Galapagos Islands seals.
Our confident, high stock market reminds me of another high stock market early in 1929. That was when one of my environmental heros, Gifford Pinchot, buoyed with financial confidence a rising stock market gives, planned the adventure of a lifetime.
Gifford Pinchot and tuna catch.
Financial security and the end of his Governorship of Pennsylvania presented Pinchot with a unique opportunity to carry out a boyhood dream. He would purchase a large sailing ship, hire a crew, bring experts on board and put out to sea with his family.
There were giant sea bats to watch, sharks to avoid, Galapagos turtles to study, lava flows to cross, birds to photograph and lap dragons to catch. Grand adventure for adults, and a wonder for their 13 year old son, Giff, and his friend from Pennsylvania, Stiff.
Pinchot bought a used ship, refitted her and gave her a new name, “Mary Pinchot,” after his mother. The family set out on an ambitious journey, sailing west to the Galapagos Islands and then to the South Seas, independent, free, but with no one to turn to in case of danger.
A misjudgment caused damage to the ship’s rudder, requiring them to sail nearly 900 miles off course for repairs, through open seas that could turn against them at any moment, but they made it.
President Theodore Roosevelt with top hat stands with Gifford Pinchot.
THE PIONEERING ENVIRONMENTALIST
Gifford Pinchot is one of my environmental heros because of his work with President Theodore Roosevelt, establishing the National Forest Service and saving the Grand Canyon as well as other National monuments from development. To honor his memory, the United States Government established a Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Oregon.
Family members on the voyage included Pinchot’s wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot, a politically savvy woman, who made her mark as one of the founders of the League of Women Voters. They also brought along their thirteen year old son, Giff, and his friend, Stiff Stahlnecker.
The Pinchot adventure began as they sailed out of New York Harbor on March 31, 1929, less than a week after the Federal Reserve Bank warned of excessive speculation in the New York
Gifford PInchot with the San Blas Island Indians.
stock market. As the Pinchots reached the Caribbean, National City Bank pledged 25 million dollars to support the sliding stock prices.
The pledge worked and a panic was averted. But steel and automobile production were winding down. Something bad was stirring.
As the Pinchots visited Grand Cayman, Isla de Providencia and Isla de San Andre and crossed through the Panama Canal, the stock market stabilized.
Cornelia Bryce Pinchot climbing from the dinghy onto one of the Galapagos Islands.
TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Sailing south in the Pacific, what a thrill it must have been for the Pinchot expedition to visit the famed Galapagos Islands alone, without a tour group, having a free hand to examine the fascinating life at their own pace.
They were walking in the footsteps of twenty-six year old Charles Darwin, whose zoological discoveries on the Islands, ninety-four years earlier, led to his theory of evolution. Now it was Gifford Pinchot’s turn to discover and collect and theorize.
During the summer of 1929, as the stock market gained 20 points, the Pinchots left the Galapagos to cross the wide Pacific and visit the Marquesas, the Tuamotu Archipelago and Tahiti. They were collecting specimens and writing extensive field notes.
The Pinchots’ son Giff at the wheel of the “Mary Pinchot.”
Pinchot considered this journey to be partly a scientific expedition and brought with him ornithological and zoological experts, “for adventure, seasoned with science is the very best kind,” he wrote.
Along with the scientists came a photographer, Howard Cleaves, who shot many still images and motion pictures of the adventure. Later, a movie of the journey was produced and exhibited in theatres and shown in private gatherings, accompanying free talks by Cornelia Pinchot.
Gifford Pinchot tries to handle a lap dragon.
PINCHOT AUTHORS A BOOK ON THE ADVENTURE
Gifford Pinchot wrote a fascinating adventure book of the expedition, titled: “TO THE SOUTH SEAS.”
When I first read it I knew it would make a great audiobook, not only because it was a great adventure, but also because of Pinchot’s entertaining style of writing. It was a pleasure to read and a pleasure to record. “TO THE SOUTH SEAS” by Gifford Pinchot is the 17th audiobook I have produced for our Listen 2 Read American Adventure Library.
