Retro Saturday: Land of the Giants

Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants (ABC, 1968-1970)

TV Screenshot of opening title  (Wikipedia)
TV Screenshot of opening title
(Wikipedia)

 Land of the Giants was a show with a simple theme of adapting Gulliver’s Travels to a science-fiction theme. Suppose you landed on a planet where everyone was similar but stood 72 feet taller than you? How would you survive and get back home, if ever? Irwin Allen thought it might be a good theme for a show and crafted this show on that premise. Taking place in 1983, a sub-orbital transport named Spindrift encounters a space storm and is transported to a mysterious planet of the giants. The passengers and crew are stuck on this strange world until they can find a way home.

The world the landed on was never named but similar to Earth. Technology was both familiar and different. They did not have space travel but had advanced technology like cloning, force fields, androids and small nuclear reactors. The people were human and the world similar in many respects (similar geography, animals etc) but its location was either in a parallel universe or another dimension since access was limited by a wormhole. Other sub-orbital spacecraft have crashed on this world and the series is bleak on this regard: none of them survived. So the survivors of Spindrift, which lacks the power to leave, are going to have to survive on this planet for a while. Aside from the giant scale of everything, the inhabitants are not helpful. Some are outright hostile or cruel, others are happy to use them for some purpose and betray them. An authoritarian government wants the little people rounded up since they are a threat.

Abernathy Round Tower in Scotland is 72 feet(21.94 meters) tall. This is how tall a person from Land of the Giants would be on our planet. Photo:Lis Burke(Wikimedia Commons)
Abernathy Round Tower in Scotland is 72 foot(21.94 meters) tall. This is how tall a person from Land of the Giants would be on our planet.
Photo:Lis Burke(Wikimedia Commons)

Like all shows by Irwin Allen, one has to suspend disbelief and just go with the flow. After all 72 foot tall humans would be a problem owing to the Square Cube Law conceived by Galileo Galilei in 1638. It states that as a shape grows in size, its volume grows faster than its surface area. The result is that you would be crushed if you suddenly grew too tall and lacked the structural support for it. Animals in nature that are big develop enhanced skeletal frames and scaling so that they do not get crushed. This is why no Godzilla or King Kong can exist (unless they had evolved that way over time) by some weird radiation or genetic mutation. Only creatures that are in the sea can get enormous since the effects of this law do not apply (which is why you have huge whales, squids, and octopi) thanks to water. Humans that are exceptionally tall (caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland of the brain) suffer serious health issues in the circulatory or skeletal system.

If Irwin Allen wanted to be creative, he would have made them large but not in this way. Perhaps he would have made them more like 8 feet tall and would fit into legends of giants in mythology. Now that would have been interesting, Suppose a race of giants (exceptionally tall humans but not 72 feet  tall) had been on Earth long ago. They came into conflict with normal size humans. For whatever reason, many are wiped out (you could tie it into Biblical stories) but a few remained like Goliath that fought David. Others that did survive ended up on this other world, in a parallel dimension. Part of the story would be finding out who they were, who brought them there, and perhaps their evil intentions of wanting to return to Earth. That would be more plausible and interesting than in making them so gigantic that even with a slingshot, David would have no chance against these giants.

Free roamers like to argue that in this other dimension the laws of physics are alerted or somehow the giants altered themselves genetically be so tall. Hogwash! At any rate each week the survivors were put in peril and eventually rescued themselves or sometimes a giant might aid them. There was no resolution by the time the series ended. They were still trapped and the future on this world of giants looked bleak. At least Gulliver was able to leave Lilliput. It seems the unlucky survivors of Spindrift are marooned unless Allen had thought of a way to get them home again.


Titanic Tidbits

1)The 103 anniversary of Titanic sinking was commemorated in Belfast with a traditional wreath laying ceremony and a moment of silence. According to the Belfast Telegraph, there were many international visitors present. The International Ice Patrol held its yearly memorial service as well and dropped a wreath from a plane over the spot where Titanic sank.
Sources:
1. Titanic Memorial Service At Belfast City Hall Marks 103rd Anniversary Of Sinking(15 April 2015,Belfast Telegraph)
2. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol Commemorates Sinking Of Titanic(15 April 2015, Military.com)

Photo:public domain
Photo:public domain

2)30 James Street (Albion House) which once housed the White Star Line offices in Liverpool, had special tribute dinner that included many connected to Titanic. The descendents of Carpathia captain Arthur Rostron were amongst those present at the dinner. All 63 rooms of the Titanic themed hotel were opened and those who had proven connections were given a free overnight stay. The hotel has received favorable reviews on several online review sites.
Source: Titanic Sinking Anniversary Marked At Tribute Evening(15 April 2015,Liverpool Echo)

