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  • That Was Genius Team

Episode 11 - Welcome to the Antarctic Party Boat (People Called Richard Week)

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Sam's Episode Notes: Richard Francis Burton – the ultimate lad. Honourable mentions this week go to the SS Richard Montgomery – a WW2 supply ship that ran aground in the Thames estuary in August 1944. It was loaded with explosives and whilst some were removed, it was considered too dangerous to salvage it all – so 1400 tonnes is still on board. There's a whole section of the Thames estuary that's been blocked off since WW2, and you can still see the three masts of the ship poking out above the waterline at low tide. Also shout out to American footballer Dick Butkus. Richard Frances Burton was a British victorian explorer, translator and Polymath. Born in Devon in 1829, but his family moved around Europe a lot, leading Burton to become skilled in many languages and dialects, even learning Roma gypsy after having an affair with a travelling woman. He was quite the womaniser, sleeping his way around most of Europe and kicking off a lifelong interest in sex and a lifelong disinterest in what other people thought about him. There's a great quote from him, "Do what thy manhood bids thee do, from none but self expect applause". So basically, follow your willy. He is the definition of a cad. He entered Oxford university in 1840, and in his first term, challenged another student to a duel after criticising his moustache. He spent his time learning falconry, fencing, Arabic and other languages, but was expelled in 1842 for attending a steeplechase horse race in protest at university rules banning students from attending horse racing. After dropping out, he joined the army of the British East India company, saying in his own words that he wasn't worth more than sixpence a day for being shot at. He gained a ferocious reputation for brawling, duelling and close quarters combat, being nicknamed Ruffian Dick by the other officers, but he also totally immersed himself in Indian culture, learning several local languages and studying with local teachers.

He also kept a menagerie of tame monkeys in the hope of learning their language. So he was also a little bit mad. The other British officers accused him of 'going native', to which he gave not one fuck. He became fascinated by Muslim culture and in 1851 got permission to temporarily leave the army and go to Mecca on behalf of the Royal Geographic Society. Now non-Muslims are not allowed into Mecca, at the time it was on pain of death, so Burton disguised himself as a Muslim, even getting himself circumcised so as not to attract suspicion. Bear in mind, no anaestethic or antiseptic at the time. He took several disguises with him and travelled under several pseudonyms, such as “Mirza Abdullah the Bushri”. In 1854 he travelled to Ethiopia disguised as a Muslim merchant in order to explore Somalia and beyond and enter more towns where Europeans were banned, before joining up with a Luitenant John Speke, who would become his long-time travel buddy, and a Luitenant Martin Stroyan, in order to explore the Somali heartlands. Unfortunately their party was attacked by Somali tribesmen, Stroyan was killed, and Speke was seriously wounded and captured though he later escaped. Burton was wounded by a spear which passed straight through his cheek and out the other side, and was forced to run away with it still lodged in his head. A couple of years passed and in 1856 he left on another expedition with Speke, this time to explore the great African lakes and Zanzibar, with the secret aim of finding the source of the Nile. It went really badly. The two had most of their equipment stolen, and by the time they got to Lake Tanganyika in February 1858, Burton had to describe it to Speke, because he'd gone temporarily blind due to a tropical disease and deaf in one ear due to a burrowing beetle. Burton himself then got ill and had to leave Speke to it, after which Speke discovered Lake Victoria and claimed it as the source of the Nile. The two fell out big time over the expedition, and by the time Burton got home, Speke had beaten him to it and was already claiming he'd discovered the source of the Nile and that Burton had nothing to do with it. That was the end of Burton's official exploring days, though he ran some personal expeditions, and he ended up as a diplomat working all over the world, including as ambassador to Syria, and generally making no friends with the locals and causing trouble. But it certainly wasn't the end of his works, because he turned to books. Quite often, dirty books. Because Richard Francis Burton, Tom, loved sex. He was fascinated by how it was dealt with in different cultures, and, well, let's just say he liked to experience local customs first hand. He drew hundreds of doodles of mens dangly bits from different cultures, measuring them and noting them in intimate detail in his writings. There's also rumours that he once went undercover in an all-male bombay brothel at the request of the East India company, but that's probably a made up story – something Burton was quite keen on doing. He liked to shock people, often with complete nonsense. He co-founded The Kama Shastra society in around 1882 as essentially the dirty book club of London, to get around laws banning obscene books at the time, and as part of the club he's credited with being the first to co-translate the Kama Sutra into English as well as Arabian Nights, or a thousand and one nights – a very controversial book of Arabic folk stories and basically porn. Controversially, he also had a theory of the so-called Sotadic Zone – lands where Pederasty, or sexual love between teenage boys and grown men, like the Romans and Greeks did – was celebrated. This zone contained a little bit of Asia and Africa, but importantly, Tom, all of north and south America. Take that the colonies! Unfortunately much of his work was lost on his death in 1890, when his devoted but long-suffering and devoutly Catholic wife Isabel burned most of his papers. She claimed she was doing it to protect his reputation but was widely condemned for it. The pair are buried in a tomb at Mortlake in South West London shaped like a bedouin tent, which is rather lovely.