THE STOCK MARKET CRASH OF OCTOBER 1929
The Pinchot adventure ended in Tahiti on October 15, 1929. The Pinchot party took a passenger ship from Tahiti back to San Francisco. On October 24th, while they were on the high seas, returning home, the stock market began to crash. It was called “Black Thursday.” In a few days, the market worsened into “Black Tuesday.” By the time the Pinchots reached San Francisco, they were less rich than when they began the adventures.
The world had changed during their South Seas summer and the American economy had collapsed. When they attempted to sell their ship, “The Mary Pinchot,” it took a very long time to find a buyer. Sadly, they sold her for less than half of what they paid for her.
The Mary Pinchot under full sail.
Still, the Pinchot expedition was highly successful. It had discovered new lizard, fish, and mollusk species. Their discoveries, collections and field notes contributed greatly to the science of zoology and ornithology. And, of course, they had memories to last a lifetime.
See pictures of the Pinchot expedition and hear free samples of our audiobook at: http://listen2read.com/to-the-south-seas/
You can join the Pinchots on their grand adventure by purchasing a digital download or an Mp3CD of our audiobook, “TO THE SOUTH SEAS.”
© 2018 Listen2Read.com
Over the years, I have voiced many commercials and TV shows based on Clement Moore’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas.”
Last year, I recorded the original poem and I offer it to you with
Best Wishes for the Holiday Season!
Dear Member of the Listen To Read Audiobook community:
Here is a little free Halloween gift for you.
Just for fun, I recorded “The Terrible Old Man,” a classic, short gothic horror story,
written by the very disturbed H.P. Lovecraft in 1921.
It’s about ten spooky minutes long. Here’s the YouTube link:
Happy Halloween from all of us at Listen2read Audiobooks
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Captain Joshua Slocum, world famous adventurer and author.
On the chilly Sunday morning of the 14th of November,1909, a 65-year-old experienced sailor and world famous author, Joshua Slocum, began his last journey.
On that morning, in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Joshua Slocum cast off the dock lines of his 37 foot wooden sloop, “Spray,” as he had hundreds of times. As usual, he was alone on board.
The “Spray” headed out to sea on a long voyage.
Alone, out at sea, the wind caught his sails and Slocum set his course South, leaving New England, passing New York, the Jersey shore, and then past the Eastern Atlantic States, until he was seen off the coast of Miami Florida, or, at least some people thought they saw him. His destination was the Orinoco, Rio Negro and Amazon Rivers, where he had sailed before.
And that is the last time anyone saw or thought they saw Captain Joshua Slocum. He and the “Spray” totally disappeared and were never seen again. In his wake, Slocum left us some gifts: books he wrote about his strange and fascinating voyages. They include “The Voyage of the Liberdade,” which I have recorded and published as a Listen 2 Read audiobook:
Joshua Slocum aboard the “Spray”.
and his second and most famous book, “Sailing Alone Around The World,” recounting the true adventure of being the first man to successfully circumnavigate the world by himself, without a crew of any kind.
It took awhile for people to realize that Slocum had not been heard of for a long, long time. Finally, seven months after he sailed out of Martha’s Vineyard, in July 1910, his wife, Hettie Slocum, told the newspapers she believed her husband was lost at sea. He was declared legally dead in 1924.
Slocum and the “Spray” on the Erie Canal during the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901.
Over the years, people have speculated about what could have happened to Slocum. A well-known authority claimed to have once examined the “Spray” and stated that it could dangerously capsize if it heeled past a shallow angle, making Slocum just lucky that the “Spray” had not capsized earlier.
Really? Slocum sailed the “Spray” over 40,000 miles around the world, in every kind of weather. His survival had to be the result of skill, not luck.
Hettie Slocum, Slocum’s second wife and first cousin, prefered to stay on dry land.
Someone claimed Slocum disappeared to provide insurance money for his wife. But Hettie, his second wife, had to wait 14 years after he disappeared before he was declared legally dead. After her adventure with her husband on the high seas, told in “The Voyage of the Liberdade,” Hettie remained on dry land for the rest of her life.
