A few days ago we talked about the story of Dr. John Rae, a nearly forgotten Arctic explorer who in 1854 went in search of the missing Franklin Expedition. This was a Royal Navy expedition that set out in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the frozen arctic north of Canada. Rae talked with the local Inuit people and heard the survivors had all died, some resorting to cannibalism before they succumbed to the elements. The public was so shocked that they turned their ire against Rae, whose career was all but ruined.
Now a Canadian research team is investigating the site to try to find out more about what happened. It’s known that the expedition involved two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, and that they came to grief near King William Island in September 1846, where they got trapped in the ice hundreds of miles form the nearest town.
The crew tried walking out, but none made it more than 40 miles. All 129 officers and crew died.
A Canadian team, led by Parks Canada has made five expeditions to find traces of this tragedy. They’ve been focusing their efforts on King William Island, where this year they found some 200 artifacts and human bones. They also scanned 486 square kilometers of seafloor with sidescan sonar in the hopes of finding one of their ships preserved in the frigid waters, but they had no luck.
The artifacts have been brought back to a lab to be studied. They’ve already found evidence that some of the metal objects were reused by the local Inuit. The bones will be returned to the site and given a proper burial next year.
Grampian Police have had to lead four separate groups to safety in the past week. The latest rescue included the use of mountain rescue teams and a Royal Navy helicopter to retrieve 14 hikers. The hikers were in the Cairngorms, a rugged mountain range with some of the UK’s tallest peaks.
Police said that the growing use of smartphone apps for navigation can lead to trouble. People are relying too much on technology without actually understanding the world around them. Police then have to rescue them at taxpayer expense.
Hiking with an app sounds to me like the antithesis of hiking. Basic orienteering with a map and compass is not difficult to learn. I’ve been teaching my 6-year-old and his brain hasn’t melted. Not only do a map and compass not have to rely on getting a signal, but they help you understand the land better and give you a feel for your natural surroundings.
So please folks, if you’re going out into nature, actually interact with it!
Claude Choules, the last known combat veteran of WWI, has died aged 110. Born in England in 1901, he was too young to enlist in the army when the war broke out in 1914, so he waited until he was 15 and enlisted in the Royal Navy, where he saw service throughout the war.
Unlike most veterans, he liked the service and stayed on. While working as a visiting instructor for the Australian Navy, he fell in love with the country and moved there. When war broke out again he fought for his new country in its navy. He retired after 40 years in service but never stopped being active. At the tender age of 80 he took up writing and penned his memoirs. Over time he became a pacifist and controversially refused to participate in ANZAC Day parades. There’s much more to his story, so check out the link and his memoirs, assuming the book isn’t sold out by now.
Choules fought on the sea, so with no battlefields to visit, where can you see the legacy of WWI’s last combat veteran? A good start would be the museums of the two navies in which he served. The Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth, UK, currently has an exhibition called Sea Your History: 20th Century Royal Navy that shows what life was like aboard naval vessels during the two world wars and beyond. This gives a good insight into what a teenaged Claude Choules had to endure. The Royal Australian Navy Heritage Centre at Garden Island Naval Base near Sydney also has displays about life in the navy. I wouldn’t be surprised if both museums make special exhibitions to mark the passing of this remarkable man.
But you don’t have to go to the UK or Australia to see Choules’ legacy. He lived through the most momentous event of the early 20th century. The war changed Europe and the world. The millions of deaths seriously weakened Europe’s hold on their colonies and emboldened independence movements in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The old aristocracy found itself hit hard financially and began to lose their grip on society. Large numbers of women got to work in factories and other “man’s jobs” for the first time, and began to question why they couldn’t vote.
While the First World War wasn’t the sole factor in the end of colonialism or the rise of women’s rights, it was a major one. If you want to see Claude Choules’ legacy, just look around you.
England’s last submarine built during World War Two needs £1.5 million ($2.7 million) to avoid ending up on the scrapheap of history.
The HMS Alliance was launched just weeks before the end of the war and never saw action. It is the last surviving Amphion class submarine specially designed for long-range Pacific warfare. While it missed the big show, it saw active service until 1973. Now it’s the central display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport, Hampshire, in England.
The HMS Alliance survived its active service unscathed, but is now in sorry shape. Pigeons nest in its corroded hull, and parts of it are actually falling off. Already £4.6 million ($7 million) has been raised for an emergency overhaul, but without the additional funds the submarine will no longer be suitable as a museum.
The Royal Navy Submarine Museum chronicles the history of the UK’s submarine fleet from 1901 to the present day, especially its key role in defending Britain during both world wars. A memorial to the 5,300 personnel who gave their lives in the submarine service is a centerpiece of the museum. Also on display is the Holland I, the Royal Navy’s first submarine, launched in 1901.
Image courtesy Keith Edkins via Wikimedia Commons.