Did you know that the very first cranberry recipe printed in an American cookbook was way back in 1796? Just in time for Thanksgiving, I had a food feature on the role of cranberries–one of only three cultivated fruits native to the United States–in the Cape Cod Times. Check it out here!
I recently put on my Social Historian Hat for an interview with The Rialto Report, an amazing collection of oral histories about “the golden age of adult film.” Producer Ashley West and I chatted about my book, The Forbidden Apple: A Century of Sex and Sin in New York City; Marty Hodas, the man who brought peepshows to Times Square in the 1960s; and the sexual culture of New York City in those exciting years. In addition to me, the podcast features Hodas’ first audio interview since the 1970s and comments from Anthony Bianco, author of Ghosts of 42nd Street: A History of America’s Most Infamous Block.
Says Ashley, “[Hodas'] remarkable story is one of sex films, obscenity busts, police harassment, mob heat, Times Square, and millions of dollars. In quarters. Lots and lots of quarters.”
Check it out here!
My latest story, “250-Year-Old Eyewitness Accounts of Icier Arctic Attest to Loss of Sea Ice,” has just been posted on Scientific American‘s website. This marks my debut for the nation’s most prestigious science magazine!
My story looks at ARCdoc, the research project based at the University of Sunderland, that data-mined old ships’ logbooks for weather information. The books came from the Royal Navy, Hudson’s Bay Company, and commercial whaling voyages, and all focused on Baffin Bay and Davis Strait in the North Atlantic. The team proved what many climatologists had theorized: that the region was significantly stormier and colder prior to anthropogenic climate change, and sea ice extended much further across open water.
Scientists can now look at ARCdoc’s reconstruction of this polar region before human-influenced warming, and draw conclusion about the current and future state of the Arctic.
I’ve followed ARCdoc’s progress for more than two years–since I came across an article in the Sunderland Echo that described the use of my third-great uncle William Scoresby’s whaling logbooks to create a sea ice dictionary. The story, and the project, spurred me to frame my biography of this unfairly forgotten explorer within his contributions to modern climate science.
I’m so proud to have my story about ARCdoc’s results, and Scoresby’s role in them, appear in Scientific American. It’s one step toward my goal of restoring Scoresby’s reputation as a polar pioneer.
The University of East Anglia—where I spent a semester abroad in 1996—is launching a project to predict how the Arctic will cope with global warming by constructing a sea ice chamber and using state-of-the-art computer models.
The €2M ($2.74 million) research initiative will reproduce the chemical exchanges between the ocean, sea ice, snow and the atmosphere in polar regions.
Funding for the five-year project, finalized earlier this month, comes from the European Research Council (ERC).
“The Arctic Ocean is a vast expanse of sea ice. Most of it is covered with snow for about half of the year, but climate change has caused temperatures to rise more than anywhere else in the world over the last few decades. 2012 saw record lows of snow and sea ice. Global environmental change of this nature is one of the greatest challenges facing society,” noted lead researcher Roland von Glasow, from UEA’s Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the School of Environmental Sciences.
“We will focus on the links between melting sea ice and snow, and the changing chemistry of the troposphere—the lowest 10km (6.2 miles) of atmosphere. This is important because the troposphere is home to concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosol particles which play key roles for our climate.”
The University will use the funding to build a unique sea ice chamber, two meters (6 feet) square, in a specially designed cold room. The cube will simulate chemical exchanges that are taking place in the Arctic. Scientists will analyze the resulting data to estimate how climate change will affect the Arctic, in both short- and long-term scenarios.
I’m halfway through Kenneth McGoogan’s excellent biography of John Rae, “Fatal Passage: The Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot.” I love a good story about a forgotten scientific explorer, and McGoogan’s energetic and dramatic book has so far made a strong case for remembering Rae as a polar pioneer—not as the guy who called the men of the Franklin Expedition cannibals.
The reason “time forgot” Rae is due to his honesty. By 1854, the British Admiralty had sent a dozen search missions to the Canadian Arctic in search of the missing Franklin Expedition, which had disappeared from the face of the earth in 1845. The ship-based search parties were hampered by frozen seas and ice-clogged straits; even most sledging parties could not explore far from the ship due to their heavy loads of food and camping gear.
Rae, on the other hand, had mastered the art and science of living off the land, as chilly, treeless and inhospitable as it was. A crack shot, indefatigable snowshoer, master mariner on unpredictable northern rivers, and an open-minded leader, Rae learned these skills from the native Cree, Ojibwa and Inuit bands.
Unlike the British naval men, Rae, as a white man, didn’t assume he was superior to the natives of the tundra. That attitude was likely the difference between his many successful Arctic expeditions for the HBC, and the often grim experiences of the Admiralty’s voyages of discovery.
While Rae hiked 6,555 miles on snowshoes, hunting fresh game along the way, the naval men suffered the agonies of poor nutrition and scurvy. Even expeditions under Edward Parry and James Clark Ross, two Arctic experts, were touched by scurvy to some degree.
Despite his impeccable knowledge of the north, Rae misjudged one thing: the Victorian appetite for the realities of the Arctic. After he spoke with Inuit families who had seen the final stages of the Franklin Expedition, Rae dutifully informed the Admiralty that Franklin’s men had eaten their dead comrades.
Forensic evidence later confirmed Rae’s report, but at the time, no one—especially not Lady Jane Franklin—could accept the truth. Rae was shunned. He spent the rest of his life trying to repair his reputation. McGoogan restores this unfairly maligned Arctic adventurer’s record of achievements.