Caveman Digest – WIF Ancient History

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Theories About

Why the

Neanderthals

Died Out

Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis… or, humans and Neanderthals… started to diverge from a common ancestor, Homo erectus, about 700,000 years ago. Then our species completely branched off about 300,000 years ago.

On average, Neanderthals were shorter than humans and they had a stockier build. They also had angled cheekbones, prominent brow ridges, and wide noses. Like humans, they used tools, controlled fire, and buried their dead. Also, while they are often depicted as dumb, savage brutes, researchers believe they were as intelligent as humans.

They lived in Eurasia, from about Spain to western Siberia, and while the date of their extinction is debated, it’s believed that they died out somewhere between 30,000 to 42,000 years ago. Why they went extinct is one of the biggest mysteries in evolutionary science. So why did our ancestral cousins die out?

10. We Were Better Hunters

The Neanderthals went extinct not long after humans migrated out of Africa into Eurasia. Since the Neanderthals ruled Europe for so long before the arrival of humans, and suddenly died off after coming into contact with them, it has led researchers to believe that humans were somehow responsible, at least in part, for the extinction.

One theory as to how humans drove Neanderthals to extinction was because we were better hunters. This became a problem because, with only a limited amount of food, there would have been competition for it. Since we’re here and they aren’t, it would suggest that we were better hunters and got most of the food. This would have caused the Neanderthal population to plummet, while the human population would have gone up.

9. Humans Violently Replaced Them

Throughout history, groups of humans have had a tendency to kill, enslave, or conquer other groups of people who are different from them. Why would prehistoric humans be any different when they came into contact with the Neanderthals?

When humans migrated out of Africa, they may have been more aggressive and more violent than the Neanderthals because that was advantageous to their hunting style. Meanwhile, it’s believed that the Neanderthals were less violent because they didn’t hunt in the same way. Instead of hunting and chasing down big animals, to get their protein they ate insects.

If they were more peaceful by nature, the Neanderthals would have been unable to fight off the growing population of violent human brutes who invaded their territory.

8. Volcanic Eruption

An event that can have profound effects on the Earth is the eruption of a large volcano. When a volcano erupts, millions of cubic tons of ash and debris can be put into the atmosphere and this alters the climate of the Earth by making it cooler, because less sun reaches the Earth.

Well 39,000 years ago, around the same time that the Neanderthals started to go extinct, the Campi Flegrei volcano west of Naples, Italy had a massive eruption. It was the biggest eruption in Europe in 200,000 years and 60 cubic miles of ash was pumped into the atmosphere.

This would have had devastating effects on the Neanderthals. The sun would have been blotted out for months, if not years. This would have cooled temperatures in Europe and it would have brought acid rain. These types of conditions would have made the environment inhospitable to the Neanderthals, causing them to die out. As the ash dispersed and the Neanderthals were dying off, humans would have moved into Europe with little resistance.

7. Humans Hunted With Wolves

Around the time that the Neanderthals went extinct, there were three top predators competing for food in Europe: the Neanderthals, humans, and wolves. According to anthropologist Pat Shipman of Pennsylvania State University an alliance between the wolves and the humans led to the extinction of the Neanderthals. His theory is that humans were able to tame and breed wolves. These wolf-dogs would have been used to get large animals, like mammoths, cornered so humans could finish them off. Cornering the animal was the most dangerous part of the hunt.

Also, when humans would bring down the animals and started to cut it apart, they would had to fight off scavengers, but the wolves would have been able sense scavengers from longer distances and they would have scared them off. Then the humans would feed the wolves and this would have been a win-win situation for the two top predators.

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the Neanderthals used wolves to hunt. Without their help, prey would have been more dangerous to hunt and they would have to exert more energy while hunting, meaning they needed more food to sustain themselves. This would have made it hard for the Neanderthal population to maintain and grow their population, especially when two of their competitors teamed up to fight for the same resources that they needed.

6. Humans Had More Culture

According to a mathematical model from Stanford University, the reason that humans are still around and the Neanderthals aren’t is that humans had a high level of culture. By having a stronger culture, they would have been able to hunt and gather food over a larger area than the Neanderthals. This culture would have also led to better tool-making skills, which would allow them to make better weapons. For example, an ax would have been an incredibly useful tool and a devastating weapon.

According to their model, a small population of humans with a high level of culture could have overwhelmed a large population of Neanderthals who were less cultured.

5. The Division of Labor

The Neanderthals didn’t have the most complex diet. They were known to hunt big game animals, which was a dangerous task. They also hunted differently than humans. Neanderthal men, women, and juveniles would get involved with the hunt. Humans, on the other hand, developed tasks based on gender and age. This division of labor allowed them to collect a variety of different foods, and then they could process and cook it.

Being able to eat a variety of cooked food would have given humans an evolutionary edge in two ways. The first is that there would been more sources for food. Secondly, the more complex diet of cooked food not only allowed humans to survive, but it also helped in the evolution of the human brain and helped make it what it is today.

4. Neanderthals Had Smaller Frontal Lobes

One of the prevailing misconceptions surrounding the Neanderthals is that we were smarter than them. However, researchers believe their brains were just as big as humans’, but they were built differently. Neanderthal brains were designed to control their large bodies and to track movement. Humans had larger frontal lobes, which is the region of the brain where decision-making, social behavior, creativity, and abstract thought are controlled. In the long run, these qualities probably gave us an evolutionary edge compared the Neanderthals.

For example, by using abstract thought, humans realized that by processing food, like smashing up cooked yams, it would have saved energy during the eating process because you need less energy to chew your food. This is especially important when raising children. Secondly, the frontal lobe would have been helpful in spreading new technology quickly. With a larger frontal lobe it would have been easier for humans to teach each other, and to learn. Also, thanks to the large frontal lobe, early humans saw the benefit in forming large social groups, and these large groups would have made technology easier to spread across the species.

By saving energy on everyday tasks like eating, and utilizing technology, it would have given us an evolutionary edge that allowed us to survive while the Neanderthals went extinct.

3. The Weather Change Changed Their Habitat

An argument against the replacement theory is that humans had nothing to do with the extinction of the Neanderthals. After all, humans first left Africa about 100,000 years ago and moved into the Middle East, and then about 60,000 years ago they made it to Australia. However, humans only migrated into Europe, the Neanderthal’s homeland, 45,000 years ago. The question is, why did humans travel all the way down to Australia before getting to Europe, which is essentially around the corner from the Middle East? This suggests that humans may have only been able to move in when the Neanderthals were already dying off.

So why were they dying off? Well, drastic weather change could have been the culprit. When the Neanderthals went extinct, the last Ice Age was coming to an end and Eurasia was experiencing unstable weather patterns which dramatically changed the landscape. For example, in Italy around the time the Neanderthals went extinct, forests morphed into open plains over the span of 100 years. The Neanderthal body simply couldn’t evolve fast enough to survive in the new landscape.

The problem was that the Neanderthals hunted in the forest. They used the trees as cover and then they clubbed or stabbed prey. Their bodies simply weren’t built to sneak up on fast moving and dangerous game animals in the newly developed open plains.

Humans, on the other hand, were used to grasslands and open fields because that was the terrain in Africa where humans evolved and strived. With the Neanderthal population dwindling and the landscape becoming advantageous to humans’ skills, our ancestors simply moved into the area.

2. Disease Wiped Them Out

Why the Neanderthals lived for tens of thousands of years in Eurasia, but died out about 1,000 to 5,000 years after coming into contact with humans, is one of the most debated topics in anthropology. The obvious conclusion is that humans had something to do with the extinction, but no one is sure how or why humans caused it.

One theory is that when the Neanderthals moved out of Africa and settled in Eurasia, their immune system developed to deal with that environment. However, when humans migrated out of Africa, they brought African pathogens with them and these caused diseases like tuberculosis, herpes, tapeworms, and stomach ulcers. The Neanderthals’ immune systems simply couldn’t deal with the diseases and they went extinct. Yes, you read that right. Humans gave the Neanderthals herpes and it killed them.

Evidence to back this up is that this is what happened when Europeans came to the Americas starting in 1492. When they came, they brought diseases like smallpox and malaria, and this was devastating to people in the Americas. Since the Native Americans’ immune systems weren’t developed to combat the diseases, it’s estimated that 20 million Native Americans were killed in the years following contact with the Europeans, which was nearly 95 percent of the population in the Americas.

