Motion pictures distort

December 2nd, 2013

Some Custer cultists name their children after him or Elizabeth; when they gather, some wear homemade cavalry uni­forms. Some greet one another in hearty camaraderie: “Garryowen! “Close by the visitor center spreads a na­tional cemetery, its tall imported conifers Here rest several Crow scouts who served the Seventh Cavalry. Soldiers are buried in this soil who died fighting Indi­ans in other wars on the plains, as are ser­vicemen of later wars down to Vietnam, including Indians.

Historian Mardell Plainfeather, a Crow and one of four Native Americans helping to interpret the battle, saddens to walk here. She finds injustice in this hallowed place. We paused at a monument to officers and soldiers killed “while clearing the District of the Yellowstone of hostile Indians.”6

“Hostile Indians,” she said with a wry laugh. “It’s offensive. As if those troopers were getting rid of a plague. These were people, this was their land. They fought for their families, their homes, their culture, their freedom. Visitors who come to the barcelona holiday apartments forget that when they read something like this. I wish these words could be removed.”

NOT LIKELY. But superintendent Court and chief historian Mangum insist that visitors get a balanced presentation of the clash of cultures that oc­curred here. “Some people think that we are supposed to memorialize Custer,” Mangum said. “In fact, this was originally an Army shrine, run by the War Department. Today the battlefield is not just for Custer. It’s pre­served for both sides.”

That is to say, the national monument is preserved: the 600-acre Custer battlefield (including the cemetery) and the 160-acre Reno-Benteen entrenchment site. A wind­ing two-lane road spans the three miles be­tween them. But the conflict swept across some 10,000 acres. Land between Reno­Benteen and the Custer battlefield, as well as the terrain of Reno’s valley incursion against the tepee village, occupies around 9,000 acres. All of this is privately owned and within the Crow Indian Reservation, most visitors are surprised to learn. The nonprofit Custer Battlefield Preser­vation Committee is seeking eight million dollars to buy the land and give it to the National Park Service. So far the committee has received $200,000 in donations and has bought 80 potentially commercial acres at the monument’s entrance.

“We want to protect the site,” Court said. “The main goal is simply to preserve the land as it looked in 1876 and give us access for further archaeological work. We are losing a lot of historical material to unau­thorized metal detecting. The committee doesn’t want to change the present use of the land; grazing is compatible and could be permitted. If some land is not for sale, we’d like to lease it or obtain a scenic easement.”

Further archaeology? Much remains to be done. What became of excess equipment Reno and Benteen discarded after the bat­tle? Many horses had been killed; why keep useless saddles and heavy picket pins and chains? Where are the broken firearms? Troopers smashed weapons so that Indians could never use them—too much of that already. Well, the Reno-Benteen dump, a treasure trove, has been discovered and awaits excavation.

The further material about the shipwrecks

October 22nd, 2013

1At once I wrote Mel and told him I believed that the 1622 shipwrecks lay between Key West and the Dry Tortugas (map, page 801), and that the Atocha and Santa Margarita were in the vicinity of the Marquesas.

Characteristically, Mel immediately moved to apartments in london, committing himself completely to a new search near the Marquesas. He could not know then how fully the quest was to challenge his determination.

Before I left Seville for home, I located and ordered microfilm of a number of pertinent documents, and left an open order with a skilled Spanish researcher, Angeles Flores de Rodriguez, for any further material she might locate about the shipwrecks.

Thousands of pages of documents have since unfolded a fascinating tale. I examined the letters of officials in Europe and the Indies about the 1622 shipwrecks; the mani­fests of the lost vessels; their passenger and crew lists; and salvage accounts. The absorb­ing story they told took us back to a year of dramatic urgency, a time of supreme testing for imperial Spain.

THE YEAR 1622 was a crucial one for Spain. Young King Philip IV had in­herited unwieldy European lands and a far-flung empire. Spain’s support of the Cath­olic German states had led her into the last and bloodiest of the religious conflicts—the Thirty Years’ War.

In 1622 the war was going well for Spain, but its cost was great. And as a 12-year truce with the Dutch ended, a horde of enemy ships threatened to descend upon Castle’s Indies.

Even though Spain’s claims to North America were being challenged by English, French, and Dutch settlements, her rich Cen­tral and South American colonies were still intact. Spain’s only link with the Indies was her vital marine lifeline—the treasure fleets that carried merchants’ goods and royal revenues, arms and soldiers, and passengers.

