HMS Bounty

The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, is shown submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy approximately 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., on Oct. 29. Of the 16-person crew, the Coast Guard rescued 14, recovered a woman and is searching for the captain of the vessel. (US Coast Guard via Reuters)

via The Big Picture. The original HMS Bounty is somewhere underwater here, at Bounty Bay, Pitcairn Island.

Luis Marden discovered the remains of Bounty in January 1957. After spotting remains of the rudder (which had been found in 1933 by Parkin Christian, and is still displayed in the Fiji Museum in Suva), he persuaded his editors and writers to let him dive off Pitcairn Island, where the rudder had been found. Despite the warnings of one islander – “Man, you gwen be dead as a hatchet!” – Marden dove for several days in the dangerous swells near the island, and found the remains of the fabled ship: a rudder pin, nails, a ships boat oarlock, fittings and a Bountyanchor that he raised…

 Later in life, Marden wore cuff linksmade of nails from Bounty.

Charles C. Mann


Reading this great article by Charles C. Mann, one of my faves.

About 75,000 years ago, a huge volcano exploded on the island of Sumatra. The biggest blast for several million years, the eruption created Lake Toba, the world’s biggest crater lake, and ejected the equivalent of as much as 3,000 cubic kilometers of rock, enough to cover the District of Columbia in a layer of magma and ash that would reach to the stratosphere. A gigantic plume spread west, enveloping southern Asia in tephra (rock, ash, and dust)… In the long run, the eruption raised Asian soil fertility. In the short term, it was catastrophic. Dust hid the sun for as much as a decade, plunging the earth into a years-long winter accompanied by widespread drought….

At about this time, many geneticists believe, Homo sapiens’numbers shrank dramatically, perhaps to a few thousand people—the size of a big urban high school.

Talking about how fast bacteria can grow:

The cells in the time-lapse video seemed to shiver and boil, doubling in number every few seconds, colonies exploding out until the mass of bacteria filled the screen. In just thirty-six hours, she said, this single bacterium could cover the entire planet in a foot-deep layer of single-celled ooze. Twelve hours after that, it would create a living ball of bacteria the size of the earth.

On behavioral changes by humanity:

To get Crusoe on his unlucky voyage, Defoe made him an officer on a slave ship, transporting captured Africans to South America. Today, no writer would make a slave seller the admirable hero of a novel. But in 1720, when Defoe published Robinson Crusoe, no readers said boo about Crusoe’s occupation, because slavery was the norm from one end of the world to another. Rules and names differed from place to place, but coerced labor was everywhere, building roads, serving aristocrats, and fighting wars. Slaves teemed in the Ottoman Empire, Mughal India, and Ming China. Unfree hands were less common in continental Europe, but Portugal, Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands happily exploited slaves by the million in their American colonies. Few protests were heard; slavery had been part of the fabric of life since the code of Hammurabi…

Even as the industrial North and agricultural South warred over the treatment of Africans, they regarded women identically: in neither half of the nation could they attend college, have a bank account, or own property. Equally confining were women’s lives in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Nowadays women are the majority of U.S. college students, the majority of the workforce, and the majority of voters.

Photo is of Lake Toba, I found it here.  

This guy


Chicken of the woods

Learning about laetiporous thanks to this article, “Cape Cod mushroom fan hit jackpot while foraging,” sent to us by Chestnut Hill office.  Three good sentences from the article:

Ian Sullivan saw the giant mushroom and rejoiced. There would be soup that night. 

“It’s fun for them to find something that is big and bright orange growing in the woods.”
“You have to think like a mushroom,” said Sullivan.
And here is a laetiporous prepared dish:

Train Dreams

One of Grainier’s last jobs was to get up the Yaak River Road to the saloon at the logging village of Sylvanite, in the hills above which a lone prospector had blown himself up in his shack while trying to thaw out frozen dynamite on his stove.  The man lay out on the bartop, alive and talking, sipping free whiskey and praising his dog…

Much that was astonishing was told of the dogs in the Panhandle and along the Kootenai River, tales of rescues, tricks, feats of supercanine intelligence and humanlike understanding.


Seven Psychopaths

Mickey Rourke dropped out of The Expendables 2 to star in the film. However, he later dropped out of Seven Psychopaths after having disagreements with [Martin] McDonagh, calling him a “jerk-off.”

