Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day

A 1921 expedition left Ada Blackjack (center) stranded for two years in the Arctic.

Ada Blackjack

Ada Blackjack was an unlikely hero – an unskilled 23-year-old Inuit woman with no knowledge of the world outside Nome, Alaska. Divorced, impoverished, and despondent, she had one focus in her life – to care for her sickly young son. In September 1921, in search of money and a husband, she signed on as seamstress for a top-secret expedition into the unknown Arctic.

It was controversial explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson who sent four young men and Ada Blackjack into the far North to desolate, uninhabited Wrangel Island. Only two of the men had set foot in the Arctic before. They took with them six months’ worth of supplies on Stefansson’s theory that this would be enough to sustain them for a year while they lived off the land itself. But as winter set in, they were struck by hardship and tragedy. As months went by and they began to starve, they were forced to ration their few remaining provisions. When three of the men made a desperate attempt to seek help, Ada was left to care for the fourth, who was too sick to travel.

Ada Blackjack Johnson was born in Solomon, Alaska. Early in her life Blackjack relocated to Nome, Alaska. She married and gave birth to three children but only one survived past infancy. The death of her husband by drowning left her destitute, and she temporarily placed her son in an orphanage. Soon after, in 1921, she joined an expedition across the Chukchi Sea to Russia’s Wrangel Island led by Canadian Allan Crawford but financed, planned and encouraged by Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

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Photo of the Day

Steve Callahan was 30 and sailing the Atlantic alone when his 21ft sloop was hit by a whale and sank in a storm.

Adrift on a raft in the Atlantic for 76 days

‘I got scared by the thought I’d be dead in a few hours; I found a way to fix the raft and it felt like the biggest victory of my life’

On the night of January 29, 1982, Steven Callahan set sail alone in his small sailboat from the Canary Islands bound for the Caribbean. On February 5, the ship sank in a storm, leaving Callahan adrift in the Atlantic in a five-and-a-half-foot inflatable rubber raft. Naked except for a t-shirt, with only three pounds of food, a few pieces of gear and eight pints of water, Callahan drifted for 76 days, and over 1,800 miles of ocean, before he reached land and rescue in the Bahamas.

Steven Callahan was a  young man from Maine with adventure in his heart. He realized his dream and sailed his own design 21 foot sailboat across the Atlantic from Newport to Bermuda, then on to England. His return from England would be with a race called the Mini-Transat and would complete a circumnavigation of the treacherous Atlantic by returning him to Antigua in the West Indies. At least, that was the plan. Little did he know how bad his plans would turn on the trip back west.

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Photo of the Day

Machine Gun Molly

“If Al Capone had had a daughter, he would have wanted her to be Monique Proietti.”

– La Petit Journal

One day in 1967, a petite housewife-turned-bank-robber was shot by police in a Montreal street, a bullet entering her chest just above her frilly push-up bra. Machine Gun Molly, Montreal’s most famous female gangster, was dead.

Monica Proietti, was a notorious Quebec bank robber, was only 27 when she planned her last big score. Wanting to retire to Florida with her children, Proietti set out on September 19, 1967, with two accomplices to rob a Montreal credit union. But the $3,082 score set off a high-speed police chase, which ended for Proietti when she was shot through the heart.

Monica Proietti was the mother of two children and old twenty seven years old when she died. This young mother was killed in a gun battle with the law.

I know that sounds like a story from the Wild West but this took place in Montreal in 1967. Monica came from a poor Montreal family, many of whom were involved in crime in some way; her grandmother served time in jail for receiving stolen goods, and reportedly ran a school for crime for the neighbourhood children.

Monica was known as Machine Gun Molly and was a known criminal – with a curious background. She was also known as “Machine Gun Molly”, “Mrs. Anthony Smith”, “Molly the Gun”, “Molly the Machine Gun”, “Monica the Gun”, “Monique Smith” and “Monique Tessier”.

She’d been married when she was only seventeen, probably hoping to escape from he impoverished family life. She was one of eight children and most of her family were involved in crime – even her grandmother had been in jail.

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Photo of the Day

Theodore Kaczynski lived an austere life — no running water, no indoor plumbing — in this 10-by-12-foot cabin in rural Montana for 20 years. This photo was taken shortly after Kaczynski was arrested. (Courtesy Federal Bureau of Investigation)

The Unabomber

For 17  years, an elusive criminal sent homemade bombs targeting universities, airlines and computer stores, killing three people and injuring 23 others. The FBI branded him “Unabomber” — shorthand for his early targets: universities and airlines..

How do you catch a twisted genius who aspires to be the perfect, anonymous killer—who builds untraceable bombs and delivers them to random targets, who leaves false clues to throw off authorities, who lives like a recluse in the mountains of Montana and tells no one of his secret crimes?

