Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

River of Doubt Now on Brazil’s Official Maps

In 1914, Theodore Roosevelt — at that point a former U.S. president — trekked upon a previously unmapped tributary of the Amazon River in Brazil. To honor his heroism, Brazil officially named the Rio Duvida (or River of Doubt) the Rio Roosevelt. Did the new name last to the present day? Yes it has.

River of Doubt Now on Brazil’s Official Maps (PDF)

From Sunday, March 4, 1917

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

March 12th, 2017 at 6:56 am

Posted in Adventure,Nature

Do Sharks Attack Humans Only When Crazed?

From July 30, 1916

Do Sharks

A full 59 years before Jaws created a generation of terrorized beachgoers, people were worried about sharks and the possibility of being attacked. In fact, the fear should go the other way around, seeing as sharks kill about 10 humans a year but humans kill about 20 million sharks a year. So to answer the title question: do sharks only attack when crazed. NOAA says they actually mostly attack humans when mistaking us for their typical prey like sea turtles or marine mammals.

Leave a comment

Written by Jesse

July 28th, 2016 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Adventure,Nature

America’s Switzerland; Three Days From New York

From September 17, 1911


AMERICA’S SWITZERLAND; THREE DAYS FROM NEW YORK: A Traveler’s Tale of the Beauties of the Canadian Rockies Where Comparatively Few Americans Go (PDF)

The Canadian Rockies remain a great place to go on vacation. I went last year, spending a week or so in and around Banff, Alberta. A Google Image Search for Banff will show you some of its beauty. There’s a lot of great hiking, it’s easy to reach, not very expensive, and not too crowded.

Leave a comment

Written by David

September 14th, 2011 at 10:00 am

How It Feels To Fly Graphically Told By An Aviator

From August 13, 1911



Previously we’ve learned how to fly a plane in 1910. Now we learn what it feels like for the pilot.

“At last the pitiless hour has arrived. Everything is ready. It is time to start. Amid the deafening roar of the motor the aeroplane snatches itself out of the hands of the men holding it back and hurtles along the ground. Then it hops and suddenly rises with a slide into the air… The irregular jolting and shaking caused by the unevenness of the ground as the aeroplane dashes to its ascent from the earth are succeeded by a soft gliding sensation which defied definition; the anxiety and anguish of the start have vanished to make room for a feeling of repose, of absolute solitude. The man has disappeared: he is now a bird!


“Everything blends together and dwindles away. Houses look like dice thrown on a billiard table; the largest cities seem like Liliputian towns, the bas-relief melts away, roads, rivers and railways appear to wind their way in a child’s model landscape toy. Only the sea and lofty mountains are spared in this wholesale diminution, and they always impose on the airman respectful admiration mixed with a very lively sentiment of fear.”

Leave a comment

Written by David

August 12th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Moving Pictures Suggested To End The Tramp Evil

From August 13, 1911


MOVING PICTURES SUGGESTED TO END THE TRAMP EVIL: James Forbes, Hobo Expert, Proposes Also the Equipment of Every Village Police Department and Railroad Station with a Mendicant “Rogues’ Gallery” to Help Stamp Out the Nuisance. (PDF)

James Forbes, Director of the National Association for the Prevention of Mendicancy and Charitable Imposture, is a hobo expert. As the article says, “The study of tramps has been a life study with him.”

Forbes has finally figured out how to get rid of this blight on society using modern technology:

For years he has been thinking over it, evolving it piece by piece, and now he is ready to tell how this social cancer may be healed. His plan may take some little time to work itself out, and a little money, but he declares it will be effective. Briefly, this plan is to hold up to the boy of the country the forbidding picture of tramp life as it actually is, not as the boy seeking adventure imagines “life on the road” to be. The tramp as a “horrible example” is to be shown in every railroad town and hamlet in America by means of moving pictures and by publications.

Yes, this sounds like a good idea. Perhaps a short film featuring a tramp getting into all sorts of trouble would be an effective deterrent.

Here’s one such example. From 1916, this film tells the story of a vagabond who plays music on the streets for change:

If you have kids, I’d say you should give the whole article a read. You’ll learn about Tramp Masters who seduce children using the tramp tradition of “snaring a kid.”

