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HAROLD BRIDE (1890 – 1956) Wireless Operator on the Titanic

In adventure, American History, Biography, History, People, People from England, Telegraph Operators, Titanic, Trivia on July 19, 2010 at 9:38 PM

Harold Bride at age 16

Harold Bride was one of those kids who knew what he wanted to be when he grew up: a wireless operator.  The youngest of five children, he was shy and soft spoken with an easy sense of humor.  The telegraph was the hottest wireless technology at the time, and Bride was a techno geek in the making.

It was expensive to go to telegraphy school, so he worked in the family business until age 20 to earn the money for tuition.  In 1910 he started classes, and, to the neighbors’ disgust, built an antenna in the yard so he could practice using Morse code.   He finished his training after one year and immediately started a job in London.

In March 1912, Bride received a telegram saying his next posting would be on the Titanic and was sent to Belfast, Ireland for special training. Bride and his boss, Jack Phillips, were placed onboard the ship through the Marconi International Marine Telegraph Company and given junior officer status.  The salary was adequate but the adventure quotient was very high.

Two weeks before reporting for the sea trials, Bride and Mabel Ludlow became engaged.  He had doubts that she was the one, but she nagged him until he acquiesced, giving her something to brag about while he was at sea.   

ADVENTURE AT SEA                        On April 10, 1912 the Titanic set sail. The wireless broke down on April 13, and it took Bride and Phillips seven hours to diagnose and fix the problem.  Ice warnings had been received on April 11 and 12 and delivered to Captain Smith on the bridge. The equipment was repaired in time to receive four additional warnings on the 13th, and Bride delivered the first one to the Captain.  Captain’s orders specified that the passenger’s personal messages were the priority, and the three later warnings were ignored. 

About 7:30 on the night of April 14, Phillips was manning the telegraph and Bride went to bed.  At 11:40 the Titanic struck an iceberg.  Bride slept through the collision but woke up at 11:55, entering the work room in his pajamas to check up on his boss.  As Bride was preparing to relieve Phillips, the Captain entered, informed the men of the crash and told them to prepare a call for assistance to send on his orders as soon as an inspection was finished. 

Ten minutes later the Captain returned and ordered the international call for help be sent.  Phillips tapped out CQD (Come-Quick-Distress), the call used prior to S-O-S.  The gravity of what happened had not impacted the men yet, and Bride saw some humor in the situation.  He suggested Phillips send S-O-S since it was a new call and this might be his only chance to use it.  Phillips laughed and changed his message.  After the Captain left, the men continued to joke around while they waited for a response.

They got replies from several ships, but the Carpathia was in the closest proximity to the now-sinking vessel.  Forgetting he was still in his pajamas, Bride ran to tell the Captain that help was on the way. He saw passengers swarming on the decks trying to figure out what to do.  When he returned, Phillips reminded him to get some clothes on.  He did, and he brought an overcoat to keep Phillips warm. 

The situation got worse fast.  Phillips announced that the wireless signal was getting weaker, and finally the Captain came to say that the engine rooms were taking on water.  Bride went to his bunk and found his life jacket and put on boots and another coat.  While Phillips continued to send messages, Bride secured a lifebelt around him.  Phillips dispatched Bride to the deck for a status update of what was happening.  Bride helped twelve men lift the last collapsible down to be used to escape.

The Captain walked in while Bride was updating his boss.  Captain Smith praised the men for their work and excused them.  It had reached the point of every man for himself.  Phillips kept sending messages for another ten minutes while Bride collected their personal items.  As if things weren’t bad enough, an employee who worked below decks entered the communications room and tried to steal Phillip’s life belt right off him.  Bride attacked the man and made sure he was no longer a threat. 

SURVIVAL MODE                                 The wireless operators knew it was finally time to go.  While the band played “Autumn,” Phillips headed aft, and Bride went on deck and saw people struggling to get the collapsible into the water.   He helped push and ended up in the frigid water under the capsized raft.  After vigorously swimming 150 feet to get away from the suction of the Titanic, someone pulled Bride up onto the bottom of a raft. 