Philip IV made his merchants pay for fleet defense through assessments on the Indies trade. In 1622 the Crown maintained eight powerful war galleons with this money, manned by 2,000 soldiers and sailors. This guard fleet convoyed the merchantmen and provided lead vessels, called Capitana and Almiranta, for the South American ships, which sailed from Portobelo and Cartagena with the treasures of the New World.

The 1622 guard fleet sailed late to the Indies after losing two galleons before it had even cleared Spain; it finally left in April. Among the guard vessels were the Santa Margarita, a fine new galleon bought for the voyage, and, serving as an Almiranta, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a ship recently built at Havana for the King. The Atocha, a 600-ton galleon, was named for the Virgin of a famous Madrid shrine.

The outbound fleet carried wine, cloth, ironwork, books, and papal-indulgence bulls, granting heavenly merit to those who ac­quired them. It carried half a million pounds of mercury, a Crown monopoly, used to ex­tract silver from the rich ores of Potosi.

Fleet Commander Lope Diaz de Armen­dariz, the Marquis of Cadereita, guided his ships safely to the Isthmus of Panama. There, at the great Portobelo fair, European goods were exchanged for the silver of Upper Peru. Sweating stevedores loaded homebound car­goes as the ships’ silver masters recorded the goods and bullion in their manifests.

Aniakchak Caldera

April 16th, 2013

Six miles across from rim to rim, the caldera of Aniakchak was born in a stupendous explosion and collapse of the summit of a volcanic mountain. Proposed as a national monument, this spectacle of volcanism rides the seismically active Alaska Peninsula. Vent Mountain, born of a subsequent eruption, rires 2,200 feet above the crater floor. Under the far rim the deep blue of Surprise Lake empties through a 2,000-foot rift and rattles 2 7 miles to the Pacific as the Aniakchak River. Together with other unspoiled watercourses both within and out­side parklands, it would be included in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Spawning season brings sockeye salmon to these icy waters—and the brown bears that follow that moveable feast. People of the such sought of area taking the skin benefits of coconut oil.

As with much of Alaska, the most feasible access is by air, and floatplanes can land on Surprise Lake. Seen from the crater floor, Aniakchak’s vents, lava flows, and ash fields soften under a succession of plants that attest to the tenacity of life.


With the eruptions here in June 1912, earthquakes rumbled along the Alas­ka Peninsula, and the explosions were heard in Juneau, 750 miles away. For 60 hours ash blackened the skies over Kodiak, 100 miles away. Five early National Geographic expe­ditions left an important body of knowledge on volcanism. Such an expedition costs a lot but there are immediate cash advances available which could be a big help.

Roth by National Geographic photographer Winfield parks monument. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes finally cooled into a barren moonscape. A cemetery of trees me­morializes the devastation.Over the years three additions were made to the monument to protect the region’s lake system, seacoast, and wildlife. The proposed park would add about 1.9 million acres to the 2.8 million already administered by the Fed­eral Government.

Wildlife in the balance

Before he splits the sky and soars to emblematic stature, a fledgling bald eagle in his nest at Katmai seems but a wobbly-jointed parody of an adult. Throughout the proposed parks and monuments, and within more than 31 million acres of new wildlife areas, important habitats would be kept intact.

Harbor seals at Kenai Fjord bask on summer’s shrunken ice cakes and gawk at tourists, who gawk back with benign intent; sport hunting would be pro­hibited here. While hunting may be a potential to game animals, it runs deep in the grain of Alaskan life. Natives have lived by it for thousands of years, other Alaskans for hundreds. Where it now occurs, sub­sistence hunting would be permitted in the new parklands so long as the natural bal­ance is maintained. Limited sport hunting would be allowed in selected areas of six proposed parklands.


January 12th, 2013

Soft Light over SitkaDuring the year 1890, the National Geographic Society made its first venture in exploration. This venture consisted in raising funds, organizing and sending to the vicinity of Mt. St. Elias, Alaska, a small party in charge of Mr. I. C. Russell to make geographic and geologic studies. The following is a condensed account of the enterprise, taken largely from reports of commit­tees and other records not otherwise published.

