Here is a list of 10 Biggest Mistakes in History.

01. Four Pests Campaign

Four Pests Campaign

It was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward by China from 1958 to 1962. The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows. The campaign was initiated as a hygiene campaign by Mao Zedong, who identified the need to exterminate mosquitoes, flies, rats, and sparrows. Sparrows mainly the Eurasian tree sparrow were included on the list because they ate grain seeds, robbing the people of the fruits of their labor. The masses of China were mobilized to eradicate the birds, and citizens took to banging pots and pans or beating drums to scare the birds from landing, forcing them to fly until they fell from the sky in exhaustion. Sparrow nests were torn down, eggs were broken, and nestlings were killed. Sparrows and other birds were shot down from the sky, resulting in the near-extinction of the birds in China.

By April 1960, Chinese leaders realized that sparrows ate a large amount of insects, as well as grains. Rather than being increased, rice yields after the campaign were substantially decreased. Mao ordered the end of the campaign against sparrows, replacing them with bed bugs in the ongoing campaign against the Four Pests. By this time, however, it was too late. With no sparrows to eat them, locust populations ballooned, swarming the country and compounding the ecological problems already caused by the Great Leap Forward, including widespread deforestation and misuse of poisons and pesticides. Ecological imbalance is credited with exacerbating the Great Chinese Famine, in which at least 20 million people died of starvation.

02. Gimli Glider

Gimli Glider

The Gimli Glider is the nickname of an Air Canada aircraft that was involved in an unusual aviation incident. On July 23, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143, a Boeing 767–233 wide body jetliner, ran out of fuel at an altitude of 12,500 meters (41,000 ft) above MSL (mean sea level), about halfway through its Montreal to Edmonton flight. The flight crew was able to glide the aircraft safely to an emergency landing at an auto racing track that was previously RCAF Station Gimli, a Royal Canadian Air Force base in Gimli, Manitoba.

The subsequent investigation revealed a combination of company failures and a chain of human errors that defeated built-in safeguards. The amount of fuel that had been loaded was miscalculated. They forgot to convert from Imperial to Metric and put X litres of fuel on the plane, instead of X gallons.

03. Killing the Oldest Tree


Prometheus was the oldest known tree. It was a Great Basin bristlecone pine tree growing near the tree line on Wheeler Peak in eastern Nevada, United States. The tree was at least 4862 years old and possibly more than 5000. Donald R. Currey was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying the climate dynamics. In 1963 based on the bristlecone trees’ size, growth rate and growth forms, he became convinced that some were very old, cored some of them, and found trees exceeding 3,000 years in age, but Currey was not able to obtain a continuous series of overlapping cores from this tree.

Here, stories diverge. It is not clear whether Currey requested, or Forest Service personnel suggested, that he cut down and section the tree in lieu of coring it. There is also some uncertainty as to why a core sample could not be obtained. One version has it that he broke or lodged his only long increment borer and could not obtain another before the end of the field season. Another claims he broke two of them, while another implies that a core sample was too difficult to obtain and also would not provide as much definitive information as a full cross-section of the tree.

04. Lake Peigneur Disaster

Lake Peigneur Disaster

Lake Peigneur in Louisiana was a 10-foot (3 m) deep freshwater body popular with sportsmen, until an unusual man-made disaster on November 20, 1980 changed its structure and the surrounding land.

On November 20, 1980, a Texaco oil rig accidentally drilled into the Diamond Crystal Salt Company salt mine under the lake. Because of an incorrect or misinterpreted coordinate reference system, the 14-inch (36 cm) drill bit entered the mine, starting a chain of events which turned the lake from freshwater to salt water, with a deep hole. The resultant whirlpool sucked in the drilling platform, eleven barges, many trees and 65 acres (260,000 m2) of the surrounding terrain. So much water drained into those caverns that the flow of the Delcambre Canal that usually empties the lake into Vermilion Bay was reversed, making the canal a temporary inlet. This backflow created, for a few days, the tallest waterfall ever in the state of Louisiana, at 164 feet (50 m), as the lake refilled with salt water from the Delcambre Canal and Vermilion Bay. The water downflowing into the mine caverns displaced air which erupted as compressed air and then later as 400-foot (120 m) geysers up through the mineshafts.

