think 50 metres is small, check this out. This is the aftermath of a large explosion in the remote Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908. Fallen trees fanned out from a central blast point for hundreds of miles. There could be only one cause - an asteroid exploding And its estimated size? Just 10 metres across. McGUIRE: Tunguska is the only hard evidence we have

of a recent impact on planet earth.

So, we can look at that and say, "That's pretty scary. "If that was a city underneath there, "it would be completely obliterated." And it's quite interesting that if you look at the area destroyed and superimpose it on London, for example, virtually the entire area of Greater London would be wiped out. This catastrophe shows just how vulnerable we are. Tunguska-sized projectiles strike earth roughly once a century.

The last one was 100 years ago. Another deadly asteroid could turn up any day. The history of our planet is an endless cycle of extinction and rebirth. So it should come as no surprise that we humans are as vulnerable as our predecessors who are long extinct.

We've suffered disasters, but not on a global scale. If we had, we wouldn't be here at all. It's not that we've been lucky. It's just that we haven't been unlucky - yet. Supertext Captions by Red Bee Media Australia Captions copyright SBS 2011 DICKINSON: I would read into the record, for the benefit of those delegates who are unable to remain to close of session, the declarations and resolves of this first Congress. Resolved... That to the recent grievous acts imposed by Parliament on Massachusetts, we cannot submit. But in hopes that our fellow subjects in Great Britain will restore to us happiness and prosperity, rather than support the Massachusetts militia, we have agreed to pursue the following peaceable measures - to publish a statement of the aforesaid to the inhabitants of British America. Two, to enter into a non-importation, non-consumption and non-exportation agreement of British goods. Which no-one will honour. And three, to prepare a loyal address to His Majesty. Which His Majesty will not read. (BANGS GAVEL) This Congress stands adjourned. The business of this Congress being concluded, all delegates... "The business of this Congress." The business of this Congress has been to achieve nothing. ..the year of our Lord, 1775. (BIRDS CHIRP) You carry good news back home, Mr Paine. Massachusetts has made its cause plain to its sister colonies, and now it will be made plain to Parliament. I, uh...I beg to differ, Mr Dickinson.

Nothing has been made plain. All this Congress has shown is that every man in it thinks that he is a great man...an orator,

a critic, a statesman. And, therefore, every man must show his oratory, his criticism, his political ability. If it were moved and seconded that two and three make five, we should spend two whole days debating the matter and only then pass a resolution in the affirmative. Well, in that event, Mr Adams, our adjournment comes not a moment too soon. (DICKINSON CHUCKLES) A toast, gentlemen and ladies. May Boston's troubles soon be at an end