Podcast Episode 209: Lost Off Newfoundland

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In 1883 fisherman Howard Blackburn was caught in a blizzard off the coast of Newfoundland. Facing bitter cold in an 18-foot boat, he passed through a series of harrowing adventures in a desperate struggle to stay alive and find help. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Blackburn’s dramatic story, which made him famous around the world.

We’ll also admire a runaway chicken and puzzle over a growing circle of dust.

Intro:

During Oxfordshire’s annual stag hunt in 1819, the quarry took refuge in a chapel.

With the introduction of electric light, some American cities erected “moonlight towers.”

Sources for our feature on Howard Blackburn:

Joseph E. Garland, Lone Voyager: The Extraordinary Adventures of Howard Blackburn, Hero Fisherman of Gloucester, 1963.

Louis Arthur Norton, “The Hero of Gloucester,” American History 35:5 (December 2000), 22.

“The Terrible Odyssey of Howard Blackburn,” American Heritage 33:2 (February/March 1982).

Peter Nielsen, “Howard Blackburn: Heroism at Sea,” Sail, July 31, 2017.

Matthew McKenzie, “Iconic Fishermen and the Fates of New England Fisheries Regulations, 1883-1912,” Environmental History 17:1 (January 2012), 3-28.

R. Guy Pulvertaft, “Psychological Aspects of Hand Injuries,” Hand 7:2 (April 1, 1975), 93-103.

Paul Raymond Provost, “Winslow Homer’s ‘The Fog Warning’: The Fisherman as Heroic Character,” American Art Journal 22:1 (Spring 1990), 20-27.

“Ask the Globe,” Boston Globe, Jan. 24, 2000, B8.

Michael Carlson, “Obituary: Joseph Garland: Voice of Gloucester, Massachusetts,” Guardian, Oct. 6, 2011, 46.

Larry Johnston, “During a Struggle to Survive ’83 Blizzard, a Sailor Becomes a Hero,” Florida Today, June 21, 2006, E.1.

Herbert D. Ward, “Heroes of the Deep,” Century 56:3 (July 1898), 364-377.

“Alone in a Four-Ton Boat,” New York Times, June 19, 1899.

“Passed Blackburn’s Boat,” New York Times, Aug. 11, 1899.

“Capt. Blackburn at Lisbon,” New York Times, July 21, 1901.

Sherman Bristol, “The Fishermen of Gloucester,” Junior Munsey 10:5 (August 1901), 749-755.

Patrick McGrath, “Off the Banks,” Idler 24:3 (March 1904), 522-531.

John H. Peters, “Voyages in Midget Boats,” St. Louis Republic Sunday Magazine, Dec. 11, 1904, 9.

M.B. Levick, “Fog Is Still the Fisherman’s Nemesis,” New York Times, July 19, 1925.

“Capt. Blackburn Dies,” New York Times, Nov. 5, 1932.

James Bobbins, “Two Are Rescued as Boat Capsizes,” New York Times, Jan. 30, 1933.

L.H. Robbins, “Out of Gloucester to the Winter Sea,” New York Times, Feb. 12, 1933.

Robert Spiers Benjamin, “Boats Dare Ice and Fog,” New York Times, Dec. 22, 1935.

Cape Ann Museum, “Captain Howard Blackburn, the Lone Voyager” (accessed July 1, 2018).

Listener mail:

Below the Surface.

Kristina Killgrove, “You Can Virtually Excavate Artifacts From a Riverbed in Amsterdam With This Website,” Forbes, June 30, 2018.

“Home to Roost! Clever Hen Takes Flight and Opens a Glass Door After Eyeing Up Chicken Feed Inside,” Daily Mail, June 30, 2018.

Listener Sofia Hauck de Oliveira found this f on the Thames foreshore:

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener James Colter.

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

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — you can choose the amount you want to pledge, 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!

