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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Monday, June 04, 2012

The Jar on Gardner Island

My father's last job was as a chauffeur for the National Geographic Society headquarters, in Washington, D.C.

The only famous person that I can remember my mother mentioning as having been one of his passengers was Amelia Earhart. He must have driven her and various National Geographic dignitaries to places when she was in town talking up the epic flight in a small plane that she was about to undertake, around the world. This was in 1937.

But somewhere over the vastness of the South Pacific all contact was lost with Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan,and they were never heard from again. Nor was any trace of the plane found, save for a piece of a landing gear that is thought to have been part of their aircraft. And the effort to find much more wasn't helped when the South Pacific became the main scene of the battles between the Japanese and the Allies in the ensuing World War 2. And I keep seeming to remember, vaguely, that during the War and afterward, suspicions of several kinds were leveled at the Japanese, when it came to the continuing search for anything that remained of her.

Now, 75 years after she dropped out of sight, a small jar that could have contained an ointment that Earhart may have used to fade the freckles that she disliked has been found on a small atoll in the island nation of Kiribati. The atoll is now known as "Nikumaroro," but in those days it was called "Gardner Island," and the finding of this jar and other factors are causing some to believe that Earhart may have lived on that tiny island for at least a short while as a castaway, before, not having access to present-day shows on the Discovery channel like "Survivor;" and so not knowing what to do when getting stranded in such a place, she expired slowly from hunger, thirst, and exasperation.

As it happened, "Gardner" was also my father's last name. He left this life in 1938, a year after Earhart disappeared.

The little ointment jar is broken into several pieces, and they are clear glass, when all other such jars known to still exist are an opaque white. Some think it could be that, because most of the pieces were found at the site of a campfire, the heat might have altered the chemical content of the glass so as to change it from being white to clear, though I find that questionable. One genre of stained glass consists of firing it like pottery in portable kilns at high temperatures, but the color changes don't seem to be too great and, as far as I know, the heat is never enough to render anything transparent that was formerly opaque.

As it happens, at the present moment I'm neck deep in a huge assortment of stained glass pieces of all colors, shapes, sizes, textures, and degrees of light transmission. That's the main reason why I haven't been putting much on this weblog lately, though state, national, and world happenings haven't been anything to write home about either. So why not meditate on things like the last, lost days of Ms Earhart, and as a castaway on an island in the South Pacific no less.

Actually, in the last several years I've been reading up considerably on how people, suddenly deposited into the most extreme geographic conditions, including jaunts across the Pacific in open boats with hardly anything in the way of something to eat, drink, or to take shelter against the elements, and how they fought to stay alive, and I like to think that I now possess at least the beginnings of the rudiments of how to do just that.

Obviously, the very first thing to do is to never venture more than a few yards from your home sweet home -- a principle that I've come to follow so closely that by now it could be almost pathological.


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