Public Domain
Public Domain

3) Father Thomas Byles perished on Titanic remaining aboard to pray with fellow passengers. There is a call to have him proclaimed a martyr of the church, the first step towards possible sainthood. Father Graham Smith calls him “an extraordinary man who gave his life for others.”
Source:Titanic Priest Father Thomas Byles ‘Should Be Sainted’(12 April 2015,BBC)

Public Domain
Public Domain

4)After being fully restored by the Nomadic Charitable Trust,the last remaining ship of the White Star Line has been transferred to Titanic Belfast. The Nomadic was used to ferry passengers in Cherbourg, France to Titanic.  After its use with White Star ended, the former ferry ended up as a restaurant and then left to rot before being brought to Belfast to be restored. Though open for the past two years, it now is formally part of Titanic Belfast.
Source:Titanic Belfast Takes Over SS Nomadic(9 April 2015,BBC)

5)The Peoria Riverfront Museum has secured Titanic:The Artifact Exhbition as an exhibit in 2016. It will run from 12 Nov 2016 until March 2017.
Source: Peoria Riverfront Museum Secures Titanic Exhibit For 2016 (13 April 2015, Journal Star)

6)Barrie Clarke solved a mystery of where some Titanic headstones came from. When Halifax decide to replace a stone marker, they could not identify where it came from. Enter Clarke, a professor at Dalhousie University, who decided to play a sleuth. His journey to find the quarry was not easy since many closed long ago. Eventually he found it and testing proved the granite matched the headstones in Halifax .
Source: Titanic Gravestone Mystery Led To Five Year Search(22 April 2015,CBC)

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Rare Titanic Deck Chair Fetches $149,000 At Auction

Nantucket Titanic Deck Chair Photo: Henry Aldridge & Son
Nantucket Titanic Deck Chair
Photo: Henry Aldridge & Son

A rare Titanic deck chair was recently auctioned by Henry Aldridge & Son for the princely sum of £100,000, The chair was one of six or seven that were found in the Atlantic by ships sent out to retrieve bodies from Titanic. This particular one originally belonged to Captain Julien Lemarteleur. Due to its fragility, the anonymous seller kept it as a display piece in a large window with a sea view.

The name of the buyer was not released but was from the U.K.

Source:Titanic chair sells for £100k (18 April 2015, Daily Mail)


Titanic Chronology:Carpathia Arrives on 18 April 1912

U.S. Library of Congress,Bain Collection, Control #ggb2004010347 Public Domain
U.S. Library of Congress,Bain Collection, Control #ggb2004010347
Public Domain

It had been a long three days since Titanic sank when Carpathia arrived bearing Titanic’s survivors. What had been first optimistic news turned grim after the miscommunication had been sorted out. Titanic had sunk and 1500 had perished out in the cold North Atlantic. News as to who exactly had survived was not fully known as Carpathia had kept a media blackout during its journey to New York. There was a reporter on board but had to keep his notes secret in a cigar box lined with champagne corks. He would toss it towards a Hearst editor in a tugboat in New York harbor where it would be raced for a special evening edition of New York World. 50 tugboats full of reporters yelled at the ship through megaphones offering money for eyewitness accounts. Carpathia first stopped at Pier 59, the White Star Line pier and offloaded Titanic’s lifeboats. They were all that were left of the ship aside from the flotsam and jetsam that would be found later in the Atlantic. Then Carpathia proceeded to Pier 54 and the Titanic survivors disembarked. It was only then it was truly known who did survive and who did not.

Pier 54, 2012 where Carpathia docked to unload Titanic survivors, Photo:  Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)
Pier 54, 2012 where Carpathia docked to unload Titanic survivors,
Photo: Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net)

Pier 54 is now part of Chelsea Piers and is located at Little West 12th Street and the Hudson River (in the Meatpacking District and Greenwich Village area). It is now part of the Hudson River Park. It is now used mostly for concerts, exhibits, and free movies. Several television shows have used the Chelsea piers as a backdrop for  television shows (Law & Order, Spin City, The Apprentice). There is a desire to convert it into a nautical museum though that has yet to come to fruition. There is also a plan to redevelop Pier 54’s original style pier for mixed use space.


April 18, 1906: The Earth Shook and Fire Sprang Forth

Northeast View of Post & Grant Avenues, San Francisco, 18 April 1906 Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration, ARC Identifier: 524396)
Northeast View of Post & Grant Avenues, San Francisco, 18 April 1906
Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration, ARC Identifier: 524396)

At 5:12 a.m. Northern California was awakened by an earthquake that is now considered one of the most significant of all time. The epicenter was near San Francisco and the shaking lasted between 45-60 seconds. It was so powerful that it was felt from southern Oregon to Los Angeles and as far east as central Nevada. The intensity showed the clear difference between bedrock and sediment (or land filled) geology. Those that got the strongest shaking were in sediment filled areas rather than bedrock. Which explains why in San Francisco the damage was the most severe in those areas. Specifically it is the area called SOMA (South of Market  or the old term south of the slot)where the greatest damage resulted. That area used to be part of San Francisco Bay but was filled in for more housing, commercial, and industrial uses. Houses and buildings were damaged or collapsed.