1. They Assimilated With Humans

One theory surrounding the fate of the Neanderthals is that there was no death blow. They simply assimilated with humans by interbreeding. For any of the reasons listed in the other entries on this list, or quite possibly because of a combination of them, the population of Neanderthals became drastically low. However, instead of all of them dying off, the species was just absorbed by the much bigger human population.

Evidence to back this up is that if you were born outside of Africa, 1.5 to 2.1 percent of your DNA is Neanderthal in origin. However, what’s interesting is that it isn’t the same genes in everyone. For example, if you have 2% Neanderthal DNA and your next door neighbor has 2% Neanderthal DNA, you may not share the same 2%. Researchers think that 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome is still found within humans. So they never exactly went extinct; instead, their DNA just became part of the modern human genome.


Caveman Digest –

WIF Ancient History

Those Wacky Pharaohs – WIF Confidential

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Crazy Things

Done by

Egyptian Pharaohs

Like many rulers from the time before we had running water and microwaves, the pharaohs of Egypt were considered to be only rivaled in power by the gods their people worshiped. Considering the ancient Egyptians worshiped a god with crocodile for a head, they must have thought their pharaohs were pretty boss. So boss in fact that they let them get away with some pretty ridiculous things during their time in power, for example let’s talk about that time…

 10. Pharaoh Psamtik III Let His Army be Defeated… to Save Some Cats

As you may recall from The Mummy movies, cats were kind of a big deal in ancient Egypt. This is mostly due to the animal being closely linked with the cat-headed goddess of warfare and balls of twine, Bastet. In addition, cats were revered for the role they played in protecting food stores and homes from disease by killing pests likes snakes and rats. As a result, it was considered a crime in ancient Egypt to harm or, through inaction, allow a cat to come to harm. Basically, the pharaohs coined the three laws of robotics millennia before Asimov, and used them to protect the thing that poops under your stairs.

Perhaps the greatest example of a pharaoh placing the well-being of cats above that of his own people was when pharaoh Psamtik III literally told his army not to fight because an enemy commander had released hundreds of cats onto the battlefield. That commander was Persian king Cambyses II who, knowing of the Egyptians love of cats, had his men collect as many as they could prior to the battle and ordered them to simply walk up to the front gate of Pelusium (a major Egyptian stronghold) holding them, along with releasing hundreds more into the enemy ranks as they advanced.

The Egyptians, under threat of death from their pharaoh, had no choice but to let Cambyses’ men walk straight into the city unchecked. Cambyses’ men then methodically slaughtered anyone who dared challenge them, using shields with cats drawn on them, because oh yeah, even striking an image of a cat in ancient Egypt was enough to get in trouble.

The end result was a total victory for Cambyses, who celebrated in a dignified, noble fashion. Just kidding. He ordered the defeated Egyptian army to march past him as he threw cats at them while screaming insults at their god. Luckily for Psamtik, this is by no means the most embarrassing thing to happen to a pharaoh, with that honor likely belonging to…

9. Pharaoh Menes, the Legendary Pharaoh Who Was Killed by an Angry Hippo

Pharaoh Menes (sometimes written as Mena, or sometimes simply Min) was reportedly Egypt’s first pharaoh, and his journey to unify all of Egypt under a single ruler is the stuff of legend. Not because it was awesome, but because we know virtually nothing about Menes’ life or rule. He’s just from that long ago.

In fact, historians are only really confident about a few key details from Menes’ life: That he ruled Egypt during a time of relative peace, that he was well-respected by his people, and that he was stomped to death by a hippo after 62 years on the throne. Exactly how Menes met his end at the hands of a hippo isn’t known, because apparently that’s not a detail anyone back then felt was all that interesting to note. All we know for sure is that somehow the first Egyptian pharaoh was mysteriously ambushed while surrounded by guards, by a hippo. Speaking of dead pharaohs, did you know…

8. Pharaoh Rameses Got a Passport, Long After He Was Dead

Ramses II is considered to have been one of ancient Egypt’s greatest rulers, judging by just how many monuments were built in his name and the fact he was alternatively known as Ramses the Great by his subjects. After a 96-year long career as a pharaoh, Ramses was probably looking forward to spending some quality time alone as a corpse in a pimpin’ gold coffin, but the museums of the world had other ideas.

Like many great pharaohs, Ramses’ corpse was exhumed and put on display in a museum, his near-century-long legacy as a man thought of as no less than a god summed up by a single placard in a language his ancient mind couldn’t comprehend. In 1974, after years on display, Ramses’ corpse was showing its age and it was agreed that it should be sent to a Paris laboratory to be prettied up.

Not wanting the memory of one of the greatest pharaoh to be sullied by listing him as luggage, the Egyptian government granted Ramses an official Egyptian passport for his journey. Along with listing his name and age (some 3,000+ years at the time he flew), the passport also listed Ramses occupation as “King” with a small disclaimer adding that he was dead, as if the fact he was 3,000 years old didn’t already give that away.

7. Pharaoh Sesostris and His Big Ol’ Vagina Statues

Pharaoh Sesostris is a Pharaoh who may or may not have existed, with modern historians believing that he may actually be a composite figure with the stories told about him being gleaned from the lives of several pharaohs from across Egypt’s history. These pharaohs include the aforementioned Ramses the Great and Seti the First. As a result, we don’t know exactly who the following story is actually attributed to, but we had to share it, because… well, you’ll see.

The story goes that Sesostris was an incredibly confident military leader who hungered for battle, openly mocking enemies he felt fought poorly and applauding those he felt fought with honor. To this end the pharaoh is said to have taken to erecting statues in the middle of conquered cities he felt didn’t put up much of a fight with a giant vagina carved into it. A symbolic insult suggesting that the conquered city’s army fought like women. Again, we have no idea about the veracity of this tale since it’s main source is the notoriously unreliable scholar of history, Herodotus, but put yourself in our shoes and tell us you wouldn’t at least mention a pharaoh with a penchant for erecting giant vagina statues as an insult?

6. Pharaoh Akhenaten Got Rid of Religion, So Egypt Got Rid of Him

Akhenaten is a Pharaoh notable for two things: attempting to introduce monotheism to ancient Egypt, and the resulting backlash that saw him nearly erased from all of history.

 Basically, Akhenaten attempted to abandon the traditional Egyptian religious beliefs of believing in multiple awesome gods, and instead tried to convince his people to believe in and worship a single, super god called Aten. Perhaps because Aten was a lame disk of light with dozens of arms instead of a cool crocodile man or dog-headed grim reaper, the people of Egypt largely rejected this new religion and mere days after Akhenaten died, every reference to Aten – and by extension Akhenaten (who styled himself as Aten’s representative on Earth like some sort of sun-pope) – was scrubbed from Egypt.

Everything from the vast temples the pharaoh built to simple cooking pots bearing an image of Aten were destroyed, and Akhenaten himself was branded a traitor, with every mention of his rule being erased from every historical record. So complete was this process that his modern scholars had no idea Akhenaten had even existed until the late 19th century, when some of the items that survived the purge of his new religion were discovered.

5. Many Pharaohs Ceremonially Masturbated Into the Nile

Whacking it (the proper scientific term) played a surprisingly big part in ancient Egyptian culture, with the society’s creation story literally involving one of their many gods masturbating into the cosmos to create life as we know it. As pharaohs were seen as being basically a single step below the various deities of ancient Egypt, it was similarly customary for pharaohs to polish their bone and shoot some baby gravy directly into the Nile every now and again.

The idea behind this bizarre practice was that, like the gods before them, the pharaoh was infusing the river with his holy seed, encouraging life to spring forth from its waters in the form of a good harvest. Of course, not every pharaoh did this, because not every pharaoh had a tallywacker, which didn’t stop them pretending they did. Just ask…

4. Pharaoh Hatshepsut and Her Big Fake Beard

While the image of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh is undeniably that of a rippling, golden skinned man with a crooked staff, a silly hat, and a stupid beard, Egypt did have its fair share of vagina-owning pharaohs. Among them was Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s most celebrated rulers and a woman credited with one of the longest and most successful reigns of any ruler from history, female or otherwise. Along with establishing major trade routes that helped fill Egyptian coffers full of gold and various spices, Hapshetsut is also credited with inventing that killer eyeliner all the pharaohs wore.

