Even though he had only been on the ocean once, while taking the Newfoundland ferry, Arthur Russell figured he could row across the Atlantic. He practiced for two years on his rowing machine and then set off from Halifax harbor. Six hours later, he had to signal for help and was rescued.
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Auto mechanic Frank Russell of Biggleswade, England spent two years building a submarine in his backyard. He did it, he said, so that he could find the "lost city" of Atlantis. He described the construction of the sub in an article distributed by International News Service (Dec 1949):
My job is that of a motor mechanic and these craft that I build are purely a spare time hobby. Thus I have to get on with their construction as I can afford it; a few shillings or a pound or so at a time. Believe me, this method is exasperating and heartbreaking.
Practically all the parts have been cut, filed and even some of the holes drilled with ordinary hand tools, though I did manage on several occasions to borrow an oxy-acetylene cutter and an electric drill.
I have built this craft entirely by myself except for some of the more tricky points of welding on the hull. This was done by a friend, who is a highly skilled factory welder.
This submarine has been built entirely out of second-hand steel plates and scrap from local yards. Oxygen cylinders, motors, batteries, and the like are all from government surplus sales. The only new items are the glass observation ports and some rivets and bolts.
The launch date for his sub was November 4, 1950. Unfortunately, I can't find any reports about the launch, but I'm assuming he didn't find Atlantis.
And I'm guessing he may have been pulling everyone's leg about wanting to search for Atlantis, because eight years later he was back in the news as the perpetrator of an elaborate UFO hoax involving a "do-it-yourself space ship made of wire, silver paper, clockwork and a couple of flashlights." So it seems that he was a bit of a practical joker.
It’s an election year in the UK, and politicians there are suddenly more image conscious than ever. None more so than incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who - at his wife’s suggestion - has swapped his regular Kit-Kat munching habit for a diet of bananas in an effort to slim down a bit. While it’s nice to know that the British PM’s wife is perhaps a reader this blog, she’s obviously not a regular one, or she’d have known that portly politicos are more trusted. Now if only he’d show the common touch by going on a bacon binge (Orange News).
Mind you, Mr. Brown is not the only statesman trying to avert a bleak future this week, an unnamed Arab ambassador got the shock of his life when he finally lifted his new bride’s niqab, only to find she had cross-eyes and a beard. The groom immediately went to court to have the marriage annulled, claiming he had been tricked into the marriage and that the bride’s parents had used pictures of her attractive older sister to deceive him. The court found for the groom and dissolved the marriage, but turned down his demand for $150000 compensation (Daily Mail).
But perhaps he’s been a bit quick to judge by appearances. Two Chinese men certainly were when the found a hoard of 20 clay artefacts in an old tomb they discovered in a field near their home, only to later sell the whole lot to a collector for less than $2000. Unfortunately for the pair, theirs were rare finds from the Sui-Tang Dynasty, making the collection over 1000 years old. One item alone, a pottery figurine, recently reached $150,000 at auction (Daily Times).
More fortunate was Wendy Jones of Aberglasney in Wales, who took the old plate she’d had perched on her sideboard for years – except on those odd occasions it had fallen off it - to a TV antiques show, in a plastic carrier bag, only to be told it was part of a rare, Prussian royal service worth over £100000 (Telegraph).
While a 53-year-old man was competing successfully in the swimming section of the National Senior Games in Palo Alto, California, his 61-year-old brother was back home in Madison, Indiana, at the Yacht Club. When the brother called home to his mother to tell her he had just won a 500-yard freestyle, she told him his older brother had just been swept away in the rain-swollen Ohio River and could not be located. The Madison Courier. His body was later found.
Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner includes the line "Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink!" to evoke the torment of Tantalus that was visited on the eponymous anti-hero for killing an albatross. It seems a similar punishment may have befallen two fugitives from justice after they starved to death on board the luxury yacht they stole to escape in.
Peter Clarke and Sharon Arthurs-Chegini went on the run in the last weeks of 2005 after being charged and bailed for theft and fraud. Dubbed a modern-day "Bonnie and Clyde", the pair had previously enjoyed a "champagne and cocaine lifestyle", according to Ms Chegini's step-daughter, before one of Clarke's schemes, claiming to be refurbishing a Devon hotel - to include a heliport among other extravagances - so as to serve the celebrity elite, came crashing down. Clarke and Chegini had thrown lavish parties to separate potential investors from hundreds of thousands of pounds, but were caught trying to sneak out of their hotel without settling the £1000 bill and placed under arrest. When Clarke was unable to settle the debt, he and Sharon jumped bail and stole a yacht, only to sail it a scant 25 miles round the coast of England before being caught and charged with its theft. This time when the ran, they made a better job of it, finally making their way to Portugal in May 2006, where they stole another yacht and sailed it out to sea.
They were not seen again until September of that year, when the yacht was spotted drifting off the coast of Senegal, storm-damaged and with a torn sail. On board were the badly decomposed bodies of Clarke and Chegini, along with Chegini's diary, in which she detailed how they had not eaten for weeks and had only urine mixed with sea-water to drink. In her entry for June 19th, Sharon wrote "I dream of my mum’s steak and kidney pie, steak pie and sausage and mash" (Telegraph).
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.