Another WWII Fun Fact For Today

A 1947 study found that during the Second World War, only about 15 to 25 percent of the American infantry ever fired their rifles in combat.

Rongo Rongo: The Mystery Script of Easter Island

Easter Island was first visited by Spanish explorers in the 1770s. There they encountered the indigenous Easter Islanders, or the Rapa Nui. They had been living on Easter Island since at least the 1200s CE, and possibly since the 300s CE.

Sometime between 1650 CE and 1860 CE, the Rapa Nui developed a type of picture writing called “rongo rongo” or “to recite.” There is great debate about whether they independently invented writing. Or whether the Spanish gave them the idea of symbols to represent sounds. Unfortunately, by the 1860s the Rapa Nui had forgotten how to read the script. Today it remains undeciphered.

Ancient Bornean Skull Has A New Surprise

"Deep Skull" was found in 1958 on Borneo, and since then it has remained the earliest known remnant of a modern human in island Southeast Asia. It is about 37,000 years old. It had been thought that the skull was related to indigenous Australians. This would support the idea that Borneo was settled in two waves, first by the ancestors of indigenous Australians, then by immigrants from Asia who became the ancestors of Borneo's modern indigenous people. A new analysis suggests that Deep Skull is more Asian than Australian. That supports the idea that Borneo was in fact settled by one major migration, not two.

The First Woman To Travel Around The World

Jeanne Baret is the first known woman to have circumnavigated the globe. She was a member of Louis Antoine de Bougainville's expedition on the ships La Boudeuse and Étoile from 1766 to 1769. And most of that time, she was disguised as a man! "Jean Baret" enlisted as valet and assistant to the expedition's naturalist, Philibert Commerçon, and was an expert botanist herself.

She had been Commerçon's housekeeper -- and probably lover -- for years already, and he was in poor health. He hesitated to accept the position as naturalist for the around-the-world voyage because of his health. Commerçon was allowed one servant on the Bougainville, paid for by at royal expense, but women were strictly forbidden on French naval vessels. Somehow the idea of disguising Baret as a man was introduced. She showed up just before the ship left, pretending to be a stranger to Commerçon. While Baret's surviving documents carefully absolve Commerçon of the plot, it is inconcievable that he had not known (at minimum) and had helped her plan.

Sometime during the voyage, likely in the south-eastern Pacific islands, Baret's gender was discovered. Accounts differ as to how exactly that happened. When the voyagers, short of food, stopped at Mauritius in the Indian Ocean Commerçon was delighted to find that an old naturalist friend, Pierre Poivre, was the governor. At the time Mauritius was an important trading post. So Commerçon and Baret were left behind as Poivre's guests. Bougainville encouraged them to stay. He was probably glad to not have a living, breathing breach of the law on one of his ships anymore.

Commerçon made a series of plant-collecting expeditions from Mauritius, to Madegascar and Bourbon Island. Baret, who was still working as his housekeeper and nurse, likely accompanied him on these trips. Unfortunately Commerçon died in Mauritius. He left little money, and no social supports, as Poivre had been recalled to Paris. Baret was left there without a way to get back. She seems to have found work running a tavern, for a time, before marrying one Jean Dubernat in May of 1774. He was a non-commissioned officer in the French army who was likely stopping over in Mauritius on his way back to France.

The couple made their way back to France, completing Jeannne Baret's circumnavigation of the globe. Sadly there are poor records, and we do not know which ship took them back or what day, exactly, Baret arrived in France. But at some point, likely in 1775, Baret became the first woman to circle the globe. For her feat she was eventually awarded a pension of 200 livres a year by the Ministry of Marine.

The Immortal Harriet

Charles Darwin brought back a tortoise from the Galapagos Islands. She was five years old, and he named her Harriet. Harriet long outlived Darwin, and passed through a number of owners -- the last being Steve Irwin. Harriet died in 2006 at the ripe old age of 176.

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    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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