History notes that Hatshepsut’s gender was seldom an issue for her subjects and many statues were built in her honor sporting her delicate features, and oddly enough, a big beard. You see, in ancient Egypt that stupid little beard thing was seen as a symbol of “pharaonic power” and all pharaohs, male and female, were expected to have one during special ceremonies. The problem for Hatshepsut, other female pharaohs, and even male pharaohs who couldn’t grow a half decent beard, is that this obviously wasn’t possible. As such, elaborate fake beards were constructed to be used by the pharaohs who, for whatever reason, didn’t like the idea of actually growing and maintaining a real one.

Hatshepsut went a step further than this, though, and she’s recorded to have ordered that all statues of her were to capture her likeness while also simultaneously depicting her as a man to silence any naysayers who believed she couldn’t rule because of her gender. As a result of this, Hapshetsut’s statues are a curiosity among historians, as they clearly depict her with female facial features, but a buff man’s body and a beard.

3. Pharaoh Cleopatra Once Had Herself Delivered Naked in a Carpet

Cleopatra, like Hapshetsut, (ge·sund·heit) was one of Egypt’s celebrated female rulers. However, unlike Hapshetsut, who went out of her way to appear as a man, Cleopatra was famous for using her womanly wiles to get her own way. This is no better summed up than by the story of how she got Julius Caesar into bed.

The story goes that Cleopatra, who was renowned across the ancient world for being both beautiful and exceptionally cunning, sought to secure Caesar’s assistance in bolstering her political power during a diplomatic visit by the Roman ruler. Seeing as, at the time they met, Caesar was a 52 year old man and she was a nubile 20 year old, Cleopatra realized the best way to do this would probably be with her vagina.

To absolutely ensure that Caesar would have no chance to spurn her advances, she stripped completely naked and had several slaves roll her up in a giant carpet (some sources say bed sheets), which she then asked to be delivered to Caesar as a “gift”. The slaves knocked on Caesar’s door, told him they had a present for him, then unrolled the fabric towards the foot of his bed, revealing a naked Cleopatra, who then invited him to have some sex.

The resulting love affair between Caesar and Cleopatra formed one of the ancient world’s most influential power couples, and it all started with a sex-move straight out of Barney Stinson’s playbook.

2. Pharaoh Pepi II and his Honey Covered Slaves

Pharaoh Pepi II was a fairly unremarkable pharaoh, all things considered. Sure, he ruled Egypt and probably did the five knuckle shuffle into the Nile a few times, but he was mostly content during his rule to gorge himself on food and chill with Ra by bathing shirtless beneath the burning Egyptian sun. Pepi, however, had a particular dislike of flies, in particular when he was trying to eat, which was an issue because Pepi was always stuffing his face.

To counter this problem King Pepi had a designated slave in his sizeable entourage covered in honey every day. This slave would invariably attract the flies, who’d become stuck to the honey and thus be unable to bother Pepi while he ate. This worked so well that Pepi eventually had a honey covered slave stand in every room of his palace so that he’d never be bothered by flies again, proving that even the most minor annoyances can be totally avoided, provided you’re rich and powerful enough, and also have an army of slaves willing to be dipped in honey.

1. Pharaoh Tutankhamun had a Dagger From Space

We’re not going to front by pretending anyone reading this far down on a list of ancient Egyptian pharaohs doesn’t have some sort of an idea about who Tutankhamun is, so we’re just going to get right to it and say he had a knife FROM SPACE.

Specifically, Tutankhamun had a small dagger experts believe was forged from the iron heart of a meteorite. Found in the pharaoh’s tomb in the 1920s, the dagger, despite being thousands of years old, is still sharp enough today that the TSA wouldn’t let you board a plane with it.

 But here’s the thing: nobody is really sure where the dagger came from, because historical evidence suggests that the ancient Egyptians weren’t suitably advanced enough to smelt iron, let alone forge a weapon using space metal. This has led historians to presume that the dagger was a gift from a foreign nation who did possess that technology. While historians are pretty confident that the foreign nation wasn’t the Martians, they haven’t explicitly ruled it out either, so we guess those Ancient Aliens guys might have had a point.

Those Wacky Pharaohs

WIF Confidential

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 253

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 253

…“Holy crap Deker, we MUST be dead!”…

Near-death experiences: Artwork of Death by Peter Sheehan.

After Stellar Explorer settles into its perch, Celeste wrestles with the techniques she learned from Cerella; the “thawing” of human beings, not the more familiar suspended-sleep-state NASA employed for astronauts on the way to Mars. These are not-so-ordinary lives at stake. Cerella soothes her from the rear, coaching her through the procedure.

Rich oxygen-laden and argon infused Eridanian air replaces Deke & Gus’ Earthly mixture. That they quickly adapt to the hyper- atmospheric combination is important, their parents having had years to do so.

And though she had been present at the out-of-body rescue 30 months ago, it is nothing like sharing the same physical space with her sons; so silent, so innocent, so unaware. She gently, carefully removes the metabolic retardation shroud from around the unconscious men. With the aid of a scanner, which she herself had developed in the interim, a physical human-tailored check created and now performed to detect any temporary or permanent damage to their befuddled molecules.

The hijacked SOL astronauts pass this loving scrutiny like troopers, proving that the timing and placement of the molecular stabilizer had been fortuitous and effective.

In the reverse order of their suspension, the last to succumb is the first to resuscitate. When Deke begins to stir, Celeste hastens her familial onlookers to join her.

Because he was virtually frozen in the moment, Deke’s last conscious impression was Related imageof his speaking to what seemed to be his mother. One can imagine the boggling ramifications of now seeing his father and a strange young girl as well, adding to the aberration; the difference being that this time the images are very clear and not translucent.

Déjà vu all over again prompts him to repeat his attempt to revive his co-pilot, “Gus, come on Gus, wake up dude!”

“What do you want?” Like the morning of their test flight, he is in a fog.

Deke merely points to the three unlikely people standing before them.

“Holy crap Deker, we MUST be dead!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Near Death Experience by Caz Cat

Episode 253


page 226

Titanic Stories – WIF Into History

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Incredible Stories

of People Who

Survived the Titanic

The Titanic set out to make headlines as the largest ship on Earth, sailing on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic in April of 1912. Instead, it made history of a different sort as one of history’s greatest follies. The ship hit an iceberg on its fourth day – exactly 105 years ago today, to be exact – 400 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, and sank within two hours and forty minutes. Somewhere in the ballpark of 1,500 unfortunate victims, who mostly died by being in extremely cold, 28 degree (Fahrenheit) water. If you thought water couldn’t get colder than freezing, think about salt.

 But looking deeper at the history of the Titanic, you’ll find complex tales of people who acted decisively when an unforeseen catastrophe struck. You’ll see just over 700 stories of people who survived a disaster that might not have made it out of the Atlantic alive if not for a bit of luck. Among those fortunate survivors were…

10. Frank Prentice – Crew (Assistant Storekeeper)

Right before the Titanic made its final plunge into the ocean, the ship’s stern rose perpendicular to the water briefly, before sinking back down. It was there that crewman Frank Prentice, one of the last people to make it off the Titanic alive, decided to jump off with two of his comrades. One of his associates suffered a painful fall by hitting the propeller on the way down, but Prentice made it clear 100 feet down, where he stuck with his dying friend in the water before eventually being picked up by a lifeboat.

Prentice’s story is easy to verify, because his watch stopped at 2:20 a.m. – the exact minute that the Titanic sank. Remarkably, Prentice survived a second shipwreck when serving aboard the Oceanic in the First World War.

9. The Eight 3rd Class Chinese Passengers

One thing you’ll be surprised by, if you read the actual history of the Titanic evacuation, is that it was a highly civilized process. A lot of people followed the orders of the officers and were happy to give up their seats on the lifeboats for women, children, and the less fortunate without being prompted. If you want to hypothetically explore your chances of survival on an early 20th century shipwreck if you threw chivalry out the window, look no further than the eight Chinese passengers who all sailed under a single ticket. The band of Cantonese sailors were put out of work due to the coal strike and were on their way back to Hong Kong.

