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Batavia, shipwreck, Abrolhos

source: Aussiegal

They didn’t have travel agents in the seventeenth century but if they had, that was perhaps how they could have promoted the maiden voyage of the good ship, Batavia, perhaps Australia’s most famous shipwreck.

She sailed from Holland on 27 October 1628, with 341 passengers and crew, bound for Batavia, (now modern day Jakarta), in Java.

She never made it.

Batavia, shipwreck, Abrolhos

passengers enjoying entertainment organized by the crew

During the voyage, the skipper Ariaen Jacobsz and one of the senior East India Company men on board, Jeronimus Cornelisz, hatched a plan to take the ship, and start a new life as pirates using the gold and silver on board to finance their sea change.

The skipper recruited some other starry-eyed dreamers among the crew and steered the ship off course, away from the rest of the accompanying fleet.

Unfortunately he steered it too far and the ship struck Morning Reef near Beacon Island in the Abrolhos Islands.

Batavia, shipwreck, Abrolhos

remains of the Batavia in WA Maritime Museum. photo: Vunz

Only 40 people drowned in the wreck, the rest found themselves stranded on the islands, along with the mutineers.

Short of water, the chief Company official, Francois Pelsaert, and the skipper, Jacobsz went for help, sailing a 30 foot longboat around 1500 sea miles north to Batavia – it took them 33 days – one of the epic feats of navigation in maritime history.

Jacobsz would probably have made a very good pirate after all.

It didn’t end well for the mutineers on board however. The East India Company did not take well the loss of their ship or their gold.

They were found out and the bosun was executed and it is thought the skipper died in prison.

Batavia, shipwreck, Abrolhos

the cruise director is severely reprimanded

Pelsaert was sent back to the Abrolhos to retrieve the survivors but found only a handful alive, the rest had been murdered by Cornelisz and the other mutineers. Cornelisz even tried to hijack the ship sent to rescue them.

Pelsaert discovered that in his absence, Cornelisz and his followers had murdered over a hundred men, women, and children in cold blood – and raped the rest.

What is even more sinister is that he maintained that he himself never harmed anyone; he persuaded others to do the killing for him.

In another life I am sure he would have made it as a CEO of a multinational.

Batavia, shipwreck, Abrolhos

the replica of the Batavia in Leyden, Holland

A replica of the Batavia, built at Batavia Wharf at Leyden in the Netherlands, was sailed to Darling Harbour in Sydney in 2000. It arrived this time without incident and was on display there for a year.

Meanwhile only a few of the bodies buried on those wild and isolated islands have been recovered but archaeologists from the University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Museum are still on Beacon Island examining archaeological sites.

They discovered another skeleton as recently as six months ago.

It’s why I have never liked cruises.


East India, Batavia, shipwreck

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In Like Flynn

During the 1940’s the name Errol Flynn became synonymous with silver screen swashbuckling and romantic heroism.

Hollywood, Flynn, war correspondentThe truth was a touch less glamorous; when Flynn tried to enlist in the army in 1942, he failed the physical exam due to cardiac problems (at 33 he had already had at least one heart attack), degenerative disc disease in his spine, chronic tuberculosis and numerous venereal diseases.

He was a physical wreck; as far from an action hero as you could imagine.

But there was an actual romantic action hero in the Flynn family; his name was Sean Flynn.

Sean was Errol’s only son with his first wife, French actress, Lili Damita.

He first appeared on television when he was 15, in an episode of his father’s television show.

flynn, war correspondent, HollywoodFour years later he filmed a scene in his friend George Hamilton’s movie, Where the Boys Are and then, in 1961, he signed a contract to appear in The Son of Captain Blood, a sequel to his father’s most famous movie.

He also recorded two songs for Hi-Fidelity R.V. Records in 1961: “Stay in My Heart” and “Secret Love” before making a handful of films in Europe including two spaghetti westerns.

But he soon got bored with it – his father’s life was not for him.

He wanted real action.

flynn, war correspondent, Hollywood

claimed as fair use

So he went to Africa and worked for a while as a safari guide and then as a game warden in Kenya.

