Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another Yellowstone Meander

I've been reading Hayden reports lately, and thought I'd share a different view of the Yellowstone River.


  1. Nice. William Henry Jackson I presume.

  2. Yes -- his work is amazing. You always read about how much his work influenced events from our perspective, but it's interesting to read that even at the time people understood the power of his photographs.

  3. I listened to another Thomas Jefferson Hour today -- I am absolutely hooked on that show. What a breath of fresh air!

    Here is part of a letter Jefferson wrote to Madison that they discussed -- that should give the tea baggers something to think about. It's too long to post the entire thing, but here's the essence (from,_1785):

    The property of this country [France] is absolutely concentered in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not laboring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers and tradesmen, and lastly the class of laboring husbandmen. But after all there comes the most numerous of all classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work. I asked myself what could be the reason so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are undisturbed only for the sake of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their revenues by permitting these lands to be labored. I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable, but the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree, is a politic measure and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise.....

    I think my next project will be to start reading the correspondence of Jefferson. Endlessly fascinating.

  4. Beautiful Pic.Jackson's work is amazing.He doesn't get the press Ansel Adams does.The summer of 65 when we did our Western trip an Uncle at Kodak had given me what I think was a brownie camera and I took lots of B&W photos on the trip with it.The prints were square but I don't recall the size.6 by 6 maybe.They were at my parents the last time they moved a few years ago so I think my younger brother has them but I had many of the Falls, Bears by the roadside in Yellowstone,Old Faithful and the raised walkways across the thermal activity,Glacier Natl Park,the Tetons and the Badlands.

  5. You should try get those photos! Those are keepers for sure. It's such a beautiful place.

    If you go to the Library of Congress site ( and type in William Henry Jackson Yellowstone you can get all sorts of his photographs.

  6. Here's an unusual meander - Nantucket whaling ship found:

    In the annals of the sea, there were few sailors whose luck was worse than George Pollard Jr.’s.

    Pollard, you see, was the captain of the Essex, the doomed Nantucket whaler whose demise, in 1820, came in a most unbelievable fashion: it was attacked and sunk by an angry sperm whale, an event that inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby-Dick.”

    Unlike the tale of Ahab and Ishmael, however, Pollard’s story didn’t end there: After the Essex sank, Pollard and his crew floated through the Pacific for three months, a journey punctuated by death, starvation, madness and, in the end, cannibalism. (Pollard, alas, ate his cousin.)

    Despite all that, Pollard survived and was given another ship to steer: the Two Brothers, the very boat that had brought the poor captain back to Nantucket.

    And then, that ship sank, too.

    On Friday, in a discovery that might bring a measure of peace to Captain Pollard, who survived his second wreck (though his career did not), researchers announced that they have found the remains of the Two Brothers. The whaler went down exactly 188 years ago after hitting a reef at the French Frigate Shoals, a treacherous atoll about 600 miles northwest of here. The trove includes dozens of artifacts: harpoon tips, whaling lances and three intact anchors.

    The discovery is believed to be the first of a Nantucket whaler, one of an armada of ships that set sail during the early 19th century when the small Massachusetts island was an international capital of whaling. It was a risky pursuit that led sailors halfway across the world — and sometimes to the bottom of the sea.

    “Very little material has been recovered from whale ships that foundered because they generally went down far from shore and in the deepest oceans,” said Ben Simons, chief curator of the Nantucket Historical Association. “We have a lot of logbooks and journals that record disasters at sea, but to be taken to the actual scene of the sunken vessel — that’s really what is so amazing about this.”

    The discovery was, in some ways, as fortunate as Pollard was cursed.

    The Two Brothers — which was bound for the newly opened Japan Grounds after whalers had fished out the Atlantic and parts of the South Pacific — was long known to have sunk on the night of Feb. 11, 1823, off the French Frigate Shoals.

    A shrimp-shaped collection of reefs, the shoals were a notoriously tricky spot. Charts were not particularly reliable in that area, and Pollard was steering the Two Brothers without the aid of stars, since the sky had been overcast.

    Several dozen boats are known to have sunk there or in neighboring atolls, all of which are now part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, an enormous conservation area that covers nearly 140,000 square miles of ocean west of Hawaii.

    In 2008, a team of marine archeologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries set their sights on investigating several other wrecks, including a British whaling ship called the Gledstanes, which sank in the remote Kure Atoll in 1837, and the Churchill, which went down carrying a load of coconut meat in the French Frigate Shoals in 1917.

    With a few spare days left before returning to Honolulu, however, the team decided to poke around a tiny sandbar known as Shark Island.

    Kelly Gleason, the leader of the team, was in the water — crystal-clear shallows about 15 feet deep — when a colleague suddenly signaled that he had seen something.