Their names varied, depending on various immigration records. When the iceberg struck, seven of them simply snuck into the lifeboats before they were prepped for unloading and hid under the blankets. Five made it out alive. The eighth sailor was picked up out of the sea by the life boat 14 (the one that picked up Harold Phillimore – we’ll get to him shortly). Combined with the survival of the Titanic’s sole Japanese passenger, the chances of an Asian surviving the Titanic was a pretty solid 7 for 9.

8. Olaus Jorgensen Abelseth – 2nd Class Passenger

Olaus Jorgensen Abelseth was a Norweigan-born livestock farm herder in South Dakota who was returning from a trip to visit relatives when he boarded the Titanic with five family members. One of the ways that an adult male could have found a place on the lifeboats when the Titanic sank was to have ample sailing experience, since the crew could only be stretched so far on the 20 lifeboats they needed to deploy.

Abelseth had six years of experience as a fisherman and considered answering the call for sailors, but his brother-in-law and cousin said they couldn’t swim so he decided to stay with them to ensure everyone’s survival in his family. When the ship went under, Abelseth got caught up in a line and lost hold of his family members. He swam twenty minutes in the water before finding his way to a lifeboat, and worked to revive boat occupants who had also been in the icy water while on the boat.

7. Hugh Woolner and Mauritz Björnström-Steffansson – 1st Class Passsengers

Hugh Woolner and Mauritz Björnström-Steffansson were sitting in the smoking room when they heard the fatal iceberg collision. After escorting one of their female friends to the lifeboats and helping with the unloading process, they waited on the lower deck as the boats were going down and decided to make a jump onto the last lifeboat as it was being lowered. This was within 15 minutes of the Titanic’s eventual demise, so it was pretty much a “now or never” attitude.

Bjornstrom-Steffanson made it on board but Woolner hit the side of the boat and bounced off. His fingers briefly caught the side but slipped, when Steffansson grabbed him as he was dangling over the ocean. He was eventually helped onto the boat. It must have been a dramatic site.

6. Charles Joughin – Crew (Chief Baker)

Most people in the 28 degree water died of hypothermia within 15 to 30 minutes, but Charles Joughin is a testament that every rule of nature has exceptions. Joughin took to drinking when the Titanic hit the iceberg (although to his credit, he also was quite helpful in throwing deck chairs into the sea so people would have floatation devices) and when the ship went under, Joughin casually swam around for over two hours until making his way to one of the life boats at the crack of dawn.

 Survival experts link Joughin’s success to the way that the alcohol raised his body temperature, and the fact that he claimed to never have his head fully submerged in the water. Some critics doubt just how long Joughin was in the water but the fact remains that eye witnesses on the lifeboat saw him swimming after the ships were adrift.

5. Richard Norris Williams – 1st Class Passenger

Richard Norris Williams was traveling first class to a tennis tournament in the States with his father. After the iceberg hit, the two remained relatively low-key, asking for the bar to be opened up and passing time in the exercise room (they did also stop to rescue a trapped passenger), but that didn’t make the actual sinking any less dramatic. Richard watched his dad crushed by a funnel, before being carried away by the resulting wave to what was known by the ship’s schematics as Collapsible A. It was one of two boats that didn’t have time to be properly loaded.

In this case, the boat capsized before turning right side up and was filled with water. Norris’s legs were so debilitated from the water that the doctor aboard the Carpathia recommended amputation. He decided against it, and eventually worked his legs back to functionality. He ended up continuing a tennis career that saw him winning the 1924 Olympic gold medal. He also served with distinction in World War I.

4. Rhoda “Rosa” Abbott – 3rd Class Passenger

Everyone knows the “women and children” first rule, but what many don’t know is that it was even crueler than you think. If you were 13 or older you were no longer considered a child, and that didn’t sit well with 3rd class passenger and mother Rhoda Abbott, who was not planning on abandoning her two sons, aged 13 and 16. A soldier with the Salvation Army and strong-willed single mother, Rhoda grabbed each one by the hand and jumped over the rail as the ship was going down.

When she emerged, neither of her sons had surfaced with her. They were both taken by the undertow. Like Norris Williams, Abbott surfaced to Collapsible A, which meant that her legs were also in decrepit condition. She spent two weeks hospitalized but holds the distinction of being the only woman to fall into the Atlantic from the Titanic and survive.

3. Harold Charles Phillimore – Crew (Seward)

James Cameron’s creation of Rose Decatur (played by Kate Winslet) is fictional , but her inspiration might have come from Seward Harold Phillimore, who was discovered clinging to a piece of floating debris among a sea of dead bodies by the last lifeboat to go back for survivors.

Phillimore shared the piece of driftwood with another man (unlike Rose, who selfishly let the love of her life go), but over the course of the 45 minutes between the Titanic’s sinking and his eventual rescue the other man (whose name is lost to history) suddenly drifted off into the ocean. Phillimore ended up having a distinguished career on the sea, earning the Mercantile Marine War and General Service medals.

2. Harold Bride – Marconi Wireless Company

Harold Bride was one of two telegraph operators for the Marconi Wireless Company, whose job was mainly to pass along messages between the ship’s passengers and the mainland. But he was also obligated to pass along navigational messages and warnings from other ships. This would make Bride and colleague James Phillips the MVPs for working the telegraph like there was no tomorrow. They were even given permission to abandon their posts, but stayed on until the ship’s very last minutes.

It was only as the water was filling up their room that they started to notice it was time to go. Both men made it onto the ship’s last lifeboat, known by the ship’s schematics as Collapsible B, which was turned upside down in the water. Bride’s feet were so crushed and  frozen he could barely make it up the rescue ladder when the Carpathia came.

As he passed a dead body getting up the ladder, he later realized that it was his comrade Phillips, who had passed during the night. Bride didn’t like talking about the Titanic because he was “deeply disturbed by the whole experience, particularly by the loss of his colleague and friend Jack Phillips.”

1. Charles Lightoller – 2nd Officer

Charles Lightoller started a life on the sea with an apprenticeship at the age of 13 and had already been to hell and back by the time he sailed with the Titanic as its second officer. By the time he signed on to the White Star line, he had already survived a shipwreck in Australia, a cyclone on the Indian ocean, and had to hitchhike all the way from Western Canada to England when he was unsuccessful in prospecting for gold in the Yukon and completely broke.

 When the ship hit the iceberg, Lightoller was one of the first to start lowering lifeboats. At around 2:00 a.m. (20 minutes before the sinking), he was ordered by his superior officer to get into the lifeboat, to which he replied, “not damn likely.” He eventually swam to the overturned Collapsible B and maintained order and morale among survivors who had all been thrown into the Atlantic, and prevented it from capsizing by having the men rock from side to side. Lightoller was the very last person to be rescued form the Titanic nearly four hours after the Carpathia picked up its first survivor. As the most senior officer to survive, he was also the star witness at the congressional hearing.

Titanic Stories

– WIF Into History

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 185

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 185

…The mourners want to stop crying, but who will be the first? They wish they had more answers when God alone knows what happened on Mars…

Presidential candidate Crippen wraps up the grim occasion.

“But because we don’t know what exactly happened to them, is of little matter now. Today we are here to honor them and to make a promise, the promise of continuing dream of the McKinneys …and all of us at NASA…SOL-logo the dream of colonization, not just of Mars, but the stars beyond it! But we are going to go there, AT THE SPEED-OF-LIGHT!!!.”

The reference to the SOL Project is intentional.

Roy does not miss the opportunity to draw Charlotte Walker onto the funeral altar, a move that does not go unnoticed by the attending press.Image result for red white and blue wreath

“All of us, in our own way, knew Sampson and Celeste McKinney. Do not fail them or their memory.”

Roy Crippen, Braden King, Deke McKinney and Gus lay a giant RW&B wreath on the flag-draped caskets. The clergy representatives, each of their faith, give their blessing. The honor guards carry the sarcophagi to the waiting horse drawn cortege.

The crowd disperses slowly, bound together by a trance of unbelief. They want to stop crying, but who will be the first? They wish they had more answers when God alone knows what happened on Mars. They do not want to have to memorialize speculative assumptions, but just when is the right time to say when?