Podcast Episode 208: Giving Birth to Rabbits

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In 1726 London was rocked by a bizarre sensation: A local peasant woman began giving birth to rabbits, astounding the city and baffling the medical community. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the strange case of Mary Toft, which has been called “history’s most fascinating medical mystery.”

We’ll also ponder some pachyderms and puzzle over some medical misinformation.

Intro:

The notion of music without substance raises some perplexing philosophical puzzles.

Japanese haiku master Masaoka Shiki wrote nine verses about baseball.

Sources for our feature on Mary Toft:

Dennis Todd, Imagining Monsters: Miscreations of the Self in Eighteenth-Century England, 1995.

Clifford A. Pickover, The Girl Who Gave Birth to Rabbits: A True Medical Mystery, 2000.

Richard Gordon, Great Medical Mysteries, 1984.

Lisa Forman Cody, Birthing the Nation: Sex, Science, and the Conception of Eighteenth-Century Britons, 2005.

Wendy Moore, “Of Rabbit and Humble Pie,” British Medical Journal 338 (May 7, 2009).

Palmira Fontes da Costa, “The Medical Understanding of Monstrous Births at the Royal Society of London During the First Half of the Eighteenth Century,” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 26:2 (2004), 157-175.

Lawrence Segel, “What’s Up, Doc?” Medical Post 39:11 (March 18, 2003), 37.

Glennda Leslie, “Cheat and Impostor: Debate Following the Case of the Rabbit Breeder,” Eighteenth Century 27:3 (Fall 1986), 269-286.

Bill Bynum, “Maternal Impressions,” Lancet 359:9309 (March 9, 2002), 898.

Dolores Peters, “The Pregnant Pamela: Characterization and Popular Medical Attitudes in the Eighteenth Century,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 14:4 (Summer 1981), 432-451.

S.A. Seligman, “Mary Toft — The Rabbit Breeder,” Medical History 5:4 (1961), 349-360.

Charles Green Cumston, “The Famous Case of Mary Toft, the Pretended Rabbit Breeder of Godalming,” American Journal of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children 68:2 (August 1913), 274-300.

Nathaniel Saint-André, A Short Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbets, Perform’d by Mr John Howard, Surgeon at Guilford, 1727.

Sir Richard Manningham, An Exact Diary of What Was Observ’d During a Close Attendance Upon Mary Toft, the Pretended Rabbet-Breeder of Godalming in Surrey, From Monday Nov. 28, to Wednesday Dec. 7 Following, 1726.

Cyriacus Ahlers, Some Observations Concerning the Woman of Godlyman in Surrey, 1726.

Thomas Brathwaite, Remarks on a Short Narrative of an Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbets, Perform’d by Mr. John Howard, Surgeon at Guilford, 1726.

A Letter From a Male Physician in the Country, to the Author of the Female Physician in London; Plainly Shewing, That for Ingenuity, Probity, and Extraordinary Productions, he Far Surpasses the Author of the Narrative, 1726.

The Several Depositions of Edward Costen, Richard Stedman, John Sweetapple, Mary Peytoe, Elizabeth Mason, and Mary Costen; Relating to the Affair of Mary Toft, of Godalming in the County of Surrey, Being Deliver’d of Several Rabbits, 1727.

Jonathan Swift, The Anatomist Dissected: or the Man-Midwife Finely Brought to Bed, 1727.

“Merry Tuft,” Much Ado About Nothing: or, a Plain Refutation of All That Has Been Written or Said Concerning the Rabbit-Woman of Godalming, 1727.

“Full and Impartial Relation and Detection of the Rabbit Imposture &c.,” The Political State of Great Britain 32:12 (December 1726), 572-602.

Edward White, “An Extraordinary Delivery of Rabbits,” Paris Review, July 5, 2016.

Listener mail:

Rasnov Fortress, Romania Tourism (accessed July 5, 2018).

Wikipedia, “Rasnov Citadel” (accessed July 5, 2018).

