A Stormy Mistress

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Each Ascension Day between 1311 and 1798, the doge of Venice was rowed into the Adriatic aboard a palatial barge to perform the “Marriage of the Sea,” a ceremony that symbolically wedded Venice to the sea. The ship, known as the Bucentaur, led a solemn procession of boats out of the city, where the doge dropped a consecrated ring into the water with the words Desponsamus te, mare (“We wed thee, sea”) to indicate that the city and the sea were indissolubly one.

After the Treaty of Versailles, Polish general Jozef Haller marked his country’s renewed access to the Baltic Sea by throwing a ring into the water with the words “In the name of the Holy Republic of Poland, I, General Jozef Haller, am taking control of this ancient Slavic Baltic Sea shore”:

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His act was repeated in 1945 in several ceremonies by members of the First Polish Army, who threw rings, dipped flags, and swore an oath pledging their nation’s devotion to the Baltic. The text of the oath was later printed in the Polish Army newspaper Zwyciezymy: “I swear to you, Polish Sea, that I, a soldier of the Homeland, faithful son of the Polish nation, will not abandon you. I swear to you that I will always follow this road, the road which has been paved by the State National Council, the road which has led me to the sea. I will guard you, I will not hesitate to shed my blood for the Fatherland, neither will I hesitate to give my life so that you do not return to Germany. You will remain Polish forever.”

Podcast Episode 157: The Brutal History of Batavia’s Graveyard

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In 1629, a Dutch trading vessel struck a reef off the coast of Australia, marooning 180 people on a tiny island. As they struggled to stay alive, their leader descended into barbarity, gathering a band of cutthroats and killing scores of terrified castaways. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll document the brutal history of Batavia’s graveyard, the site of Australia’s most infamous shipwreck.

We’ll also lose money in India and puzzle over some invisible Frenchmen.

Intro:

In 1946, an Allied dentist inscribed “Remember Pearl Harbor” on Hideki Tojo’s dentures.

Sigourney Weaver named herself after a character in The Great Gatsby.

Sources for our feature on the Batavia mutiny:

Mike Dash, Batavia’s Graveyard, 2002.

Mike Sturma, “Mutiny and Narrative: Francisco Pelsaert’s Journals and the Wreck of the Batavia,” The Great Circle 24:1 (2002), 14-24.

“We Are Still on the Batavia,” Queen’s Quarterly 12:4 (Winter 2005), 489.

Bruce Bennett, “Politics and Spying: Representations of Pre- and Early Australia,” Antipodes 22:1 (June 2008), 17-22.

“Batavia,” Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia, 1997, 52-53.

D. Franklin, “Human Skeletal Remains From a Multiple Burial Associated With the Mutiny of the VOC Retourschip Batavia, 1629,” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 22:6 (Jan. 19, 2011), 740-748.

Michael Titlestad, “‘Changed as to a Tiger’: Considering the Wreck of the Batavia,” Antipodes 27:2 (December 2013), 149-156.

Mark Staniforth, “Murder and Mayhem,” dig 8:4 (April 2006), 20-21.

Christopher Bray, “The Wreck of the Batavia [review],” Financial Times, Aug 17, 2007.

“Batavia’s History,” Western Australian Museum (accessed May 28, 2017).

Sarah Taillier, “Unearthed Grave Sheds Light on Batavia Shipwreck Mass Murder,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Feb. 3, 2015.

“Australia Dig Unearths Batavia Mutiny Skeleton,” BBC News, Feb. 4, 2015.

Libby-Jane Charleston, “The Batavia Mutiny and Massacre of 1629 Is Still Revealing Secrets,” Huffington Post, July 2, 2016.

Karl Quinn, “Mutiny, Shipwreck, Murder: The Incredible True Story Russell Crowe Wants to Film,” Sydney Morning Herald, March 30, 2016.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Interest in the Batavia was reawakened in the 1960s, when archaeologists began to examine the site of the mutiny. This victim, excavated in 1963, had received a cutting wound to the head; the right shoulder blade was broken, and the right foot was missing.

Listener mail:

Andrew Levy, “Doctors Solve Mystery of a Man Who ‘Died From Laughter’ While Watching The Goodies After His Granddaughter Nearly Dies From Same Rare Heart Condition,” Daily Mail, June 20, 2012.

Wikipedia, “2016 Indian Banknote Demonetisation” (accessed June 9, 2017).

“The Dire Consequences of India’s Demonetisation Initiative,” Economist, Dec. 3, 2016.

Micheline Maynard, “The ‘Zion Curtain’ Is About to Fall in Utah, and Restaurants Can’t Wait,” Forbes, March 29, 2017.

Donald Hoffman, “Do We See Reality As It Is?” TED, March 2015.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Aden Lonergan. Here’s a corroborating link (warning — this spoils the puzzle).

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.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we’ve set up some rewards to help thank you for your support.

You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website.

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!

Breathless

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This looks exhausting — flirting signals, from Daniel R. Shafer’s Secrets of Life Unveiled, 1877:

“Handkerchief flirtations”:

Drawing it across the lips: Desiring an acquaintance
Drawing it across the cheek: I love you
Drawing it across the forehead: Look, we are watched
Drawing it through the hands: I hate you
Dropping it: We will be friends
Folding it: I wish to speak with you
Letting it rest on the right cheek: Yes
Letting it rest on the left cheek: No
Letting it remain on the eyes: You are so cruel
Opposite corners in both hands: Do wait for me
Over the shoulder: Follow me
Placing it over the right ear: How you have changed
Putting it in the pocket: No more love at present
Taking it by the centre: You are most too willing
Twisting it in the left hand: I wish to be rid of you
Twisting it in the right hand: I love another
Winding it around the forefinger: I am engaged
Winding it around the third finger: I am married

