The Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who lived from 1879 to 1962, changed his birth name when he was in college. He was originally known as William Stephenson, and was born in Manitoba, Canada. His biographers do not know exactly what prompted him to make such a startling reinvention of identity.Continue reading
By 1916, the year of his death, Lord Horatio Kitchener had for years been a venerated and legendary figure throughout the British Empire. The campaigns in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia had dimmed some of his luster, but his name remained a revered one. The official announcement of his death thus came as a deep shock; and even today, after more than a hundred years, the nebulous circumstances of his death continue to invite speculation as to whether some element of foul play was involved.Continue reading
I have long had a fascination with nautical lore. It is one of these interests that comes as a residue from having spent much time–perhaps too much time–by the ocean as a boy, toying with sailboats and motorboats, quahogs, crabs, bluefish, and what lies beyond the surf. It is impossible for me not to be entranced by the sea; one is drawn to its primeval magnetism, and by the knowledge that it represents the origin of life on earth. Perhaps it also represents the destiny of earthly life; when H.G. Wells’s time traveler hurls himself forward hundreds of thousands of years into the future, he finds himself on a ghastly blood-red beach, accompanied by monstrous crabs and eternal silence.
As part of the 1815 Peace of Paris settlement that ended the Napoleonic Wars, England agreed to cede to France some West African possessions near Gambia and Senegal. To implement this turnover, the French maritime authorities sent the vessel Medusa and three smaller ships to the Senegalese coast: these were named the Echo, the La Loire, and the Argus. The Medusa itself was captained by one Viscount Hugues Duroy de Chaumereys, a man who had had very little navigational experience. The Medusa sailed from the island of Aix on June 17, 1816.