“Spray” in port next to huge cargo ships.
The most considered opinion was that Slocum piloted his “Spray” down the eastern coast of America, and that somewhere south of Key West, in the night, perhaps in the Bermuda Triangle, his small boat was hit, capsized and destroyed by a large commercial steamship that probably didn’t even know it hit him.
If that is true, it is a strange twist of fate, since the advent of steam power seemed to be Slocum’s enemy. Slocum had an incredible knowledge of traditional wind powered sailing ships; he totally supervised the building of a commercial cargo ship from scratch.
The “Northern Light,” the largest ship Joshua Slocum Captained. He was also part owner.
Slocum had commanded large sailing ships, the so-called, tall ships. In fact, he had commanded and partly owned the largest sailing ship of its time, “The Northern Light”. He was considered an expert at Captaining tall ships, using only the wind for power. And he could handle the tough crews too, as evidenced in “The Voyage of the Liberdade,” when he single handedly stopped a mutiny.
The “Aquidneck,” the last commercial ship Slocum owned and Captained.
This was the uninsured ship wrecked on the beach in Brazil leading to “The Voyage of the Liberdade.”
Unfortunately for Slocum, the advent of steam lessened the importance of those skills. It was much easier to maneuver a steam-powered ship than one powered by the wind, as he did spectacularly when he delivered an old worn out battleship to the Brazilian Army in “The Voyage of the Destroyer,” (included in my recording of the “The Voyage of the Liberdade”). And steam ship crews were smaller, needing less supervision.
Sadly for Slocum, after the destruction of a ship under his ownership and command in Brazil, which led to the adventure of “The Voyage of the Liberdade,” ship owners considered Slocum a risky choice for Captain.
Captain Joshua Slocum prepares for an adventure.
Like so many people today, the very gifted Slocum became a man with a skill set no longer needed. Perhaps that is why he tried to reinvent himself by circumnavigating the world, writing and lecturing about it.
Nobody really knows how Slocum died, but if he was killed at sea in a crash with a giant steamer, as many suggest, it was as if new technology not only changed his life, but also took his life away.
Oh, and there was one more thing: with all his experience at sea, Joshua Slocum never learned to swim.
You can see pictures of Captain Joshua Slocum and listen to a sample of “The Voyage of the Liberdade” audiobook at:
Download or purchase “The Voyage of the Liberdade” audiobook, here on my website or from your favorite audiobook retailer.
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© 2017 Listen2read.com
Just when you thought sharks were the only animals to avoid while in the ocean, it seems some angry whales are in attack mode.
Whale Attack in Queensland
A giant Humpback Whale attacked a 30-foot fishing boat below the water line last week in Queensland, Australia. The pressure from the whale threw the charter boat, “The Mistress,” into the air.
“Within a split second, we all hit the floor, the boat launched up into the air and dislodged everyone off their feet,” Captain Oliver Gales told the local newspaper, the Telegraph. One passenger was knocked unconscious and three others were injured.
Afterward, the whale just swam by.
“We see whales all the time, but it’s never known for this sort of thing to happen,” Gales said.
Whale Attack in Alaska
Orca Killer Whale
A few weeks ago in Sitka, Alaska, an Orca Whale attacked a 33 foot boat on a weekend excursion. While the boat was anchored near Little Biorka Island, the Orca rammed the boat, yanked its anchor line and whacked the boat with its tail. Boat owner Victor Littlefield screamed at the whale, hoping to scare it off.
It didn’t help that the night before Littlefield had seen the movie “Jaws.”
The First Whale Attack
Angry whales attacking ships was unheard of before 1820. We humans thought we had the upper hand. It seemed it was perfectly acceptable for humans to attack whales, but unimagineable for whales to attack us.
Whale attacks the Whale Ship Essex in 1820, depicted in a drawing at the time.
That idea changed a little after 8 o’clock in the morning of November 20, 1820, in the Pacific Ocean at the equator, almost 1500 miles from land. The 89 foot whale ship, Essex, was attacked by an 85 foot sperm whale.