Apart from a mourning nation and most of the “civilized” world, two significant figures remain stoic. Whether or not they are expected to be resigned and vulnerable, the McKinney boys, with eyes to the heavens and beyond, hold firm. They are sending a message for the world to heed: ‘We remaining McKinneys dedicate the rest of our lives to the memory of our parents and the future of America’s space program.’


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 185


page 175

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 183

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 183

…If there is a dry eye in the house, good luck finding one…

If there is a dry eye in the house, good luck finding one. Even among NASA critics, closet detractors or flat-out opponents who are there only to be dutifully seen, the moment captures their humanity. What heart can be hardened against the thought of a husband and wife doomed to die a slow death on the expansive plain of a planet millions of miles away.

“I never had the chance to meet Celeste McKinney and I am not a mother, but I can tell you this much; the bravery required to sacrifice your life for the furthering of the greater good speaks volumes of her character.” Francine Bouchette-Crippen speaks  the female voice. “As a news anchor, I poured over hours of video regarding the McKinneys and what that video revealed to me was that two people shared the same dream; the dream of a planet that longs to experience what the Hubble Space Telescope brought to our device screens, from 3×5 to 80” diagonal.

“In her own words, I hear loud and clear, Celeste McKinney speaks to reaching out into the solar system, not just to secure the natural resources we so desperately need, but also strive to answer the irksome questions about whether we are alone as intelligent beings. She speaks to the dreams of her beloved Deke & Gus, to follow in the wake of their travels outside Earth’s atmosphere, past our Moon, and out to the Andromeda Galaxy.”

Francine begins to break down, a side of her few have seen in public. She uses the eerie silence to gather herself and pause for effect, “And tomorrow is Mother’s Day.”

She summons the strength to continue.

“I have been robbed of the opportunity to meet these two fine explorers, but with my time spent at around the people who love them and the precious moments I have shared with Deke & Gus, their fine character and lofty aspirations, I am so very proud to be part of their lives and legacy.”

She weeps as she backs away from the podium, the sad pedestal overlooking two huge portraits, the empty flag-draped caskets – topped with a sign made by Gus.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 183


page 174

Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random – Historical Coincidences

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Bizarre

Historical

Coincidences

Given how many humans have existed in the world and how many events and incidents, both big and small, happen every day, history is littered with examples of strange coincidences. But the ones we will be looking at today are so unusual that they strain credulity and, should they have come from the pages of a book, they would have been deemed contrived or unbelievable.

10. Poe’s Tale of Cannibalism

At one point, the ship wrecks during a storm and only four men survive and are washed ashore. With no food whatsoever, after a few days they resort to the most drastic solution – cannibalism. They draw straws and the unlucky one is a young man named Richard Parker who is killed and eaten.

At first, this would seem like a straightforward, albeit grisly story. But then we move forward 46 years and something strange happens. In 1884, a yacht called the Mignonette left England headed for Sydney, Australia. Carrying four men, it also shipwrecked and left the seafarers stranded with no food. As a last resort, they also cannibalized one of their own – a 17-year-old named Richard Parker. The only main difference was that the survivors saw no need to draw straws as the real-life Parker had fallen ill after drinking seawater and was considered a goner.

Eerie coincidences aside, the case that followed after the remaining men were rescued and arrested for murder represented a landmark ruling in English law. It stated that necessity does not excuse murder, meaning you cannot kill someone else to save your own life.

9. Where the War Began and Ended

On July 21, 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run marked the first major engagement in the American Civil War. Of course, the war was horrible for many people, but it was a particularly strange inconvenience for one wholesale grocer named Wilmer McLean. He lived on a plantation near Manassas, Virginia, and the Bull Run River passed right through his land. In fact, most of the battle took place on his property and the Confederate leader, General P.G.T. Beauregard even commandeered McLean’s house to use as his headquarters.

Obviously, McLean and his family couldn’t live in the middle of a war so they relocated. A few years later, they were residing in a house near a village called Appomattox Court House. As it happens, that is where the last battle of the Civil War took place. Afterwards, Confederate General Robert E. Lee officially surrendered to Union leader Ulysses S. Grant. And he did it in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s new home.

The McLeans later moved back to their previous estate and simply abandoned the house in Appomattox County. They also defaulted on the loans they took out to buy it so “Surrender House”, as it came to be known, was confiscated and sold at auction. Today, it operates as a museum and it is a designated National Historical Monument.

As for Wilmer McLean, he liked to say that the Civil War “began in his front yard and ended in his front parlor.”

8. The Curse of Tecumseh

Ever since 1840, American presidents have died according to a pattern which is remarkable enough that people have ascribed it to a curse. Every president who is elected in a year ending in 0 (something which happens every two decades) is fated to die in office.

First was William Henry Harrison. Elected in 1840, he died of pneumonia a month after being sworn in. Then, in 1860 came Abraham Lincoln, and we all know how that ended. In 1880, James Garfield was elected president and he was also assassinated by a man named Charles Guiteau.

William McKinley might have escaped this alleged curse if he stuck at just one term. Alas, in 1900 he was elected president to his second term, and a year later, he was shot and killed by an anarchist. Next up was Warren G. Harding, who suffered a stroke three years after being elected in 1920. Afterwards came Franklin Roosevelt who passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945. While he did die in office, he didn’t actually die during the term which allegedly sealed his fate. And last, but not least, there was JFK, who won the 1960 election and whose assassination is all too well-known.

As you can see, seven presidents followed this extraordinary pattern. Many see it for what it probably is – a series of incredible coincidences, but others claim it is a curse placed originally on William Henry Harrison by Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee people, for the former’s role in Tecumseh’s Rebellion.

Ronald Reagan would have been next in line. He was elected in 1980 and, although someone did try to kill him, he survived his injuries and died of old age decades after he left office. Even if the curse was real, it appears that he broke it.

7. The Church Explosion

At 7:25 p.m., March 1, 1950, the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, exploded due to a natural gas leak ignited by the fire from the furnace. It was a Wednesday and every Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. sharp, the church choir gathered there to practice. People were expecting the worst as they approached the smoking rubble, but it soon became apparent that nobody had been injured in the blast. Even though the choir director was very strict about tardiness, on this particular night, none of the 15 choir members arrived on time.

It wasn’t one single thing that caused the delays, either, but rather a series of minor occurrences that detained each person enough to evade the deadly blast. The reverend and his family, for example, were late because his wife had to iron a dress at the last moment. Two sisters both had car trouble. Two high school girls wanted to finish listening to a radio program, while another student was struggling with her geometry homework. The pianist fell asleep after dinner. A man was late because he wanted to finish writing a letter he kept putting off, while one woman was simply feeling lazy because it was cold outside and her home was warm and cozy.

And so went all the other excuses. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the circumstances, some people considered it divine intervention.

6. Right Place, Right Time

Joseph Figlock became a hero of Detroit due to a bizarre series of events that happened over the course of a year. One morning in 1937, Figlock was at his job as a street sweeper when he was struck by something that landed on his head and shoulders. That “something” was a baby girl who fell out a four-story window. Because Figlock broke her fall, the infant survived her drop that, otherwise, would have almost surely been fatal.

A year later, the street sweeper was back at his job when he was, again, hit by a falling object. And you guessed it – it was another baby. This time, it was 2-year-old David Thomas who also fell out of his window on the fourth floor. This baby did sustain some injuries but, once more, had escaped certain doom thanks to Joseph Figlock being in the right place, at the right time.

5. Miss Unsinkable

Violet Jessop was born in Argentina to Irish immigrants in 1887. When she turned 21, she found work as a ship stewardess and, in 1911, secured a position aboard the RMS Olympic, the first of the Olympic-class ocean liners built by the White Star Line at the start of the century.

At the time, these were the largest, most luxurious ships in the world. Jessop was probably thrilled with her new job but, pretty soon, she might have reconsidered her fortunes. In September 1911, Jessop was onboard the Olympic when it collided with a warship called the HMS Hawke. The collision wasn’t too bad and the ocean liner managed to make it to port without any fatalities.