Although there were no injuries and no human lives lost, three dogs were reported killed. All 55 employees in the mine at the time of the accident were able to escape.

05. Hubble’s Imperfect Mirror

Hubble’s Imperfect Mirror

Immediately after its launch, Hubble’s most serious and notorious optical defect called spherical aberration came to be known. It was caused by the malfunction of a measuring device used during the polishing of the mirror. As a result, Hubble could not achieve the best possible image quality, although still outperforming ground-based telescopes in many ways. Although it was probably the most precisely figured mirror ever made, with variations from the prescribed curve of only 10 nanometers, at the perimeter it was too flat by about 2,200 nanometers (2.2 micrometers).

During the first Hubble Servicing Mission in December 1993, a crew of astronauts carried out the repairs necessary to restore the telescope to its intended level of performance.

06. Operation Cottage

Operation Cottage

Operation Cottage was a tactical maneuver which completed the Aleutian Islands campaign. On August 15, 1943, Allied military forces landed on Kiska Island, which had been occupied by Japanese forces since June, 1942. The Japanese, however, had secretly abandoned the island two weeks prior, and so the Allied landings were unopposed. Despite this, after over two days in thick fog and in a confused state of affairs, U.S. and Canadian forces mistook each other for the enemy. The brief firefight left 32 dead, with a further 50 wounded on either side and 130 trench foot wounds. 191 troops went missing during the two-day stay on the island and presumably also died from friendly fire, booby traps, or environmental causes.

07. Union Carbide Bhopal Disaster

Bhopal Disaster

It’s certainly the world’s worst industrial disaster. Union Carbide had a pesticide plant in India, which leaked dangerous gas and chemical into nearby town killing 16000 people.

It was entirely due to neglect on the part of the administration of UC. The very first problem was the fill level of the MIC tanks. MIC is highly reactive with water, and if any moisture comes into contact with it, it reacts by vaporizing the chemical. In order to offset risk of catastrophic failure of the containment system, the tanks we only to be filled half way to prevent over-pressurization. The tanks were filled to about 80-90% capacity.

Next, a plate that was supposed to be in place permanently to prevent water backwash had been removed. The plant had bypassed some pipelines to increase production efficiency (at the cost of safety and line integrity) but one of the pipes became clogged. The pipe led back to the MIC tanks and since the plate was not in place, water was able to get back to the tank and react with the MIC.

Maintenance of the plant had been almost completely overlooked for years. Sensors malfunctioned and were not repaired, fail-safes like the exhaust burner had not been tested and maintained, and the general state of the factory was absolute bad. The administration of UC knew about the poor upkeep but did not want to spend the money on the necessary repairs and maintenance because, simply put, the plant still produced chemicals and made them money,

The combination of all of these factors caused the disaster. When engineers tried to contain the leak, the systems failed. When they tried to burn off the chemical as it came from the smoke stacks of the plant, the burner failed. Every single possible countermeasure (there were 4 fail-safes between the MIC tanks and the tip of the smoke stack) failed because of UC’s greed. The release was a heavy gas that escaped from the plant and hung like a low fog in the valley Bhopal lies in. It affected literally every single person in the area. Nobody was safe from it. It was horrible and could have been prevented.

No one knows for sure how many people died either, but the estimates range from 4,000-16,000 depending on who you believe, with 500,000 injured. It’s believed that the groundwater at the site is still contaminated by chemicals, and many of the people who live in the surrounding area are still drinking it. India settled with Union-Carbide for just $450 million dollars and never had to clean up the area.

08. 1917 Halifax Explosion

1917 Halifax Explosion

In the morning of December 6, 1917 the French cargo ship Mont-Blanc was carrying munitions from New York through Halifax ultimately to go to Bordeaux, France. As it made its way into the Halifax Harbor it collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo. The Imo was travelling through the harbor at an accelerated rate; having been delayed earlier in the day, it was attempting to make up for time. Despite repeated attempts at advising the Imo to slow down, the captain disregarded them and continued through at high speeds.

