Friday, September 28, 2007

The 1931 Nautilus Expedition to the North Pole

The 1931 Nautilus Expedition to the North Pole. In 1931, Sir George Hubert Wilkins and crew boarded a decommissioned United States navy submarine in an attempt to reach the North Pole. They failed. This online exhibit from the American Philosophical Society is about Sir Hubert Wilkins' 1931 polar expedition.

This site was created by J.J. Ahern. It includes sections on Hubert Wilkins, the Expedition, the Nautilus, the crew of the Nautilus, and the North Pole.

From the site:

From the first efforts to locate the Northwest Passage in the 17th century to the flowering of arctic studies in the mid-20th century, European and American explorers and scientists have made repeated efforts to reach the North Pole. Traveling by ship and dogsled, Admiral Robert E. Peary, USN, became the first to reach the Pole on April 6, 1909, after which other explorers outdid one another in efforts to reach the top of the world. Most famously, on May 9, 1926, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, USN, became the first to fly over the North Pole.

In 1931, Australian explorer Sir George Hubert Wilkins and a volunteer crew of submariners and scientists set out in a decommissioned U.S. Navy submarine to sail under water from Spitsbergen to the Bering Straits by way of the North Pole. Before departing on his expedition, which he estimated would take 42 days, Wilkins published a promotional book, Under the North Pole, both to raise funds and as a record of the expedition's goals in case no one should return. In his book, Wilkins states that he was undertaking this expedition not only because it had never been done, but as a means of opening "a new field of Arctic research that needs explaining"(page v). The mission was championed as a scientific expedition, featuring valuable experiments in oceanography, the sampling of the Arctic seabed, taking gravity measurements, biological investigations, and magnetic and spectrographic observations.

Wilkins provided much of the financial support for the expedition from his own pocket, supplementing the total by raising funds from private individuals. He received scientific support from such institutions as the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Norwegian Geophysical Institute, the American Geographical Society, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, however even this impressive list of supporters did not prevent people from seeing the trip as nothing more then a publicity stunt, even some in the crew. This perception was probably the result of Wilkins's contract with Hearst Enterprises, Inc., to provide exclusive daily news reports for the New York American. In many eyes, the failure of the expedition to complete most of their scientific experiments only confirmed the perception.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Auschwitz Through the Lens of the SS

Auschwitz Through the Lens of the SS. Talk about chilling. Did you know that the Auschwitz Death Camp was a place of fun and joy? Well, for a few people anyway. This website has photographs of Nazi leadership at the camp provided by the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

A review of the site notes, "In 1944, a German SS officer named Karl Höcker was stationed at Auschwitz as an adjutant to the camp's commandant. During the time he was there, the Nazi official kept a scrapbook. But this isn't like any Auschwitz documentation you've seen before. In these images, Höcker and other camp leadership and staff relax at a wooded retreat, hold sing-alongs, and smoke cigars. Josef Mengele, the camp's monstrous doctor, smiles and socializes. SS auxiliary women lounge on deck chairs, snack on berries, and get caught in a rain storm. Höcker lights a Christmas tree. "

It did not take long after Christmas 1944 for the Nazis to get their rightful defeat at the hand of the Allies. What a horrid scrapbook. I guess even those engaged in obvious criminality can still socialize, charm, and have a good time? Such is the banality of evil.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

History Links Relating to Myanmar (Burma)

The country formerly known as Burma (Myanmar) is at the top of the news right now. The monks protesting the military dictatorship there coupled with President Bush's speech before the United Nations have focused world attention on this nation.

This may have caught people's interest in finding out more about the history of Myanmar. Here are a few suggestions for looking on the Web:


History of Myanmar - From Wikipedia.

Political and Economic History of Myanmar (Burma) - by Thayer Watkins at San Jose State University.

History of Burma (Myanmar) - Brief overview history of the country.


Burma Rebuilding Risks Pagan Jewel - From the BBC, Burma's development of Pagan for mass tourism risks ruining one of Asia's most important sites.

An "Extraordinary Folly"? - An article in Archaeology by Donald M. Stadtner detailing new evidence suggesting Asia's greatest brick monument was not abandoned unfinished.


Mental Culture in Burmese Crisis Politics - Online book dealing with Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.

Aung San - Burmese hero who fought for independence from British colony - Article by Aung San Suu Kyi about her father.

Aung San of Burma - Includes speeches, photo gallery, time-line, links and quotations of Aung San.

Monday, September 24, 2007

FREE full-text Berkshire encyclopedias

I do not usually like to give free plugs to commercial vendors of history products. However, I appreciate that Berkshire is giving a free preview of many of their new products including Global Perspectives on the United States and the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History.

Two questions. How long will this free trial last? And, is cut and pasting possible from the e-text? One of the benefits of electronic sources is that quoting from a document is easy. However, when publishers lock a .pdf file down so that transferring text is hard without downloading a program from a Warez site, it defeats one of the major points of online access. Being able to copy text should be obvious for end users. If it is hard, not obvious, or not possible, I would recommend that the librarian not purchase the resource. I may appreciate having online access to these resources but I am going to be seriously annoyed if I have to print out and then re-type text to quote and cite when I am writing.

From an e-mail forwarded to me by a librarian on campus:

Our quiet launch of FREE full-text searchable versions of a number of our recent bestselling title last week is already being picked up by bloggers, and I thought I should rush a note to friends and colleagues who have been following Berkshire’s story. These editions are available through innovative European company, Exact Editions, and we are offering them completely free for a limited trial period, no login required. This is a new step for a book publisher and we are doing it to show our library customers the richness of Berkshire’s small, high-quality list of reference publications on global topics. Here’s where to go:

Peter Suber at Open Access News writes: “I don't normally blog promotional offers of temporary free access. But this is the first time I've seen that strategy used for books, as opposed to journals, and . . . I'd like to see more book publishers try this, in part to help authors and readers, even briefly, and in part to test the waters of OA publishing.”

Berkshire publications are recommended for academic, school, and public libraries, and we’re eager to expand our range of contacts in all these types of library as we have a thrilling range of 2008 publications focusing on China and sustainability—key topics for the future!

Please take a look, and we’d be most grateful if you would forward this e-mail to other reference librarians who might not be on our small (and very select!) mailing list.

Warm regards on a beautiful New England autumn day, Karen.

Karen CHRISTENSEN 沈凯伦 c.e.o., Berkshire Publishing Group 伯克夏出版集团 ( +1 413 528 0206 Skype: karen_christensen 8 Blog: