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Posted in Adventure, Famous crimes, Historical articles, Law, Legend on Saturday, 15 June 2013
This edited article about Claude Duval originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 298 published on 30 September 1967.
Half French, half English, Claude Duval was one of the most famous highwaymen of all time. And he is remembered as much for his gallantry towards ladies as he is for his daring robberies.
One of the stories told about him will appeal to all romantics.
On one occasion, he is supposed to have stopped a coach in which a lady was travelling. He told her to hand over all her money, but she was unwilling to do this. Instead, no doubt to divert his attention, she descended from the coach and began, rather daringly, to play on a flageolet – a kind of flute.
Apparently Duval was entranced. He asked the lady to dance with him. So, discarding her flageolet, she and the highwayman gaily danced together at the side of the road.
Then, saying that at least he had provided her with entertainment, he asked for money to be given to him as payment for his services. She gave him a quarter of the money she was carrying and Duval allowed her to go on her way.
Whether or not this story is true, no one really knows. But from the information we have about Claude Duval, it seems that such behaviour is more than likely.
But Duval was not able to delight and terrify travellers for very long. In 1670, when he was 27, he was executed at Tyburn. He was buried in Covent Garden Church, London.
Posted in Adventure, Historical articles, History, Travel on Friday, 14 June 2013
This edited article about mountaineering originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 296 published on 16 September 1967.
A camel caravan camped in the Pamir Mountains on the Silk Road, the trade route that linked Europe to China by Graham Coton
The expedition across the Roof of the World had been under way for two weeks when it came to the ‘snow bridge’ – the first of the obstacles which people said could not be passed. The bridge, a mass of snow and solid ice which had fallen down from the surrounding mountains, was the only means of crossing the foaming river underneath.
It looked anything but safe, and the coolies who carried the expedition’s stores and equipment wanted to turn back. But their leader, Lieutenant-Colonel P. T. Etherton, would not hear of such a thing. He had vowed to complete the ‘impossible’ 4,000-mile journey from northern India to Siberia, and was prepared to risk his life rather than fail at the attempt.
Urging the men to follow him, he set out along the precarious catwalk accompanied by his orderly, Rifleman Sing. Reluctantly the coolies followed after him. The colonel did not blame them for their hesitancy. Only a few hours earlier they had narrowly escaped death when an avalanche crashed down on them, and they were still shaking from the experience.
For the first few feet the bridge held the expedition’s weight. Then, when they were halfway over, there came an ominous ‘crack’. Suddenly the frozen snow broke in two and the men were pitched into the raging water. For a while it seemed that none of them would get out alive. They were repeatedly dashed against jagged rocks, and the coolies were hampered by the baggage they carried.
Somehow they managed to cling on to the boulders which lined the bank, and were then able to scramble ashore. Apart from bumps and bruises, no one was badly hurt, but it was clear to the colonel that the natives’ spirit was broken, and that they would desert him at the first opportunity.
Colonel Etherton and his party had set out on 15th March, 1909, to travel across the Pamir mountains, which the Asians called ‘the Roof of the World’. The 280-mile-long range still lay ahead of them, and they had to pass through ravines where the snow was so steeply banked that it could be brought down by the sound of someone talking.
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Posted in Adventure, Anthropology, Exploration, Historical articles, History on Friday, 14 June 2013
This edited article about Vilhjalmar Stefansson originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 296 published on 16 September 1967.
Vilhjalmar Stefansson discovered blond Eskimos in the Arctic whilst out hunting caribou by Graham Coton
Looking across the large ice-floe, the polar explorer Vilhjalmar Stefansson saw the huge white shape of a bear appear from behind a hump of ice and begin to stalk his tethered sledge dogs. He swung up his rifle, took quick aim and fired. With a grunt the huge beast collapsed on the ice.
Stefansson moved towards the bear. As he approached, the animal suddenly came to life. It lumbered to its feet and charged the explorer, its terrifying jaws agape.
Stefansson knew he had only seconds to save himself, and even then it was a question of hitting the bear in the right spot so that it would be killed outright.
He did not have time to aim. His finger automatically contracted on the trigger, but it was a lucky shot. This time the bullet struck the enraged bear in the head and it crashed down dead only six feet away.