Although San Francisco got a significant amount of damage, other areas were likewise damaged. Cities like Santa Rosa got hit hard(the entire downtown was destroyed) and many in the countryside suffered building or infrastructure damage as well. The magnitude of the quake was originally thought to be around 8.3 on the Richter scale. However others argue it was between 7.7 and 7.9 based on new interpretations of earthquake data. However you measure it, the earthquake was one of the most severe in the modern era. The earthquake not only destroyed buildings, injured scores and killing 3,000 (estimated) but caused the fires that made it much worse with water supply being severely limited by broken pipes. City leaders would claim later, to ensure people would come back to the city, that San Francisco was not destroyed by the earthquake but the fires. The truth was (and later researchers would learn this)how extensive the earthquake had been to San Francisco. The fires were a direct result of the earthquake and made a bad situation that much worse. The Army used dynamite to blow up areas to block fires. This usually is a good tactic to blow up ground to create firebreaks. Unfortunately it made it much worse since no one thought about the possibility of flying embers from blown up buildings causing more fires. Which is what happened and made it that much worse.

Today we look back at the old pictures but not really appreciate the total magnitude of the disaster. San Francisco rebuilt but continued its old ways for a long time. Buildings went up in the very areas worst hit by the earthquake with little attention to earthquake safety. But by the late 20th century that had changed as city leaders realized how damaging another 1906 type of quake would be to a modern city. New ordinances were passed and many of the taller buildings in San Francisco today in the Financial District were constructed to handle earthquakes. I learned this from being in one such building during the Loma Prieta Earthquake (17 Oct 1989 at 5:07pm). That earthquake was centered near Santa Cruz and measured 6.9, much less powerful than 1906. But it caused a lot of damage and some loss of life as well. The building I was in (since it is on landfill) was built to sway with the earthquake rather than remain locked in place. It was a weird experience to feel the building rock as it did but it survived just fine while a building across the street and built long before that standard had its top cave in. That building had to be torn down.

Some things did stay the same as 1906. There was little official guidance, mass transit was down, lots of cars stuck in traffic, and plenty of people milling about trying to figure out how to get home. I was lucky as I took a SamTrans bus to Daly City from the old Transbay Terminal. It was long bus ride that took close to 3 hours but I was grateful that bus was running. Those living in the East Bay would have to wait a good long while for BART to run again. And those that watched the World Series that night saw an earthquake live at old Candlestick Park.

Additional Information

The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake (USGS)
San Francisco Earthquake, 1906(National Archives)
New S.F. archive includes stunning photos from 1906 quake(S.F. Chronicle,17 April 2015)
San Francisco earthquake and fire, April 18, 1906 (Library of Congress) 1906 film that shows the damage.
The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (Bancroft Library Online Exhibit)


Titanic Chronology: 17 April 1912:The Grim Task of Collecting Bodies

CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884) Artist Unknown Public Domain
CS Mackay Bennett (circa 1884)
Artist Unknown
Public Domain

With confirmation that Titanic sank with great loss of life, the next task was to collect bodies floating in the Atlantic. The cable ship Mackay Bennett was the first ship hired by White Star (others would be employed as well)to retrieve bodies. The ship emptied itself of its normal stores in Halifax, Nova Scotia and brought aboard supplies for its new mission:

  • Embalming supplies and coffins (100)
  • Chief embalmer of John Snow & Co.,John R. Snow Jr.
  • 100 tons of ice to store the bodies
  • Canon Kenneth Hind of All Saints Cathedral, Halifax

Mackay Bennett left Halifax at 12:28 pm on 17 April 1912. Due to heavy fog and rough sears it would take four days to reach where Titanic sank. They began recovery at 0600 on 20 April. Bodies were manually recovered by skiffs and brought back to the ship. They recovered 51 bodies but realized they did not have enough embalming supplies on hand. Since the laws at the time required bodies to be embalmed before unloading from ships docking in a Canadian port, they followed a general procedure:

  • First class passengers were embalmed and placed in coffins
  • Second class passengers were embalmed but wrapped in canvas
  • Third class passengers were buried at sea

Bodies that were brought back were either transported by relatives to their final resting place or interred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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The Sad Parting

The Sad Parting From Story of the Wreck of the Titanic;Marshall Everett;1912 Artist Unknown Public Domain
The Sad Parting
Illustration from Story of the Wreck of the Titanic(1912,Marshall Everett)
Artist Unknown
Public Domain

The Daily Mail went through its archives in 2012 and reprinted the coverage of Titanic’s sinking. The report on Tuesday 16 April 1912 related the ship had struck an iceberg, had sunk, but no lives lost. The following day on 17 April the full horrible truth had been learned. The ship had sunk but 1500 people had died which included some very prominent people. Questions are raised about not enough lifeboats for all and out dated rules. The shift in mood is dramatic to read and I encourage you to take a look. You can read the article here.