Recommended related reading: the chapter on Hobo Matters from John Hodgman’s book Areas of My Expertise. See also The 700 Hoboes Project

Leave a comment

Written by David

August 10th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Adventure,True Crime

Going Down In A Tube To Hunt For Sunken Treasure

From July 16, 1911


GOING DOWN IN A TUBE TO HUNT FOR SUNKEN TREASURE: How an Ingenious Scot Will Explore the Sea Bottom Off the Virginia Coast to Find $500,000 in Silver. (PDF)

This is one of those great articles where I do a little research and find out even more interesting stuff that happened next. The article is about Charles Williamson, who invented a tube he could use to go treasure hunting on the bottom of the sea.

What I learned is that Charles’ son John took this invention a step further. He realized that if you put a big window at the bottom of the tube, you could film underwater movies. He became a pioneer in undersea filmmaking, and in 1914 released an undersea film called Thirty Leagues Under the Sea. I can’t find a copy of it online. Let me know if you have better luck finding it than I did.

The American Museum of Natural History has an illustrated biography of John Williamson on their website.

A site called The Rebreather Site has more information, including photos taken from the tube like this one:

Leave a comment

Written by David

July 15th, 2011 at 10:00 am

George B. Boynton, “The War Maker,” Tells His Adventures

From June 11, 1911


GEORGE B. BOYNTON, “THE WAR MAKER,” TELLS HIS ADVENTURES: Memoirs of the Mysterious New Yorker Who Made Fighting His Profession Read Like a Dumas Romance. (PDF)

Here’s a bit of good summer reading for you. The book The War Maker tells the supposedly true story of George B. Boynton, whose unlikely adventures sound like a 19th century Forrest Gump.

You can download the book in a variety of ebook formats here at Google Books.

The article gives a historic context for the book. But here is the book’s own introduction:

The hero of this book was a real man, though he has carried to his grave the secret of his true name. It was not Boynton, although it is known that he was born in Fifth Avenue, near Fourteenth Street, New York, May 1, 1842, and that his father was a distinguished surgeon, with an estate on Lake Champlain. He rarely talked of his remarkable life, and recounted in detail to the author of this volume the facts of his career of adventure, only in the closing months of his life.

Captain Boynton was of the type of filibuster that is read of so often, but rarely met with in life. He was a tall, bronzed, athletic, broad-shouldered man, one of the most picturesque and daring of the many soldiers of fortune who have sought adventures over the world. From Hongkong to Valparaiso fighters of all races knew the name of Boynton. From Cape Horn to New York he did not permit himself to be forgotten. Whether exploring the sources of the Orinoco, or hunting elusive supporters for a deserted American President, or battling in the Haytian army, or spying out court secrets in Venezuela, or running a distillery in Brooklyn with Jim Fisk as partner, he was invariably master of himself and continually a personality to be reckoned with. Captain Boynton was the original of the ” Soldier of Fortune” in Richard Harding Davis’s story of that name, and gave to Guy Boothby the facts of his novel “The Beautiful White Devil,” with which dashing heroine Captain Boynton was on terms of intimacy. In the account of his life given in this volume fictitious names have in two or three instances been used for persons still living who figured in business deals with him. Otherwise the story is told almost identically as Captain Boynton narrated it to the author.

After escaping death in scores of forms, including a Chinese pirate’s cutlass, an assassin’s dagger, the fire of a file of soldiers at sunrise, and war’s guns, this utterly fearless, cheerfully arrogant retired blockade runner, revolutionist, and hunter of pirates died peacefully in his bed, at a ripe age, on January 19, 1911, in New York City, where he had led a quiet life since 1905, when he voluntarily left Venezuela, after withstanding repeated efforts by President Castro to drive him from the country.

Leave a comment

Written by David

June 6th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Adventure,Literature

Have Englishmen Found The Ark Of The Covenant?