The angry whale bashed in one side of the wooden ship below the water line, swam under the ship and bashed in the other side. The ship rapidly took on water and eventually sank, leaving the crew huddled in a few small boats. Most of that crew perished at sea, trying to reach land, as water and food supplies dwindled.
Cover of Listen To Read audiobook “Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex,” available as a digital download or an Mp3 CD.
We know the story of the Essex because one of the survivors, Owen Chase, First Mate, wrote down the story and had his book printed privately the next year.
You can hear Chase’s first person description of the incredible attack and fight for survival on our audiobook, “Narrative of the Most Extraordinary And Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex.”
The “Moby Dick” Connection
Twenty years later, in 1841, Owen Chase’s son served on a whale ship, which crossed paths with another whale ship in the Pacific Ocean, almost exactly where the Essex met her doom.
On board the other whale ship was a sailor and future novelist, Herman Melville. As the two crews socialized, Chase’s son let Melville read his father’s account of the doomed Essex, which gave Melville the idea for what would become his famous novel, “Moby Dick,” the story of an angry whale.
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PS: You can easily download the audiobook of “Narrative of the Most Extraordinary
And Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex” here:
PPS: You can see pictures and hear a free preview of our Listen2Read audiobook here:
Bears Ears National Monument, re-examined for being too large.
Ancient Native American treasures found in Bears Ears National Monument
Donald Trump’s re-examination of Bears Ears Monument in Utah, covered by the Antiquities Act, reminded me why the Antiquities Act had been created in the first place in 1903.
THE HOMESTEAD ACT
Before there was an Antiquities Act, there was a Federal Homestead Act of 1862, where the Federal Government encouraged people to settle in the newly acquired U.S. lands in the West. Aimed primarily at farmers, offering 160 acres free if developed within five years, it was a benefit people took seriously. And it was a mind set:
Bridalveil Falls Yosemite Valley California
the government wanted the newly opened western lands used and exploited for a developing economy.
Exploitation was taking place everywhere, including the Yosemite Valley in California, considered a uniquely beautiful treasure. Because of the Homestead Act, Yosemite was being cut up by homesteaders, railroads, mining and sheep herding interests.
THE YOSEMITE GRANT
There was no existing law to preserve Yosemite from exploitation. Something needed to be done. In 1864, two years after the Homestead Act, the Yosemite Grant was created, which removed Yosemite from development and gave it to the State of California as a State Park.
Yosemite Valley in Winter
The Yosemite Grant was signed in 1864 by President Abraham Lincoln and introduced a new and very controversial concept: the ability of the Federal Government to acquire State land without payment by the Federal Government. Once the concept was accepted, it was also used as a legal precedent in 1872 to establish Yellowstone National Park, nationalizing lands that were once controlled by Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
THE CAMPING TRIP THAT MADE HISTORY
In May 1903, a Southern Pacific Railroad train from San Francisco arrived at the little town of Raymond, California, formerly known as Wildcat Station. On board the train was the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, with thirty Cavalry escorts and one lone naturalist, John Muir.
Camp in Yosemite with Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir.
Departing the steam train, the President and Muir with others of his party were placed in stage coaches to ride another exhausting 65 miles to the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite. There, a camp was established and the exhausted President retired for the evening with instructions not to be disturbed. Roosevelt slept on 40 blankets, piled up for a bed. There was still snow on the ground.
During their three-day trip, Roosevelt and Muir avoided the busy Wawona Hotel, built in 1876, to avoid the crowds and keep in the spirit of nature. Roosevelt wanted what he called a “roughing trip.” Many people knew the President was visiting Yosemite and wanted to see him. Keeping him away from crowds was part of the duties of Charlie Leadig, the local guide.
Roosevelt and Muir on horseback, with Yosemite Half Dome in the background.
The next morning at 6:30 AM, Roosevelt, Muir and a small party began traveling the Lightning Trail on horseback. In the Bridalveil Meadows, they plowed through five feet of snow. It was still snowing when they arrived for the evening at what is today Glacier Point Camp.
