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The Year That Was: 2012

The year 2012 was the final year of the world according to the Mayan calendar.

When we look back on some of the incidents that happened in 2012 it is surprising that the world continued. Here is a quick overview of some of the major events from a decade ago.

After 246 years since its first edition, the Encyclopaedia Britannica discontinued its print edition from March 2012. Maybe they were preparing for the end of the world like the Mayan’s? In reality the age-old company was making that jump into the digital world.

Pictured in title: "The Obamas Hug", 15 August 2012 during a campaign event in Iowa by Jim Watson, AFP

Political Activity

In Greece a financial crisis gripped the country as they awaited help from the European Union to bail them out.

In Egypt a deadly stadium riot killed 74 people when opposition fans turned on one-another.

In a move that would shape the future of Russia, Vladimir Putin was elected President on 7 May.

On 29 November Palestine was granted non-member observer status by the United Nations.

In the Republic of the Congo, 250 people were killed when explosions occurred in a munitions dump.

The Arab spring continued with the president of Yemen standing down after 33 years of rule. He did this after mass protests which followed others across the Arab world. To read more about the start of the Arab Spring read the 2011 Blog, click here.

Across the globe coup d’états become a common theme. On 22 March the President of Mali was overthrown by soldiers, as was the President of Guinea-Bissau on 12 April.

Azawad, An Independent Nation 2012 - 2013

Azawad Flag

In Mali there was great unrest afoot with the region of Azawad declaring independence from Mali on 6 April 2012. This followed a period of insurrection that had been occurring since the start of the year in the north of Mali which actually covers 60% of the country. Yes, more than half of the country was included in the declaration of independence!

Timbuktu, a place many people think of as made-up was the second largest city in the breakaway region and intended to be the new capital by those declaring independence.

In December 2012 leaders of Azawad agreed to talks with Mali and pushed for greater autonomy of the region. After a peace deal was brokered an Islamist insurgency began in January 2013 which saw the fundamentalist group attempt top take control of all of Mali. This was put down with help from France and Chad however the issue of Azawad independence continues to be raised.

So how did it get to a pointy where 60% of a country declared independence?

The division of the nation (Source: New York Times)

The history of Azawad dates back to the seventh century AD with the establishment of the Gao Empire and by the ninth century AD the Gao Empire was considered the most powerful Kingdom in Western Africa.

In the eleventh century Gao became a part of the Songhai Empire that extended across the region and saw Gao become an important city on the trans-Saharan trade route.

In 1325 Gao was annexed by the Kingdom of Mali however 40 years later the Songhai Empire re-gained control, though it remained within the Kingdom of Mali. In the mid-fifteenth century Gao extended its influence into Timbuktu however this conquest caused conflict that led to Timbuktu remaining relatively autonomous.

In search of Gold, Morocco invaded in 1591 sacking Gao and aiding the arrival of the slave trade into Gao and Timbuktu. This ended the golden age of both cities and smaller Kingdoms were created.

In 1737 the Tuareg (of Berber descendant) took control of the region in 1737 and they were followed by several other Muslim groups who claimed dominance at various times until the European scramble for Africa which saw France claim the region in 1893.

Now part of French Sudan, Gao & Timbuktu, were well passed their prime and faced numerous changes in French governance as France changed the shape of the colonies it possessed throughout the first half of the twentieth century. This would continue until 1958 when French Sudan was re-named Mali before becoming independent in 1960.

Thus, modern day Mali comprises many different indigenous and ethnic groups that over the period of European expansion were grouped together arbitrary. These colonial decisions continue to have ongoing impacts across much of the African continent.

Natural Disasters

A satellite image of Hurricane Sandy, 2012 (Source: National Weather Service)

Between 22 October and 2 November, the biggest Atlantic hurricane on record, Hurricane Sandy, hits land killing 233 and causing over $68.7 billion damage across the region.

At the end of November and into the start of December a typhoon known as Typhoon Bopha hits the Philippines resulting in at least 1,067 deaths and leaving 838 people missing.

In India July ends with the world’s worst power outage in history leaving 620 million people without power.

The Costa Concordia Disaster

On this day ten years ago, 31 January 2012, the search for those still missing in the Costa Concordia disaster was officially called off.

The tragedy of the Costa Concordia is no doubt the most well-known cruising disaster in the last decade and resulted in the death of 34 people. For a long time, particularly amongst regular cruises, there was confusion about how anyone could die in what was a seemingly terrible but close to shore event. Subsequent stories and revelations have since led me to wonder how more people didn’t die? Thanks in no part to the captain or most senior crew, the death toll is thankfully comparatively low.

