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Uncle Sam recruiting poster. Lithograph, 1917, James Montgomery Flagg.

If you’re a Virginia history lover, you’re really going to adore free admission to area historic sites. Time Travelers is a biannual Richmond Region tradition that invites tourists and residents to discover local treasures spanning 400 years of fascinating history, including historic homes, sites and other one-of-a-kind attractions. During the event, 19 area historic sites will offer visitors holding a Time Travelers Passport complimentary admission to each site, Sept. 21-22. Locations include Agecroft Hall & Gardens, the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design, the Chesterfield County Museum and Historic Jail, Chimborazo Medical Museum (Richmond National Battlefield Park), The Edgar Allan Poe Museum, and Historic St. John’s Church. A full list of participating locations and passports is available via download from http://thevalentine.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/TT-Passport-Sept.-21-22-2019.pdf. Imagine — two full, free days immersed in Virginia history. We can’t think of a more delightful way to spend a weekend.

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Speaking of history, the age-old mystery of the Loch Ness monster might be solved. On Thursday, a team of researchers announced they believe the elusive sea creature could be just a giant eel. Using DNA samples taken from the Scottish lake where many believe “Nessie” still lives, geneticist Neil Gemmell says Loch Ness contains “large amounts of eel DNA.” The scientists began studying the lake’s biodiversity more than a year ago. They took 250 water samples from various locations and depths to identify what creatures were inhabiting the lake. They found about 3,000 distinct species, many too small to be seen. These eels normally grow to about 4 to 6 feet long, although some say the creatures they have spotted are far bigger than that. If indeed this team of researchers has solved this world-famous mystery, perhaps they can shed light on where Atlantis really is — or whatever happened to Virginia Dare and the rest of the “Lost Colony.”

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Finally, we say goodbye to the deadly, monster hurricane called Dorian. Two weeks ago today, Tropical Storm Dorian formed nearly 700 miles east-southeast of Barbados. Although forecasters predicted it would become a hurricane within a matter of days, no one envisioned the storm becoming a Category 5 leviathan. Nobody dreamed it would park itself over the Bahamas for more than two days, causing catastrophic damage, killing a still unknown number of people and perhaps permanently altering the coastlines of Grand Bahamas and Abaco islands. Damages from flooding and winds along the southern U.S. coastline still are being assessed. Saturday’s weather forecast calls for glorious temperatures and sunny skies. We hope for the rapid demise of what’s left of Dorian and pray our neighbors to the north experience minimal damage and flooding.

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Just how much work goes into preparing for a hurricane is underscored by a news story in The Virginian Pilot. In Hampton Roads alone, the U.S. Navy’s enormous — and expensive — precautions to protect its ships and aircraft included:

110 helicopters and airplanes flown to safer areas inland and all remaining aircraft tightly secured in hangars.

36 helicopters flown to Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida to participate in search-and-rescue operations and deliver relief supplies.

More than 20 ships left Norfolk and headed to sea before Dorian’s arrival, including two aircraft carriers.

20,000 sailors were deployed onboard those vessels.

10,500 sandbags were filled by 176 sailors who apparently didn’t go to sea.

The financial toll of getting all those ships underway and deploying those aircraft has yet to be tallied. But it’s a good bet it cost Uncle Sam a pretty penny.

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Speaking of Uncle Sam, it was on this date in 1813 that the U.S. got its nickname. According to history.com, Samuel Wilson, a meat packer in Troy, N.Y., supplied barrels of beef to the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. Before shipping, Wilson would stamp “U.S.” on the barrel lids. Soldiers jokingly referred to the food as a gift from “Uncle Sam.” On Sept. 7, a local newspaper picked up on the name and the term Uncle Sam soon gained international acceptance as a moniker for the U.S. government. The image of the tall, white-haired fellow in top hat and striped britches first appeared on a U.S. Army recruiting poster. In 1961, Congress recognized Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” Today, Troy, N.Y., calls itself the home of Uncle Sam.

— Robin Beres

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