That night, a crackling campfire provided warmth from the snowy chill as Roosevelt and Muir talked and talked. It was an animated, excited conversation, where both men seemed to want to talk at the same time, according to a witness.
Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir at Glacier Point, Yosemite.
Muir and Roosevelt discussed the idea of preserving important forests in other parts of the United States. Out of this exchange came the idea that Yosemite should be a National Park instead of a State Park. It snowed 5 inches that night and the next morning the ground was frozen. But an idea was born, and shortly after, Yosemite was removed from the jurisdiction of California and became a National Park. The change stirred Roosevelt’s thinking.
THE NATIONAL ANTIQUITIES ACT
Three years later in 1906, Congress passed, and President Roosevelt signed, the National Antiquities act, which said, in part:
“That the President of the United States is hereby authorized, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
The Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Interestingly, the Act does not give the President the power to reduce or eliminate anything that has been established by the Act or enacted to by previous Presidents. The President can only act on the powers granted him by established law.
After signing the Antiquities act, Roosevelt moved quickly to protect 18 other national treasures he felt were threatened, including: Grand Canyon, Arizona; Devils Tower, Wyoming; Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico; Tonto Cliff Dwellings, Arizona; Pinnacles, California and also Mesa Verde in Colorado.
OPPOSITION TO CONSERVATION
Mesa Verde in Colorado.
Not everyone was thrilled with protecting the land. In those days, the natural resources of the United States were available for the taking. Lumber interests saw their endless supply of trees potentially limited. Mining interests railed against having to ask permission to take minerals out of the ground. The West was founded on a free range of open grazing. Now, the Federal government was reaching into sovereign States and claiming large sections of land, which had previously been considered exploitable by the citizens of the state.
As I wrote in a previous blog, there are forces that would destroy the natural views of the Grand Canyon by building a hotel and cable car in plain sight. In Theodore Roosevelt Park in the Dakota Badlands, oil-drilling rigs can be currently viewed from every angle.
Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.
Today, commercial forces keep pushing against preservation and President Trump seems to be opening up a conversation that many fear will reduce public lands. I hope everyone is misinterpreting his investigation, because I have visited many of our National Parks and Monuments and they are a national treasure, part of what makes me proud of our country.
Placing important lands under Federal Control is what keeps Native American cliff dwellings and petroglyphs from being shooting targets. It’s what keeps the beautiful redwoods from being turned into decks and siding, fantastic natural rock formations from being dynamited for minerals. I believe that National lands give all Americans a pride of ownership.
JOHN MUIR’S DOG STORY
Around that campfire in 1903, John Muir also told President Roosevelt about a theory he had on how Yosemite had been created. He believed the mountains had been carved by ancient glaciers long gone. In 1879, Muir had traveled to Glacier Bay in Alaska to walk on the glaciers and learn about them at first hand.
Out of his adventure came a short story Muir wrote, about a feisty small dog who wouldn’t go away and kept following Muir into very dangerous places.
The story is called “Stickeen” and it one of our most popular audiobooks, and, also our least expensive audiobook. You can hear a preview of Stickeen’s story here:
and you can inexpensively download it from Audible here:
My thanks to the Sierra Club for including our Listen To Read audiobook “Stickeen” to their list of audio visual materials, in connection with their John Muir exhibit: http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit
Here was the dilemma:
Which of these two stunningly beautiful, one of a kind, world class, historically priceless, irreplaceable, works of nature should the US government totally sacrifice, obliterate and destroy, so no future generations would ever see it?
Choose one: A or B?
“A” is the stunningly beautiful Steamboat Rock in the Echo Park district of the Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado.
“B” is the stunningly beautiful Glen Canyon in the Vermillion Cliffs of southeastern and southcentral Utah and northcentral Arizona.
John Wesley Powell and a Native American. Powell was the first white man to travel down the complete length of the Colorado River.
Both of these were discovered by John Wesley Powell and described in his book “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons.”
The problem was this: after Powell’s death defying journey down the unknown Colorado river in 1869, the mighty Colorado river became vitally important to all residents of the Southwest United States as the major source of life sustaining water.
Hoover Dam from down river.
