Om Relative Disasters
The podcast where a brother and sister manage their existential angst by discussing historical disasters.
It was the most anticipated boxing match of the year, a fight to decide the heavyweight champion, a fight in front of fifteen thousand people in San Fransisco. There were just a couple of issues... 1), it was illegal to hold a boxing match in San Fransisco, and 2), they couldn't agree on a referee. Come step into ring as we talk about boxing, thrown/fixed fights, and what this all had to do with legendary Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp. Sources: The Earp Decision by Jack DeMattos Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends by Allen Barra Various San Fransisco Chronicle and San Fransisco Call articles
At the end of the 16th century, 115 English colonists set out to settle Queen Elizabeth I's claim to the mid-Atlantic coast of North America, and were promptly marooned by pirates on the Outer Banks. Only a few weeks into the project, and faced with bad luck, drought, and a murder, the colonists decided to send their leader back home for supplies and assistance. When he returned three years later, however, every single one of the colonists had disappeared. On this episode, we're discussing diplomacy, pirates, Schrodinger's Colonists, and John White's years-long (and incredibly frustrating) effort to get back to his friends and family. Sources for this episode include: "The Head in Edward Nugent's Hand" by M. L. Oberg, 2000 "What Happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke?'" by staff writer for History, 2012 "The Mystery of Roanoke Endures Yet Another Cruel Twist", by A. Lawlor for Smithsonian Magazine, 2017
Come join us for a sporting event/political statement that got wildly out of control! We'll talk about some interesting historical people, one of the most interesting historical empires, and why wearing blue or green in the wrong place at the wrong time could get you killed. Also, bread is tasty and circuses are fun. Sources: The Account of Malalas John, written circa 540~ CE The Wars of Justinian by Procopius Blue versus Green: Rocking the Byzantine Empire by Mike Dash
In August of 1819, the Essex set sail from the island of Nantucket to the whaling grounds of the south Pacific. In June of 1821, less than half of the crew returned, with a horrific tale of a whale attack and months adrift at sea. On this episode, we're discussing sperm whales, whale oil processing, survival cannibalism, a series of terrible decisions (and one great one), and why Herman Melville's book 'Moby Dick' is so incredibly boring. Sources for this episode include: "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex", by N. Philbrick, 2000 “Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-ship Essex", by O. Chase, 1821 "The face that sank the Essex: potential function of the spermaceti organ in aggression" article by D. Carrier, et all, for Journal of Experimental Biology, 2002
In this episode we'll be talking about why laws regarding stewardship of other peoples' money exist, how institutionalized prejudice threatened the lives and well-being of Sarah Rector and her family, and how she fought back and re-gained control of what was rightfully hers. Come meet the young millionaire who refused to let the shady people "managing" her money win! Also, we're on Patreon now! If you'd like to support us with your cash, please feel free to do so. The podcast will not be going behind a paywall of any kind, we're not doing ads, the podcast is free and always will be - this is just a way to help support the folks making it. https://www.patreon.com/RelativeDisastersPodcast Sources for this episode include: Searching For Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America by Tonya Bolden, published 2014 by Abrams The Richest Black Girl in America by Dr. Lauren N. Henley Washington Post article by Sydney Trent, September 3 2022
In 1859, a wealthy landowner in Whichelsea, Victoria, released 24 rabbits on his land for shooting, and unintentionally infested the continent with a rabbit population that peaked at 10 billion. On this episode, we're talking bunnies: their homes, diets, families, and the incredible amount of damage they can do to an ecosystem. (Sources to follow)
With Ella going nine rounds with Covid this week, please welcome our special guest-hosts: Greg's family! Join us as we talk about Action Park, the now-legendary New Jersey destination that promised great family fun... with a side-menu of skull fractures, skin abrasions, and - in six tragic cases - death. How this park stayed open - and how it ever opened in the first place - will be explored. Make sure your safety belt is fastened for this one! Sources: Revisiting Traction ... Er, Action, Park by Joanne Austin, Weird NJ #25, October 2005 Remembering Action Park, America's Most Dangerous, Daring Water Park by Jack McCallum, Sports Illustrated August 2020 Class Action Park by Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III (Documentary), released 2020
On November 10, 1975, a storm passed over Lake Superior. Initially thought to be a minor weather disturbance, it soon turned into a gale, complete with 100-knot winds, 35-foot rogue waves, and heavy snow. When the ore carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald was caught in the worst of the weather, she made for Whitefish Bay, Michigan, before vanishing off radar without a single distress call. On this episode, we’re discussing the unique dangers of Great Lakes shipping, as well as taconite ore, Gordon Lightfoot, and one of the strangest shipwrecks we’ve ever come across. Sources for this episode include: "Radio Transmissions on the Night of the Edmund Fitzgerald's Sinking" by M. Brush for Michigan Radio / National Public Radio, 2015 "Edmund Fitzgerald" page on the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website "The Cruelest Month" by J. R. Gaines for Newsweek Magazine, 1975 “29 Missing”, by Andrew Kantar, 1998
