Podcast Episode 146: Alone in the Wilderness

https://archive.org/details/aloneinwildernes00knowrich

In 1913 outdoorsman Joseph Knowles pledged to spend two months in the woods of northern Maine, naked and alone, fending for himself “without the slightest communication or aid from the outside world.” In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Knowles’ adventures in the woods and the controversy that followed his return to civilization.

We’ll also consider the roots of nostalgia and puzzle over some busy brothers.

Intro:

In 1972, a French physicist discovered a natural uranium reactor operating underground in Gabon.

In the 13th century the English royal menagerie included a polar bear.

Sources for our feature on Joseph Knowles:

Jim Motavalli, Naked in the Woods, 2007.

Joseph Knowles, Alone in the Wilderness, 1913.

Bill Donahue, “Naked Joe,” Boston Magazine, April 2013.

Richard O. Boyer, “The Nature Man,” New Yorker, June 18, 1938.

John Gould, “Tarzan of the Pines,” Christian Science Monitor, June 18, 1999.

Roderick Nash, “The American Cult of the Primitive,” American Quarterly 18:3 (Autumn 1966), 517-537.

Robert Moor, “The 1913 ‘Nature Man’ Whose Survivalist Stunts Were Not What They Seemed,” Atlas Obscura, July 7, 2016.

“Joe Knowles, Lived in Wilds Unarmed!”, New York Times, Oct. 23, 1942.

Joseph B. Frazier, “An Early Nature Buff: By Going Into the Woods Alone, Did Joe Knowles Remind America of Its Potential?”, Orlando Sentinel, March 2, 2008.

Joseph B. Frazier, “‘Natural Man’ Inspired, Despite Fraud Claims,” Augusta Chronicle, March 16, 2008.

“The 100th Anniversary of Joe Knowles’ Famous Odyssey into the Wilds,” Lewiston [Maine] Sun Journal, April 14, 2013.

“Joe Knowles and the Legacy of Wilderness Adventures,” Lewiston [Maine] Sun Journal, May 12, 2013.

“Nature Man Badly Injured,” Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1915.

“The Nature Man,” The Billboard, Nov. 6, 1915.

Grace Kingley, “Joe Knowles, Nature Man, at Republic,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 23, 1914.

https://archive.org/details/aloneinwildernes00knowrich

Still dressed in his bearskin and cedar-bark shoes, Knowles was examined by Harvard physician Dudley Sargent on Oct. 9, 1913. “He surpassed every test he took before starting on the trip,” Sargent declared. “His scientific experiment shows what a man can do when he is deprived of the luxuries which many people have come to regard as necessities.”

https://archive.org/details/aloneinwildernes00knowrich

A portion of the crowd that met him in Boston.

Listener mail:

Fireworks disasters in Oban, Scotland, and San Diego.

MURDERCASTLE, from the Baltimore Rock Opera Society.

John Tierney, “What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows,” New York Times, July 8, 2013.

University of Southampton, “What Nostalgia Is and What It Does” (accessed March 18, 2017).

“Nostalgia,” Google Books Ngram Viewer, March 18, 2017.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Rod Guyler.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

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Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Cross-Country Golf

https://pixabay.com/en/the-shoals-course-muscle-shoals-1613273/

In 1953, 150 golfers participated in a “Golden Ball” competition in which they teed off at the first tee at Cill Dara Golf Club in Kildare, Ireland, and holed out at the 18th hole at the Curragh, about 5 miles away. A prize of £1 million was offered for a hole in one, which would have been well earned, as the distance is 8,800 yards.

In The Book of Irish Golf, John Redmond writes, “The hazards to be negotiated included the main Dublin-Cork railway line and road, the Curragh racecourse, Irish army tank ranges and about 150 telephone lines.” The trophy went to renowned long hitter Joe Carr, who covered the distance in 52 shots.

In 1920, Rupert Lewis and W. Raymond Thomas played over 20 miles of countryside from Radyr Golf Club near Cardiff, Wales, to Southerndown Golf Club at Ewenny, near Bridgend. Most onlookers guessed that they’d need at least 1,000 strokes, but they completed the journey in 608, playing alternate strokes. “At one time, the pair had to wade knee deep to ford a river,” writes Jonathan Rice in Curiosities of Golf, “but dried out by jumping a hedge while being chased by a bull.”