That was the challenge facing the FBI and its investigative partners, who spent nearly two decades hunting down this ultimate lone wolf bomber.

The man that the world would eventually know as Theodore Kaczynski came to the FBI’s  attention in 1978 with the explosion of his first, primitive homemade bomb at a Chicago university. The Unabomber eluded the FBI for 17 years, despite an investigation spanning eight states and involving 500 agents, he mailed or hand delivered a series of increasingly sophisticated bombs that killed three Americans and injured 24 more. Along the way, he sowed fear and panic, even threatening to blow up airliners in flight.

In 1979, an FBI-led task force that included the ATF and U.S. Postal Inspection Service was formed to investigate the “UNABOM” case, code-named for the UNiversity and Airline BOMbing targets involved. The task force would grow to more than 150 full-time investigators, analysts, and others. In search of clues, the team made every possible forensic examination of recovered bomb components and studied the lives of victims in minute detail. These efforts proved of little use in identifying the bomber, who took pains to leave no forensic evidence, building his bombs essentially from “scrap” materials available almost anywhere. And the victims, investigators later learned, were chosen randomly from library research.

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Photo of the Day

HMT Lancastria, a cross Atlantic cruise liner requisitioned as a troop transport April 1940.

The Lancastria Bombed and Sunk, Thousands Dead

Two weeks after Dunkirk, HM Troopship Lancastria – a former Cunard liner and cruise-ship that had been requisitioned by the War Office – was taking part in Operation Ariel, the evacuation of British nationals and troops from France during World War Two. Yet for 75 years, the sinking of the Lancastria has been largely forgotten – to the ongoing anger and grief of relatives of those who lost their lives and a dwindling number of survivors.

On the morning of 17th June 1940 HMT “Lancastria was anchored some miles off St Nazaire, a port on the French Atlantic Coast. Along with a number of other ships, she had been ordered to assist in the repatriation of many British servicemen and civilians who had been left in France after the evacuation of Dunkirk. By mid-afternoon of that day almost 9000 people were packed aboard the ship when she was hit four times by enemy bombs. Within thirty minutes she had sunk, suffering a loss of life equal to the combined losses of the “Lusitania” (1200) and the “Titanic” (1513).

The news of her loss was not made public in Britain until 26th July, 1940.

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Photo of the Day

Dr. Walter Freeman (left) and Dr. James W. Watts studying an x-ray before performing a lobotomy. In the 1940s Dr. Walter Freeman gained fame for perfecting the lobotomy, then hailed as a miracle cure for the severely mentally ill. But within a few years, lobotomy was labelled one of the most barbaric mistakes of modern medicine.

Lobotomy — The Ice Pick Cure

Do you take yourself too seriously? Are you in major need of a sense of humour? A lobotomy may help lighten you up so you can enjoy life, instead of spending the rest of your days as an angry troll!

Would an ice pick driven through the eggshell thin bone above your eye into your brain cure your ‘maladies’, your ‘melancholy’, your ‘madness’? During the middle decades of the 20th century transorbital lobotomy, or ‘ice pick’ lobotomy, a radically invasive form of brain surgery, was used extensively for patients with psychiatric illnesses. It was a rapidly executed procedure, taking perhaps a few tens of minutes in total, requiring no more than a local anaesthetic, conducted for the purposes of ‘psychosurgery’.

Cruising around the country in his “Lobotomobile,” Dr. Walter Freeman coined the visited mental institutions all over the United States performing prefrontal lobotomy and transorbital, aka “icepick,” surgeries on the mentally ill.

The first documented case of psychosurgery was in 1888 by Swiss psychiatrist Gottlieb Burckhardt. He claimed success in 50% of patients (3 of 6) Burckhardt was met with overt criticism from his contemporary medical colleagues. The next attempt at this type of surgery did not occur until the mid 1930s which produced many documented success stories and soon became an accepted surgery procedure in many countries. From the late 1930s to the 1970s approximately 100,000 psychosurgeries / lobotomies were performed world-wide.

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Photo of the Day

Sgt. Kenneth Decker (from left), Cpl. Margaret Hastings and Lt. John McCollom were the only three survivors of the Gremlin Special crash. They are pictured above at the U.S. Army station in Hollandia, New Guinea, shortly after their rescue. B.B. McCollom.

The Gremlin Special

The Gremlin Special was a Douglas C-47 Skytrain that crashed during a sightseeing flight for U.S. service members over the Baliem Valley (‘Shangri-La Valley’) in New Guinea in 1945.

There was a terrible accident in a harsh landscape, three survivors, a hidden world with a Stone Age existence, and a heroic rescue mission. They soon ended up amidst a cutting edge culture still untouched by the outside world. The locals were known man-eaters, however fortunately for the crash survivors, they chiefly ate their adversary tribe.

