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  • History discussion

    I'm not sure where this might go - if anywhere.... The historical pages on this site are amongst the most popular and are a particular interest of mine, so I thought I'd set up a forum for interested people to swap ideas and information, while starting off a couple of likely thread to start with.

  • #2
    Scott, Amunsden and the Titanic1912-13

    I just finsihed writing the following prose-poem. I am a retired history teacher and a Baha'i. I write a great deal of material that tries to tie together events in society and events in my own value and belief system. The following piece seemed appropriate for this site. I hope it finds a home here.

    On November 12, 1912 ?Abdu?l-Bah? arrived in New York, the last city of His eight months tour of America. That same day an Antarctic search party discovered the tent of Captain Robert Scott and his two companions. The body of Captain Scott was wedged between those of his fellow explorers, the flaps of his sleeping bag thrown back, his coat open. His companions, Lieut. Henry Bowers and Dr. Edward Wilson, lay covered in their sleeping bags as if dozing. They had been dead for eight months. They were the last members of a five-man team returning to their home base from the Pole.

    The team had set out on its final push to the Pole the previous January. They knew they were in a race to be the first to reach their destination. Their competition was a Norwegian expedition lead by Roald Amundsen. The two expeditions employed entirely different strategies. Amundsen relied on dogs to haul his men and supplies over the frozen Antarctic wasteland. Scott's British team distrusted the use of dogs preferring horses; once these died from the extreme conditions the sleds were man-hauled to the Pole and back. In fact, Scott deprecated the Norwegian's reliance on dogs. Their use was somehow a less manly approach to the adventure and certainly not representative of the English tradition of "toughing it out" under extreme circumstances. Man could manage Nature. A similar spirit guided the building of the "unsinkable" Titanic and then supplied the ship with far too few lifeboats to hold its passengers if disaster did strike. Just as the passengers of the Titanic paid a price for this arrogance on April 14th 1912, so too did Captain Scott and his four companions. On April 14th, 'Abdu'l-Baha gave His first talk in America in New York after arriving three days before.-Ron Price with thanks to "Eye Witness To" and H.M. Balyuzi, 'Abdu?l-Bah?, George Ronald, Oxford, 1971, pp.329-393.

    Yes, there's a message there.
    They believed, then, as they
    believe now, in some illusory
    hope, some frail foundation of
    confidence in the future, through
    some fortuitous conjunction of
    circumstances, that it's possible
    to bend the conditions of human life
    into conformity with prevailing human
    desires: alas the catalogue of horror,
    the magnitude of ruin, gripped as we
    are and they were in the clutches of
    a devastating power, in the end,
    bewildered, agonized and helpless
    we watch, as they watched, this
    great, mysterious and mighty wind
    invading the remotest and fairest
    regions of the Earth, yes, an
    unprecedented tempest, a rampant
    force--and yet--an auspicious jucture
    in the history of the world: the arrival
    of the first humans at the south pole.

    Ron Price
    13 January 2007
    That's all folks!


    • #3
      Re: History discussion

      After two years this thread on history does not seem to have done very far. I will add one more item and see if it helps to stimulate the discussion. Over and out!--Ron Price, Tasmania
      In the obituary of Sir Vivian Fuchs--and found in Wikipedia--which appeared in The Times on Saturday 13 November 1999 just after I retired from the teaching profession and moved to Tasmania's oldest town, George Town, I obtained some useful information about an event that had interested me and had taken place way back at the time of my puberty in 1957. I shall tell a little of that event drawing on this obiturary statement and then connect it to some aspects of personal meaning, if not of meaing to other participants at this site. For it is personal meaning which gives, for many, history's significance and enables one to take part, vicariously in a way, in the great events of the day. Without this personal meaning history is often just a pile of dry old bones.
      In November 1957 Sir Vivian Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary set out from Shackleton Base to cross Antarctica. Vivian Fuchs was a patient and painstaking master of detail which ensured that the first surface crossing of the Antarctic, in 1957-58 was successfully concluded, despite something of a disagreement/arguement/contratemps between Fuchs and Sir Edmund Hillary along the way.

      On November 24 1957 the crossing was begun in six tracked vehicles with dogs and aircraft in support. Throughout what was to prove one of the "worst journeys in the world", Fuchs maintained absolute discipline and high morale, showing neither depression at delay nor elation at progress. The order in which the cavalcade moved forward never varied: Fuchs was always the leader either in his Sno-Cat, Rock'n'Roll, or in the heavily canvassed areas, probing the way in one of the lighter Weasels.

      Meanwhile, the New Zealanders made such good time that Hillary took the controversial decision to press on with his Ferguson tractors beyond the last supply depot to the Pole itself. They reached Amundsen-Scott Base in a spectacular dash on January 4, 1958, while "Bunny's Boys" (as the Americans called them) were still nearly 400 miles away, labouring to make up time lost in the appalling terrain between Shackleton and South Ice.

      Leaving the Pole on January 24, Fuchs's party completed the first land crossing of the White Continent in 99 days, one fewer than their leader's original estimate. Along the way a substantial scientific programme had been accomplished, including seismic soundings and a gravity traverse.
      Two weeks before the crossing was begun the funeral of Shoghi Effendi took place in London(9 November 1957), an event of more than a little significance in the history of the Baha'i Faith. What was to prove one of the "worst journeys in the world" for the Baha'i community had just begun as it had for
      this crossing of Antarctica two weeks later. Shoghi Effendi had been "called by sorrow and a strange desolation of hopes into quietness."

      I am reminded, as I write this, of so much of the history of Antarctica and of the history of the Canadian Arctic and the Arctic regions in Siberia and Scandinavia--the circumpolar regions to use an apt phrase--where I had spent some time myself forty years ago; I am reminded, too, of a quotation I keep from a letter written by Henry Adams and found in his "Letters of Henry Adams: 1838-1918, Volume 1," Houghton Mifflin, 1930, p.324:

      "The inevitable isolation and disillusionment of a really strong mind--one that combines force with elevation--is to me the romance and tragedy of statesmanship."

      As a teacher of history myself over 30 years and student of the subject in primary, secondary and university courses as far back as 1955 over half a century ago now, I have found a strange synchronicity between events in one's personal life and those in one's wider society and it is this synchronicity which adds an immense flavour of meaning to life, to the past and to one's anticipation of the future.--Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania, Australia.

      P.S. Seven months ago, on 18 Janaury 2007, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Scott Base (New Zealand) in Antarctica took place. Sir Edmund Hillary, along with a delegation including the Prime Minister, flew to the station.