But that was still too tame. So in January 1966 he went to Vietnam to try his hand as a freelance photojournalist, first for the French magazine Paris Match, then for Time Life and UPI.

It was soon clear that the same swashbuckling daring that his father had portrayed on screen was what Sean was actually good at in real life.

He soon made a name for himself, along with a group of other high-risk photojournalists, such as Dana Stone, Tim Page and John Steinbeck IV, men who would do anything to get a great picture, risking their lives daily on the front lines.

flynn, war correspondent, HollywoodSoon Sean’s photographs were published right around the world.

In March 1966, he was wounded in the knee while filming a combat operation, but it did not deter him. After he recovered he made a parachute jump with the 101st Airborne.

The following year he went to Israel to cover the Arab-Israeli conflict but returned to Vietnam the following year. In 1970 he went to Cambodia when news broke of North Vietnamese advances there.

flynn, war correspondent, Hollywood

photograph: Steven Bell

On April 6, Flynn and Dana Stone attended a press conference in Saigon. They decided to return to Pnom Penh on motorcycles, disdaining the limousines the majority of the press corps used.

After the conference Flynn and Stone heard a rumour that there was a checkpoint on Highway I manned by the Viet Cong, so they rode off to see if there was a story in it.

Before they left, another correspondent, Steven Bell, snapped a photograph of them.

It was the last time the son of Captain Blood was ever seen alive. His body, and that of Dana Stone, has never been found.

Over the next decade Flynn’s mother spent a small fortune searching for her son, but with no success.

In 1984 she realized her son’s fate would never be known and had him declared legally dead.

Warbaby, Colin Falconer

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Sex, Lies and Braveheart

Braveheart won five Academy Awards on its release twenty years ago and took its place in the pantheon of iconic historical movie epics.

Braveheart, Isabella, William Wallace

copyright: Paramount/20th Century Fox. Claimed under fair use.

For a lot of people, it remains the one thing they remember about Scottish history.

Which is ironic, really, because as film critic Sharon Krossa noted: “The events aren’t accurate, the dates aren’t accurate, the characters aren’t accurate, the names aren’t accurate, the clothes aren’t accurate—in short, just about nothing is accurate. ‘

Mel Gibson, as William Wallace, and his fellow Scots look stirring before the Battle of  Stirling, painted in woad and showing off their knees in fetching tartan kilts.

Trouble is, the Scots had stopped wearing woad a thousand years before and it was still another few centuries before they gave the world belted plaid.

William also has an affair with Isabella of France, by whom she has a son – the film implies that the boy becomes the future Edward the Third of England.

Braveheart, Isabella, William Wallace

copyright: Paramount/20th Century Fox. Claimed under fair use.

The problem with this plot point is that Isabella was three years old and living in France at the time of the affair, and only nine years old when William died.

A Scots friend of mine also assures me that William’s rallying speech before Stirling: ‘They can take our lives but they will never take our freedom!’ sounds implausible.

He reckons a true Scot would have said: ‘They can take our lives but they will never take our money!’

What is interesting to me is what a curious culture we have; directors and screenwriters can take outrageous liberties with history, yet we won’t accept even the smallest inaccuracy from historical novelists. No complaints: that’s just the way it is.

If I wrote Braveheart as a novel I wouldn’t get five awards – I’d end up like William Wallace – hung drawn and quartered. (Did anyone say tomatoes?)

Isabella, Braveheart, William Wallace

photo: Scott Neeson

We eschew historical fiction that is not properly researched, and rightly so I think; do it in a movie and it won’t affect your box office in any way.

A final note on Isabella. The real truth is that when she grew up, she became a very interesting person indeed, not just a hairy Highlander’s love interest.

She invaded England and threw Longshank’s son – and her former husband – off the throne.

Something Mel Gibson never came close to doing, with or without his woad and his hairy knees.

Isabella Lake Union








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What would you do if you discovered that your mother and father were not your real parents after all … that the two people who raised you knew the truth and hid it from you … that you were one of those children known as … the Disappeared?

Agencia de Noticias ANDES

source: Agencia de Noticias ANDES

What would you do?