“Glove flirtations”:

Biting the tips: I wish to be rid of you very soon
Clenching them, rolled up in right hand: No
Drawing half way on left hand: Indifference
Dropping both of them: I love you
Dropping one of them: Yes
Folding up carefully: Get rid of your company
Holding the tips downward: I wish to be acquainted
Holding them loose in the right hand: Be contented
Holding them loose in the left hand: I am satisfied
Left hand with the naked thumb exposed: Do you love me?
Putting them away: I am vexed
Right hand with the naked thumb exposed: Kiss me
Smoothing them out gently: I am displeased
Striking them over the shoulder: Follow me
Tapping the chin: I love another
Tossing them up gently: I am engaged
Turning them inside out: I hate you
Twisting them around the fingers: Be careful, we are watched
Using them as a fan: Introduce me to your company

“Fan flirtations”:

Carrying in right hand: You are too willing
Carrying in right hand in front of face: Follow me
Carrying in left hand: Desirous of an acquaintance
Closing it: I wish to speak with you
Drawing across the forehead: We are watched
Drawing across the cheek: I love you
Drawing across the eyes: I am sorry
Drawing through the hand: I hate you
Dropping: We will be friends
Fanning fast: I am engaged
Fanning slow: I am married
Letting it rest on right cheek: Yes
Letting it rest on left cheek: No
Open and shut: You are cruel
Open wide: Wait for me
Shut: I have changed
Placing it on the right ear: You have changed
Twirling in left hand: I love another
With handle to lips: Kiss me

“Parasol flirtations”:

Carrying it elevated in left hand: Desiring acquaintance
Carrying it elevated in right hand: You are too willing
Carrying it closed in left hand: Meet on the first crossing
Carrying it closed in right hand by the side: Follow me
Carrying it over the right shoulder: You can speak to me
Carrying it over the left shoulder: You are too cruel
Closing up: I wish to speak to you
Dropping it: I love you
End of tips to lips: Do you love me?
Folding it up: Get rid of your company
Letting it rest on the right cheek: Yes
Letting it rest on the left cheek: No
Striking it on the hand: I am very displeased
Swinging it to and fro by the handle on left side: I am engaged
Swinging it to and fro by the handle on the right side: I am married
Tapping the chin gently: I am in love with another
Twirling it around: Be careful; we are watched
Using it as a fan: Introduce me to your company
With handle to lips: Kiss me

(From Elizabeth Aldrich, From the Ballroom to Hell: Grace and Folly in Nineteenth-Century Dance, 1991.)

Copycats

In 1988, workers found a 5-year-old bottlenose dolphin trapped in a canal lock in South Australia. She was taken to a commercial aquarium for medical treatment, where she was named Billie and housed with the trained dolphins who performed for oceanarium visitors there. One of the behaviors that the trained dolphins had learned was tailwalking, emerging vertically from the water and beating their tails to move backward as though walking on the water.

When Billie had recovered she was released back into the wild, but conservationist Mike Bossley continued to monitor her. He was surprised to see her tailwalking — she had never received any training during her recuperation and must have learned this spontaneously from the trained dolphins. “The behavior has no known utility in the wild and, as you can imagine, uses up a fair amount of energy, but Billie kept it up,” write biologists Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell in The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins (2014).

Not only that, but other wild dolphins began tailwalking themselves. Bossley reported, “Another female dolphin called Wave began performing the same behavior, but does so with much greater regularity than Billie. Four adult female dolphins have also been seen tailwalking,” as have several calves. Just last month conservationist Jenni Wyrsta saw a wild dolphin named Bianca do 33 tailwalks in a row in the Port River, in sets of two and three. “I’ve never seen a dolphin do double, let alone triple tailwalks,” she told the Portside Messenger.

Whitehead and Rendell write, “So, a behavior learned in captivity, with no obvious function beside play, has apparently gone on to become something of a hit in the wild and persists to this day, twenty-five years following Billie’s release and after Billie’s own death in 2009.”

The Baltic Way

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

On August 23, 1989, two million peaceful demonstrators joined hands across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to protest the occupation of the Baltic states by the Soviet Union. The chain, 675 kilometers long, connected the capitals of Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn. Coordinated by portable radios, the protesters peacefully joined hands for 15 minutes at 7 p.m. local time, saying they wanted to demonstrate solidarity among the three nations in their desire for independence.

“This is something I feel in my heart,” said Rita Urbanovich, who had brought her 7-year-old twin sons to a spot along the Viljandi Highway outside Tallinn. “We suffered. Our whole country suffered — every person. And I brought my children because this is my way to explain to them why independence is important for their future.”

Moscow responded with heated rhetoric but backed down when the activists appealed to the United Nations. Within seven months, Lithuania had declared its independence, and by the end of 1991 all three Baltic states were free.

Things to Come

In 1899, preparing for festivities in Lyon marking the new century, French toy manufacturer Armand Gervais commissioned a set of 50 color engravings from freelance artist Jean-Marc Côté depicting the world as it might exist in the year 2000.

The set itself has a precarious history. Gervais died suddenly in 1899, when only a few sets had been run off the press in his basement. “The factory was shuttered, and the contents of that basement remained hidden for the next twenty-five years,” writes James Gleick in Time Travel. “A Parisian antiques dealer stumbled upon the Gervais inventory in the twenties and bought the lot, including a single proof set of Côté’s cards in pristine condition. He had them for fifty years, finally selling them in 1978 to Christopher Hyde, a Canadian writer who came across his shop on rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie.”

Hyde showed them to Isaac Asimov, who published them in 1986 as Futuredays, with a gentle commentary on what Côté had got right (widespread automation) and wrong (clothing styles). But maybe some of these visions are still ahead of us:

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Wikimedia Commons has the full set.