Ghost Ship: Tracking down the Octavius Legend?

According to legend, the Herald discovered a ghost ship named the Octavius near Greenland in 1775. They found the entire crew frozen at the helm. The captain’s log, last dated November 11, 1762, indicated the Octavius had been lost at sea for over 13 years. It had gotten trapped in the ice and somehow managed to successfully traverse the fabled Northwest Passage after the crew had succumbed to the frozen tundra.

A Possible Origin for the Octavius Ghost Ship?

I’ve spent the last few days tracking down the truth behind the legend. Yesterday, I was able to push the story back 1905, thanks to an entry in The Blue Adventure Book: A collection of Stirring Scenes and Moving Accidents from the World of Adventure. It tells a very similar story to that of the Octavius. Here’s more from me:

Back in 1775, John Warrens was captain of the Try Again. One day, he came across a ghost ship named the Gloriana. He boarded it and discovered a frozen crew. The log-book indicated the ship had spent the last 13 years as a floating coffin. So, we’ve got a similar story about a crew being frozen for 13 years. The date in the log-book, November 11, 1762, is the same as in the Octavius story. And we’ve also got the captain taking the log-book as proof while leaving the rest of the ship behind.

In the Gloriana tale, there’s no mention of the Northwest Passage. That, along with the Octavius moniker, appears to be a later addition. But otherwise, the stories are very similar. So, how much of the Gloriana ghost ship tale is accurate? Was it originally a work of fiction? If not, was it embellished over the years? Well, the Blue Adventure Book version was written in the first person. But no source is given. So, it could be a word-for-word copy of the original story or it could be a fictionalized entry.

An Earlier Source for the Octavius Ghost Ship?

After some digging, I managed to track down a much earlier source for this ghost ship story. There was a flurry of articles written about it in late 1828 and early 1829. The earliest version I’ve found so far was published on December 13, 1828 in a Philadelphia-based newspaper named The Ariel: A Literary and Critical Gazette. The article is entitled The Dangers of Sailing in High Latitudes. Here’s a taste:

Captain Warrens’ curiosity was so much excited, that he immediately leaped into the boat with several seamen, and rowed towards her. On approaching, he observed that her hull was miserably weatherbeaten, and not a soul appeared upon the deck, which was covered with snow to a considerable depth. He hailed her crew several times, but no answer was returned. Previous to stepping on board, an open port hole near the main chains caught his eye, and on looking into it, he perceived a man reclining back in a chair, with writing materials on a small table before him, but the feebleness of the light made every thing very indistinct.

The party, therefore, went upon deck, and having removed the hatchway, which they found closed, they descended to the cabin. They first came to the apartment which Captain Warrens had viewed through the port hole. A tremour seized him as he entered it. Its inmate retained his former position, and seemed to be insensible of strangers. He was found to be a corpse, and a green damp mould had covered his cheeks and forehead, and veiled his eye balls. He held a pen in his hand, and a log book before him, the last sentence in whose unfinished page thus, “11th Nov. 1762; We have been enclosed in the ice seventy days. The fire went out yesterday, and our master has been trying ever since to kindle it again but without success. His wife died this morning. There is no relief -“

Note that the time in the ice is seventy days here as opposed to seventeen days in the Blue Adventure Book version. Also, this version has Captain Warrens discovering the name of the ship (which is never given) after some detective work. The Blue Adventure Book version makes it clear that the name Gloriana is etched “in tall faded letters above her blistered stern.” But the stories are still almost identical in content. On a side note, this ghost ship story seems to get revived every few decades. It made another appearance around 1847, with similar articles being written as far apart as the Republican Advocate (Batavia, New York) and the South Australian Register.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, here’s where I stand. I’ve traced the Octavius ghost ship story back to 1828. That’s 77 years closer than I was yesterday. However, I’m still 53 years short of a primary source. If anyone has any pre-1828 information on this story, let me know. You might just help me solve a centuries-old ghost ship legend.