It was one of the explorer’s closest brushes with disaster in his exciting career.
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Posted in Adventure, Boats, Ships on Friday, 14 June 2013
This edited article about pirates originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 295 published on 9 September 1967.
Dyak Pirate Prahus attacking a ship; a picture from The Boy's Own Volume c.1860
All through the night, the brig Lizzie Webber had been becalmed off the Malay Archipelago. As dawn began to break, Captain John Dill Ross stood on the brig’s poop, his telescope trained on the war prahu which was coming into sight from behind a small wooded island.
Within a few minutes the prahu, a sharp-prowed vessel equipped with sails and oars, was followed by seven others. Captain Ross could see the armed men who thronged the decks, and the slaves whose bodies shone with sweat as they rowed.
The ships looked very much like a pirate fleet, and Captain Ross knew that, until the wind came up again, his ship was a sitting target. With sinking heart he watched the sun glinting on the warriors’ spears and on their wavy-bladed kris, or swords.
Then he noticed an imposing, scarlet-clad figure stalking about the upper deck of the leading prahu, and his worst fears were confirmed.
To make quite sure he was not mistaken he asked the Lizzie Webber’s first mate, Mr. Simpson, to take a look through the telescope.
“There’s no mistaking those scarlet clothes, sir,” said Simpson grimly. “It’s Si Rahman the Invulnerable. He’s the most dangerous pirate in these waters, and he’s sworn never to take a white man alive!”
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Posted in Adventure, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Legend on Thursday, 13 June 2013
This edited article about Robin Hood originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 291 published on 12 August 1967.
Just as the romantic figure of King Arthur has probably some historical basis, there is reason to believe that there might be an element of truth in the legends and ballads about Robin Hood. But the facts behind the legend are uncertain. In the Pipe Roll (an Exchequer record) of 1230 a “Robertus Hood Fugitivus” is mentioned in the portion relating to Yorkshire, and in the Chronicle of Scotland, written about 1420 by Andrew of Wyntoun, there is a reference to two outlaws of 1283 who were called “Lytill Ihon and Robyne Hude”.
Most of the ballads about Robin Hood locate him in south-west Yorkshire and Sherwood Forest. He is variously represented as a Saxon holding out against the Norman conquerors as late as the end of the 12th century, or as a follower of Simon de Montfort, or as the outlawed Earl of Huntingdon who robs from the rich and gives to the poor. In all the ballads he is a great sportsman, an incomparable archer, a lover of the greenwood and a free life, a protector of women, and a fierce hater of monks and abbots while at the same time he is an earnest worshipper of the Virgin Mother of Jesus.
Maid Marian was, almost certainly, not an historical character. She only appears as Robin Hood’s companion in the later forms of the story. In one version she is portrayed as Matilda FitzWalter who escapes from the persecution of King John by following her lover, the outlawed Earl of Huntingdon, to Sherwood Forest where she takes the name Maid Marian and joins Robin Hood and his merry men in their adventures.
Posted in Adventure, Africa, Exploration, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Missionaries, News on Thursday, 13 June 2013
This edited article about Stanley and Livingstone originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 291 published on 12 August 1967.
Who said, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume”?
The answer is H. M. Stanley at Ujiji in November 1871.
In 1865, the great Scottish missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, returned to Africa at the request of the Royal Geographical Society to settle a dispute over the watershed in the region of Lakes Tanganyika and Nyasa.
The following year, some of his men returned to the coast with the news that he was dead, and the world mourned. But some were not convinced of Livingstone’s death and the government sent an expedition, which, though it did not find him, discovered proof he was alive. Letters from him confirmed this. However, there was no news after 1868, and once again it seemed probable that he was dead.
James Gordon Bennett Jr., son of the founder of the New York Herald, ordered H. M. Stanley, one of his most enterprising young reporters, to find Livingstone – dead or alive: it would be the scoop of the century!
On 21st March, 1871, Stanley, a young man of 29 who had never commanded an expedition, set off from Bagamoyo in what is now Tanganyika with two other white men and nearly 200 natives. By September, deaths and desertions had reduced the party to 53, with Stanley the only white man, and he had been continually stricken with fever.