The US government has harnessed the power of the Colorado by creating Hoover Dam, where the Colorado River water is blocked from its natural flow and backs up into a huge reservoir, named Lake Mead, near Las Vegas, Nevada.
From this point, the water flow is controlled as it continues downstream, sustaining communities throughout the Southwest.
The tamed Colorado River sends water to cities from Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles, California. As a byproduct, as the water passes through Hoover Dam, it powers giant generators, creating electrical power.
The US government guaranteed the delivery of water to the various stakeholders. However, the Government overestimated the amount of future water available. So, unfortunately, the Government promised more than it could deliver.
Government bureaucrats theorized that if one lake could successfully store Colorado River water, two lakes could store even more water.
Rafting deep in the silent canyons of Echo Park.
The question was: where to locate the second lake.
Naturally, with all the empty lands in the West, the Government chose the most beautiful, irreplaceable Steamboat Rock, in the Echo Park district of the Dinosaur National Monument in Northwest Colorado.
The choice shocked conservationists, environmentalists and all interested in our National Parks.
Hiking on the floor of Glen Canyon.
To save the Colorado River at Steamboat Rock from being dammed and flooding over the stunning Echo Park area, conservationists had to find another choice…and they did, far, far down river, in the middle of the vast desert. The stunning Glen Canyon was their choice. Some say it was sacrificed.
“Glen Canyon died, and I was partly responsible for its needless death,” Sierra Club president, David R. Brower wrote in Sierra Magazine in 1997.
“But as surely as we made a mistake years ago, we can reverse it now. We can drain Lake Powell and let the Colorado River run through the dam that created it…”
Lake Powell, the giant reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam, was named for John Wesley Powell, the Colorado River explorer. (See pictures of Powell’s Exploration and hear his narrative :
The surface of Lake Powell. The beautiful Glen Canyon is below the water.
When I last visited the lake, the view was deceptive. I felt as if I were in a vast hot desert, in the middle of which was this out of place, huge expanse of water with docks, houseboats and tourist facilities.
I had to stare at the lake for a moment to fully comprehend that all that water, stretching out endlessly, was actually covering and drowning one of America’s most beautiful canyons, buried far below the surface by tons of water.
Two years ago, I wrote about how the drought had lowered the water levels of both Lake Mead and Lake Powell. As I flew over Lake Mead, I could look down and see the rings, like bathtub rings, circling the lake, showing where the water once was and is no longer. It is reported that Lake Mead water is now so low, it is beneath the water intake for the City of Las Vegas. Lake Mead could use a lot more water, but with the drought, nature is not providing it.
Circular rock shapes in the Antelope Canyon portion of Glen Canyon.
That needed water just might be in Lake Powell, covering Glen Canyon. Environmentalists have proposed that Lake Mead be filled with Lake Powell water. If Glen Canyon were drained, it would once more be visible. Visitors could once again appreciate the amazing natural rock and land formations, which are now covered with water.
Under one plan, the great Dam spanning Glen Canyon would remain in place. The huge Dam’s diversion tunnels would send 200,000 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Lake Mead, removing those “bathtub rings.”
Is it possible to do this without creating harm? I really hope so, because America is such a beautiful country, I’d hate to think that our most spectacular and beautiful places could remain destroyed by mistake.
Rings on the Glen Canyon walls, becoming visible as the water level goes down because of the drought.
If you haven’t read Powell’s wonderful book, “The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons,” you can listen to our audiobook of his historic narrative, embellished by many of the sounds of a river adventure. You can download it directly into your phone from Audible.com:
If you would like to give someone a gift of our audiobook, or donate it to a school library, it is available in CD and Mp3CD formats, in stereo, right here on our website.
© 2017 Listen2Read.com
Sinking British passenger ship Lusitania, torpedoed without warning in 1915 by a German U-Boat, off the Irish coast. Great Britain was at war with Germany, but the United states was neutral. One hundred and twenty-eight Americans were killed. America was outraged.
World War I German transmitting station.