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four officers, enlisted men, and women stationed on what was then Dutch New Guinea boarded a transport plane named the Gremlin Special for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La,” a beautiful and mysterious valley surrounded by steep, jagged mountain peaks deep within the island’s uncharted jungle.
But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed. Miraculously, three passengers survived – WAC Corporal Margaret Hastings, Lieutenant John McCollom, and Sergeant Kenneth Decker.

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Photo of the Day

Carry Nation with her hatchet in 1910. This hatchet-wielding crusader is remembered for her attacks on liquor establishments in Kansas and other states during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Lady with the Hatchet

Her name was Carry A. Nation, and instead of changing laws, she went after the offending beverage of the day — liquor — with a hatchet

I felt invincible. My strength was that of a giant. God was certainly standing by me. I smashed five saloons with rocks before I ever took a hatchet

-Carry A. Nation

A self-proclaimed “bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like,” Nation terrorized the nation’s saloon keepers through vandalism for more than a decade.

Nothing could stop her, not divorce, horse whippings, or more than 30 arrests. She was pelted with rotten eggs, chased by lynch mobs, beaten by prostitutes, and vilified by preachers, politicians and the press. She didn’t care. She was on a mission from God.

During Prohibition, the manufacture, transportation, import, export, and sale of alcoholic beverages were restricted or illegal. Prohibition was supposed to lower crime and corruption, reduce social problems, lower taxes needed to support prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. Instead, Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; organized crime blossomed; courts and prisons systems became overloaded; and endemic corruption of police and public officials occurred.

During the early 1900s there was a social trend building in the public arena toward prohibition of alcohol that manifested itself in the form of a temperance movement. A prominent agitator in the women’s temperance movement was a lady by the name of Carry Nation. Carry believed that she was ordained by God to promote temperance by entering illegal saloons that were flagrantly operating in defiance of the law and destroying their bars and stock.

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The diary of Tanya Savicheva, a girl of 11, her notes about starvation and deaths of her sister, then grandmother, then brother, then uncle, then another uncle, then mother. The last three notes say “Savichevs died”, “Everyone died” and “Only Tanya is left.” She died of progressive dystrophy shortly after the siege. Her diary was shown at the Nuremberg trials.

The Siege of Leningrad

When Germans encircled Leningrad they planned to quickly freeze and starve the city. They had no idea the devastation and horror that the people of Leningrad would be willing to endure without ever giving in. The siege is one of the longest in history and one of the deadliest as well.

Leningrad, the old imperial capital, was the most beautiful city in Russia and had for centuries been her cultural heartland. Founded as Czar Peter the Great’s window on the West, it had known many agonies throughout its turbulent history, but in 1941 geography and pragmatic military strategy would see Leningrad engulfed in a tragedy unparalleled in modern history.

With most of Europe already under the heel of Nazi Germany, Hitler turned his attention eastward toward the vast expanse of the Soviet Union and on the morning of June 22, 1941, launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. Spearheaded by three Army groups, German forces stormed across the Russian frontier and completely overwhelmed the Red Army units in their path. With clinical precision, the world’s largest army was being systematically annihilated and, after just 18 days of fighting, the Russians had lost over three million men, 6,000 tanks, and most of their aircraft.

Germany and her allies attempted to strangle the life out of the historic Soviet city of Leningrad – the heart of the Russian Revolution

It would be no exaggeration to say that the family of every native citizen of St. Petersburg was touched by the blockade, which lasted almost 900 days, from September, 1941 to January, 1944. During that time nearly a third of the population at the siege’s beginning, starved to death. Roughly one in three. Many of them in the streets.

Few people outside realised what the siege was like. For years afterwards Stalin kept people in the dark. Deaths were underestimated. Its party leaders were purged. For decades, details of the blockade have been little known in the West. Stalin suppressed the facts of the siege and twisted its history.

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Photo of the Day

Stumps of trees cut at the Alder Creek site by members of the Donner Party, photograph taken in 1866. The height of the stumps indicates the depth of snow

Surviving the Donner Party

The nineteenth-century survivors of the infamous Donner Party told cautionary tales of starvation and cannibalism, greed and self-sacrifice.

In 1846 a group of people had a dream of starting a new life in California—so they headed west in wagons. Along the way, they decided to take a shortcut across the Great Salt Lake Desert. That “shortcut” was a terrible idea! It slowed them way down, so that when they got to the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, they got stuck in snow storms. They had to spend the whole winter in the mountains, and many starved or froze to death.

Over a century and a half after it happened, the story of the Donner Party remains one of the most riveting tragedies in U.S. history. Partly that’s because of its lurid elements: almost half the party died, and many of their bodies were defiled in an orgy of cannibalism. Partly, too, it’s because of the human drama of noble self-sacrifice and base murder juxtaposed. The Donner Party began as just another nameless pioneer trek to California, but it came to symbolize the Great American Dream gone awry.

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