Monstrous And Inconceivable: Jack London Builds His Ship To Sail Around The World

“Monstrous and inconceivable” was how Jack London described the conception and construction of his yacht Snark, the vessel on which he planned to sail around the world. The construction was beset by delays, cost overruns, and incompetence.  London fought through the obstacles, even teaching himself celestial navigation while en route to Hawaii.  This podcast describes his thoughts on building it, his problems and obstacles, and the true spirit of discovery. We then close with some tweet readings from the G Manifesto.

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Burst Away From The Shore, And Head For the Open Ocean

The Latin poet Claudian lived from about 370 to 404 A.D.  He was born in Egypt but as an adult associated himself with the imperial court at Rome.  One of his more famous works is the unfinished epic “The Rape of Proserpina” (De Raptu Proserpinae).  The poem contains a short prologue which I have translated as follows:

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The Dolphin Of Hippo

Pliny the Younger described in one of his letters a story noted both for its sadness and its revelatory quality on a characteristic of human nature.  The letter was written to the poet Caninius Rufus (IX.33), and in it Pliny recounts extraordinary interactions between a boy and a dolphin.  I am not quite sure whether the word “friendship” would be appropriate in this context, but one could say that the relations between the two looked very much like this.

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Grave Offenses, And Little Thanks

In a letter to Titinius Capito, the Roman official and career lawyer Pliny discusses the idea of writing a book of history.  Of particular concern to him was the choice of topic:  he was uncertain whether he should treat an ancient or a modern subject.  Valid arguments existed for both options.  An older subject might allow for a more considered perspective, far removed from the passions of immediate memory; whereas the treatment of a current subject might inflame unreasonable emotions in his readers.  Pliny has serious doubts about choosing a subject that might be within the living memory of his readers.  He summarizes his feelings with this sentence:

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Louis De Freycinet’s Epic Circumnavigation Of The Globe

Those who perform great deeds are guided by inner lights whose intensity never wanes.  Perhaps the most significant French maritime expedition of the nineteenth century was that of naval commander Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet (1779—1841).  Its chief aim, according to novelist Jules Verne, was  “to survey the shape of the land in the southern hemisphere, and to make observations in terrestrial magnetism, without, at the same time, omitting to give attention to all natural phenomena, and to the manners, customs, and languages of indigenous races.”  In an epic voyage that lasted over three years, he and the crew of the corvette Uranie covered a vast portion of the earth’s surface; and he was the first explorer to chart the precise contours of the Australian continent.

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