One hundred years ago, in 1917, a secret coded radio transmission from a German transmitter was intercepted by British Intelligence. Great Britain was already at war with Germany. Despite the loss of American lives on the Lusitania, United States President Woodrow Wilson was struggling to keep America out of World War I.
World War I German submarine.
German submarines were attacking unarmed merchant ships crossing the Atlantic to prevent food and war materials from reaching England.
Urgent German message in secret code.
The coded radio transmission, one of many, passed into Room 40 of the Admiralty Old Building in London.
Two years before this telegram was intercepted, a copy of the top secret German Handelsschiffsverkehrsbuch had been retrieved from the safe of a German destroyer and had found a welcome home in Room 40.
It was the handbook of the German secret code.
United States President Woodrow Wilson.
President Woodrow Wilson struggled to keep the United State neutral in the war, to “keep an even Spirit.” Entering a war with Germany would be a dangerous undertaking when Germany had not directly threatened the United States.
When British Cryptographers decoded the German radio transmission, they were stunned by its content.
The message was so completely self-serving to British interests in involving the United States into their war, they were almost afraid to show it to the United States Ambassador, James W. Gerard.
They were also reluctant to reveal it because it would signal to the Germans that the British had unlocked their codes.
The content of this message was breathtaking; it was sent from German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman to Erich von Eckardt, German Ambassador to Mexico.
Here’s what it said:
German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmerman.
“We (Germany) intend to begin on the first of February unrestricted submarine warfare…we shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States neutral.
In the event of this not succeeding, we make Mexico a proposal of alliance on the following basis:
Make war together – make peace together –
generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
The settlement detail is left to you. You will inform the President (of Mexico) of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain….
Please call the President’s (of Mexico) attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.”
This was an explosive revelation of the true German attitude toward the United States. Yet, despite reading the Zimmerman telegram, Wilson declared, “We are the sincere friends of the German people and earnestly desire to remain at peace with them…”
In Light Green: US States Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, Mexico’s proposed reward for supporting Germany in World War One.
Then, in March 1917, several United States merchant ships were sunk by Germany and former President Theodore Roosevelt said to a friend: ”If he (Wilson) does not go to war, I shall skin him alive.”
Reluctantly, Wilson delivered a War Message to Congress on April 2, 1917 and a declaration of war was passed by Congress and signed by Wilson on April 6, 1917. The United State was now fully committed to war with Germany and was going, as songwriter Irving Berlin wrote in his famous song, “Over There.”
President of Mexico Venustiano Carranza.
Germany probably hoped to take advantage of the revolution in Mexico, knowing that the United States relationship with Mexico was rocky at best. However, the US did recognize Venustiano Carranza as the legitimate President of Mexico.
A Mexican military commission appointed by Carranza studied the German proposal and eventually rejected the offer. Mexico/United States relations continued to be strained during this time. Mexico remained totally neutral during World War I, even allowing German companies to operate businesses within Mexico.
Long before the official United States Declaration of War on Germany, individual Americans had already been involved in World War I, “Over there.”
British wounded at Bernafay Wood, July 1916.
England needed extra soldiers for its army and Americans, some believing in the cause and some just seeking adventure, volunteered.
The French, just beginning to develop their air force, especially needed educated men to become pilots and fly air sorties over the German line on the Western Front.
James Norman Hall in 1917.
One of the Americans, who volunteered to join the new French Lafayette Escadrille Flying School was James Norman Hall. Hall was 29 years old at the time and looking for adventure. Later in life, he would become the co-author of the world famous book “Mutiny On The Bounty,” as well as other South Seas adventures.
James Norman Hall and his World War I bi-plane.
James Norman Hall learned to fly primitive bi-planes and engage in the original form of air dogfights and battles. He wrote about his unique and hair raising experiences in his book “High Adventure,” which I have published as a Listen To Read audiobook, with actor Andre Devin portraying Hall. As you might imagine, it was quite an experience!
“High Adventure” is part of our American Adventure Library Series, available at Audible.com, I-Tunes, Scribed, Tunein, Barnes and Noble, Downpour, and Amazon.com. If you’d like to download it, here is a link to our page at Audible.com:
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