Have a drink with: The Greely Expedition
Survivor: Climate Research Edition
Ask them about: Eating your shoes
Hey folks! If you think you’ve got it bad having to stay home for Thanksgiving, well, at least you’re not marooned in the Arctic having to eat your shoes for dinner. My piece on the ill-fated Greely Arctic expedition – and how the Barnum Museum ended up with one of its odd, furry relics – is up at Atlas Obscura today. Click on over to read on.
Have a drink with: Henry Opukaha’ia
Ask him about: No pineapple on Pepe’s, right?
We’ve talked before about how Connecticut has given the world a wide assortment of innovations, some good, some bad: speed limits, law schools and scary Puritan judges, sure, but also Pepe’s pizza, submarines, constitutional government (maybe?) and P.T. Barnum.
With a check mark in each column: Henry Opukaha’ia. Good news: remarkable Hawaiian visits Connecticut, absolutely crushes scholarly agenda and impresses the pants off of the leading religious voices of his day. Bad news: his fan club includes a legion of New England missionaries bound for the Pacific.
Have a drink with: David Bushnell
Damn the torpedoes.
Ask him about: The one that got away
Folks in Warrenton, Georgia were understandably sad when Doctor David Bush passed away in 1826. Single and in his eighties at the time of his death, the old man was a local institution: in more than thirty years in town Bush had practiced medicine, been active in local politics and even set up an area school. Folks knew the local doctor was quiet, civic-minded and accomplished.
So his secret identity may have come as a bit of a surprise.
Have a drink with: Yankee Whalers
Amazon Wish List: a dead whale or a stove boat.
Ask them about: holiday shopping
Ron Howard’s new movie In the Heart of the Sea, a film adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s excellent book of the same name, tells the story of the Essex, a Nantucket whaler rammed and sunk by a whale in the Pacific Ocean, and of her crew grimly struggling for survival miles from anywhere.
So whaling is a hot topic right now, and I am all about that. I could talk to you about whether Melville aped the Essex tale when creating Moby-Dick, what it feels like to take a Nantucket sleigh ride, or even whether or not the Essex crew’s fear of fierce cannibal islanders was legitimate (short answers: a little; waterskiing on your face; not really).
But let’s face it, it’s the holidays, and you are no doubt wondering to yourself: what’s the perfect gift for that special person in my life? Wonder no more: the Yankee whaler’s gift guide knows exactly how to get your presents on-trend for 2015.
Have a drink with: Captain William Kidd
Privateer, man of song and legend, unwitting pirate?
Ask him about: the tabloid trial of the (18th) century!
William Kidd, a merchant captain and commissioned privateer, was tried and executed in 1701 for throwing away the king’s commission to turn pirate in the Indian Ocean. Not 25 years later, Captain Kidd was renowned in England as the man “whose publick Tryal and Execution here, rendered him the Subject of all Conversation, so that his Actions have been chanted about in Ballads.”*
To the end Kidd denied he’d been a pirate, and lamented a perfect storm of mutiny, betrayal and scapegoating.
So: birth of a pirate king, or a complete bus-chuck?
Have a drink with: The Charles W. Morgan
Whaleship, world traveler, cultural ambassador, marine rendering plant
Ask her about: What it smells like to cart around a few dozen sailors in a wooden oil tub with limited cleaning facilities. For three years at a time.
The Charles W. Morgan is the last of the American wooden whaling ships, originally built in 1841 in New Bedford, Massachusetts and retired in the early 20th century after an active whaling career. Normally a floating exhibit at Mystic Seaport, the Morgan has undergone a multi-year, multi-million dollar restoration and is right now under sail around New England for the first time since the 1920’s. She’ll travel from Connecticut to Newport, New Bedford, Cape Cod and Boston before returning home in August, and you can follow the voyage on the Seaport’s various great online and social media streams (hashtag: #38thvoyage).
Now, I love history, but I REALLY love whaling history. To the point that I did a summer internship at a whaling museum while in law school. (Tax law memos or scrimshaw? Duh.) But if you are not me, and chances are you aren’t, what is this Morgan thing all about?
I thought you’d never ask.