After many adventures and hardships, the party at last heard news of a lone white man at Ujiji, on the borders of Lake Tanganyika, and on 3rd November the great meeting came. (Stanley thought it was the 10th, having lost track of the date when fever-ridden.)
Stanley was a brash, over-sensitive American who had been snubbed by many Englishmen, and this may have led him to ask his famous, over-polite question, especially as Livingstone was rumoured to be a difficult man. But the two got on famously, almost like father and son. They explored together and then Stanley travelled to England.
Though Stanley received a hero’s welcome, some resented his success, while others claimed that he had forged the letters Livingstone had given him and that he was an impostor. But more letters from Livingstone followed and Stanley’s detractors were silenced: he was the hero of two nations.
Posted in Adventure on Thursday, 13 June 2013
This edited article about true adventure originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 291 published on 12 August 1967.
Unless one looks for them, especially among rotten wood and roots, or under stones, black scorpions are seldom seen.
A particularly unpleasant experience involving black scorpions occurred to me whilst prospecting for gold in the vicinity of the south-westerly Tewailing Mountain slopes, in a remote sector of British Guiana, early in 1959. I had originally planned to make this particular expedition with an old friend, a geologist named Ian McCord, but owing to unexpected family problems necessitating his immediate return home, I was obliged to go alone. I proceeded by chartered plane to Monkey Mountain in the Rupununi District. Ian McCord would follow later if events at home developed satisfactorily.
While tracing a likely gold-vein formation between massive bulges of buttressed rock, I found the cavern that was to prove the setting for one of my most unnerving experiences.
The cave entrance was very narrow, but I was sufficiently interested to return to camp for an electric torch. I took with me a hammer; hand-pick; some nylon rope; a short steel bar, pointed and specially hardened at the tip for drilling into soft rock; a sample bag; and two sticks of blasting gelignite, already capped and fused, left over from the initial quartz recovery operation.
I dumped my gear on a flattish rock and proceeded to examine quartz formations towards the shelving back. I discovered numerous tracings of gold running laterally through the rock face, similar to the irregular veins that had been visible in quartz formations along the outer ridge. With my steel bar and hand-pick I removed several lumps of particularly rich quartz that showed considerable promise.
I persevered until I had accumulated a sample-bag full to capacity, working with the torch placed conveniently on nearby rocky ledges and protrusions so that the beam was concentrated on a particular area.
My first awareness of black scorpions among the rocks was occasioned by the convex torch glass acting like a projector and casting a moving shadow on the rock face where I was working. When I turned round to investigate I realised that a scorpion some four inches long was trying to get at the bulb through the glass. In reaching over to flick the creature on to the floor I almost placed my hand on another, larger scorpion, lurking on the rock close by my torch, and realised with some consternation that there was a whole nest of them around the metal case.
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Posted in Adventure, Historical articles, History, Transport, Travel on Wednesday, 12 June 2013
This edited article about Louise Sutherland originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 289 published on 29 July 1967.
On 25th July, 1957, a slightly-built girl pedalled a bicycle through the bustling streets of South London towards the centre of the city. She wore a tropical topee helmet on her head, and behind her cycle bumped a small two-wheeled trailer. It contained all her possessions and on its sides were proudly painted the names of the countries it had crossed.
As Louise Sutherland entered the Strand a smile of satisfaction appeared on her face. After six years of hard travelling, she had achieved her ambition of cycling alone round the world.
Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1929, Louise trained as a nurse after she had left school. When she was fully qualified she came to England on a working holiday. As she did not have a lot of money to spare, she decided to see the country on a bicycle. With this end in view, she set off to tour Cornwall, but after a couple of days a continuous headwind dampened her spirits. As she had her passport and £85 with her she turned about and allowed the wind to assist her towards Dover. She would have her holiday on the Continent.
It was after she had landed on French soil that the great idea came to her. Why should she not continue travelling and see the whole world? She had her nursing certificate and when she needed money she could probably get work in hospitals. The fact that she knew no other language than English did not bother her.
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Posted in Adventure, Boats, Disasters, Historical articles, Sea, Ships on Tuesday, 11 June 2013
This edited article about yachting originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 288 published on 22 July 1967.
