crusoe's island

Lt. Canaris Returns from Spain

Wilhelm Canaris (1887-1945), pictured in the late 1920′s.  He would later head German Military Intelligence (Abwehr) under the Nazis, until arrested and executed for his role in the July 20 plot against Hitler.

October 1 1916, Cartagena–The German East Asia Squadron, once based out of Tsingtao, had long since been scattered and sunk.  The bulk of it had been lost at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, with only a few survivors captured by the British.  The Königsberg had been scuttled in the Rufiji Delta, with its guns and sailors now aiding Lettow-Vorbeck’s campaign in the southern third of German East Africa.  The last survivor, the Dresden, was scuttled on Robinson Crusoe Island and its crew interned by the Chilean government in March 1915.  One of her officers, Lt. Wilhelm Canaris, a fluent Spanish-speaker, was able to escape from internment in August, making his way over the Andes to Argentina by boat and horse.  The German embassy in Buenos Aires was able to get him a fake Chilean passport and passage to Rotterdam, and was able to make it back to Germany by October despite an unexpected stop in Plymouth.

This escapade captured the attention of German naval intelligence, who recruited him for service in Spain.  He helped to organize supply of German U-boats in the Western Mediterranean, and reported on Allied shipping targets.   He attempted to return to Germany via Switzerland in February 1916, but was prevented from doing so by Italian police and was forced to return to Spain (his escape aided by the fact that Italy and Germany were not officially at war at the time).  

The submarine campaign in the Mediterranean was immensely successful; on October 1, the Kaiser congratulated his submariners for sinking over a million tons of shipping there.  However, by this time, Canaris’ usefulness in Spain was growing limited, as the British had become aware of Canaris’ role.  On the night of October 1, Canaris and another intelligence agent left the port of Cartagena in a sailing vessel, then transferred to U-35 (whose cruise in July and August had singlehandedly accounted for 9% of the German haul of Allied shipping in the Mediterranean).

Today in 1915: Advance Allied Parties Land at Salonika Amid Greek Confusion
Today in 1914: German Ground Assault on Antwerp Begins

Juan Fernández Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis)

…a critically endangered species of hummingbird (Trochillidae) which is endemic to the Robinson Crusoe Island, part of a three-island archipelago which belongs to Chile. Juan Fernández Firecrowns typically inhabit forests, thickets and gardens and like most hummingbirds feed primarily on nectar, preferring the flowers of Dendroseris litoralis and Rhaphithamnus venustus. However, thy are also known to take insects and other arthropods as well.  Like the closely related green-backed firecrown (S. sephanoides) Juan Fernández Firecrowns are known to hang from flower petals or leaves by its feet while feeding. 

Currently Sephanoides fernandensis is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN as its population has been in a general decline for years. This is thought to be due to habitat destruction, the destruction of native flora, the invasion of species like Rubus ulmifolius and Aristotelia chilensis and the introduction of predators like cats. 


Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Trochiliformes-Trochilidae-Sephanoides-S. fernandensis

Image: Héctor Gutiérrez Guzmán

Inside the Spaceflight of ‘The Martian’

by Michael Greshko, Inside Science

Andy Weir is a cruel god, and his work has just hit the big screen.

In The Martian, his technically brilliant novel, Weir strands an astronaut named Mark Watney alone on Mars—and then proceeds to pummel him with survival tests. How is he going to eat? How will he keep warm, amid average temperatures that hover around -55 degrees Celsius (-67 degrees Fahrenheit)? Even Mars’ recently discovered briny flows would come to bear. “If I were writing [the book] again,” said Weir, “they’d be a hazard…That’d be cool.”

While the book and film adaptation—which premiered last week—get compared to Robinson Crusoe and Apollo 13 on the grounds of surviving hostile conditions, another component often gets downplayed: the rescue. Crusoe gets off his island with the help of a British ship captain nearly deposed in a mutiny. Apollo 13 safely touches down on Earth because of the heroic joint efforts of the astronauts on board and mission control. And as the film’s posters point out, it’s one thing to see Watney (played in the movie by Matt Damon) survive. It’s quite another to BRING HIM HOME.

But how do the characters in The Martian escape the god of war—and Weir? Find out below.

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