George McGovern

Reading obituaries of this guy, who seemed great and tragic:

After leaving the Senate, McGovern held a number of visiting professorships and opened a motel in Stratford Connecticut — which struggled for a few years before going bankrupt. He was briefly and unsuccessfully involved in the 1984 Democratic primaries, his campaign notable for a speech in which he explained to party members why he needed their vote: “I didn’t have a job. My apartment burned down and I had a real nice dog but he died. If you want to house the homeless and comfort the afflicted, vote for me. I am one of these eight candidates who really does need that house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Awhile ago an English friend suggested that the Telegraph has the best obituaries.  From there I learned:

his 30th [mission as a bomber pilot] almost proved fatal when his aircraft was badly damaged over Vienna and his navigator killed. McGovern managed, however, to nurse the bomber away from the conflict zone to make a crash-landing on the island of Vis in the Adriatic.

Here is Vis (the town of Komiža, to be specific):

In his temperament (wise, good-humored) and his background (professor, considered becoming a minister) McGovern seems like a bit of a real life President Bartlet:

Kind of have the feeling that in real life Bartlet too would have only won Massachusetts.

(That top photo is from this great Life set, credited to Bill Eppridge; rest from wiki as us)

The Finish, by Mark Bowden

This is a good book, highly recommended, a complex story well-told.

Bowden notes that in many of his final letters, Osama bin Laden has a “quaint courtesy,” and indeed his language does sound oddly cute.  Here’s an excerpt from one written close to his death:

It would be nice if you would pick a number of brothers, not to exceed ten, and send them to their countries individually, without knowing the others, to study aviation… it would be nice if you would ask the brothers in all regions if they have a brother distinguished by good manners, integrity, courage, and secretiveness, who can operate in the United States…

It would be nice.  Maybe it’s the translation.  Osama also doesn’t think too much of Joe Biden, advising in another letter:

The reason for concentrating on [trying to kill Obama, but not other high-level Americans, during a possible visit to Afghanistan] is that he is the head of infidelity and killing him will automatically make Biden take over the presidency for the remainder of the term, as it is the norm over there.  Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the United States into crisis.

Anyway, the book has some excellent information on the lives and careers of figures key to the hunt for Bin Laden.  I learned, for instance, that on 9/11, Bill McRaven, later head of Joint Special Operations Command, was in a hospital bed, having had his pelvis cracked and his back broken during a parachute accident.

Bowden introduces speechwriter and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, noting his”prematurely thinning black hair.”  Later, we learn, “his hair had thinned on top.”

Ship’s Cats

A good Wikipedia page, well-illustrated.

Here’s Blackie, with Winston Churchill:

Here is Convoy:

Sadly, Convoy was lost when the HMS Hermione was sunk in the Mediterranean in 1942.

Here is Peebles, known for shaking hands with strangers:

Pebbles served on the HMS Western Isles, which was used to evacuate children from Guernsey before the German occupation.

And here is Tiddles:

When he sailed around Australia in 1801-3, the explorer Matthew Flinders had a cat named Trim.  According to Flinders, Trim was eaten by slaves in Mauritus some years later.  Here is a statue of Trim in Sydney:

Mrs. Chippy deserves and will receive more extensive coverage at some future date.

First Space Jump

Joseph Kittinger.

Pressurization for his right glove malfunctioned during the ascent, and his right hand swelled to twice its normal size. Ignoring the pain, he rode the balloon up to 102,800 feet and said a short prayer — “Lord, take care of me now” — before stepping off.

Of the jumps from Excelsior, Kittinger said, “There’s no way you can visualize the speed. There’s nothing you can see to see how fast you’re going. You have no depth perception. If you’re in a car driving down the road and you close your eyes, you have no idea what your speed is. It’s the same thing if you’re free falling from space. There are no signposts. You know you are going very fast, but you don’t feel it. You don’t have a 614-mph wind blowing on you. I could only hear myself breathing in the helmet.”

Here is his gondola, on display at the National Air & Space Museum:

Kittinger was shot down on May 11, 1972, just before the end of his third tour of duty [in Vietnam]… Kittinger and his wingman were chasing a MiG-21 when Kittinger’s Phantom II was hit by an air-to-air missile that damaged the fighter’s starboard wing and set the airplane on fire. Kittinger and [Weapons Systems Operator William] Reich ejected a few miles from Thai Nguyen and were soon captured and taken to the city of Hanoi.

Kittinger and Reich spent 11 months as prisoners of war (POWs) in the “Hanoi Hilton” prison. Kittinger was put through “rope torture” soon after his arrival at the POW compound and this made a lasting impression on him.

Sunday Morning In The Mines, Charles Christian Nahl, 1872

The Faroe Islands

From The Atlantic’s In Focus, pure The Helytimes bait:  photos of the Faroe Islands.  These two are credited to Arne List.