Inspired by the P.G. Wodehouse story “The Long Hole,” eight members of the Barnet Rugby Hackers Golf Club played 23 miles across Ayrshire in 1968, from Prestwick, the site of the first Open Championship, to Turnberry, the site of that year’s event. They lost “only” 50 or 60 balls while negotiating “a holiday camp, a dockyard, a stately home, a croquet lawn, several roofs, the River Doon,” and another bull, for a final score of 375 to 385.

N.T.P. Murphy gives a few more in A Wodehouse Handbook: In 1913 two golfers played 26 miles from Linton Park near Maidstone to Littleston-on-Sea in 1,087 strokes; Doe Graham played literally across country in 1927, from Florida’s Mobile Golf Club to Hollywood, a distance of 6,160,000 yards (I don’t have the final score, but he’d taken 20,000 strokes by the time he reached Beaumont, Texas); and Floyd Rood played from the Atlantic to the Pacific in 1963 in 114,737 shots.

The object of golf, observed Punch in 1892, “is to put a very small ball into a very tiny and remotely distant hole, with engines singularly ill adapted for the purpose.”

03/25/2017 UPDATE: Reader Shane Bennett notes that Australia’s Nullarbor Links claims to be the world’s longest golf course — players drive from Ceduna in South Australia to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, stopping periodically to play a hole. Par for the 18 holes is only 73, but the course stretches over 1,365 kilometers. (Thanks, Shane.)

A Snow Dam

flateyri dam 1

The Icelandic fishing village of Flateyri was devastated when an avalanche buried 17 homes in 1995. To guard against further trouble, they built an earthen dam in the shape of an enormous A.

It worked: An avalanche struck the dam’s eastern wing in February 1999, and another struck the western wing the following March. Both were deflected harmlessly into the sea.

flateyri dam 2

In a Word

http://www.psacard.com/cardfacts/baseball-cards/1955-topps/norm-zauchin-176/24769

pernicity
n. swiftness, quickness, agility

discoverture
n. the state of not having a husband

supersalient
adj. leaping upon

desponsate
adj. married

The Fenway Millionaires also have a ‘sleeper’ in Norm Zauchin, a massive fellow just out of the Army. Don’t underestimate him. When he was at Birmingham he pursued a twisting foul ball into a front row box. He clutched frantically. He missed grabbing the ball but he did grab a girl, Janet Mooney. This might not be considered a proper introduction by Emily Post but it worked for Zauchin. He married the gal. Nope. Don’t underestimate an opportunist like that.

— Arthur Daley, “Life Among the Millionaires,” New York Times, March 11, 1954

Drawn Onward

tintin

Comic strips offer even more opportunities for working with the symbolism of direction. W.A. Wagenaar, a psychologist at Leiden University and a Tintin fan, once tallied up all the acts and transitions in three Tintin books and discovered that in three out of four cases the characters move from left to right, even when their movement takes several frames to portray. More interestingly still, movements towards the left almost always have a bad outcome. The man who moves his finger from right to left to ring Tintin’s doorbell falls unconscious on the doormat as soon as the alert reporter opens the door. When Captain Haddock crosses the frame from right to left in an attempt to escape, he is recaptured in no time. And so on. This is Tintin’s Law, and it is reminiscent of the messenger in the theatre of the ancient world: entering on the right — and therefore moving towards the left — is a sign to the audience that something ominous is happening.

— Rik Smits, The Puzzle of Left-Handedness, 2010

(Wagenaar’s paper is “Als Kuifje naar links beweegt is er iets mis,” NRC Handelsblad, Aug. 5, 1981.)

Course Change

berouw

The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was the most powerful natural sound ever experienced by humans. Captain Sampson of the British vessel Norham Castle, 40 kilometers away, wrote, “I am writing this blind in pitch darkness. We are under a continual rain of pumice-stone and dust. So violent are the explosions that the ear-drums of over half my crew have been shattered. My last thoughts are with my dear wife. I am convinced that the Day of Judgment has come.”

During the maelstrom the Dutch steam gunship Berouw was picked up by a wave and smashed down at the mouth of the Koeripan River, probably killing all 28 of her crew. Then a second enormous wave picked her up and carried her two miles inland, all the way up the river valley, and set her down upright, athwart the river and 60 feet above sea level.