Wikipedia, “Polybius” (accessed July 5, 2018).

“Polybius,” Encyclopaedia Britannica (accessed July 5, 2018).

“The British Alpine Hannibal Expedition,” John Hoyte (accessed July 5, 2018).

Wikipedia, “War Elephant” (accessed July 5, 2018).

“Battle of the Trebbia River,” Encyclopaedia Britannica (accessed July 5, 2018).

Philip Ball, “The Truth About Hannibal’s Route Across the Alps,” Guardian, April 3, 2016.

Paul Rodgers, “Tracing Hannibal’s Elephants — With Dung,” Forbes, April 5, 2016.

Franz Lidz, “How (and Where) Did Hannibal Cross the Alps?” Smithsonian, July 2017.

Michael B. Charles and Peter Rhodan, “‘Magister Elephantorvm’: A Reappraisal of Hannibal’s Use of Elephants,” The Classical World 100:4 (Summer 2007), 363-389.

S. O’Bryhim, “Hannibal’s Elephants and the Crossing of the Rhône,” The Classical Quarterly 41:1 (1991), 121-125.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Benjamin Busser, who was inspired by the “Peter Weinberger” episode of the Casefile podcast.

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

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — you can choose the amount you want to pledge, 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!

Podcast Episode 207: The Bluebelle’s Last Voyage

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In 1961, Wisconsin optometrist Arthur Duperrault chartered a yacht to take his family on a sailing holiday in the Bahamas. After two days in the islands, the ship failed to return to the mainland, and the unfolding story of its final voyage made headlines around the world. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll recount the fate of the Bluebelle and its seven passengers and crew.

We’ll also sympathize with some digital misfits and puzzle over some incendiary cigarettes.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 206: The Sky and the Sea

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard opened two new worlds in the 20th century. He was the first person to fly 10 miles above the earth and the first to travel 2 miles beneath the sea, using inventions that opened the doors to these new frontiers. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Piccard on his historic journeys into the sky and the sea.

We’ll also admire some beekeeping serendipity and puzzle over a sudden need for locksmiths.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 205: The White Mouse

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In 1928 Nancy Wake ran away from her Australian home and into an unlikely destiny: She became a dynamo in the French resistance, helping more than a thousand people to flee the Germans and then organizing partisans to fight them directly. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the White Mouse, one of the bravest heroes of World War II.

We’ll also marvel at mailmen and puzzle over an expensive homework assignment.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 204: Mary Anning’s Fossils

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In 1804, when she was 5 years old, Mary Anning began to dig in the cliffs that flanked her English seaside town. What she found amazed the scientists of her time and challenged the established view of world history. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of “the greatest fossilist the world ever knew.”

We’ll also try to identify a Norwegian commando and puzzle over some further string pulling.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 203: Notes and Queries

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll explore some more curiosities and unanswered questions from Greg’s research, including a misplaced elephant, a momentous biscuit failure, a peripatetic ax murderer, and the importance of the 9 of diamonds.

We’ll also revisit Michael Malloy’s resilience and puzzle over an uncommonly casual prison break.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 202: The Rosenhan Experiment

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the 1970s psychologist David Rosenhan sent healthy volunteers to 12 psychiatric hospitals, where they claimed to be hearing voices. Once they were admitted, they behaved normally, but the hospitals diagnosed all of them as seriously mentally ill. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the Rosenhan experiment, which challenged the validity of psychiatric diagnosis and set off a furor in the field.

We’ll also spot hawks at Wimbledon and puzzle over a finicky payment processor.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 201: The Gardner Heist

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In 1990, two thieves dressed as policemen walked into Boston’s Gardner museum and walked out with 13 artworks worth half a billion dollars. After 28 years the lost masterpieces have never been recovered. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the largest art theft in history and the ongoing search for its solution.

We’ll also discover the benefits of mustard gas and puzzle over a surprisingly effective fighter pilot.

See full show notes …