The small surface area of the collapsible was so crowded with survivors that they overlapped on top of each other.  Someone suggested that they should pray, and they recited The Lord’s Prayer together.  Bride’s feet were painfully injured, but there was nothing he could do.  One man died on the raft. 

When the Carpathia arrived about 4:00 am, one by one they vacated the life boat and ascended the ladder to the ship.  It was then that Bride discovered the dead man was Phillips. 

Bride had just enough strength to climb onboard, but he couldn’t walk. One foot was crushed and the other was frostbitten.  He was taken immediately to the hospital ward, but a few hours later he was pressed into service again and wheeled into the wireless room of the Carpathia to transmit the names of survivors and personal messages.  He ignored all incoming media requests for information and even a communiqué from the president in favor of transmitting the passengers’ notices. He was so caught up in his work that he didn’t realize when they arrived in New York until Guglielmo Marconi came aboard and released him from his duties. 

LIFE AFTER NEAR DEATH            Bride was still wheelchair bound when he testified in an American inquiry into what happened on that fateful night.  He was accused of withholding information on the Carpathia for personal gain, and he had to squelch a rumor that he was taking baseball scores. Bride insisted that he was following the captain’s orders in only dispatching the relevant messages. 

Returning to England was not the relief that it could have been. Bride had to relive his Titanic nightmare for a British inquiry and deal with his fiancé.  He stalled any wedding plans until after the investigation. On September 25, 1912 he met Lucy Downie which gave him the courage to call off the wedding to Ludlow. 

Downie worked in London as a teacher.  This time it was love at first sight for Bride, and he took a job as a telegraphist in the city so they could be together.  They married in April 1920 and had a daughter one year later. 

During World War I Bride served on another ship, and then in 1922 the Brides moved to Scotland in search of a completely different life.  They had two children, and Bride worked as a salesman.  He was a confirmed geek, though, and operated his own radio as a hobby until he died in 1956.

QUESTION:  What is your biggest fear?   How do you help yourself when you feel afraid?

© 2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

Sources:

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=2&res=9E07E0DF153CE633A2575AC1A9629C946396D6CF

http://www.titanic-lore.info/Wireless-shack.htm

http://www.titanic-lore.info/wireless-harold-bride.htm

http://www.titanicinquiry.org/USInq/AmInq10Bride01.php

http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/CQD

JOSHUA SLOCUM (February 20, 1844 – November 1909?) First Person to Sail Around the World Solo

In adventure, Biography, Explorers, History, Sailing, Sailors, Trivia, Uncategorized on May 24, 2010 at 9:19 PM

Joshua Slocum

Joshua Slocum grew up by the sea. His grandfather was lighthouse keeper on Brier Island at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, Canada, and his father made shoes for the local fishermen. But being close to the water wasn’t good enough.  He needed to conquer it, until it conquered him.

Slocum was one of eleven children, and his father was very strict. He couldn’t wait to find his place in the world with open space and less competition.  The obvious place to head was out on the ocean.  He tried to run away from home several times, and when he was 14 years old got hired as a cabin boy and cook on a fishing schooner.  That didn’t last long, however, and he ended up back at home.  Two years later, in 1860, his mother died in childbirth and Slocum couldn’t bear to stick around.  He and a buddy headed out for Dublin, Ireland as merchant seamen.

Slocum had found his passion and traveled the world.  He earned his certificate as a Second Mate and ultimately became a Chief Mate of British ships.  In 1865, San Francisco became his home base, and he became an American citizen. 

Slocum did not have to sail through life alone. He found his perfect first mate, Virginia Albertina Walker.  For one month in 1870, his ship was in Sydney harbor, and he met and married Walker, who happened to be an American.  She joined Slocum on his trips, and they had seven children, all born at sea or in foreign ports.

Slocum commanded several ships across the Pacific.  His hidden desire to be a writer was fulfilled as a correspondent for the San Francisco Bee

In 1884, the Slocum family was headed for South America when Virginia became ill and died.  Not able to care for the children on his own, Slocum left the youngest ones with his sister in Massachusetts.  His oldest son, Victor, became his new first mate. 