How would you feel?

For most people it is almost impossible to contemplate.

But a year ago this was the situation that Ignacio Hurban had to face.

On August 5 2014, Ignacio received a phone call informing him that DNA tests had proved that he was the stolen grandson that Argentina’s most famous grandmother – Estela Carlotto – had been searching for.

Archivo Hasenberg-Quaretti 3

source: Archivo Hasenberg-Quaretti

Carlotto is the leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, which had been founded to search for the 500 babies stolen from political prisoners during Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship of the late seventies.

The organization worked with testing centers to carry out DNA analysis to find the missing babies.

Hurban had gone to them on a hunch.

Archivo Hasenberg-Quaretti

Archivo Hasenberg-Quaretti

At that time Carlotto’s group had managed to find 113 missing children – but that phone call meant that Estela had finally located the lost grandchild she had been desperately searching for herself.

Hurban was actually the son of Walmir Montoya and Laura Carlotto, leftist activists abducted by government agents during the regime’s “dirty war” of the seventies. Laura gave birth while in prison; she was murdered shortly after.

The infant was handed over to two farm workers by their employer, who had close ties to the military junta.

Thirty seven years later his ‘parents’ are now facing trial.

Archivo Hasenberg-Quaretti 2

Archivo Hasenberg-Quaretti

Hurban – who now calls himself Ignacio Montoya Carlotto – still speaks of them with some fondness. He said they had loved him and cared for him and given him a good life. Why should he hate them?

And Carlotta herself described just how difficult it had been for her and for him to sort through his tangled identity. With one phone call he had lost his entire history and now had to grapple with a terrible truth that until then had been kept secret from him.

It is unimaginable; and yet for hundreds of men and women, the secret still remains hidden, even today …

Disappeared, Dirty War, Argetine



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Not all history is in books.

Some of it you can see for yourself in a photograph.

history, world war two, blitz

What can you see here?

What you are looking at is a little boy who had just come home to find his house in rubble and his mother, father and brother dead inside.

It happened during the “Little Blitz” when Nazi Germany employed V-1 and V-2 rockets to bomb England.

It was taken in 1944 by the legendary photographer Toni Frissell.

The little boy survived the war and actually recognized the picture many years later when it was used to advertise an exhibition.

Hollywood, movies, MGM

‘Leo the Lion’ having his famous roar recorded in 1928 so that it could be heard throughout history at the start of every MGM movie.

The lion’s name was actually Jackie, though I suspect he didn’t come when he was called either way.

Mata hari, spies, world war one

The legendary World War One spy Mata Hari.

In this instance, she’s the one being spied on.

wild west, Billy the Kid, gunfighters

The only known picture of Billy the Kid.

It was taken some time between 1873 and 1881.

apache, geronimo, wild west

And one of Bill’s contemporaries, the legendary Geronimo.

He is seen here on the right with fellow Apache warriors, Yanozha (his brother-in-law), Chappo (the son of his second wife) and the inappropriately named Fun (his half brother).

The photograph was taken somewhere in Arizona in 1886.

Berlin wall, East Germany, Cold War

A mother in East Berlin passes her young son across the border to his father while the East German police are momentarily looking the other way.

The photograph was taken in August 1961.

bowling, history

‘Pin boys’ working in a bowling alley in South Street Brooklyn, in 1910.

It was taken at one in the morning. Three much smaller boys were not allowed to be photographed by the manager of the hall.

Machu Piccu, Incas, Peru

The first ever photograph of Machu Picchu, taken by Hiram Bingham III himself in 1912.

The beautiful peak of Huayna Picchu overshadows the city. On its summit were found a few rough caves from where Inca guards could once give warning of approaching danger.

What they couldn’t see coming was tourism, and hordes of western backpackers taking naked Selfies of themselves on the sacred sun dial stone.

einstein, relativity

Albert Einstein’s school report when he was seventeen.

Pupils were graded from 1 to 6.

As you can see, he performed quite well in maths, but in other areas there was Room For Improvement.

samurai, Japan

Satsuma samurai during the Boshin war period in the 1860’s.