From May 7, 1911


HAVE ENGLISHMEN FOUND THE ARK OF THE COVENANT? A Mysterious Expedition, Apparently Not Composed of Archaeologists, Hunts Strange Treasure Under the Mosque of Omar, Sets the Moslems in a Ferment, and May Cause Diplomatic Incident. (PDF)

If I didn’t have a new baby coming this week, you can be sure that this post would include a witty paragraph or two about Indiana Jones, archaeology in general, and this Time magazine article.


Written by David

May 2nd, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Adventure,Religion

What A Rich Man Learned In Living With Hoboes

From January 15, 1911


WHAT A RICH MAN LEARNED IN LIVING WITH HOBOES: Edwin A. Brown of Denver Tells of His Experiences as a Tramp and Suggests Radical Measures for Helping Homeless Human Beings. (PDF)

A rich man living with hoboes? That sounds like the plot of a Mel Brooks movie (because it is the plot of a Mel Brooks movie).

The article is actually considerably less funny. It’s by Edwin A. Brown, a wealthy man who spent “years studying the lives and conditions of the great floating body of homeless men in the United States by going among them, living with them, and sharing their every hardship and disadvantage.”

An excerpt:

My idea of the tramp was that he was such by preference, a conception due to the humorous cartoons in the papers, stage representations of “Weary Willies,” and various fantastic newspaper and magazine articles on tramp customs, life, sign language, etc. I went first directly to the kilns and spent a night with the men, moving out with them at daybreak, and to my astonishment nearly all of them had a common destination, the principal cluster of employment offices of the city.

That day and often, often since, I have seen men huddled before the offices in the bitterest weather, their pockets and stomachs empty, few of them half-sufficiently clad, but all of them eager to take on any sort of work, no matter how heavy it might be or what the wages, just so that the ycould win for themselves the necessities of life. Men such as these are worth saving…

There are many times when the homeless must creep in anywhere that shelter is to be found. Usually the places left open are spots too repulsive to need a guard. Often, often have I gone after midnight into stables in out-of-the-way places in the cities and, half-buried in the dung heaps, where the decay makes warmth and there is a certain softness, I have found clusters of miserable human beings. Is it any wonder that death and disease are rife among them? Once I discovered a boy and his beautiful dog, both tramps, lying in such a bed. They had been there three days and nights undisturbed, the boy too ill with pneumonia to get out where he could get help, the dog sticking close by his side.

In a wreck last year on the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton four tramps were killed in a smashed lumber car, and the Coroner was gravely puzzled because two of them gave evidences of having been dead some time before they were crushed by the shifting timbers. Investigation showed that they had been frozen at least two days previous while they slept in the Detroit yards, the bodies were hauled into another State, and two other men perished with the already dead without knowing of their proximity…

There is no end to the tales I might tell, but enough. If what I have said has brought conviction, then it is time that earnestly, emphatically I urge the only remedy. For the criminals and the depraved, houses with bars if you will. For the incapacitated asylums and hospitals, also. But for the honest, willing workingman without work or a home, something more merciful than free lodging houses from which he must move on. The question of what that something should be is not a very difficult one to answer…

Private charity cannot be depending upon to boost the half million Americans who are under the shelf of life over the edge to a foothold in society. A big public movement must do it. The method is to give the wanderer… a chance to get strong, clothes to keep him warm and hold up his sense of decency, and a job that will buy him a roof and food. If he fails to go on then, well — he belongs in the hopeless tenth.

Brown eventually turned his experience into a book called Broke: The Man Without The Dime, which you can get as a pdf or other ebook format by following that link to Google Books.

Leave a comment

Written by David

January 14th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Adventure,Life

Capt. Bartlett And Harry Whitney To Lead American Expedition To Seek South Pole

From December 11, 1910


CAPT. BARTLETT AND HARRY WHITNEY TO LEAD AMERICAN EXPEDITION TO SEEK SOUTH POLE: First Announcement Through The Times of American Effort to Plant the Stars and Stripes in the Furthest Antarctic by Peary’s Old Captain and the Well-Knocn Arctic Traveler — A Race Against Scott’s English Expedition. (PDF)

I’ll get to the article’s headline in a second. But for me, the real eye-opening part of this article is buried on page two:

“Are penguin nice to eat?”

“They are not,” said Harry Whitney emphatically.