The Imo would eventually meet its fate as it began towards a head on collision with the Mont-Blanc. At this point both ships were aware of the potential collision, and both had shut their engines off to prevent significant damage; a force stop wasn’t used by the Mont-Blanc for fear that doing so may set off its cargo. Eventually the two ships were steered to the point where they had become parallel, the Mont-Blanc passing the Imo bow avoiding a collision.

The Imo, for what ever reason, decided to go in reverse, causing its head to swing into the Mont-Blanc. Initial damage wasn’t severe; the problem though was that barrels of Benzol toppled over and began to spill out. As the Imo restarted its engines it flew out sparks, igniting the Benzol vapors.

The resulting explosion released an energy equivalent to 2.9 Kilotons of TNT – at the time the largest man made explosion until the development of Nuclear weapons. The explosion obliterated all nearby structures, completely destroying the nearby community of Richmond, killing around 2000 people and resulting in the injuries of another 9000. It was a blast so powerful that it ended up creating a Tsunami, which subsequently wiped out a native population who were living on Tuffs Cove. Pieces of the Mont-Blanc was scattered, travelling miles away from the initial blast area, its main gun reportedly travelling 3.5 miles north. It was so loud that the explosion was said to be heard over 100 miles away.

All because the captain of the Imo was feeling a bit impatient that day.

09. Battle of Karánsebes

Battle of Karánsebes

Different portions of an Austrian army, which were scouting for forces of the Ottoman Empire, fired on each other by mistake, causing self-inflicted decimation. The battle took place on the evening of 17 September 1788.

The army of Austria, approximately 100,000 strong, was setting up camp around the town of Karánsebes (now Caransebeș, in modern Romania). The army’s vanguard, a contingent of hussars, crossed the Timiș River nearby to scout for the presence of the Ottoman Turks. There was no sign of the Ottoman army, but the hussars did run into a group of Tzigani, who offered to sell schnapps to the war-weary soldiers. The cavalrymen bought the schnapps and started to drink.

Soon afterwards, some infantry crossed the river. When they saw the party going on, the infantry demanded alcohol for themselves. The hussars refused to give them any of the schnapps, and while still drunk, they set up makeshift fortifications around the barrels. A heated argument ensued, and one soldier fired a shot.

Immediately, the hussars and infantry engaged in combat with one another. During the conflict, some infantry began shouting “Turci! Turci!” (“Turks! Turks!”). The hussars fled the scene, thinking that the Ottoman army’s attack was imminent. Most of the infantry also ran away; the army comprised Italians from Lombardy, Serbs, Croats, and Austrians, plus other minorities, many of whom could not understand each other. While it is not clear which one of these groups did so, they gave the false warning without telling the others, who promptly fled. The situation was made worse when officers, in an attempt to restore order, shouted “Halt! Halt!” which was misheard by soldiers with no knowledge of German as “Allah! Allah!”.

As the cavalry ran through the camps, a corps commander reasoned that it was a cavalry charge by the Ottoman army, and ordered artillery fire. Meanwhile, the entire camp awoke to the sound of battle and, rather than waiting to see what the situation was, everyone fled. The troops fired at every shadow, thinking the Ottomans were everywhere; in reality they were shooting fellow Austrian soldiers. The incident escalated to the point where the whole army retreated from the imaginary enemy, and Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II was pushed off his horse into a small creek.

Two days later, the Ottoman army arrived. They discovered 10,000 dead and wounded soldiers and easily took Karansebeș

10. Killing Genghis Khan’s Envoy

Mongol invasion of Khwarezm

Genghis Khan wanted to trade with Shah of Khwarezm (Persia or Modern day Iran, more or less) in order to fund his war with China. The Shah was very suspicious of Genghis’ desire for a trade agreement and massacred his envoy. This, of course, infuriated the Genghis Khan, leading to the Mongol invasion of first Khwarezm and then the rest of the Middle East, resulting in the complete destruction of his kingdom and devastation of the entire region: millions of deaths and the eventual burning of Baghdad, one of the world’s greatest cities and great repositories of knowledge.

This legitimately could have changed the course of world history. At the time, the Islamic world was the richest and best educated region of the world. They had the largest cities, the best scientists and artists, and were generally tolerant of other cultures (especially in comparison to Europe at the time). All of that was burnt to the ground.

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Fact List, General Knowledge, History,

Last Update: May 4, 2016

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