Two years later, when he was 40, Slocum married his 24 year old cousin, Henrietta Elliott.  She was not as enamored by life at sea as Virginia had been, perhaps because during the first year they sailed through a hurricane and the crew contracted cholera which required being quarantined.  In addition, sometime later they were stricken with smallpox, which killed three crew members, and finally, in 1887, they were shipwrecked in Brazil.

Not wanting to spend the rest of their lives in Brazil, Slocum and two sons built a boat to sail back to the U.S.  The family left on May 13, 1888 and arrived in Cape Roman, South Carolina after 55 days at sea.  They reached their final destination of Boston in 1889.  Slocum turned the stories of this trip into a book called Voyage of the Liberdade.

Now, Slocum decided, it was time for a little adventure in his life, and he set out to circumnavigate the globe alone.  He rebuilt an oyster boat named Spray and left Boston harbor April 24, 1895. He was 51 years old with 35 years of sailing experience to rely on.  He visited his family in Nova Scotia and then set out on July 3, 1895.  

His route took him across the Atlantic to Gibraltar, south along the coast of Brazil and Argentina and through the Strait of Magellan, across the Pacific to Cooktown, Australia, around the Cape of Good Hope, and back up the coast of South America to Fairhaven, Massachusetts. 

Slocum’s sailing experience gave him the confidence to use dead reckoning instead of a chronometer to calculate longitude.  His source of food was often the ocean itself.  Flying fish would soar right onto the deck and make a tasty meal.  In the Pacific, where he had his longest stretch of solitude at sea, he subsisted on food he picked up in port: mostly potatoes, salt cod, biscuits, coffee and tea.

His quest took him through every type of weather, attacks by pirates and some close calls with other boats.  In November 1895, Slocum ran aground in Uruguay and had to take a lifeboat to shore in very turbulent water. Ironically, Slocum didn’t know how to swim.  He was tossed overboard and made three unsuccessful, flailing attempts to right the dinghy.  As his life flashed before him, he said an exhausted final prayer and tried once more.  It worked, and he was able to climb on the lifeboat and row to shore.

At 1:00am on June 27, 1898, after over three years of seafaring, solitude, and struggle, Slocum sailed into Newport, Rhode Island to complete his 46,000 mile journey.  He arrived one pound heavier than he left and was told by friends that he looked much younger. 

Slocum’s adventure made for compelling reading when he published Sailing Alone Around the World a year after his return.  The profits from his book and lectures allowed him to set down roots and buy a farm on Martha’s Vineyard.  Being rooted felt so contrary to his nature, however, that he couldn’t stay put.  He sailed up and down the Atlantic during the summer and spent the winters in the West Indies, earning money from lectures and book sales. 

Slocum’s mental stability took a downward turn as he got older.  He was convicted of indecent exposure to a 12 year old girl in New Jersey.  He spent 42 days in jail awaiting trial, and after his family begged for a leniency, the judge sentenced him to time already served.  

Income was now sparse, so in 1909, at 65 years old, he tried to reinvigorate his life by planning a new adventure in South America.  He started out on his annual trip to the West Indies in November, but he was never heard from again.  Henrietta informed the press in July 1910 that she assumed he had been lost at sea.  It was never determined what happened to him, but since he never learned to swim, he wouldn’t have been able to save himself if the boat had capsized.  He was legally declared dead in 1924. 

 QUESTION:  What’s something you love to do so much that you might write a book about your experiences?  What would it be called?

                          © 2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved

 Sources:

http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/slgln10.txt  (Sailing Alone Around the World)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Slocum

http://www.joshuaslocumsocietyintl.org/jshistory.htm

http://www.joshuaslocumsocietyintl.org/images/voyagemap.htm  (Map of his journey)

LI XIAQING (1912-1998) Aviatrix & Actress

In adventure, Biography, Chinese history, Feminists, Movies, People, People from China, Pilots, Trivia, Uncategorized, women on May 3, 2010 at 9:02 PM

Li XiaQing

 

Li was born in the Canton province of China to a wealthy, patriotic family. She was given the nickname “Dandan,” a homophone for the Chinese word for “bomb,” because her family used her baby carriage to stealthily transport explosives.  