Ghost Ship: A New Twist in the Octavius Legend?

Two days ago, I wrote about a ghost ship named the Octavius, which traversed the Northwest Passage with a frozen crew back in 1775. I’ve been curious about the Octavius for some time but have never been able to find a primary source documenting the story. After my article, Ralf Bülow pointed me toward a possible answer in the Nunatsiaq Online:

Last week I wrote about the mythical voyage of the Octavius through the Northwest Passage. Then this past weekend, while perusing some books on Arctic whaling, I came across a whaler’s tale that bears a striking similarity to the Octavius story. The name of the ship is different, and there is no reference to the mystery vessel having traversed the Northwest Passage. But the date of the alleged entry in the log-book of the ghost vessel is exactly the same – 11 November 1762…

Back in 1775, John Warrens was captain of the Try Again. One day, he came across a ghost ship named the Gloriana. He boarded it and discovered a frozen crew. The log-book indicated the ship had spent the last 13 years as a floating coffin. So, we’ve got a similar story about a crew being frozen for 13 years. The date in the log-book, November 11, 1762, is the same as in the Octavius story. And we’ve also got the captain taking the log-book as proof while leaving the rest of the ship behind.

All things being equal, this seems like a viable source for the modern Octavius ghost ship story. But the Nunatsiaq Online article was based on a 1937 book rather than source material. So, I did a little more digging. So, far the earliest reference I can find for the Gloriana ghost ship story comes from The Blue Adventure Book: A collection of Stirring Scenes and Moving Accidents from the World of Adventure, which was published in 1905:

It was in the middle of August, 1775 – I have cause enough to remember the date – that I, John Warrens, captain of the Greenland whaler Try Again, ran across the experience that I am going to tell, word for word, just as it happened. I can’t say i expect to be believed, though reckoned a truthful man; but I’m growing accustomed to that. My private consolation is that I never had half the wits enough to invent it; so if you don’t believe what I tell you for gospel, why, in a way, you’re only paying me a compliment after all…

The story purports to be a first-hand account. Unfortunately, The Blue Adventure Book doesn’t detail its sources. So, we’re 32 years closer to getting to the bottom of this story. Unfortunately, we’re still 230 years short of a primary source. If anyone has any information, let me know. Who knows? Maybe we can solve the mystery of the Octavius ghost ship legend once and for all

Who was America’s Greatest President?

So, today is President’s Day, the day when Americans honor the institution of the presidency and ask that time honored question: “Who is America’s greatest President?” Really? What a waste of time. It reminds me of the classic kid/parent argument:

Kid: “Why is there a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day but not a Kid’s Day?”

Mom & Dad: “Because everyday is Kid’s Day.”

Do we really need to give high-ranking politicians their own holiday? Good lord, no. I prefer to celebrate a different type of president today, namely entrepreneurs like Nikola Tesla, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs.

But since the rest of the country is debating the likes of Lincoln and Washington, we might as well add our two cents to the issue. So, who is America’s greatest president? Regardless of political affiliation, scholars almost always rank Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as America’s three greatest presidents in no particular order.

That means they’re the greatest right? It depends on how you define “great.” Here’s a different view from Lew Rockwell at LewRockwell.com.

There have been four huge surveys taken of historians’ views on the presidents: in 1948, in 1962, in 1970, and in 1983. Historians were asked to rank presidents as Great, Near Great, Average, Below Average, and Failure. In every case, number one is Lincoln, the mass murderer and military dictator who is the real father of the present nation. His term was a model of every despot’s dream: spending money without Congressional approval, declaring martial law, arbitrarily arresting thousands and holding them without trial, suppressing free speech and the free press, handing out lucrative war contracts to his cronies, raising taxes, inflating the currency, and killing hundreds of thousands for the crime of desiring self-government. These are just the sort of actions historians love…