“The meat is course and oily,” added Capt. Bartlett. “But anything counts down there.”

I don’t think I’ve ever wondered what penguins taste like. But apparently it’s a hot topic in certain discussion forums. All 17 species of penguin are protected from hunting, so it’s illegal for you to go kill one and find out. But the consensus among historians is in agreement with Harry Whitney and Captain Bartlett. Penguins aren’t very tasty.

Antarctic explorer Frederick Cook described the taste of penguin in the late 19th century, “If it’s possible to imagine a piece of beef, odiferous cod fish and a canvas-backed duck roasted together in a pot, with blood and cod-liver oil for sauce, the illustration would be complete.” Yum.

Back to the point of the article: Captain Bartlett and Harry Whitney set out to be the first people to reach the South Pole. Spoiler alert! They didn’t make it. The first people to reach the pole were a Norwegian party in December 1911.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 10th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Adventure

A Little Island Near New York Peopled With Babies

From November 27, 1910


A LITTLE ISLAND NEAR NEW YORK PEOPLED WITH BABIES: Taken from Incoming Steamers Suffering from Measles, Scarlet Fever and Other Ills, They Are Cared for on Hoffman Island Till They Get Well. (PDF)

My imagination got the best of me when I read the headline. I pictured an isolated civilization run by babies. Baby shopkeepers, baby baristas, baby firemen, and baby butlers.

But no. It turns out to be much less hilarious than that. The island in question is called Hoffman Island, a manmade piece of land located just off Staten Island. 100 years ago it was used as quarantine for sick children who came into Ellis Island as immigrants.

During World War II it was used as a marine training center, and after the war plans were considered to turn the island into a park. That never happened.

Today the buildings are long gone, and Hoffman Island is off limits in order to protect wildlife. But a few years ago a local triathlete swam the mile to the island with some friends who joined him in kayaks. He gives a full account on his blog, and links to a gallery of photos they took.

Leave a comment

Written by David

November 26th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Adventure,Life,Science

“Olympic,” World’s Biggest Ship, Huge Floating Hotel

From October 30, 1910


“OLYMPIC,” WORLD’S BIGGEST SHIP, HUGE FLOATING HOTEL: Exceeds Next Largest Steamer by 13,000 Tons — If Two Ships of Her Size Were Placed Across the East River They Would Have 200 Feet of Hull on Land. (PDF)

The Olympic and her sister ship the Titanic were similar ocean liners for the White Star Line, starting construction just a few months apart. Of course, the Titanic met famously with disaster just about 18 months after this article was written, but the Olympic continued service until 1935 despite having her own mishaps.

Here’s how the article describes some of the amenities and ocean liner “firsts” in these White Star Olympic-class ships:

It will not only have suites comprising a large number of rooms, but real bona fide apartments or flats, which will give passengers reserving them all the comfort and privacy of home while crossing the Atlantic. These sea-going flats will include bedrooms, sitting rooms or parlors, private baths, and even — if desired — a private library! The parlors in these apartments will be fitted with tables on which the most elaborate meals may be served, far from the madding crowd of the main dining rooms.

Moreover, the Olympic will be the first transatlantic liner to have passenger staterooms equipped with private shower baths. Moreover, there will be a great swimming pool, so deep that bathers may dive without fear of unpleasant consequences, thus being able to enjoy all the pleasures of sea bathing without jumping over the side of the ship. Moreover, (will wonders never cease) passengers will have the use of a will-equipped gymnasium, the largest and most complete ever installed on a ship.

But will it be safe? After describing the ship’s numerous safety systems the article concludes, “so complete will be the system of safeguarding devices on board this latest of ocean giants that, when she is finally ready for service, it is claimed that she will be practically unsinkable and absolutely unburnable.”

Leave a comment

Written by David

October 29th, 2010 at 9:15 am

“Crossing The Atlantic Feasible” Says Prof. Rotch Of Harvard

From October 23, 1910


“CROSSING THE ATLANTIC FEASIBLE” SAYS PROF. ROTCH OF HARVARD: He Has Charted the Air Lanes Above the Ocean and Future Balloon Voyagers Will Have Their Wind Currents Marked Out For Them. (PDF)

It seems that every week brings another story about air travel, and this one brings good news for those aeronauts planning to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an airship: a Harvard Professor has just completed a study of wind currents that could dramatically cut your travel time.