This incident didn’t deter Jessop from continuing her career as a stewardess. Although she was content aboard the Olympic, her friends persuaded her that it would make for a much more exciting experience to work aboard the White Star Line’s new ocean liner. After all, this vessel was proclaimed to be “unsinkable” and its name was the Titanic.

You already know how this went down – just four days into its maiden voyage, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. Jessop survived the ordeal as she was lowered down into lifeboat 16 which was later picked up by the RMS Carpathia. She later recalled that, as the boat was being lowered, an officer put a baby in her lap. Later, aboard the Carpathia, a woman leaped at her, snatched the baby and ran. Jessop always assumed that was the mother, but she never saw either one of them again.

Then World War II started and Jessop served as a nurse for the British Red Cross. She worked aboard the Britannic, which was the third and last of the Olympic-class ocean liners and had been repurposed into a hospital ship. In 1916, the vessel suffered damage from a mine explosion and sank in the Aegean Sea. For the third time in five years, Violet Jessop had survived a shipwreck, retroactively earning her the nickname “Miss Unsinkable.”

4. The Opposing Graves

Just outside the Belgian town of Mons sits the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery which serves as the final resting place for over 500 soldiers who died in the First World War.

Many of these men perished in the Battle of Mons which took place on August 23, 1914, and is considered to be the first major action of the British army in the war. One of these men, however, died a little earlier. John Parr was a private who was born in London and lied about his age so he could enlist. He served as a reconnaissance cyclist and scouted the area ahead of his battalion. However, he was gunned down by enemy fire and died on August 21, at only 17 years of age. He is generally considered to be the first British serviceman killed in action during the First World War.

His grave is at St. Symphorien and opposite of it, just a few yards away, is the grave of Private George Ellison. He died years later on November 11, 1918. This date is significant because it is, in fact, the day that Germany and the Allies signed an armistice, bringing an end to the war. George Ellison was killed just 90 minutes before peace was declared, thus giving him the unfortunate distinction of being the last British soldier killed in the war.

These two graves face each other, although this was done completely unintentionally as nobody was aware of their “first” and “last” positions when they were buried.

3. Death at Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam was one of the greatest, most ambitious engineering projects of its day, but it came with a heavy price as a lot of people died during construction.

Exactly how many is a matter of debate. Officially, the death toll was 96, but historians argue that the real number would be much higher because the official version didn’t take into account workers who died off-site of construction-related injuries or illnesses. An inquiry by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased the number to 213 deaths between 1921 and 1935.

The first fatality was a surveyor named John Gregory Tierney who drowned in the Colorado River on December 20, 1921, after he got caught in a flash flood. Technically, another worker named Harold Connelly died first, but his demise was completely unconnected with the project as he drowned in the river when he went swimming.

Here is the truly tragic part – the last fatality registered during construction of the Hoover Dam occurred on December 20, 1935, exactly 14 years to the day after Tierney drowned, when a 25-year-old electrician’s helper plummeted 320 feet from one of the intake towers. That man was Patrick Tierney, the surveyor’s son.

2. The King and His Double

Some say that we all have a doppelganger somewhere in the world, a person who isn’t related to us in any way but they look just like us. King Umberto I of Italy found his doppelganger in 1900 when he went to eat at a little restaurant in Monza. He discovered that the proprietor looked almost exactly like him but, more than that, they had been born on the same day.

At this point, you would think this was more a case of twins separated at birth, but the coincidences did not stop there. Both men had married women named Margherita and had sons named Vittorio. Moreover, the restaurant owner had opened his establishment the day of King Umberto’s coronation.

Shocked to his core by these revelations, the king invited his doppelganger or long-lost twin to an event taking place the next day. Sadly, neither one made it. The next morning, the restaurateur was killed under unexplained conditions. Just hours later, when King Umberto found out about his demise, he was assassinated by an anarchist named Gaetano Bresci.

1. The Writer and the Comet

The life of American writer Mark Twain has been inexorably linked to the passing of Halley’s Comet from beginning to end.

This famous comet visits us every 75 to 76 years. It will next be visible in 2061, but a noteworthy appearance happened in November 1835. Just two weeks after its perihelion (meaning the point of its orbit which is closest to the Sun), Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri. He would go on to adopt the pen name Mark Twain and become America’s most celebrated author.

Throughout his life, Twain took a keen interest in science and he was well-aware of his connection to Halley’s Comet. In the early 20th century, the writer was getting on in years and knew that the end was near. However, he also knew that the comet was due to pass by Earth again soon, and he was convinced that he would not die before that happened. As he put it: “Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

He could not have been more right. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, just one day after Halley’s Comet reached its perihelion.


Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random

Historical Coincidences

Pandemic Overload (1918) – WIF Medicine

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Facts About

the Spanish Flu

Pandemic 1918

A Little Perspective

Spanish flu, the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century, struck the world in a series of waves, and left between 50 and 100 million people dead in its wake. It may have appeared in the trenches of World War I in Europe as early as 1916, according to some researchers. It first appeared in the United States in the spring of 1918. Numerous contending theories of its source of origin continue to be debated. Some say it began in the United States, some say in Europe, and still others argue it originated in Asia. There is no debate over its impact, though, with one-third of the world’s population contracting the disease during its peak in 1918-19. It continued to appear well into 1920, though with significantly less impact.

Differing from other forms of influenza, the virus had a significant impact on young, otherwise healthy adults, who usually had stronger immune systems. It struck the wealthy and the poor. Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted the illness. The King of Spain nearly died of it. A young nurse in Toronto, Amelia Earhart, contracted the disease, which damaged her sinuses to the point surgery was required. The scars left her with sinus problems for the rest of her life. In the United States, 675,000 Americans died from the flu, most of them during the deadly second wave in 1918. That year American average life expectancy dropped by 12 years as a result of the flu. Here are 10 facts about the Spanish flu pandemic at the end of the First World War…

10. Nobody knows for certain where it originated

While there is some disagreement among scholars over the place of origin, the consensus is that Spanish flu did not originate in Spain. When the pandemic spread rapidly across Europe in 1918, wartime censorship conditions affected most news reports. Censorship did not apply to neutral Spain. News reports of the flu’s virulence there appeared in newspapers and magazines, with references to “this Spanish flu.” The name stuck. Reports of the disease in Spain increased substantially when King Alphonso XIII contracted the flu in the spring of 1918. Ironically, as reports of the King’s illness and being near death for several days increased references to the Spanish flu in Western newspapers, the Spanish referred to the disease as the French flu.

Since the pandemic (and in part during it), China, Great Britain, the United States, and France, as well as Russia, have all been suggested as the disease’s starting point. The first case in the United States appeared in March 1918, at a Kansas army post. More recently, researchers identified potential cases as early as 1916, at army receiving and marshaling stations in France. Another earlier outbreak occurred at a British Army base in Aldershot in the early spring of 1917. The UK staging camp at Etapes, in northern France, saw 100,000 troops go through daily, either returning from the front or on their way to it, in densely crowded conditions. Hundreds exhibited symptoms of the pandemic flu during the spring and fall of 1917, a fact later identified by army pathologists.

9. More American soldiers died of Spanish flu than in combat during World War One

Americans were stunned at the casualties suffered by their troops during the First World War, though in comparison to the European combatants they were low. Mobilization placed 4.7 million American men in uniform. Of those, about 320,000 became ill and recovered, or suffered wounds in combat from which they survived. 116,516 American troops and sailors died during the war. Combat deaths totaled 53,402. The rest — 63,114 — died of disease, with most of the deaths occurring from the Spanish flu in the camps in the United States, in Europe, and in ships bound for Europe. Once such ship was a former German liner. In 1917 the United States converted the German steamship Vaterland, interned in New York, into a troopship, renamed USS Leviathan.

On September 29, 1918, Leviathan departed New York for the French port of Brest, carrying 9,000 American doughboys, and a crew of 2,000 sailors (one of the sailors was a young New Yorker named Humphrey Bogart). Spanish flu appeared in the ship during the crossing. When Leviathan arrived at Brest it carried 2,000 men already diagnosed with the Spanish flu, which wreaked havoc in the crowded conditions aboard, and overwhelmed the ship’s medical facilities and personnel. 80 men died during the crossing, many more after landing ashore in France, during the height of the pandemic. A similar outbreak occurred on the ship’s return voyage to the United States.

