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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Duped again?

All that's left of the Marquis de Rays' utopian dream: a millstone in the jungle

 

New France’ was a utopian society founded in 1880 by the con-man Marquis de Rays on the island now known as New Ireland in the Bismarck Archipelago of present-day Papua New Guinea.

He launched this scheme in 1877 and soon hundreds of investors poured in money, and altogether 570 would-be utopian settlers joined up. The marquis deliberately misled the colonists, distributing literature claiming a bustling settlement existed at Port Breton, near present-day Kavieng, with numerous public buildings, wide roads, and rich, arable land.

Instead of finding this Utopia, the colonists, mostly French, German and Italian, found a swampy, malarial-infested wasteland, surrounded by cannibalistic neighbours. Some were killed while others died of disease and starvation before the survivors made their ways to Australia, New Zealand, other Pacific islands, or back to Europe. For the full story of Marquis de Rays’ audacious con, read "Utopian Fraud: The Marquis de Rays and La Nouvelle-France".

All that's left of 'New France' today is the above millstone which is on display in neighbouring Rabaul and whose inscription reads, "This Mill Stone was landed at Port Breton, New Ireland, by settlers brought out by the Marquis de Rays Expedition in the year 1880. Salvaged and brought to Rabaul in 1936. Survived the Japanese occupation and Allied operations in 1942-1945".

 

All that's left of Robert Bryce's utopian dream: a washing machine in the jungle
For more photos, click here (it's all in German but the photos speak for themselves)

 

‘New France' is arguably the biggest fraudulent utopian scheme ever perpetrated but, as they say, history repeats itself and the dream of a life of ease on a tropical island lives on unabated as evidenced by such phantom paradises as Robert Bryce's "Cocomo Village" in the Kingdom of Tonga. Since 2009 it has attracted close to a hundred dreamers from all over the world - see here - , none of them living there yet. And perhaps never will, although one young family has just moved into the jungle, complete with washing machine. Wife and kids have since left again, leaving hubby behind with the washing machine.


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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Sheltering Desert

For the full-length movie, click here

 

One of my favourite books is The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin. It takes me right back to my own time in South West Africa and the Namib Desert.

Hanno Martin was born in 1910 in Freiburg, Germany, and lived in Göttingen again from 1965, and eventually died there on January 7th, 1998. In 1935 he left Germany together with his friend and colleague, Hermann Korn, to do geological research in South West Africa. At the outbreak of World War Two they fled into the Namib Desert, where they lived for two-and-a-half years.

The undescribable phsyical and mental hardship they had to bear, the challenge to survive in the vastness of the Namib Desert, the constant threat of detection and their gradual adaptation to live a life as ancient bushmen, while being confronted on the radio with the horrible clash of civilsations in Europe is described in this book, The Sheltering Desert.

Henno Martin wrote numerous scientific publications throughout his succesful academic career as a geologist. This is his only non-scientific work, an "autobiographic novel", a classical tale of escape and survival. Henno Martin continued to spend many years in Africa, where he worked as a scientist at the Geological Survey of South Africa and as professor at the University of Cape Town. From 1958 until 1960 he was professor at the University of São Paulo. In 1965, he became professor at the Institute of Geology and Paleontology of the University of Göttingen, where he also became a member of the Academy of Sciences.

 

 

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Forty years have passed since I, my friend Hermann and the dog Otto sought the shelter of the desert in order to escape the madness of the Second World War. We found the shelter we were looking for and we found adventures of survival which confronted us forcibly with the primitive traits of our own nature. Even after half a lifetime, the scenes of our desert existence are sharply etched into my memory, and every visit to the Namib feels like a return home. When I wrote this book twenty-seven years ago, the game which had provided us with food and joy was being wiped out by unscrupulous hunters. Now the »Carp Cliff« and its surroundings and the red dunes to the south of the Kuiseb canyon have been incorporated into the Namib Game Park, and it is a pleasure to record that springbok, gemsbok and zebra have recovered to some extent, and that at the Desert Research Station Gobabeb, on the lower Kuiseb River, scientists are studying the conditions under which life exists in this unique desert. Forty years ago, as Hermann and I lived like carnivores, whilst day by day the cruelties of the great war were brought by the radio into the serenity of our desert evenings, our thoughts and talks were much occupied with the riddles of the evolution of life and of man, of his astonishing cultures and his fateful failings. In the meantime, the dangers which we recognised then have grown and continue to grow at an increasing rate. Our deductions about the link between the complexity of human nature, with its capability for both sublimely altruistic and devastatingly destructive behaviour, and mankind’s evolution from primitive hunting families to competing warlike societies, seem to be as relevant today as they were during the great war. Readers interested in this aspect are referred to the late Robert Ardrey’s book The Social Contract in which the peculiarities and the innate dangers of human nature are traced to their animal roots. Many of our present troubles are aggravated by the prevalent socio- political theories which do not acknowledge the discrepancy that exists between the demands of modern societies and some parts of our hereditary make-up. By blaming all the evils of this world on its social structures these theories mobilise our inherited aggressiveness against other individuals, groups, races and nations, encouraging ever more costly combats with ever more disappointing results. It is essential to realise that a good part of the struggle for physical and spiritual survival has to be waged within ourselves against innate tendencies which, though once a condition of man’s evolution, have now become serious obstacles to our further existence and development. For me the most important gain of our life in the Namib was the experience that the human mind can rise above even the most savage conditions. Whether this faculty will enable us to master the avalanching dangers with which an unbalanced blind progress coupled with a grave misunderstanding of man’s nature are now confronting us, only the future can show.

The book, all 374 pages and 18 pictures of it, can be ordered from Two Books, Pilatuspool 11 A, 20355 Hamburg, Germany, for €12.80. Email service@twobooks.de or the Namibiana Bookdepot.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The two men who twice saved the world

 

One of them, Stanislav Petrov, the Soviet officer who saved the world from nuclear war in September 1983, died in May this year, aged 77 - see here

The other was Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov on a Soviet submarine off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 - see here.

And now we have two men who want to destroy it. They're both known for their interchangeable haircuts:

 

 

You may just have enough time to get your own fixed before one of them pushes the button.


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Close your eyes for a minute

 

And don't be ashamed of the tears in your eyes because we all feel the same: those were wonderful days and they left us with wonderful memories. Nothing more needs to be said!


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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The only place I'm allowed to open my mouth

This is not a photograph of Dr Brodie's dental surgery. He uses a simple old-fashioned wooden rack and a very big pair of pliers - autoclaved after each use, of course ☺

 

Remember the phrase "to give one's eyetooth for something"? Well, this morning I did although not willingly, as the best dentist on the South Coast, Dr Grant Brodie of Ulladulla, spent a good part of the morning to pull one of mine.

It had taken almost seventy years to grow to its full size in my upper jaw, and for a while it seemed as if it would take another seventy to come out again. More drilling, more cutting, more injections - and lots of whimpering from yours truly as I lay there with my mouth wide open.

It's shut now because I'm back at home. It's only at the dentist's where I'm allowed to open it.


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