Most historians value power accumulation when ranking the greatest presidents. Charisma and crisis confrontation are also considered important. Practically no one values minimal government or the ability to avoid crises. And yet some presidents did fairly well in these areas. These libertarian-type presidents were usually dull and didn’t spend years fighting wars or recessions. Instead, their terms were marked by peace, prosperity, and the respecting of individual liberties. Their ranks include Grover Cleveland as well as Rutherford B. Hayes. Using this definition of greatness (peace, prosperity, and the respecting of individual liberties), the greatest president of all time just might be the little-known John Tyler:

John Tyler was the 10th President of the United States. He was known as “His Accidency,” on account of the fact that he took over after William Henry Harrison’s untimely death. Most of his cabinet resigned during his term and his own party expelled him from its membership. According to Wikipedia, an aggregate of various scholarly polls rate Tyler as one of the worst presidents of all time. Heck, even the extremely controversial George W. Bush outranks him. Who would possibly consider President John Tyler #1?

(See the rest right here at Guerrilla Explorer)

Ghost Ship: The Mysterious Case of the Octavius?

On October 11, 1775, the Herald came across a strange ghost ship named the Octavius near Greenland. Upon closer inspection, they discovered the entire crew frozen at the helm. The captain’s log, last dated November 11, 1762, indicated the Octavius had been lost at sea for over 13 years.

Amazingly enough, the log revealed the Octavius had attempted to become the first ship  to successfully traverse the fabled Northwest Passage. Apparently, it got trapped in the ice and only completed the passage after the crew had succumbed to the frozen tundra. The Herald took the log but otherwise left the ship untouched. The Octavius was never seen again. Presumably, it’s still out there somewhere, trapped in an endless sea of ice.

It’s quite a story…but is it real? Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a primary source to substantiate it. And there are no records of the log either. Still, I’m looking for them, among others. Tracking down a real-life ghost ship has long been a dream of mine. But in the meantime, we’ll just have to enjoy the stories. Here’s more from Ghost Ships of the World:

In 1761, a sailing ship named The Octavius departed London loaded with cargo bound for China.  Having safely arrived at it’s destination and taking on another load for the return trip, the captain decided to take advantage of the unusually warm weather and chance an attempt at the shorter route via the northwest passage which until that point, had never been done successfully.  So in 1762, The Octavius departed China with a load of goods for the return trip to the Atlantic and headed northward to attempt an Arctic passage.  The ship made it through the passage…  thirteen years later as a ghost ship…

(See the rest at Ghost Ships of the World)

Hot Hand: Is it a Reality or a Fallacy?

College basketball season is in full swing. Everywhere you look, an announcer or writer is screaming about players going on streaks, making lots of shots in a row. In other words, having a hot hand. There’s just one problem. The hot hand is a myth. There’s no evidence to support it. It’s similar to the gambler’s fallacy. Say you toss a coin into the air and it comes up heads ten times in a row. Many gamblers believe this means tails are due. But each coin flip is an independent event. So, the odds of flipping a tail are still just 50%. Statistically speaking, basketball is the same way. Here’s more from the New York Times:

Those who play, coach or otherwise follow basketball believe almost universally that a player who has successfully made his last shot or last few shots – a player with hot hands – is more likely to make his next shot. An exhaustive statistical analysis led by a Stanford University psychologist, examining thousands of shots in actual games, found otherwise: the probability of a successful shot depends not at all on the shots that come before.

To the psychologist, Amos Tversky, the discrepancy between reality and belief highlights the extraordinary differences between events that are random and events that people perceive as random. When events come in clusters and streaks, people look for explanations; they refuse to believe they are random, even though clusters and streaks do occur in random data.

”Very often the search for explanation in human affairs is a rejection of randomness,” Dr. Tversky said…

(See the rest at the New York Times)

Mean Valentines: Telling Someone You Don’t Care?

Valentine’s Day is over, but there’s still a chance to tell others you DON’T care. Valentine’s Day cards weren’t always about love. Vinegar valentines (aka mean valentines) were popular in the mid 19th century. They seem to have died off around the 1940s to 1950s.