8. It affected the Treaty of Versailles

The combat during World War One came to an end via an armistice, which began at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of November, the 11th month of the year, 1918. Many issues of the war remained unresolved. The leaders of the Allied nations agreed to meet in Paris in early 1919 to discuss the issues facing Europe. Woodrow Wilson, then President of the United States, went to Europe to join the discussions, present his famous 14 Points, and to argue for the establishment of the League of Nations. He favored more lenient terms for Germany than those proposed by the leaders of France, Italy, and Great Britain. Wilson intended to use American prestige to obtain less punitive measures against the Germans, especially in the form of reparations.

During the negotiations for the treaty, which took place in Paris rather than the Palace of Versailles for which it was named, Wilson came down with the Spanish flu. Several members of his entourage suffered through the flu during the voyage to France. Wilson’s illness was covered up, though he became severely ill in Paris, unable to attend multiple sessions of the negotiations. His physician, Navy Admiral Cary Grayson, wrote of the President as “violently sick.” When Wilson did partially recover and returned to the negotiations, several participants wrote of his lack of attention, fatigue, and listlessness. He failed to ease the reparations imposed by the Allies on the Germans, and the resulting Treaty of Versailles created conditions in Germany that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the war which followed the War to End All Wars.

7. The federal government did little regarding the flu’s impact

In the United States, the federal government did relatively little to combat the Spanish flu, other than issue advisories telling Americans of the dangers presented by the illness. Congress adjourned in the fall of 1918, with the second wave of the pandemic at its peak. The Supreme Court did the same. The United States Public Health Service, then an agency within the Department of the Treasury, issued posters warning against spitting on sidewalks. It also advised workers to walk to work, which seems strange to modern eyes, until one considers that most commuting at the time involved streetcars or railroads. It also warned Americans to avoid becoming over-fatigued.

Before Woodrow Wilson went to Europe, Edith (the President’s wife) sent 1,000 roses to young women serving in the war effort in the District of Columbia, who were sickened by the flu. That was about the extent of the federal effort. Battling the effects of the pandemic, the lost work hours, burying the dead, and combating the spread of the disease was left in the hands of local governments, which responded in varying ways across the country. Some imposed severe restrictions on movement, crowds, and schools, easing them as the pandemic passed through their communities. Others continued to promote large gatherings to support Liberty Bond drives, including a parade in Philadelphia after which thousands died in the city from the rapid spread of influenza which ensued.

6. Some cities made wearing masks mandatory, with criminal penalties

The first wave of Spanish flu in America occurred in the spring of 1918. Compared to what came in the second wave it was mild. The second wave came in September 1918, in the Eastern cities, and gradually moved westward. San Francisco escaped the first wave, and its Chief of the Board of Health, Dr. William Hassler, assured citizens of the city the second wave would not affect them. On September 24, a recent arrival from Chicago became ill with the flu. By mid-October over 4,000 cases were in the city. That month the city passed an ordinance making the wearing of gauze masks mandatory, with Hassler touting them as 99% effective in stopping the spread of the flu between persons.

In truth, the masks were likely of little benefit, and on November 21, 1918,  the city rescinded the order to wear them. Several other cities issued similar orders, with varying degrees of punishments for violators. In San Francisco, violators went to jail. The city suffered 2,122 deaths during the lethal second wave. The third wave struck in December, and lasted through the winter, raising the death toll in San Francisco to over 3,500 out of a population of about half a million. Nearby Oakland was similarly hit. Oakland also enacted an ordinance requiring masks, virulently opposed by the city’s tobacco store owners. One such owner designed a mask with a flap over the mouth, allowing smokers to enjoy their cigars, cigarettes, and pipes while remaining in compliance with the law.

5. The 1918 baseball season was shortened, though not because of the flu

Major League Baseball shortened its season in 1918 in response to the American war effort. The last game of the regular season was played on September 2, 1918. Teams played just over 120 games that year. When the season ended, the second wave of Spanish flu was underway on the East coast. The league champions, the Boston Red Sox of the American League and the National League’s Chicago Cubs, met in the World Series. Public health officials in both cities argued against playing the World Series due to the crowds gathering during the course of an epidemic, but baseball went ahead. Boston’s only concession to the flu came in an agreement to play in Fenway Park, rather than in the larger Braves Field, where they had played in the preceding World Series.

During the World Series a young Red Sox pitcher started two games, winning both, despite suffering from the flu at the time. He started in the outfield in the other four games. His name was George Herman Ruth. Throughout the games he lay down between innings, weakened by the fever and body aches symptomatic of the flu. Some of his teammates assumed Ruth was simply suffering from a bad hangover, a common problem of ballplayers of the day. But throughout the series, Ruth was notably absent between games, even spending time on the train to Chicago in his sleeper, rather than consorting with teammates. The Red Sox won the series four games to two. It was the only World Series in history played entirely in September. That winter, Ruth was sent to the Yankees.

4. Franklin Roosevelt contracted the flu while returning from France

Franklin Delano Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in the Wilson Administration, and in that capacity went to Europe in 1918. His mission included the coordination of naval activities against the German U-boat threat, and arranging for convoying and port facilities used by US Navy ships. In September 1918 he returned to the United States aboard USS Leviathan. Upon arrival FDR was carried off the ship on a stretcher, having contracted the flu either in France or, what is more likely, aboard the ship. Leviathan’s crew had been exposed to and ravaged by the flu on several voyages. FDR returned to the United States deathly ill, and required several weeks convalescence at his family’s Hyde Park home before resuming his duties.

FDR’s illness and its severity are often overlooked, largely because of his being later stricken with polio, which left his legs paralyzed. His flu is often described as a mild illness, though he left Leviathan with double pneumonia, high fever, and debilitating weakness. His distant cousin, former President Teddy Roosevelt, who had encouraged him to go to Europe, wrote him during his convalescence. “We are deeply concerned about your sickness, and trust you will soon be well,” wrote the former President, adding that, “We are very proud of you.” Had FDR not survived the flu, which killed so many Americans who went to Europe in 1918, the remainder of the 20th century would have been very different indeed.

3. The flu’s second wave was its deadliest by far

The second wave of influenza in 1918 swept across Western Europe and the United States from September through the end of the year and into January. It was the deadliest of the three main waves of the pandemic. In Philadelphia, America’s hardest hit city, about 16,000 died after city leaders refused to cancel a parade scheduled to promote the sale of Liberty Bonds. Cincinnati closed schools and businesses, shut down streetcars, and ordered the wearing of masks. For a time it closed all restaurants, though it allowed saloons to remain open. At one point in November, believing the worst to have passed, the city reopened businesses and schools. Within days the death rate skyrocketed, forcing the city to shut down again. Over 1,700 Cincinnatians succumbed to the flu in the fall of 1918.

Sailors at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center brought the flu to Chicago. In September Chicago’s Health Commissioner announced the flu was under control. At the end of the month there were fewer than 300 cases reported in the city. By mid-October the city reported 1,200 new cases per day. Chicago shut down schools, businesses, banned public gatherings, closed parks, and requested for churches to curtail services. Chicago reported over 38,000 cases of influenza, and 13,000 cases of pneumonia attributed to the flu, before restrictions were lifted in mid-November. One restriction imposed, vigorously opposed by conservative newspapers and businesses, had been the banning of smoking on streetcars and elevated trains. The Chicago Tribune opposed the ban and referred to the Health Commissioner who imposed it as “his highness.”

2. Authorities in Philadelphia announced the flu was no worse than seasonal flu and held a parade to sell war bonds

In mid-September 1918, influenza was present in all the major Eastern cities of the United States, with Boston suffering the highest number of cases. Philadelphia had seen some cases of the flu, though health officials in the city regarded it lightly. The city’s Health Commissioner, Wilmer Krusen, a political appointee, ignored the pleas of doctors and public health experts to ban large public gatherings. Krusen announced the flu was no worse than any seasonal flu, despite the evidence presented by other cities. The Health Commissioner warned the people of Philadelphia to be careful, covering their faces when they coughed or sneezed, and allowed the city’s scheduled Liberty Bonds parade to take place on September 28, a patriotic spectacle attended by an estimated 200,000 people.