Traditional Faroese food is mainly based on meat, seafood and potatoes and uses few fresh vegetables. Mutton is the basis of many meals, and one of the most popular treats is skerpikjøt, well aged, wind-dried mutton, which is quite chewy. The drying shed, known as a hjallur, is a standard feature in many Faroese homes, particularly in the small towns and villages. Other traditional foods are ræst kjøt (semi-dried mutton) and ræstur fiskur, matured fish. Another Faroese specialty is Grind og spik,pilot whale meat and blubber. (A parallel meat/fat dish made with offal is garnatálg.) Well into the last century, meat and blubber from a pilot whale meant food for a long time. Fresh fish also features strongly in the traditional local diet, as do seabirds, such as Faroese puffins, and their eggs. Dried fish is also commonly eaten.

Statue Storm!

“Oh SHIT!” I thought, as I lay in bed last night.  “I’ve forgotten!  What was the consequence of the ‘Letters from the Segovia Woods,’ written by Philip II of Spain to Margaret of Parma in 1565-66, wherein Philip rejected requests to abolish the laws against heresy in the Spanish Netherlands?!”

It’s a wonder I got to sleep at all, but I did.  All night I was haunted, however, by dreams of Dutch Calvinists smashing Catholic art.  My dreams looked like this:

When I woke up, it was with a smile.

“Of course,” I remembered.  “The Letters from the Segovia Woods led to the ‘Beeldenstorm’ – the ‘statue storm’ – wherein angry Dutch Protestants destroyed Catholic iconography.  Then the Duke of Alba shows up to repress the uprising, etc. etc., the 80 Years War is ON.”

Here, from the relevant Wikipedia page, is Bruegel the Elder’s painting The Preaching Of John The Baptist:

Who’s that looking back at us?  Bruegel himself?  I dunno, but here’s the kind of detail you’d get to see if you were at the Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest:

Hurricane, Bahamas (1898)

Winslow.  Not on display at the Met.


Remembered a story I heard once that Columbus on one of his later expeditions brought along speakers of Hebrew and Arabic, in the hopes that they might be able to communicate with North Americans in some version of the “original language.”  Found myself on the wikipedia page for “Proto-Human language.”

A fairly large number of words have been tentatively traced back to the ancestor language, based on the occurrence of similar sound-and-meaning forms in languages across the globe. The best-known such vocabulary list is that of John Bengtson and Merritt Ruhlen (1994), who identify 27 “global etymologies”.

Source: Ruhlen 1994b:103. The symbol V stands for “a vowel whose precise character is unknown” (ib. 105).

Based on these correspondences, Merritt Ruhlen (1994b:105) lists these roots for the ancestor language:

  • ku = ‘who’
  • ma = ‘what’
  • pal = ‘two’
  • akwa = ‘water’
  • tik = ‘finger’
  • kanV = ‘arm’
  • boko = ‘arm’
  • buŋku = ‘knee’
  • sum = ‘hair’
  • putV = ‘vulva’
  • čuna = ‘nose, smell’

To summarize some further reading: these findings are controversial.

Una’s Tits

Una’s Tits, also known as Cape Renard Tower, are two towers of basalt, each topped by a cap of ice, guarding the northern entrance to the Lemaire Channel on the Antarctic Peninsula… they are officially named “Una’s Tits” and are identified as such on navigation charts.

Una was a woman living in Stanley, Falkland Islands who was working for what is now the British Antarctic Survey.

Flickr user Liam Quinn says this about Una:

named after the Falklands office secretary who would have been one of the last women seen by British Antarctic staff around 1950.

Three diligent minutes of internet searching leaves me without a last name, and I think I prefer it that way.

Photo from wikipedia, via this great category.

I did not know

that there is a middle school in LA named after Johnnie Cochran:

(let me stress once again that if I don’t source a photo, it’s from Wikipedia or I took it myself.  This one’s from Wiki)

Photos of Antarctica from The Atlantic

That snow’s not dirty – those are penguins.  On South Georgia Island, a Norwegian whalers’ church:

See ’em big.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Get a load of this dandy:

Born in Glasgow the year Seward bought Alaska from the Russians, one of twelve children, he became an architect.  He designed this house which wasn’t built until 1996:

He had this idea for Liverpool Cathedral:

But they built this instead:

(Giles Gilbert Scott, the winning architect, was 22)

Frustrated with architecture, Rennie became a painter:

The fort in Port-Vendres, France?  Or a mad vision of the PCH between Big Sur and San Francisco?

The Lighthouse, Glasgow:

Died 1928.

(Cathedral plan from here, everything else from Wikipedia per usual)

Photos by Sze Tsung Leong

ht bldgblog’s twitter.  STL’s website.

Top is China, bottom is Quito, Ecuador.