Warning: This episode is centered on the senseless and preventable deaths of over one hundred children. If that's not something you want to deal with, please skip this episode and re-join us next week. In the green, rolling hills and valleys of southern Wales, coal sat in rich veins. The process of removing that coal was acknowledged to be dangerous for the miners, a risk that they all accepted to provide for their families. None of them knew that the lives that would be risked were not just their own, but those of their children. Join us as we discuss mining operations, the power of the National Coal Board, and how de-humanizing bureaucracy can be when empathy for human beings is forgotten for the sake of a bit of cash. Sources: Aberfan:Disasters and Government by Iain McLean & Martin Johnes (Cardiff: Welsh Academic Press, 2000) Aberfan: The mistake that cost a village its children by Ceri Jackson
On a clear summer morning in 1908, a bright light was seen in the sky over the Siberian forest around the Tunguska River. Minutes later, a shock wave flattened 800 square miles of forest, killed hundreds of thousands of animals, and blew out windows some 200 miles away from the impact site. But when scientists went looking for the crater, they found no evidence that anything at all had hit the ground. On this episode, we’re discussing meteors / comets / asteroids / meteoroids, space grazers, a lake with a weird shape, and what exactly lay at ground zero of the Tunguska Event. Sources for this episode include: “The Tunguska Event: The Mystery of the Biggest Explosion in Recorded History” by Charles River Editors, 2014 "The Mystery of the Dark Asteroid That Scorched Russia" by M. Altamirano for Nautilus, 2020 "Tunguska Revisited: 111-Year-Old Mystery Impact Inspires New, More Optimistic Asteroid Predictions" by K. E. Smith for NASA.gov, 2019 "The Tunguska explosion, 114 years ago today", by P. S. Anderson and K. K. Witt for Earth Sky, 2022 "Preliminary Results from the 1961 Combined Tunguska Meteorite Expedition" by K.P. Florenskiy for Meteoritica, 1963 "The Tunguska Mystery" by L. Gasperini, E. Bonatti,and G. Longo for Scientific American, 2008
Come with us to medieval Germany as we discuss lines of succession, human chemistry, and a very unfortunate and disgusting disaster. Find out about Heinrich VI, Freiderich I, and what happens when too many people stand on a floor. Sources: Encyclopedia Brittanica for the lives and reigns of Heinrich VI and Freidrich I, as well as background on various nobles. One very patient and kind reference librarian from Erfurt who was willing to answer my questions. Chronik von St. Peter zu Erfurt (translated)
On July 6, 1944, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus began their Hartford, Connecticut, matinee show with an audience of 7,000 ticketholders, mostly women and children. A few minutes into the show, however, the massive Big Top, which had been waterproofed with a paraffin-and-gasoline cocktail, caught on fire. On this episode, we’re discussing circus superstitions, city inspections, and a whole lot of fire safety. Sources for this episode include: “Circus Fire 1944” “The Hartford Circus Fire: Tragedy Under the Big Top” by Michael Skidgell, 2019 “Hartford Circus Holocaust” by W.Y. Kimball for National Fire Prevention Association’s The Quarterly, 1944
We're going back to the Arctic for our final episode of the season! Join us as we talk about how dangerous the arctic sea is, what pack ice can do to ships (again), and why maybe listening to the people who live where you're trying to explore might be a good idea. We'll touch on the interesting lives and deeds of John Rae and James Fitzjames, talk about the weird politics that led to the expedition, and how everything was basically never going to work no matter how they prepared. Also, we found another place to visit and we'll preview a little bit of next season! Thank you all for lending us your ears for a little while each week - we really appreciate all of the feedback, constructive criticism, and kind words you've had to share over these last few years. We'll see you again in January! Sources: Ice Ghosts by Paul Watson The Man Who Ate His Boots by Anthony Brandt Deadly Winter by Martin Beardsley Fatal Passage by Ken McGoogan Unraveling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony collected by David Woodman https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/what-happened-to-erebus-terror-crew-true-story https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1279489/ https://www.history.com/news/franklin-expedition-mystery-northwest-passage https://www.thecollector.com/the-franklin-expedition-canadian-maritime/ https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/heres-how-amc-producers-worked-inuit-fictionalized-franklin-expedition-show-180968643/ https://www.canadianmysteries.ca/sites/franklin/archive/text/DickensHouseholdWords1_en.htm
In the summer of 1881, a heavy thunderstorm caused a flash flood in the Des Moines River valley of central Iowa, in the midwestern United States. The flood caused a small railway trestle bridge to weaken, which in turn caused a steam locomotive to plunge into Honey Creek - killing two of the crew and stranding the rest in the still-rising water. So begins one of the most remarkable rescue efforts in the history of American railways. On this episode, we're talking bridges, bad luck, Victorian poetry, and the remarkable tenacity of an Iowa teenager. Sources for this episode include: "Iowa’s Railroad Heroine" (blog post at ISU Special Collections) "Kate Shelley: Heroine of the High Bridge" (website) "Kate Shelley: A Girl’s Heroic Journey", by T. Beck for Historynet, 2019 "Our Kate" poem by J. B. Kaye, 1901
We're headed back to court again for a look at the 1922 Leser v Garnett supreme court decision! Join us as we discuss how women's right to vote has been a really weird issue in the US, what kind of folks were trying to prevent them from voting in the first place, and how is this stuff still going on today? Also, Greg's dog really wanted to be on the podcast this week, so listen for her tappy-toes in the background. Sources: The United States Constitution and Amendments Leser et al v. Garnett et al Supreme Court Decision How a Little-Known Supreme Court Case Got Women the Right to Vote by Lily Rothman Visit your local library for books on voting rights in the United States.