  7. [continued]:

    “All of a sudden,” said Dr. Gleason, a marine archaeologist, “we came across this large anchor.”

    The anchor, some 10 feet long, was peacefully resting on the seafloor, and was far too heavy to lift. (The federally protected monument also has strict rules about removal of artifacts.) Anchors, like so many other types of maritime technology, evolved over the years, making them easier to place in a specific time period, and Dr. Gleason was pretty sure the anchor she was seeing was from the early 1800s.

    Divers soon found more debris, including several iron trypots, cauldrons in which blubber was boiled down into oil, the ultimate goal of the lucrative but highly speculative whaling trade. It was a brutal pursuit for both the whales, which were hunted nearly to extinction, and the sailors, who faced years at sea, meager rations and the omnipresent possibility of death.

    “Nantucket whaling captains were renowned for being what was called ‘fishy men,’ meaning that they didn’t care what was involved,” said Nathaniel Philbrick, a maritime historian and author of “In the Heart of the Sea,” the acclaimed account of the Essex’s sinking. “They were hard-wired to bring in whales, because whales meant money.”

    Pollard, however, was different, “a little more contemplative,” said Mr. Philbrick, despite earning his first helm — the Essex — at the young age of 28.

    “He definitely garnered his men’s respect,” Mr. Philbrick said. “But he was twice unlucky.”

    And understandably gun-shy. According to an account by Thomas Nickerson, who had been on the Essex — and nearly starved to death at sea after it sank, but still re-upped for another voyage with Pollard — the captain froze on the deck of the Two Brothers after the ship began to sink, and he had to be practically dragged into a smaller whale-chasing boat.

    “His reasoning powers had flown,” Nickerson later wrote.

    Dr. Gleason says she was impressed that Pollard even went back on a boat at all, considering, you know, the cannibalism of his first trip.

    “You just imagine this man who had the courage to go back out to sea, and to have this happen?” she said. “It’s incredible.”

    All told, archaeologists have found about 80 relics from the Two Brothers, including four cast-iron cooking pots, fragments of glass and ceramics, riggings and blubber hooks. Monument officials say they hope to eventually make some of the smaller artifacts part of a permanent exhibit in Hawaii, though larger items will remain in the water of the Shoals.

    For his part, Captain Pollard was rescued a day after the Two Brothers sank. He returned to Nantucket, where he settled into a sedate, quiet and decidedly nonseafaring life, though other sailors quietly deemed him a “Jonah,” or star-crossed mariner.

    He eventually took a job as the town’s night watchman. In the 1850s, he was visited by a 30-something writer who had just published a novel — “Moby-Dick” — to middling reviews. A former whaler himself, Melville had sought out Pollard and found, according to Mr. Philbrick, a kind of soul mate in the older man.

    “Both of them had experienced the ultimate in terms of living,” he said, “and then went on quietly in their lives ignored by everyone.”

    Indeed, Melville worked as a customs inspector until several years before his death in 1891. Pollard died — alone but apparently beloved by fellow Nantucketers — in 1870. But while Melville’s reputation soared, few know of Captain Pollard.

    Dr. Gleason, for one, hopes that this discovery in the reefs of the Hawaiian islands, a place that could boggle any sailor, today or in 1823, goes a way toward repairing Pollard’s legacy.

    “He was up against these incredible odds,” she said. “And it’s an incredibly hazardous place.

  8. I had seen that story in the Times but hadn't actually read it, since I had read Philbrick's book and _sort of_ knew what it was about.

    But this was fascinating! Thanks for posting it.

  9. That's cool.I've been in the little whaling museum in Nantucket Town twice and they have a nice little collection.

  10. I've been working in the archives here and today stumbled upon a hand written note from John Hay on behalf of Grant. Last trip it was a couple notes from T Roosevelt. For some reason, I still find those little accidental discoveries very exciting.

    Also came across a letter with the signature cut out ( it was Spencer Baird's). It is always disturbing to me. Those signatures belong to all of us.

  11. I don't know if anyone has already posted this, but it's something that many of you may be interested in, about Thomas Jefferson's books:

    A Founding Father’s Books Turn Up

    "A literary detective story that began 18 months ago and was advanced through a chance reading of an 1880 edition of The Harvard Register has led researchers from the Jefferson Library at Monticello to a trove of books that were among the last ones that Thomas Jefferson, the nation’s most bibliophilic president, collected and read in the decade before he died.

    The 28 titles in 74 volumes were discovered recently in the collection of Washington University in St. Louis, immediately elevating its library to the third largest repository of books belonging to Jefferson after the Library of Congress and the University of Virginia."

    Full article: