This Day In History, June 30th

What happened on this day in history: Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope, Adolf Hitler orders the "Night of the Long Knives," and more.

1520: Hernán Cortés Retreats

Spanish forces led by Hernán Cortés retreat from the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan in present-day Mexico City. Though some Spanish soldiers successfully escaped the Aztec revolt against their rule, others died during the withdrawal because they’d filled their boats with too much treasure, causing the vessels to sink. But despite this brief setback, Cortés returned to Tenochtitlan less than a year later and conquered the capital, marking the end of the Aztec empire.

1859: Charles Blondin Crosses Niagara Falls On A Tightrope

Charles Blondin

Public DomainCharles Blondin crossing over Niagara Falls in 1859.

Charles Blondin becomes the first man to ever cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. The French daredevil made the crossing along a 1,100-foot-long cable — positioned about 160 feet above the water — as 5,000 people watched. He crossed once in both directions, pausing at one moment to drink wine and again to take a photo with a Daguerreotype camera.

1908: A Mysterious Explosion Occurs Near Siberia’s Podkamennaya Tunguska River

This Day In History Tunguska Event

Sovfoto/UIG/Getty ImagesA small portion of the Siberian forest that was flattened by the Tunguska explosion.

A powerful blast near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Siberia flattens 80 million trees across 800 square miles. Though people chalked up the explosion to a meteor, the so-called Tunguska Event mystified many for years, since no one could find a crater. However, a new theory suggests that the meteor merely “grazed” the Earth rather than smashing into it.

1934: The “Night Of The Long Knives” Takes Place In Nazi Germany

Ernst Rohm

Public DomainSA chief Ernst Röhm, who Adolf Hitler had killed as part of the Night of the Long Knives.

Adolf Hitler orders his Schutzstaffel (SS) guards to kill the leaders of another Nazi paramilitary group, the Sturmabteilung (SA), because he believed that they had grown too powerful. The so-called Night of the Long Knives saw the deaths of the SA’s chief of staff Ernst Röhm and other SA leaders, as well as government officials like former chancellor Kurt von Schleicher. In the aftermath, the SS largely replaced the SA as the foremost Nazi paramilitary force in Germany.

2011: Stephen McDaniel Is Interviewed About The Disappearance Of Lauren Giddings

Stephen McDaniel is interviewed by a local news outlet in Georgia about the disappearance of his downstairs neighbor Lauren Giddings. McDaniel acted distraught on camera — but he was actually the one who had murdered her. By the time of the interview, McDaniel was already a person of interest, and he was arrested shortly thereafter. He eventually pleaded guilty to the crime and was later sentenced to life in prison.