Mean Valentines were sometimes used to reject would-be lovers. Other times they were sent anonymously to annoying people. Don’t like that stuck-up clerk? Send her a card. Don’t care much for the bald guy down the block? Send him a mean Valentine. Think women need to get out of the voting booth? Tell her via anonymous card. The best part was that prior to 1840, the receiver paid postage for mail. So, early recipients of mean Valentines probably paid for someone to insult them. Here’s more on mean valentines from Lisa Hix at Collectors Weekly:

With all the hand-wringing over anonymous commenters and social-media trolls, you’d think the Internet is to blame for all the woes of humanity. After all, what could people do with their ugly, mean thoughts before they had Yelp, Reddit, or Tumblr to help broadcast them? But as far back as the 1840s until the 1940s, they could send them in a Vinegar Valentine. Yes, that’s right. For almost as long as Valentine’s Day has been an insufferably sappy day celebrating romantic love, it’s also been a day for telling everyone else exactly how much you don’t love them—with an anonymous poem sent via post.

At first, it’s easy to demonize the senders as the worst sorts of trolls or bullies. I mean, some of the most horrifying Vinegar Valentines actually suggest the recepient kill him or herself. But then, if you look at the more light-hearted Valentines, some of them start to seem like a good idea. Have you ever had a haughty saleslady scoff at you for being poor? Have you ever had to listen to a pompous windbag carry on when he doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about? So many people are blithely unaware of their obnoxious behavior. Wouldn’t it feel great to tell them off, consequence-free?

 

(See the rest at Collectors Weekly)

Remnants of Lost City located in Peru?

Peru, like much of Central and South America, is a veritable treasure trove of lost history. This latest discovery is a lost temple located within the ruins at El Paraiso. However, it’s estimated to be 5,000 years old, making it 1,000 years older than the rest of the ruins. So, it appears to be from a lost city. Here’s more from BBC News:

Archaeologists in Peru say they have discovered a temple at the ancient site of El Paraiso, near the capital, Lima. Entry to the rectangular structure, estimated to be up to 5,000 years old, was via a narrow passageway, they say. At its centre, the archaeologists from Peru’s Ministry of Culture found a hearth which they believe was used to burn ceremonial offerings.

With 10 ruins, El Paraiso is one of the biggest archaeological sites in central Peru. The archaeologists found the structure, measuring 6.82m by 8.04m (22ft by 26ft), in the right wing of the main pyramid…

(See the rest at BBC News)

Bigfoot DNA: Is it Real?

Melba Ketchum released her eagerly-awaited Bigfoot DNA research paper today…and already it’s looking like a disaster. No academics (just forensic experts) were involved in the research. In order to get their paper published, they were forced to purchase and relaunch their own peer-reviewed journal. The paper, from what I understand, assumes Bigfoot exists and then goes about setting to prove its existence. Ultimately, it concludes with this comment: “The data conclusively proves that the Sasquatch exist as an extant hominin and are a direct maternal descendant of modern humans.” I’ve written about pseudoscience extensively. And from the looks of it, this is pseudoscience at its finest.

“Good science isn’t about proclaiming a hypothesis to be fact. Rather, it’s about doing everything you can to refute your own hypothesis. This requires creating unique and creative tests in order to rule out alternative theories. But even if these tests are done in a comprehensive fashion, an unassailed hypothesis still isn’t fact. It merely hasn’t been refuted yet. It might hold up under thousands of different tests. But all it takes is one test to send it to the dustbin of history.” ~ David Meyer, Monsters, Ghosts, & UFOs: Protosciences…or Pseudosciences?

The jury is still out on the actual data. But early word is that the results look more like contamination than anything else. Also, there seem to be a lack of rigorous tests done on the data. Here’s more on the Bigfoot DNA paper from idoubtit at Doubtful News:

Melba Ketchum’s long LONG awaited paper on Bigfoot DNA is published today. But you’re not going to see it.

