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Lawrie M, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

If You Find Yourself Stranded on a New Zealand Island, Look for One of These

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Lawrie M, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

If Chuck Noland had found one of these little depots, the movie Cast Away (2000) would have been much less interesting.

From the late 19th century through the mid-20th century, shipwrecks were almost commonplace in the southern oceans near New Zealand. Despite dangerous waters and unpredictable weather, more and more traders were using the Great Circle shipping route between Australia and South Africa. The seas were violent, the water was cold, and the coastline was rocky—anyone who found themselves dumped unceremoniously into the ocean faced an almost certain death sentence.

One of the last straws was when a ship called the General Grant wrecked near New Zealand in 1866, killing nearly 70 people, including children. There were just 15 survivors, and five of them died on the desert island where they'd found shelter before rescuers arrived 17 months later.

In an attempt to stop similar tragedies, toward the end of the 19th century the New Zealand government installed depots on islands that shipwreck survivors were likely to come across, including the Auckland Islands, Campbell Island, the Snares Islands, and the Antipodes Islands. Some of the tiny sheds were just big enough to hold supplies, from food and water to wool "survivor suits" meant to provide warmth to drenched sailors. But others, like the one on Antipodes Island (pictured), were large enough for survivors to actually live in.

Sadly, it wasn't entirely uncommon for looters to stop by the islands to pick up a stash of free food and clothes, but woe to the unscrupulous sailors who did so—each shed was accompanied by a curse that read, "The curse of the widow and fatherless light upon the man that breaks open this box, whilst he has a ship at his back."

The supplies weren't limited to non-perishables stacked in a shed; the government actually released livestock to roam free on several islands, giving shipwreck survivors a source of fresh meat. For about 60 years, the depots were maintained by government steamer ships, which replenished supplies, released new livestock, cut firewood to leave in the huts, and checked for survivors. Plenty of castaways benefited from the depots, including 22 members of the Anjou, who survived for months after their shipwreck in 1905.

The steamers stopped maintaining the depots sometime in the late 1920s, after radio technology had advanced and that particular trade route fell out of popularity. Though they're no longer replenished, many of the castaway depots still stand today, including the one on Antipodes Island. (One of the oldest, built in 1880, is on Enderby Island.) Should you find yourself stranded in the area, shelter will be covered—but like Chuck, you'll still want to bring your volleyball for company.

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Courtesy of Freeman's
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History
For Sale: More Than 150 Items of Victorian Mourning Art, Clothing, and Jewelry
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Courtesy of Freeman's

Funeral fashion hasn't always been reserved for memorial services, judging from a massive memento mori auction that's being billed as perhaps the largest collection of mourning art ever offered for sale. Spotted by Atlas Obscura and sponsored by Philadelphia-based Freeman’s auction house, the online sale—which kicks off on Wednesday, November 15—features more than 150 works from a renowned private collection, ranging from clothing and jewelry to artworks.

During the Victorian era, people paid tribute to their loved ones by wearing black mourning garb and symbolic accessories. (The latter often featured jet or real locks of hair, according to a 2008 article published in the academic journal Omega.) They also commissioned death-themed artworks and objects, including paintings, as exhibited by Angus Trumble's 2007 book Love & Death: Art in the Age of Queen Victoria.

These items have long since fallen out of fashion, but some historic preservationists amassed their own macabre private collections. Anita Schorsch, who’s arguably the most famous collector of memento mori, used her historic treasures to launch the Museum of Mourning Art back in 1990. Located in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, the museum is—as its name suggests—the only institution in the nation devoted exclusively to mourning art. The museum has been closed since Schorsch's death in 2015, and the items featured in Freeman's auction are from her collection.

Check out some of its memento mori below, or view the online catalogue here.

Hairwork choker, 19th century-mori, from the Collection of Irvin and Anita Schorsch
Hairwork choker, 19th century-mori, from the Collection of Irvin and Anita Schorsch
Courtesy OF Freeman's


Hairwork shroud pin, 19th century, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

Gold, enamel and pearl "Stuart crystal" mourning slide, made in late 17th century England and part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Gold, enamel and pearl "Stuart crystal" mourning slide, made in late 17th century England and part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

Group of 19th century ladies and gentleman's mourning costumes, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Group of 19th century ladies and gentleman's mourning costumes, from the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's


18th century iron and brass cemetery padlock from London, England, part of the Collection of Irvin & Anita Schorsch
Courtesy of Freeman's

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
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History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

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