At age 14, she wandered onto a movie set, and the director was smitten with her stunning looks.  He offered her the opportunity to act in a silent film, and she thought it would be fun.  Despite her lack of experience, Li, using the stage name Li Dandan, quickly won the admiration of audiences, which she capitalized on for six more films.   

Her most famous role was the title character in Hua Mulan Joins the Army in 1928.  Hua Mulan was the young girl who dressed as a boy to go to war, the basis for the Disney animated movie Mulan.  In order to play the role convincingly, Li learned martial arts, archery, boxing, fencing and horseback riding.  

Li XiaQing as Mulan

 

These new skills gave her an edge off the set as well and made her a hero to the production company.   One night while they were on location, robbers snuck into the camp and stole the production money.  Li jumped on a horse, prevented the thieves from crossing a bridge, and after fighting with them for a while, tossed them over the bridge into the river.  

Li’s father wanted her to continue her education, so he sent her to Europe.  He was also ready to pass off responsibility for her to a husband.  He changed her name back to Li Xiaqing and hired a matchmaker.  She picked Zheng Baifeng who was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and worked for China’s Foreign Service. This seemed like a match made in heaven, and the couple was married in 1929 and made their first home in Geneva.  Li was 17 years old and Zheng was almost 30.  

By 1932, Li had become a mother to a son and a daughter.  This new responsibility did not, however, interfere with her love of travel.  In 1933, Li attended the Paris Air Show and was enamored by flying.  Immediately upon returning to Geneva, she enrolled in flying lessons. One year later, Li made her first solo flight and was the first woman to receive a private pilot’s license in Geneva.  

Li’s reason for learning to fly was patriotic: to help her country advance through aviation.  In order to accomplish that, she needed to become a more proficient pilot and mechanic.  She enrolled at the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California for advanced training.  By the time she graduated she could dismantle and reassemble an airplane engine and was versed in aerodynamics, meteorology, aircraft design and radiotelephony.  

The biggest thrill in flight for Li was aerobatics.  On May 15, 1935 she went up with instructor LeRoy B. Gregg over San Francisco Bay.  At about 2,200 feet Gregg started a barrel roll and turned the plane upside down.  When he looked back, he saw Li falling out of her seat trying to hang on.  Then, in shock, he watched her fall.  After a free fall of about 900 feet, Li remembered to pull the rip cord and activate the parachute she was wearing.  This eased her splash down into the icy cold bay.   

Li was an experienced swimmer, but her water-logged leather suit and the freezing water made it difficult for her to move.  Gregg dropped life preservers, but Li couldn’t get to them.  Luckily, airmen at the U.S. Naval Reserve Base in Alameda saw her fall and were on their way to rescue her in a Loening amphibious plane.  Unfortunately, the pontoons were stuck on this aircraft, and Li had to continue to tread water until a second one could arrive.  Li was in the water for 20 minutes until she climbed aboard the rescue aircraft.  A credit to her gender, Li only had two complaints: she was cold, and she lost a shoe.  In order to “get back on the horse,” Li went up over the Bay in the same stunt plane the following day.  Apparently, the cause of Li’s involuntary ejection was a broken seat belt, although she admitted to a reporter many years later that it was possible she had forgotten to fasten it.  

This harrowing experience earned Li membership in the Caterpillar Club, an exclusive organization of about 100,000 people with only one requirement to join.  You must have saved your own life through an emergency parachute exit from an airplane.   

On November 5, 1935, Li was the first woman to graduate from the prestigious Boeing School of aeronautics.  With a diploma, private pilot’s license and impressive experience, she returned to China.  

In 1934, General Chaing Kai-shek authorized private flying in China for the first time. After passing a demanding test, Li was the first woman to be issued a government pilot’s license, handed to her by General Chaing himself.  With this honor came responsibility.  She was given the use of a government plane and charged with inspecting all the airfields throughout China.   