In October of 1955, a ship named 'Joyita' set sail from Apia, Samoa, to the Tokelau Islands. The 300-mile trip should have taken 2 days, but she never arrived, and an extensive search failed to find any traces of either the 'Joyita' or the 25 people she carried. Not that she'd sunk; in fact, a month later, she was found floating off the coast of Fiji, with no one aboard and no sign of what had happened to her passengers and crew. On this episode, we're discussing ghost ships, Old Hollywood, iron pipes vs. the Pacific Ocean (the ocean wins, every time), and the curious and unlucky life of a luxury yacht turned into a patrol boat, a fishing vessel, and a merchant ship. Sources for this episode include: "Joyita: Solving the Mystery" by D. G. Wright, 2002 "MV Joyita: The Ghost Ship That Couldn't Sink" by B. Dimri for Historic Mysteries, 2022 "25 People Got Lost At Sea; The Ship Was Found, But The People Weren't", by C. Leigh for Medium, 2018
Come join us in the friendly skies, where danger is a constant co-pilot and daredevils risked their lives to entertain the onlookers below. We're going to talk about the 13 Black Cats flying troupe, Gladys Ingle's amazing "mid-air wheel replacement" stunt, and the incredible life of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to get a pilot's license, along with barnstorming stunts and safety equipment (or lack thereof). Sources: William J. Powell - Black Wings, published 1934 Doris Rich - Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator, published 1993 The 13 Flying Black Cats The Gladys Ingle Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oAzdbd0J2A
On a rainy May evening in 1937, thousands of spectators gathered at the Lakehurst, New Jersey, airfield to watch the German luxury zeppelin 'Hindenburg' land. Instead of the landing, however, they were shocked to see the massive airship catch fire and burn to the ground in a minute and a half. On this episode, we're discussing airships and airship travel; hydrogen vs. helium; how the crash was documented; and the Hindenburg's short life and last voyage. Sources for this episode include: "Scenes from Hell - Herb Morrison and the Hindenburg Disaster", digital exhibit by the National Archives, n.d. "What Really Sparked the Hindenburg Disaster", J. Stromberg for Smithsonian Magazine, 2012 "LZ-129 Hindenburg" page on Airships.net, n.d.
On its surface, it's a complicated legal case that took an appeal all the way to the House of Lords to settle. In reality, it's what happens when you attempt to swindle the relative of Lt. Colonel Alfred Daniel Wintle MC - a man who lived an utterly remarkable life and wasn't about to lose this last battle. Come join us for a discussion about a complicated military career, a case that changed the British legal system, and pants! Sources for this episode: The last Englishman: An autobiography of Lieut.-Col. Alfred Daniel Wintle, M.C. (1st the Royal Dragoons) The last Englishman - the unbelievable wartime exploits of AD Wintle by Sky History Foreign News: Here Is an Englishman from Time Magazine, Monday, Aug. 08, 1955 Wintle v Nye: HL 1959 Judgement of Wintle V Nye, HL 1958 Nov-Dec
On the busiest travel day in 1971, a hijacker comandeered Northwest Airlines' Flight 305, as it was en route from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. Upon landing in Seattle, he got what he'd asked for - four parachutes and $200,000 cash - and when the passengers had disembarked, he ordered the plane on to Mexico. But they'd only been in the air for a few minutes when the hijacker tied the cash to his body, strapped on the parachute, and jumped off the plane, disappearing forever into the dense forest of southeast Washington State. On this episode, we're talking plane travel, air piracy, flight attending, and of course, the mystery of DB Cooper. Sources for this episode include: The official FBI report, which is online at FBI.gov "The Hunt for D.B. Cooper Continues", by D. Tolentino for MuckRock, 2018 "Diatoms constrain forensic burial timelines: case study with DB Cooper money", by T. G. Kaye & M. Meltzer, Scientific Reports, 2020
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