By the middle of November, over 12,000 Philadelphians had died of influenza. The city’s morgue, designed to hold 36 bodies, was obviously overwhelmed, and bodies were stored in the city wherever space was found. A streetcar manufacturing company was hired to build simple wooden boxes to serve as coffins. In the tenements, whole families were stricken and died, undiscovered for weeks. Only three days after the parade, every hospital bed in the city was filled. Over 500,000 cases of the highly contagious flu struck Philadelphia before the end of the year. The final death count was over 16,000. In contrast to Philadelphia, the city of Milwaukee, which imposed the most stringent social distancing laws in the nation, also saw the lowest death rate of any city in the United States.

1. One-third of the world’s population contracted the flu during the pandemic

The 1918-20 influenza pandemic, the worst of the 20th century, caused at least 50 million deaths, and probably as many as 100 million across the globe. In remote Tahiti, 10% of the population died. In British ruled India more than 13 million citizens died, with some estimates ranging up to 17 million. German Samoa lost 22% of its population. American Samoa imposed a blockade, and escaped the pandemic unscathed. Brazil’s 300,000 dead included its President, Rodrigues Alves. In the United States over a quarter of the population contracted the flu during one of its several waves. Official death counts usually cite 675,000 American deaths, though some estimates include deaths on Indian Reservations and in Alaskan communities, and elevate the count to 850,000.

Bacterial pneumonia, a complication brought on by the flu, served as the primary killer. When the flu returned for its third wave in the late winter and early spring of 1919, rates of death were comparatively low. Sporadic outbreaks continued in the fall of 1919 and the winter of 1919-20. As the 1920s began the pandemic faded from memory, and remained largely forgotten until the coronavirus pandemic restored it to public attention. All the weapons used to control the spread of coronavirus — distancing, closing of schools, banning large crowds and gatherings, shutting down businesses, and others — were deployed against the Spanish flu. History shows that those communities which deployed them most stringently, throughout the first and second waves, were most successful saving lives.


Flu Pandemic Song – The Flying Fish Sailors


Pandemic Overload 1918

WIF Medicine

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 23

…Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that…

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Mars City Mock-up

Mars City Mockup

“Planetary conditions are stable, touchdown grid confirmed.” Roy Crippen has settled in at Galveston Launch Facility to oversee the crowning moment of 20 years of work. Once Tycho comes back home to roost, after its 18 hour maiden excursion, his stay on the Texas coast will shift gears; to sending off the 21st Century version  of the floating boat filled with Brits, the New Mayflower, the first of three trips; winged people-movers that will add a decidedly human touch to a previously hominid-less planet. Mars City will be filled to the brim with 21st Century groundbreakers.

But that is tomorrow and today is today and other portentous profoundness. The Lovell Space Center’s attention is equally split between Mars and Galveston, with Roy Crippen as the connecting driving force for both. He contemplates those that he supervises, a sea of techs and specialists, tops in their field worldwide, 100 people comprising man’s future as good space citizens.

Spatial DebrisThere is one console, Spatial Debris Traffic for the Colony and Satellite tracking, which has an unfamiliar body seated there. For as long as Roy can remember, Phil Jansky has filled that seat.

“Where is Philip Jansky?” Something has slipped past him. He asks roving security, “Is he taking a break… now!?!”

“Jansky is dead, sir; we found him in his quarters when he didn’t confirm his 04:00 wakeup call.”

Roy’s mind starts somersaulting through any number of questions he could ask. He settles on, “Why am I the last to know?”

The security chief is embarrassed, if for no other reason than not knowing who dropped the ball. “The Coroner said he’d get back in touch with both autopsies.”

Two key Mission personnel are dead, in one day at that.

“I should hire a full-time mortician, set him up with an office,  he spends so much time here lately.” The mission head is losing control of personnel matters and his patience is flagging. “Who is Phil’spickle-b replacement?”

The guard checks his roster, “Gurkhas Shah-Dhangotma, from Kathmandu.”

“Never heard of him.  Who hired him with Fred Cabell gone? My God we have a Nepalese debris tracker. Aren’t they still Sherpa guides? This is space for crying out loud, not the Himalayas!

“Mr. Gherkin better be qualified. I do not like this, not at all!” he punctuates his rant sharply, while walking off a disquieting combination of anger and grief… even though “Gurkhas” in not a pickle.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 23


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 10

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 10

…Fredrick C. Cabell was Human Resources to the civilian employees for the entire Colony project. “He is as mild-mannered as they come and you are treating this like a crime scene?”…

“You two are not the bearer of good news I gather?” Roy speaks to the coroner and the lawman.

“I was called here by the Sheriff, who was called by someone here at the Lovell Space Center, who found an unconscious employee, who called the doctor,” Coroner Franco points to his left.

“Me,” admits the MedLab’s Mission Physician, Miles Scheffeldink, the third man in. “No one knew where you were.”

“Don’t beat around the bush, Miles… who is it?”

The Coroner unzips the body bag to show the dead man’s face.

“Fred Cabell? Damn!” Fredrick C. Cabell was Human Resources to the civilian employees for the entire Colony project. “He is as mild-mannered as they come and you are treating this like a crime scene?”

“That is why deputy Judge called me over, to determine whether he died of natural causes… or not.” It must be the nature of the beast, because this doctor of the dead is about business and business only, hardened by the general morbidity of his profession.

“I don’t have anything to add here, except that this man is irreplaceable to us. He was like a father to everyone at Lovell, knew our children, and was there when we first stepped on these grounds. If I couldn’t remember something, I’d go to Fred.”

“Even if we could have resuscitated him, and we could not, his brain would have been of no use to him or Image result for cerebral hemorrhageanyone; he died of massive cerebral hemorrhages, several, rapid,” Dr. Sheffeldink of LSC laments.

“Fred had his yearly physical the same day I did—two weeks ago. He did tell me you did a Digital Image of his head and now this?”

“He was 85 years old Mr. Crippen, a brain scan is standard for a man his age,” LSC’s {Lovell Space Center} mission physician explained. “We checking for signs of concussion or Alzheimer’s, you know how nosy doctors are.”

lie_about_age“85, as in four score and five? That rascal has been scamming us all along, said that he wouldn’t reach mandatory retirement of 80 for another 5 years. 75 years old my ass! But of course, he controlled all the records!”

“85 or not, he was fit as an electronic fiddle; blood pressure, serum cholesterol, brain wave, stress factor aptitude, not so much as an irregular heartbeat . I wish I were as healthy,” the attending doctor admits. “What was he doing when he died, you may ask? He was having a cup of coffee in his living quarters here, getting ready to start his day at 4 o’clock AM. That is when I determined T.O.D.”

“TOD?” Crip wonders aloud.

“Time of death,” stated as a matter of fact. “He was entering some notes into his database handheld when the seizure stopped him cold.”

“Can I see that thing? Maybe there are some signs of him starting to fail.” asks the Mission Director.

“Do not have it. The security man, who found him, said he had taken care of it.”

“Why was security in Fred’s quarters? How did he know there was something wrong with Fred?” Things aren’t adding up. “As far as I know, no one has ever been inside his room; he was that reclusive in his off-time.”

“Yes indeed, reclusive and disorganized, judging by the mess.” Dr. Sheffeldink was embarrassed about walking into the privacy of a man’s personal space. “The question is, what was he imputing and what caused the hemorrhages.”

“I am going to need some answers Mr. Coroner. Mr. Sheriff, I would like to keep this in house, no public pronouncement,” orders given by a visibly shaken administrator. “Good day gentlemen.”

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The mortician is off to do the autopsy, the sheriff to keep this part of the Panhandle safe and the security guard is nowhere to be found.

To Dr. Sheffeldink he orders, “We’ll be treating Fred’s death as ‘natural causes’. And to be honest Doctor, I am knee-deep in getting 50 more people to Mars; no time to deal with an official investigation.

“Please notify his relatives, if he has some, his wife-ex-wife whomever. It will be on a need-to-know basis only.” Fredrick Cabell knew everything about everybody. But nobody knew anything about him.

Roy was hoping for tranquility around Colony Control, as the most important moments of manned spaceflight are taking place. But that is being replaced by early onset damaged control.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 10


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