The Concordia begins to list dramatically, 2012 (Source: Vanity Fair)

Everyone no doubt knows the story by now. The Italian ship was undertaking an unsanctioned manoeuvre (a “show off” move) on 13 January 2012 and it hit rocks just off the shore of the Isola del Giglio in Tuscany. The order to evacuate took over an hour to be delivered, by which time the ship had begun to list after taking on water.

While there are some documentaries out there about the disaster there really isn’t a lot of information about the full story or the victims available in English. I find it really interesting that the victims, for the most part are faceless when usually the victims faces are plastered all over the world.

The Costa Concordia after coming to rest on the sea bed, 2012 (Source: The Guardian)

By the end of January, the situation had changed from rescue to an environmental operation. While it seems unlikely that passengers could be found alive so long after the incident there was some hope as 24 hours afterwards a young couple from South Korea who were on their honeymoon had been found safe and sound in their stateroom. Hours after this the ships hotel director was also found alive in the wreck. He had fallen whilst helping passengers escape and his leg had become trapped. For this reason many held out hope more people would be found alive.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case and when the search was called off there were still 17 people unaccounted for. The investigation into the sinking reported that most who died succumbed to the sea after jumping or falling into the ocean without a life jacket and most were unable to swim. Others were killed when they fell into abysses caused by the ship turning onto its side. This made it hard to find many of the bodies until the ship was turned upright. The final missing passengers would not be found until almost three years later when the ship was sent to the wreckers. Prior to this though the ship claimed another victim when one of the salvage crew was killed during salvage operations.

This was a tragic incident that never needed to happen but like all tragedy’s it has helped make cruising safer.

The Concordia after being raised in early 2014 (Source: Reuters)

Pop Culture

The year 2012 saw two mega music stars pass away well before their time. The year saw the loss of Whitney Houston on 11 February, aged just 48 and Donna Summer on 17 May aged 63.

Arguably the most famous astronaut in history, Neil Armstrong also sadly passed away on 25 August aged 82.

Pictured Above: Donna Summer, Undated (Source: Fotos International, Getty Images), Whitney Houston, 1991 (Source: United Sattes Defence Force), and Neil Armstrong, 1969 (Source: NASA)

The highest grossing film of the year was The Avenger’s followed by James Bond: Skyfall.

At the Oscar’s the film “The Artist” went home victorious as did “Hugo”, each winning five awards respectively.

The top song of the year on the US Billboard charts was by Belgian-Australian Gotye featuring Kimbra with “Somebody That I Used to Know”. Also dominating the charts were Carly Rae Jepsen with “Call Me Maybe” and Fun with “We are Young”.

Jepsen’s song was the number one for the year on the Australian charts with PSY’s “Gangnam Style” finishing the year at number two in Australia.

Album cover of PSY's Gangnam Style, 2012

Sporting News

In sporting news, the Summer Olympics were held in London, England between 27 July and 12 August. From an Australian perspective these games were considered a flop with just 8 gold medals won. This was the least amount of gold brought home by the Aussie team since the 1992 Games. Having said that Team Australia did finish eighth on the medal table which isn't too bad (though the Aussie's worst finish since 1992), however Great Britain, who until the previous games in 2008, had not been near the top of the table finished in third behind the USA in first and China in second.

The games were marred by allegations of illegal use with 40 medals stripped after the games. The majority of these were against former Soviet Union countries however the USA's Men's 4 x100m rely were stripped of their gold after one team member was found guilty of doping.

At the other end of the spectrum the athletics stadium was dominated by Jamaica, led by Usain Bolt who became the first man to successfully defend an Olympic Sprint title since Carl Lewis in 1988 after he won the 100m in a time of 9.63 seconds. Jamaica would go on to take a clean sweep in the Men's 200m individual event with Bolt winning gold followed by Yohan Blake in silver and Warren Weir in bronze. Bolt then helped the team win gold in the men's 4 x100m relay.

Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir take part in a lap on honour following their clean sweep in the Men's 200m, 2012 (Source: The Guardian)


Further Reading:

*Where more information is provided see individual blogs or posts for further reading


  • Australia Through Time, 2004 Edition (Sydney: Random House, 2004)

  • The Visual History of the Modern World (Sydney: Funtastic, 2005)

  • Dateline: People, Places and Events (Sydney: Murdoch Books, 2006)

General Online:

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica; <>

  • National Geographic Education; <>

  • History Channel (A & E); <>

  • BBC World News; <>

Specific Note:

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