Titanic Sunk

Front Page, New York Herald, 15 April 1912 Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress,www.loc.gov)
Front Page, New York Herald, 15 April 1912
Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress,www.loc.gov)

23:40 (11:40 p.m.) Lookouts Fleet and Lee sight iceberg. Bell rung and call to bridge. Murdoch orders helm hard a-starboard and engines reversed. Starboard side scraped by iceberg for 300 feet puncturing hull in various places. Water fills forward compartments.

1200 (12:00 a.m.) Thomas Andrews tells Captain Smith ship is sinking estimating ship can stay afloat estimating no more than 2 hours. Lifeboats are lowered by hand, evacuation of passengers begins. Wireless is used to alert nearby ships. RMS Carpathia responds and begins moving towards Titanic.

02:20 (2:20 a.m.) Titanic sinks at 2:20 a.m.with over 1,500 lives lost.

0400 (4:00 a.m.) RMS Carpathia arrives and rescues approximately 710 from lifeboats. Captain Rostron of Carpathia said the area was an ice field with at least 20 large bergs measuring up to 200 feet in height and numerous smaller bergs.

18 April 1912 0930 (9:30 a.m.) RMS Carpathia docks at New York Pier 54. Prior to that it offloaded the only remaining piece of Titanic afloat, the lifeboats. Due to confusing communications, the initial reports were more promising about the the severity of the tragedy. The confusion was caused by mixed up bits of wireless communication resulting in erroneous reports of Titanic being towed to New York and less lives lost. By the time Carpathia arrived in New York, everyone knew that over 1,500 had died in the tragedy.


Just In Time For Titanic Anniversary:Letter Up For Auction Tells Family To Pay For Remains

The UK Daily Mail is reporting a letter up for auction at Henry Aldridge & Son shows the callous indifference of White Star to grieving families. The letter, sent to Christopher Moody–the brother of Titanic officer James Moody–informs that the can arrange transport of his remains but they will need a £20 deposit for “for any expenses and land charges….” The letter also points out that once he took charge of the body, he would be responsible for all expenses after that.

1) Did White Star Attempt To Commit Fraud?

The Daily Mail says that White Star already knew that James Moody’s remains had not been found as they had been catalogued. Now you can look at this one of two ways:

1)The body had been marked as recovered or they had been told it had been recovered;

2)They were making plans in case it was found.

I doubt White Star was going to commit fraud here (hitting up grieving family members for money when there was no body likely would get some legal notice). Rather either it was miscommunication about his remains or they were simply being proactive in case of recovery. The body was never recovered so money was ever paid to White Star by Christopher Moody.

2)Was White Star Charging To Transport The Body?

It seems an odd position for White Star to take. Why charge for bringing the body of 6th officer James Moody home to England for burial? Here is what the letter actually say on this point:

Should you after further consideration desire the remains of your Brother to be returned will you kindly telegraph us in the morning at the same time sending us a deposit of £20 for any expenses and land charges on the other Side and we will at once cable New York asking then to arrange this if practicable.

A reasonable interpretation of this paragraph is they are not charging to transport the body to England but “expenses and land charges on the other Side….” That would likely mean whatever fees imposed to transport the body away from the ship. They could not store the body on the ship, it would need to go somewhere right away unless Christopher was there to meet the ship when it docked. So they asked him to deposit money so they could make those arrangements on his behalf.

Now I am not saying White Star ought not to have paid those fees. I think it would have been the right thing to do. This was poor public relations on their part and just adds to the overall impression that White Star was callous and cheap. This was not uncommon then and still a sore issue today after a major disaster at sea or on land. Who pays for the removal, transport, and storage of bodies awaiting final disposition? Families are often shocked when, after the loss of a loved on in a terrible disaster,they get a bill for transport or storage of their loved ones remains. Insurance may cover some, all, or none of it. White Star believed its duty was to transport the remains but not to pay for carriage and storage fees beyond the ship.

That of course is less lurid than saying White Star charged relatives to transit remains across the ocean. It makes for a great headline but not quite the truth.

Source: Amazing Letter Reveals For The First Time How Titanic Owners Demanded Huge Sums From Grieving Families To Be Reunited With Bodies Of Ship’s Crew(14 April 2015,Daily Mail)

Additional Sources

1. James Paul Moody Encyclopedia Titanica

2. A memorial plaque for James Moody is at Church of St. Martin, Scarborough. You can read a write-up at Encyclopedia Titanica or you can view a photo of it here (Flickr).

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Commentary on Titanic news and other related items.

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