“It is evident that the currents in the various levels of the atmosphere are of vastly more importance to the aeronaut than are the ocean currents or surface winds to the sailor, since the winds above the earth’s surface blow much faster tan the surface winds, and aerial machines are considerably more bulky than aquatic vehicles of the same carrying capacity.

“Moreover, a balloon or flying machine, wholly immersed in one medium, cannot tack, as a ship floating in the water can advance partly into the wind. Consequently a balloon without motive power can only drift with the current, and a dirigible balloon or flying machine must possess a proper speed superior to that of the current in which it floats in order to make headway against it. Hence the necessity in the case of the balloon without power, and the advisability of the airship or heavier-than-air machine to seek a favorable current in the aerial ocean.”

Leave a comment

Written by David

October 22nd, 2010 at 9:30 am

The Mystery Of The Marie Celeste

From September 18, 1910


THE MYSTERY OF THE MARIE CELESTE: A Solution Offered Nearly Forty Years After the Ship Was Found Crewless Under Full Sail. (PDF)

The Marie Celeste was a merchant ship found floating in the Atlantic Ocean in December 1872 with nobody on board. The ship was in good shape, had plenty of food and water, and the crew’s personal belongings were still on board. Nobody from the ship was ever heard from again.

The mystery has been written about in several works of both non-fiction and fiction, including a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle which you can read online. It is even the subject of a computer game you can try out in your browser.

This Sunday Magazine article gives one theory for the ship’s disappearance, but if the mystery intrigues you, check out the Wikipedia entry for a lot more information, and the website

Leave a comment

Written by David

September 17th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Here At Last Is The Arctic Auto-Sleigh

From August 28, 1910


HERE AT LAST IS THE ARCTIC AUTO-SLEIGH: Alaskan Gold Hunter, After Nine Years’ Work, Invents a Machine for Speeding Over Snow-Clad Passes (PDF)

Inventor Charles E. S. Burch was one of the lucky few people who actually struck it rich in the northwestern Gold Rush of 1896. He spent nine years using his wealth to develop a vehicle to carry people across the snow, and finally came up with this design, using threaded wheels on the engine, and sled rails on the passenger car.

Here’s a video of an awesome Russian off-road and snow vehicle that uses a similar threaded propulsion system. Seriously, it’s awesome. Go watch it.

Leave a comment

Written by David

August 27th, 2010 at 10:00 am

The New Wright Five-Passenger Biplane For Cross-Country Flights

From August 21, 1910



The fact that a five-passenger flight will shortly become an accomplished fact has interested the aviation world. In the new craft there is nothing in front of the driver’s seat. The front elevating planes are gone, and the two main planes catch the air in initial contact, so far as the aeroplane is concerned. The elevating plane — there is only one — is behind the rear rudder, and thus one of the earliest features of the aeroplane passes out of existence in this new type.

Another first for the Wright Brothers!


Written by David

August 20th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Woman Meets Adventure In Motor Tour Of The World

From August 21, 1910


WOMAN MEETS ADVENTURE IN MOTOR TOUR OF THE WORLD: Mrs. Harriet Clark Fisher of Trenton, Iron Manufacturer and Social Leader, Has Many Adventures in Her Auto Among Strange Peoples. (PDF)

In 1902, Harriet Clark Fisher and her husband were in a terrible train wreck. They were both pinned under tons of debris. Her husband died, but Harriet survived. She took over management of his iron works company, becoming the only woman manufacturer in America. China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wu Ting-Fang, called Harriet “the most remarkable woman in America.”

Harriet decided she could use a vacation, and set out to become the first woman to tour the entire planet by car. Of course she needed a boat to get from one continent to the next, but still, that’s a pretty good road trip. This article explores some of her adventures along the way.

