Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cool August Reading

When Ginny and I go to the library, which we do almost weekly, I gravitate to the horror, action/adventure, or mystery shelves. I seek favorite authors and familiar types of literature; Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Sally Spencer, and Connie Willis hook me. Books with black spines with red lettering attract my attention.

To avoid a one-track mind, in addition to “my books”, each week I try to check out a book in a subject area far afield, some book to do with a subject I have little interest in.

Yes, an intellectual diet of blood, guts, gore, and mystery, fun as these elements are, stagnate the mind.

Since August temperatures here in Jacksonville, Florida, hover around 90, give or take a few degrees, I’ve been reading about Henry Hudson’s explorations in the Artic. I’m reading Peter C. Mancall’s Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition Of Henry Hudson (N.Y. Basic Books. ©2009. 303 pages. Illustrated. Maps. Indexed).

In the space of five years, Captain Hudson voyaged to the Artic five times in three different wooden sailing ships; Hopewell, Half Moon, and Discovery.

Backed by merchants in London, and once in Holland, he sought to find a Northwest Passage, a quick route to the spice lands of the Orient. Spices could preserve food in those days without refrigeration. Spices acted as medicine and were widely regarded as the Viagra of the times. Spices made men wealthy. Contenders for the spice trade fought wars. If England could find a way to the Orient without having to sail around Africa or South America, King James would rule the world..

Yes, Henry Hudson’s last voyage was in 1611, the same year the King James Bible was first translated and published.

Ice. Whales. Ice. Walrus. Ice. Seals. Eskimos. Ice. Narwhales. Ice. Sheet ice. Ice flows. Icebergs. Glaciers.

“Fierce winds racing up to 30 miles per hour across the water made the average temperature …30 to 40 degrees below zero,” Mancall wrote.

Hudson discovered New York’s Hudson River, giving the Dutch, claim to the place, and Hudson’s Straight, and Hudson Bay—but he could find no way through the ice to the lands of spice.

Two of Hudson’s crew, Abacuk Pricket and Robert Juet, kept brief written accounts; much of Hudson’s story comes from their records.

On Hudson’s final voyage, when food began to run short, crew members rebelled.


Ringleaders forced Captain Hudson, his son, and all the sick men aboard the Discovery into an open boat called a shallop. To keep control, the mutineers told their captives it was only temporary while the crew looted food stores—They lied.

They cut the rope letting the shallop full of sick men drift off into the ice never to be seen again.

This happened in the southern reaches of Hudson Bay at a place named James Bay. Mancall reasons that the marooned sailors in the shallop may have made landfall and tried to winter there.

As to the mutineers, as they tried to find food ashore, Eskimos attacked them harpooning several. Survivors, who claimed to just be along for the ride, swore that all the insurgents had been killed. They would. They were tried for murder once they returned to England. Of the original 23 men who sailed from London, only eight returned.

What happened to Hudson and the loyal men adrift?

No one really knows.

But Mr. Mancall speculates:

They probably died one after another, succumbing to a brutal chill that never ceased to freeze their bodies. Or scurvy could have killed them if they had failed to lay in enough cockle grass to ward it off. If they fell victim to the disease, their gums would have bled, their teeth might eventually have fallen out, and any bones broken earlier could have fractured again; the men would have become dehydrated from diarrhea, sunk into depression, and eventually expired. Some might have suffered frostbite, leading to gangrene and death. If they chose to burn sea coal, which could have washed up on the shore and was a common source of heat in this era when wood was not available, they might have died of carbon monoxide poisoning, a fate that possibly befell an earlier shipload of English men sailing in search of the Northeast Passage in 1553. Animal attacks, especially by polar bears or wolves, could also have taken them.

At first, the ill or injured could have been tended by those who remained healthy. But eventually, the men still able to nurse others also would have grown so weak that they could do no more than haul the corpses of their companions into the snow. If they lacked the strength to bury the dead, they could have put off the task until the next summer's thaw. One can imagine the bodies dragged out of the hut, their clothes increasingly shredded by wind. Eventually, scavenging bears, wolves, and foxes would have gnawed off the frozen flesh, ultimately obliterating any sign of the men's existence.

Yes, it is good for me to read non-fiction, to read history, to read something instead of my standard horror fare. Keeps me cool and keeps me from getting morbid.


Yesterday I maligned Google Books in my rant.

I apologize.

Although I had to learn how to do a spreadsheet this morning, uploading those 22 books proved much easier than I expected. The botheration came in preparing my own files to meet Google Books’ strict prerequisites.

Once I uploaded my files, the Google Books site tells me that it may take their experts several weeks before my books actually show up in the Google Book Program.

There’s a reason for that.

I think it’s because the gurus at Google Books are much smarter than I am—they don’t use computers to process this stuff.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:48 AM


At 9:01 AM, Blogger sherri said...

I thought I was coming to read a book review on THE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE! Don't be messin' with my head John, not THIS week!

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Felisol said...

Dear John C,
Reality surpasses fiction any time.
I certainly have my shipload of crime gentler though,from Christie to Evanovich, but have now step by step moved into the biography world.
I call it the biography age.

Real life never stop to amaze, surprise and intrigue me.
Aren't we a magnitude of unique species?

You making wonders with Google, man, that is an achievement
I cannot even make those rascals translate a hymn from Norwegian to English.

Live well with your self written and lent books.
Everybody has read Ildefonso Falcones' The Cathdral of the Sea, but if you haven't, I'd recommend it.
A half documentary novel from Barcelona, late medieval times, and of the building of a unique church.
From Felisol

At 8:21 PM, Blogger agoodlistener said...

I just finished a novel called "You're Not You" by Michelle Wildgen, about a young woman who takes a job as a caregiver to a woman with ALS. "You're Not You" is the key idea when the caregiver has to serve as interpreter for the paralyzed woman.

BTW--I did get your little joke about the gore.


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