You can tell it’s an old photograph because they’re not using Google maps.

elephant man, joseph merrick

Joseph Merrick, on whom the film Elephant Man was based.

The photograph was taken in 1886.

And finally:

abraham lincoln, slavery

Abraham Lincoln, before he became Abraham Lincoln, holding the anti-slavery newspaper ‘Staat Zeitung’ in 1854.



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Like music? You have to LOVE these guys. The Two Cellos. Check this out:

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So what was it really like to fight in armor?

We’ve all seen it done i.n the movies. But how realistic is it?

As you’ll see from the following demonstration medieval knights could have been surprisingly mobile.

And fighting tactics were quick and utterly ruthless.

The video was made by the National Museum of the Middle Ages in Cluny, France and the armor is modeled on that worn by two actual French knights of the fifteenth century.



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This is the story of the good Nazi you may never have heard of; though the surname will be familiar.

Goring, Nazi, holocaust

copyright unknown: claimed under fair use

Hermann Göring was founder of the Gestapo and Hitler’s anointed successor at the start of the second world war.

He was instrumental in creating the first concentration camps and accrued massive wealth from art and property stolen from Jewish holocaust victims.

Convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg trials he committed suicide the night before his execution.

A thoroughly evil man. But did you know he had a brother?

In fact he had two; an older brother called Karl and a younger brother called Albert.

Goring, Nazi, holocaust

Herman Goring addressing the Reichstag

Albert Göring was born in 1895. His father was the German Consul General to Haiti and was rarely at home so he and his two brothers and two sisters were raised in a fairy tale castle by their aristocratic godfather, Ritter von Epenstein – a Jew.

The young Albert grew into something of a bon vivant and lived a mostly unremarkable life as a filmmaker – until the Nazis took power in 1933.

While his brother rose rapidly through the ranks to become Hitler’s right hand man, Albert was repelled by fascism and refused to join the National Socialist party.

In fact he actively opposed it.

Once he took off his jacket and joined a group of Jewish women who were being forced to scrub the street. The SS officer supervising them had to call a halt when he realized who Albert was. He could not allow the brother of Hitler’s number 2 to be publicly humiliated.

Then, when the Gestapo arrested his former boss Oskar Pilzer, a Jew, he used his influence to have him freed and then helped Pilzer and his family escape from Germany.

Goring, Nazi, holocaust

Herman Goring

When Albert was made export director at the Skoda factory in Czechoslovakia he even made contact with the Czech resistance and forged his brother’s signature on transit documents to help dissidents escape.

He sent trucks into concentration camps to collect prisoners to work as laborers.

The trucks would then stop in an isolated area, and the workers would be allowed to escape.

Whenever these and other activities landed him in hot water, he called up his brother.

Albert became ever more ­audacious and survived four arrest warrants because of his brother’s influence.

But by 1944, with a ‘shoot on sight’ order in his name, Albert went on the run in Prague. Hermann dropped everything to save him one final time, intervening personally with Himmler.

Goring, Nazi, holocaust

Herman Goring at Nuremburg

Albert survived the war but after the fall of Berlin he spent two years as an Allied prisoner, unable to convince his captors of his innocence.

The name that had once saved him and countless others would now make him a pariah for the rest of his life.

He was eventually released but soon fell into depression and alcoholism.

His Czech wife, Mila, requested a divorce and took his only child, Elizabeth, to live in Peru. He never saw or spoke to them again.

He lived in penury for many years with occasional work as a translator.

When he died in 1966 he was living on a pension from the government.

Knowing that his pension would be transferred to his wife, he married his housekeeper a week before he died, as a mark of gratitude.

His wartime activities were never publicly acknowledged.

But if you’re reading this, then at least one more person has acknowledged what he did, right now.

To find out more, read this.



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Jews, holocaust, Palestine,




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This guy is fantastic: I thought you might like to take a look.

In this short and entertaining video he explains why we all find it hard to change, even when we know we should.

I’m off to practice on my backwards bicycle. Only another seven months and twenty nine days and we may see some progress round here!

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