Leave a comment

Written by David

August 20th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Adventure

Freak Patents That Have Come In With The Aeroplane

From July 31, 1910


FREAK PATENTS THAT HAVE COME IN WITH THE AEROPLANE: Would-Be Inventors Keep the Department at Washington Busy With Schemes That Sound Flighty. (PDF)

The illustrations and descriptions of crazy flying contraptions that people applied for patents on (sometimes successfully) are fantastic. I managed to find one of the actual patents for a machine mentioned in the article that’s powered by birds. I think the technical drawings in the patent are even better than the illustrations shown here. Check it out. It’s powered by eagles!

Here’s how the article describes that invention:

From gay Paree comes Edouard Wulff, with a patented scheme for flying by means of “eagles, vultures, or condors.” True to the instincts of his native city, he fits out his birds with “corsets,” the specifications of which as to trimmings, binding, etc., are carefully set out.

By a strange oversight for one bred in the city of fashions, he fails to state what is the latest mode of wearing the feathers on his motors. With wise foresight he has provided for two aeronauts, one on top among the birds and the other below to steer the craft. This is sensible; a man busy prodding up a dozen uncouth and bewildered condors wouldn’t have much time for steering.

Not all of the inventions are outrageous in hindsight. The article takes a mocking tone at a proposed airship so big it has several floors and resembles a hotel, but of course we have multilevel jumbo jets today, some with luxury approaching that of hotels, so it wasn’t so far fetched.

Most of the invention descriptions in the article are too vague for me to find the original patents (if they truly even reached the application stage), but you can find a lot of this kind of thing using Google’s patent search engine. Here is a link to search “flying machine” or “airship” with results displayed visually in chronological order.

Leave a comment

Written by David

July 30th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Problems Of First Transatlantic Balloon Trip

From July 10, 1910


PROBLEMS OF FIRST TRANSATLANTIC BALLOON TRIP: Peculiar Conditions Face the Aeronauts Who Will Attempt to Cross the Ocean in the Dirigible America Under the Auspices of “The New York Times,” the Chicago Record-Herald, and the London Daily Telegraph. (PDF)

By 1910, Walter Wellman had made three unsuccessful attempts to fly an airship to the North Pole when he set his sites instead on crossing the Atlantic. This article describes the ambitious trip and explains how Wellman and his crew will overcome the obstacles they will surely face.

Spoiler alert! They didn’t make it. But they did manage to fly 1,000 miles before needing a rescue. That’s significant because if Wellman had managed to fly 1,000 miles on his earlier expeditions to the North Pole, he would have reached it.

Wellman lived another 24 years, but after this trip he never flew again.

Leave a comment

Written by David

July 9th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Adventure,Technology

The City Is The Landlord Of This Tented Town

From July 3, 1910


THE CITY IS THE LANDLORD OF THIS TENTED TOWN: A Rental of One Dollar a Week Is Asked, Which Is Really a Water Tax — 2,000 Persons in a Picturesque Community (PDF)

From the headline, I assumed the article was about a shanty town, perhaps a precursor to the shacks and tents in Central Park during the Great Depression, but I was dead wrong. This is more like a commune on a beach, paid for by the City of New York.

500 permits were available for families to live in tents on Orchard Beach in The Bronx. There was running water, beautiful views of the ocean, porches, social life, music, and festivities. And it was free! The tenants just had to pay one dollar for the running water.

This city on a beach flourished until Robert Moses ruined all the fun in 1934. Here is a bit of history from the website of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation:

By the time Moses was named Parks Commissioner in 1934, the campsite had become a well-established colony, complete with a city-like infrastructure. Campers enjoyed conveniences such as street cleaning, mail and fire service, ice delivery, and garbage hauling. Tents that Parks built in the early part of the century gave way to more stable structures with electricity, running water, and telephone service. After a lawsuit was filed in 1927, the city moved to officially endorse this arrangement. Moses remained wary of the encampment’s elite appearance, however, and devised a plan to create a facility that the entire city could use. In February 1934, he gave the campers a year to vacate the site.

Today, families can still sleep in a tent on Orchard Beach as part of the city’s weekly summer park campouts. They rotate between the city’s parks each weekend throughout the summer. The remaining dates for camping on Orchard Beach this year are July 30 and August 27. Registration is required.

Leave a comment

Written by David

July 2nd, 2010 at 9:30 am