Tom's notes: Prominent Dicks

Honourable mentions

· Richie Richardson; West Indian cricketer and later umpire

· Dick Richards; American astronaut

· Dick Dickinson; American actor

· Richard Richard from Bottom

· Lots of politicians

Kill 2 birds with one stone

· Richard Richards son of Richard Richards

· Antarctic explorer

Dick Richards

· Great Aussie name

· Kinda bloke you can rely on it a scrape

o Wrestle an alligator

o Punch a kangaroo

o Kick a koala

§ 6 points to the Sydney Swans

· 4X at the MCG watching the AFL

Aussie accent

· High rising terminal / upward inflection

· I notice it’s often wobbly

o Like someone’s cupped your buttocks with cold hands

o Rolf Harris good example

o Wobbly voice!

Aussie phrases

· When you think someone’s farted; “who punched Humphrey?”

· Hard Yakka

o Australian company

o Yakka; from Aboriginal word for work

· Chuck a Uey

· You’ve got Buckleys

o No chance

o Melbourne department store ‘Buckley & Nunn’

o William Buckley; Aussie convict who escaped and lived with Aborigines for many years

Dick Richards

· 1894 to 1986

· Australian science teacher who joined Earnest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition at the age of 20

· Young at time and died at the age of 91; the last survivor of this period of Antarctic exploration

Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition

· Attempt to cross the Antarctic continent

o Weddell Sea to Ross Sea (narrowest point)

o South America side to the Australia/New Zealand side

· Weddell Sea Party consisted of 28 men, 6 of whom would attempt the 2900km journey

o Massive failure

o Endurance stuck in ice stranding the party

o Ship crushed

o Lifeboats taken to Elephant Island

o 1300km open-boat journey to South Georgia (where there was a whaling station) to find help

o Successful rescue of all men

Ross Sea Party consisted of 10 men (including Richards).

· Lay supply depots for the final 640km up to the Beardmore Glacier

· Arrived in January 1915 aboard Aurora

· Immediately set about laying depots from a base at Scott’s Cape Evans Hut (FIRST SEASON)

o Tension between Aeneas MacIntosh and Ernest Joyce as to who was in charge

§ Macintosh wanted to start quickly and overworked the dogs against the advice of Joyce

§ 10 dogs died in first season

o Aurora trapped in ice and swept away in a violent storm despite seven steel hawsers and 2 anchors

§ Had been the base of operations and contained most supplies (no spare clothes)

§ 18 men went with it

§ Eventually arrived in Port Chalmers (close to Dunedin) over a year later

§ Scott’s hut had limited but very important supplies of food and a tent that was used for clothing

§ Seals were very useful for food and oil


o Setting up a suitable location for stores and then laying depots

o More disagreement over methods and some of the dogs had become pregnant

o Eventually 9 men set off to lay the depots, 1 stayed behind

§ 3 3s

§ One threesome soon returned when their primus burner failed

§ Close to the final depot location, one man collapsed and could no longer walk

§ On the return Mackintosh was unable to pull and just staggered along

§ 10 miles from the final depot location, they were halted by a blizzard for 5 days in a tent

§ 3 men could no longer contribute and were left behind, Richards, Joyce and a chap called Hayward carried on to the depot and returned with supplies despite horrendous conditions

§ 2 of the men were rescued, 1 had died

§ 5 men reached one of their huts close to their base of operations – 198 days!

· Scurvy ridden! Snow blind

· One day the 2 sicker members of the group decided to have a go at reaching the main hut, they were never seen again

· Rescued in January 2017 (2 years)

· Dick Richards awarded the Albert Medal – now George Cross

· "To me no undertaking carried through to conclusion is for nothing. And so I don't think of our struggle as futile. It was something the human spirit accomplished."

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