lewis & clark: last interesting items


I’ve finally finished my volume of excerpts from the Lewis and Clark expeditions. Here are my last highlights.

Buffalo horns and goat heads:

“We save all the buffaloe horns we can find to take to the States as they would make excelent kife and fork handles.”

“nothing to eat this evening but the head of a goat or antelope which the party had droped on the road.” (The party is another group from the expedition.)

The expedition had many run-ins with grizzly bears. One involved Lewis being chased by a bear and running into a river to escape. He expected the bear to follow, but it unaccountably ran off. Another story features a man named McNeal, who returned to camp after a solo trip into the woods:

“… returned with this musquet broken off at the breech.” Turns out he had approached within 10 feet of a grizzly bear without seeing it. Upon spotting it, his horse reared and threw the rider, and he landed next to the bear. “… this animal raised himself on his hinder feet for battle,” whereupon the man clubbed the bear over the head with his musket, breaking the gun, and stunning the bear enough to allow him to climb a tree, where he waited for hours for the bear to go away.

Indian fireworks:

“the indians entertained us with setting the fir trees on fire … creates a very suddon and immence blaze from bottom to top … they are a beautiful object in this situation at night. this exhibition reminded me of a display of fireworks.

Whenever the entries to turned to medical treatment, it was often like an unintentional recurring joke in a sketch comedy. While ministering to a sick indian chief, Lewis wished he had an electric current to apply to the patient’s body.

“I am confident that this would be an excellent subject for electricity and much regret that I have it not in my power to supply it.”

The expedition did an amazing job of recording the geography of their travels, drawing maps, describing plant life and wildlife, and writing about the names, customs and languages of various tribes. It was very much a scientific expedition. No less surprising is that these records and many artifacts were brought back intact through all kinds of inclement weather and river travel. Much of the time was spent in canoes they built themselves along the way.

The physical hardships endured were considerable. Many times Lewis or Clark would describe having to sleep in rain-soaked conditions. They talked of mosquitos so thick that breathing in would result in a mouthful of them. There was frostbite, sickness, accidental falls, cuts, and one case in which Lewis was accidentally shot in the leg by one of the men. More than once they mentioned someone had pulled a shoulder out of joint, and they had to yank it back into place. They hauled boats up and around rapids and falls, and each winter they built a walled fort with individual huts.

In hindsight, we can view this trip as part of the end of traditional native American life. The tribes had already been greatly reduced by smallpox bought by Europeans. Coming soon would be waves of settlers pushing them off their land, swindling them, and killing them. The natives were no innocents, they warred on each other and often treated women as slaves; but there’s no excuse for the atrocities that were about to be visited on them.

You can’t help but think of what was to come when reading the journals.


climate change risk/reward from a banking expert


Brett King, author of Bank 3.0 and Breaking Banks gives a risk/reward analysis of the cost of dealing with climate change in this article on medium.com, “Why Denying Climate Change Makes No Logical Sense Today.” Worth a read. 

I think the larger case for responding to climate change is even greater than the one that he makes. Most responses to global warming involve moving to more efficient, economical use of energy. We would increase energy efficiency of buildings and machines. We would switch to renewables like solar and wind, and maybe to nuclear power generation. Some might argue against nuclear, but I think it could be a sensible transition measure given the tradeoffs.

What do these get us in the long run? Quite a bit. On the increasingly small chance that virtually every climate scientist in the world is wrong, look what we’ve accomplished if we still move to reduce carbon emissions. We’re not pumping so much coal effluent and auto emissions into the air, and these are a known hazard to human health and wildlife. We’re not going to be scrambling for diminishing fossil fuel reserves and despoiling landscape and destroying wildlife in the process. These are not outcomes we ought to fear or avoid.


keep it in the ground – paddle in seattle


The Port of Seattle decided — with almost no notice so it would slip by the public — to allow the Polar Pioneer drilling rig to dock in Seattle. It’s bound for the Arctic for deep water oil drilling. That’s one reason I’m not pleased – the port trying to bypass public debate.

Another is that Shell wants to drill in an Arctic region inhabited by polar bears, whales, walruses, hundreds of species of seabirds, and more. It was only five years ago that BP was determined grossly negligent for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. That rig exploded, killing 11 workers and spewing crud into the ocean for five months. Why should we believe Shell will do better? Another Shell rig, the Kulluk, ran aground off the coast of Alaska in 2012. The U.S. Coast Guard said this was due to the company’s “inadequate assessment and management of risks.”

The third and most compelling reason is the overwhelming evidence of global warming due to greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere. The climatic changes will drastically affect food and water resources in an overpopulated world, flood coastal areas, cause increasingly violent storms and temperature extremes, etc. One of the best things we can do is leave fossil fuels in the ground. Renewable solar and wind energy is approaching the price of coal and gas. Spend money pursuing that instead of a potentially disastrous project like Arctic drilling.

The Paddle in Seattle event and its flotilla of kayaks was designed to express the feelings that I outline above, among other things. Native Americans played a large role in activities. I took a few photos. More pictures and some film here from local TV.

polar_pioneer kayak3 kayak1

love is strange


I read that some people hate the strings that were added to this version, but I like it. Sounds like a mellotron playing those strings, and I suppose it could be, given that this was released long after Buddy’s death. Anyway, to me those added sounds make it seem like Buddy is singing to us from some weird heaven or alternate universe.

lewis and clark: floating buffalo


My last post for now on interesting segments from the journals of Lewis and Clark. There is still much more to read so I may post more at a later date.

The group would never have made it to the coast and back without help from native Americans all along the way. Lewis talks about one group of natives that did not trust the traveling white men. He said,

“I told [the Indian chief] that I was sorry to find that they put so little confidence in us, that I knew they were not acquainted with whitemen and therefore could forgive them, that among whitemen it was considered disgracefull to lye or entrap an enimy by falsehood.”
August 15, 1805. Meriwether Lewis

I assume Lewis was being forthright in what he believed, but today this is cringe-worthy, thinking about all the broken treaties and promises to come from the white men.

Clark describes an Indian method of capturing buffalo during the spring thaw.

But few Indians visit us to day they are watching to catch the floating buffalow which brake through the ice in crossing, those people are fond of those animals … and catch great numbers every spring.
March 28, 1805. William Clark

Lewis also makes interesting comments about the treatment of women among the natives in the Pacific Northwest.

“…notwithstanding the survile manner in which they treat their women they pay much more rispect to their judgement and oppinions in many rispects than most indian nations; their women are permitted to speak freely before them, and sometimes appear to command with a tone of authority…”
January 6, 1806. Meriwether Lewis