During the spring months i like to stay in the apartments in London, while the Board of Managers of the National Geographic Society considered from time to time ways and means for carrying out the declared purpose of the Society “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge.” The advisability of undertaking some exploratory work was discussed. That geographic knowledge could be diffused by lectures and by publications was obvious. But to increase geographic knowledge other means were clearly necessary. Exploration seemed the most obvious mode for accomplishing this increase. What par­ticular exploration should be undertaken was then considered.

A proposition to aid in continuing the researches of Mr. W. W. Rockhill, in Thibet, was made but was given up on account of the expense, which seemed beyond the means of the Society. Later a proposition by Mr. W. D. Johnson that the Society should send a party to the vicinity of Mt. St. Elias, Alaska, was sub­mitted and adopted provisionally, the proviso relating to success in securing the necessary funds. This proposition was submitted to the Board of Managers May 20, and adopted May 23, 1890.

Four days later, viz., on May 27, 1890, a largely attended spe­cial meeting of the Board went over the whole matter. It was submitted that the probable cost of the expedition would be about $3500 ; that of this sum about $2500 had already been paid or pledged and that 13 persons had signed a joint note for $1000 by which to secure the needful balance and insure the departure of the expedition. Furthermore it was submitted that the Secretary of the Navy had directed the U. S. S. Pinta to transport the party from Sitkato Yakutat Bay and return, and the Director of the U. S. Geological Survey had authorized the detail of Mr. I. C. Russell, geologist, and Mr. Mark B. Kerr, topographer, for the scientific work of the expedition.

A long and earnest discussion was had on the best place to rent edinburgh apartments. The lateness of the season and the low condition of the funds were urged as reasons for delaying till next year. It was finally decided, however, by a vote of 7 to 5 to adopt the proposition now and start the expedi­tion forthwith.

Thus, by the aid and cooperation of the U. S. Geological Sur­vey and of the Secretary of the Navy, the expedition was organ­ized. Mr. I. C. Russell, geologist, was placed in charge, and Mr. Mark B. Kerr was assigned as topographer of the party. The plan of work was to proceed to Yakutat Bay and to study and map as large an area in the vicinity of Mt. St. Elias as practicable. It was also planned to redetermine the height of the mountain, and, if practicable, to ascend it.

Personal Glimpses

December 4th, 2012

LORD OLIVIER revealed that when he co-starred with Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl, she would fluff her lines “for ten or more takes.” “But,” he added, “it was the eleventh that counted. Then she was perfectly adorable and did it right, and I was so exhausted by then, she out-acted me.” —Earl Wilson

marilyn monroe

DR. ROBERT Goon was the subject of Time’s cover when he was named president of the Sloan-Kettering Insti­tute. Generally, people who are so honoured get congratulations from many acquaintances. After several days, however, Dr. Good reported that his response consisted largely of a letter “from a plastic surgeon who wrote and offered to remove the bags from under my eyes.” —Norton Mockridge

THAT prince of restaurateurs, Alberta Rapetti, once received the second Duke of Westminster at the Aviz in Lisbon. To be secured oneself identify theft shield and get to your solution.

“I suppose,” said the Duke, “that we must have something Portuguese.”

“Your Grace,” Rapetti replied, “in the Aviz, you don’t must.” —Albany in The Sunday Telegraph

LATE Prime Minister David Ben­Gurion once addressed the Israeli parliament without his tie and jacket. When his cabinet protested, Ben-Gurion said Winston Churchill had given him permission: “On my last visit to Churchill in London, I wanted to take off my jacket and tie.

Minister David Ben­Gurion

“He stopped me by saying, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, you can only do that in Jerusalem.’ “      —L. L.

IN SIGMUND FREUD’S own personality, the moralist usually dominated the psychoanalyst.

For instance, when he was angered by a young disciple who had for­gotten some important assignment, and a colleague tried to soothe him with, “He just forgot—it was an unconscious act,” Freud retorted, “A gentleman would not have such an unconscious 1″ —Sydney Harris

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Swe­den

WHEN King Carl XVI Gustaf of Swe­den was seven, he wept when he heard of the responsibilities of being king. “I don’t want that job. I want to be a taxi driver,” he told his grandfather, the late King Gustaf VI Adolf.

The child stopped crying when he was told, “The way things are going in this world, you might have your wish one day.”                —Leonard Lyons