Li didn’t really have time for family, and didn’t live with her husband and children. This independence had consequences.  In 1935 she divorced Zheng under the new constitutional laws which made Zheng lose face.  As a result, Li had to forfeit seeing her children until they were adults.   

Li wasn’t at a loss for romance, however.  She had met Peter Doo when she was in Europe and they corresponded while she was lived Oakland.  With Li finally a free woman, Doo went to work for her father to encourage a commitment from her.  The most she was willing to commit to was a long distance romance for eight years.  

In Shanghai, Li primarily taught flying and continued to be an example for women. For Chaing Kai-shek’s fiftieth birthday celebration she performed the first aerobatic flight by a woman.  For the finale, she dove straight at the podium full of dignitaries and pulled up at last minute, just a few feet above their heads.  Her popularity skyrocketed.  

In 1937 Japan invaded China.  Li saw this as the ultimate opportunity to use her skills to serve her country.  She was crushed when she was told she would no longer be allowed to fly because she was a woman, not even on courier missions. But she found another way to serve, by founding the First Citizens’ Emergency Auxiliary and using her own money to convert a hotel into the Red Cross Emergency Hospital.  She was driven, doing everything from administration work to assisting with surgery to organizing a refugee camp and orphanage to running the radio station that broadcast propaganda.   

The Japanese were not so appreciative of Li’s contributions and they put her on their black list, forcing her to leave Shanghai. She ended up back in San Francisco where she started working on her idea to fly around the United States raising money to support China.  She sold $7,000 worth of jewelry to buy an airplane and finance her excursions.   

Everywhere she went, Li was given a grand reception.  Audiences were surprised and captivated by her beauty and style.  The Idaho Statesman in Boise described her outfit of sharkskin slacks, no hose, leather sandals, finger and toenails polished to match the lipstick and a carnation behind her ear.  This flower became her trademark.   

Hollywood noticed her, too.  She revived her acting career as a Chinese aviatrix in the movie Disputed Passage starring Dorothy Lamour.  She took time out of her flight schedule for the three-day job, and she did her own stunts, donating her earnings to the war refugee fund.  

By 1939 Li had flown 10,000 miles and raised $10,000 for Chinese refugees.  She extended her efforts to two fundraising tours of South America, returning to Shanghai in May 1946.   

Back in Asia Li only flew for pleasure.  She met international businessman Li GeorgeYixiang (no relation).  Together they shared a love of travel, golf and horseback riding.  They settled in Oakland near where Li had studied at Boeing.  By this time, Li’s American pilot’s license had expired, and the Federal Aviation Administration would not recognize her license from Hong Kong.  So, in 1966, at 54 years old, Li began flight instruction to become recertified.   

Li never lost the thrill of flying.  One day while she was out driving, she saw a crop duster in a field.  She stopped and asked the farmer if she could take it for a spin.  She did tricks and aerobatic maneuvers, pushing the plane to its limits.  When she landed, she thanked the flabbergasted owner and walked away.  

Li was 86 years old when she died in Oakland. For her final resting place she wanted to feel the same expanse she felt while flying.  She had bought four adjacent plots in the Mountain View Cemetery and insisted that she be buried right in the center with lots of space around her.  

QUESTION: What nickname do people call you?  What significance does it have?  How has it influenced your relationship with them?  

                         ©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved  

Sources:  

Gully, Patti.  Sisters of Heaven.  San Francisco: Long River Press, 2008.  

http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/Chinas_First_Lady_of_Flight.html  

http://160.111.252.58/research/arch/findaids/pdf/Lee_Ya-Ching_Papers_Finding_Aid.pdf  

http://www.chinesemirror.com/index/2009/10/in-search-of-li-dandan-aviatrix.html  

http://softfilm.blogspot.com/2009/01/lee-ya-ching-flying-for-victory.html  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caterpillar_Club  

http://www.caterpillarclub.org/irvin/irvin.htm