It was a great day for the yachtsmen of Weymouth when King George III and Queen Charlotte sailed from the harbour in the frigate Cambrian. The royal ship was escorted by two other frigates, and the local people joined in with their yachts and cutters.
The ships headed out into the English Channel at ten o’clock on the morning of 20th September, 1800, and among those taking part in the excursion was Mr. John Strutt, a well-known Dorset yachtsman. He had sailed his yacht from his home in Bridport, and he took great delight in keeping up with the Cambrian, at times circling right round her.
After a while, however, Strutt found that his yacht was being left behind. The sea was starting to run high, and the yacht’s progress was hampered by the small boat, called a ‘cockleshell’, which she had in tow. The only way to catch up with the Cambrian was for some member of the yacht’s crew to take the cockleshell back to Weymouth.
Strutt ordered one of the crew to do this, but the man refused to obey. And the others, equally unwilling to risk their lives in the frail cockleshell, would not listen to threats or persuasion.
But it was a point of honour with Mr. Strutt that his yacht should accompany the Cambrian and, rather than lose that distinction, he decided that he would sail the cockleshell back.
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Posted in Adventure, America, Historical articles, History, News, Travel on Tuesday, 11 June 2013
This edited article about ‘Nellie Bly’ originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 285 published on 1 July 1967.
An illustration based on Elizabeth Cochrane's autobiography: a train from Gallup, New Mexico, somehow crossed an unsafe bridge still under repair by Paul Rainer
This week 80 years ago Elizabeth Cochrane lost her purse containing 100 dollars in New York. It represented her entire savings and, as she was out of work, meant she had to get a job fast.
Nervously she walked into the ‘World’ newspaper office and asked to see the editor. As she had no appointment the receptionist tried to turn her away.
For three hours she pleaded with the man behind the desk until he could hold out no longer. “This way, Miss,” he said, defeated by the girl who was destined to become the first great woman journalist in America.
“On the ‘Pittsburgh Dispatch’ I wrote under the name of ‘Nellie Bly’,” she told the editor. “Here is a list of articles I should like to write for you.”
The editor, already impressed by her determination to see him, was even more impressed when he looked at the paper she handed over.
“Try this one,” he said, pointing to a topic. “If you can do it I’ll take you on.”
The idea was that she would pretend she was mad so she could report on life inside a New York mental asylum. Her performance as a person with an unbalanced mind was so convincing that a panel of doctors committed her to the asylum. Here she was horrified at the wretched conditions of the patients.
When her experiences were printed in the ‘World’ there was a public outcry and a Grand Jury was set up to investigate. As a result of its findings the authorities allotted 3,000,000 dollars to improve conditions at the asylum. Nellie Bly was given her permanent job.
Born at Cochrane Mills, Pennsylvania, on 5th May, 1867, Elizabeth grew up to be a shy, slightly built girl with delicate health. After getting her first job with the ‘Pittsburgh Dispatch’ she wrote a series of crusading articles on bad working conditions. She took the pen name ‘Nellie Bly’ from a popular song of the day.
She went from success to success, but her greatest story began when, on 14th November, 1889, she boarded the Augusta Victoria for London. Her assignment was to beat the round-the-world record of the fictional character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’.
Great public interest was shown in her attempt. Each day the ‘World’ printed a map showing her progress and there was heavy betting on whether she would reach certain points on time.
From London she went to Boulogne, where she took a ship to Brindisi. By 27th November she reached Port Said. Aden was her next stop, then Colombo, where she had to wait five days for a ship. On 18th December she was in Singapore. On the voyage to Hong Kong her ship encountered a terrifying monsoon storm, but by Christmas Day she had reached Canton – on schedule. On 28th December she embarked for Yokohama, thence across the Pacific to San Francisco.
The ‘World’ hired a special train to take her across the continent to New York where she arrived on 25th January, 1890.
Nellie Bly had travelled 24,899 miles round the world in 72 days, six hours and 11 minutes. Jules Verne cabled his congratulations.
She continued her career as a journalist and later married a millionaire industrialist. She died in New York on 27th January, 1922.