The crew of a rescue ship discovered her there the following month: “She lies almost completely intact, only the front of the ship is twisted a little to port, the back of the ship a little to starboard. The engine room is full of mud and ash. The engines themselves were not damaged very much, but the flywheels were bent by the repeated shocks. It might be possible to float her once again.”

That never happened. In 1939 visitors reported that she was rusting in place, covered with vines, and home to a colony of monkeys. A few pieces remained in the 1980s, and today all trace of her is gone. In Krakatoa, Simon Winchester notes that Berouw is the Dutch word for “remorse.”

Waste Not

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_Waterhouse_Hawkins-Persian_Deer,_Cervus_Maral,_summer.jpg

British Columbia woodsman Francis Wharton shot a deer in the late 1960s but had no serviceable teeth with which to eat it.

With venison steak hanging in the balance, Wharton extracted the teeth from his deer, filed and ground them to what appeared a handy size. He then chewed up a wad of Plastic Wood, molding it to the shape of his gums, and thereto affixed the teeth, using household cement for binder. Francis then sat down to a hearty meal of venison and ate it with the deer’s own teeth.

That’s from dental researcher Gardner P.H. Foley’s 1972 Treasury of Dentistry. The teeth, described as “loose,” “dark and dirty,” are on display at the Museum of Health Care in Kingston. Reportedly Wharton used them for three years; collections manager Kathy Karkut says, “He must have used a lot of Polident.”

Rustic Furniture

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1857_Seth_Kinman_and_Buchanan_chair.jpeg

In 1856 California hunter Seth Kinman made a unique gift for the new president, James Buchanan — a chair fashioned from horns that elk had shed on his farm. “This winter I killed considerable meat so I thought I would take it easy and set about to make this cheer with a view of sending it on to Washington for Old Buck,” he wrote. “After I got it finished, though, the boys up in our parts thought it enough to travel on; so I thought I would try and go on with it to Washington myself, leaving my mother and four children behind, and started with nothing but my rifle and powder horn. Nobody has yet sot in this cheer, and never shall till after the President.”

He arrived in Washington in May 1857 and presented the chair to Buchanan, who accepted it with great pleasure. “It will serve to remind me of the Californians,” he said. “They are a stamp of men that can be coaxed, but cannot be driven.” As Buchanan tried the chair, Kinman pointed out “that one fork of the antlers at the foot of the chair will make a good boot jack.” (The New York Times observes that this remark was met with “great merriment.”)

Kinman presented another elkhorn chair to Abraham Lincoln, and later a third to Rutherford Hayes. But he topped all of these in 1865 with a “bear chair” that he gave to Andrew Johnson:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CowbodyBearChair.jpg

“This was intended to surpass all his previous efforts, and was made from two grizzly bears captured by Seth,” writes Marshall Anspach in The Lost History of Seth Kinman. “The four legs and claws were those of a huge grizzly and the back and sides ornamented with immense claws. The seat was soft and exceedingly comfortable, but the great feature of the chair was that, by touching a cord, the head of the monster grizzly bear with jaws extended, would dart out in front from under the seat, snapping and gnashing its teeth as natural as life.”

“The chair would appall almost any one with a less firm seat than Andrew Johnson,” noted Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, “but, putting looks aside, will, without doubt, make a warm and comfortable seat in the coming cold weather.” Johnson kept it in the White House library.

Close Call

From reader Isaac Lubow:

In 2008 a Learjet operated by Kalitta Air was en route from Manassas, Va., to Ypsilanti, Mich., when the air traffic controller noted that the pilot’s microphone button was being pressed continuously. When he contacted the plane, the pilot told him in slow, slurred words, over the sound of audible alarms, that he was unable to maintain altitude, speed, or heading but that everything else was “A-OK.”

Euphoria is a sign of hypoxia. With the help of the pilot of a nearby aircraft, the controllers were able to understand that the Learjet had become depressurized. It turned out that the first officer had been completely unconscious, and his flailing arm had both disengaged the autopilot and keyed the microphone. The open microphone had alerted the controllers, and the need to hand-fly the plane had kept the pilot conscious and able to respond to their commands.

The pilot managed to descend from 32,000 feet to 11,000, where the crew recovered, and the plane landed safely at Detroit’s Willow Run Airport. Controllers Jay McCombs and Stephanie Bevins were awarded the Archie League Medal of Safety, and the episode is now used as a classroom teaching aid at the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City.

(From Fear of Landing. Thanks, Isaac.)