Back in November, Ketchum announced her results: A team of scientists can verify that their 5-year long DNA study, currently under peer-review, confirms the existence of a novel hominin hybrid species, commonly called “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch,” living in North America. Researchers’ extensive DNA sequencing suggests that the legendary Sasquatch is a human relative that arose approximately 15,000 years ago as a hybrid cross of modern Homo sapiens with an unknown primate species.

There was no paper to go along with the results. There is now a paper. With it comes a BOATLOAD of issues that leave this announcement less than spectacular…

(See the rest at Doubtful News)

SETI: The Search for Aliens comes up Short?

SETI’s latest search for aliens has come to a disappointing conclusion. Part of the problem is our own technology. We just aren’t that advanced. SETI is only capable of searching for Type II civilizations, who utilize and channel an energy source equivalent to the sun. So, yeah…there probably aren’t too many of those.

The other problem is even more challenging to overcome. Searching for aliens has always struck me as a long-shot. Sure, the galaxy is vast but so is time. And the odds of our civilization overlapping with a similar one (actually a much more advanced one) on a distant planet have got to be miniscule. Here’s more on the latest SETI search from Ian O’Neill at Discovery News:

In an effort to search for intelligent extraterrestrials, SETI astronomers have completed their first “directed” search. Unfortunately, it turned up no evidence of transmitting aliens. But that’s hardly surprising.

By focusing the Green Bank radio telescope, located in West Virginia, on stars hosting (candidate) exoplanets, it is hoped that one of those star systems may also play host to a sufficiently evolved alien race capable of transmitting radio signals into space. But in a study headed by ex-SETI chief Jill Tarter, the conclusion of this first attempt is blunt: “No signals of extraterrestrial origin were found.”

(See the rest at Discovery News)

President Lincoln: Hero or Monster?

President Lincoln is the centerpiece of American mythology. Public schools teach us to adore him. His brilliance and leadership are hailed by historians and politicians. President Lincoln saved the Union, freed the slaves, and inspired a nation. Check out these glowing words from Roy Klabin at PolicyMic:

Abraham Lincoln is one of America’s most celebrated presidents, having led us though our most troubled times. He was made great not by the circumstances that he found himself in, but the fortitude and honor with which he navigated them. The Civil War that erupted, and the manner in which Lincoln quelled it, showed us that however varied the ideas within our flourishing democracy may become, our strongest virtue comes in sustaining our unity and resolving our differences.

Fortitude? Honor? Please. Unfortunately, the truth is far uglier. President Lincoln’s quest to “save the union” cost an estimated 750,000 lives (including my third great grandfather). He wanted to force African-Americans to resettle in Central America. And there is no evidence he helped to pass the 13th Amendment, despite what Steven Spielberg would have you believe. In fact, the only 13th amendment President Lincoln tried to pass was the Corwin Amendment, which sought to prevent interference with slavery. Here’s more on the mythology surrounding President Lincoln and the 13th Amendment from Thomas DiLorenzo at LewRockwell.com:

Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, is said to be based on several chapters of the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns-Goodwin, who was a consultant to Spielberg. The main theme of the movie is how clever, manipulative, conniving, scheming, lying, and underhanded Lincoln supposedly was in using his “political skills” to get the Thirteenth Amendment that legally ended slavery through the U.S. House of Representatives in the last months of his life. This entire story is what Lerone Bennett, Jr. the longtime executive editor of Ebony magazine and author of Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, calls a “pleasant fiction.” It never happened…

There is no evidence that Lincoln provided any significant assistance in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in the House of Representatives in 1865, but there is evidence of his effectiveness in getting an earlier Thirteenth Amendment through the House and the Senate in 1861. This proposed amendment was known as the “Corwin Amendment,” named after Ohio Republican Congressman Thomas Corwin. It had passed both the Republican-controlled House and the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate on March 2, 1861, two days before Lincoln’s inauguration, and was sent to the states for ratification by Lincoln himself. The Corwin Amendment would have prohibited the federal government from ever interfering with Southern slavery…

(See the rest at LewRockwell.com)