Newspapers from the edge of the world

Born out of trouble and strife in the world’s most inhospitable places, handmade newspapers were essential for passing the time and boosting morale and comradeship in the bleakest of circumstances

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The Wipers Times (1916)

Beneath the bludgeoned Belgian city of Ypres, accompanied by nothing more than a printing press, a dusty gramophone and a piano (played full blast to mask the sound of German shells), two British soldiers – Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson – published the first 12-page edition of what became the ‘unofficial’ newspaper of the Western Front. The Wipers Times (a phonetic pronunciation of Ypres by British soldiers) contained a mix of tales from the trenches and bawdy British satire lampooning senior allied officials. Needless to say, it was a welcome reprieve from the horrifying realities of the First World War. Twenty two editions were published before the war came to a close.

The Bullfrog Miner (1905)

Finding its feet at the end of the Gold Rush, The Bullfrog Miner was one of many short-lived periodicals providing news for mining communities. According to folklore, the initial rush to the Bullfrog district caused a heated battle between two editors, CW Nicklin and Frank P Mannix, who each claimed rights to the eponymous and irrefutably catchy namesake. After heated exchanges, the dispute was eventually settled when Nicklin renamed his paper The Beatty Bullfrog Miner (far catchier).

The Vernon Guard (1890)

Legend has it that the wildest of the Wild West were, in fact, the editors of the frontier newspapers that circulated throughout the Cattle Kingdom. Never afraid to put their opinion to paper, they were considered by many as unofficial community orators, chronicling the lives of their readership. So outspoken was the editor of the Vernon Guard, he once met with the threat of suffering a “sufficient number of holes” by the local sheriff. Sources suggest the editor did meet an untimely end; the pen is not, it would seem, mightier than a gun.

The Snowbound (1890)

The Snowbound is the stuff of journalistic legend. The story goes that in 1890, during a perilous Nevada winter, 600 passengers were stranded in Reno on the Southern Pacific Railroad. George T McCully took it upon himself to relieve the distress of his freezing companions by printing a paper. The Snowbound, “issued every weekday afternoon by S P Prisoner in Car No. 36”, was a four-page daily with the outside pages written in blue ink and the inside written in pencil. Sources suggest the publication wasn’t entirely successful, possibly because the editor charged the princely sum of 25¢ per issue.

The Antarctic Sun (1997)

Serving scientists, explorers and polar gardeners alike, The Antarctic Sun reports on all manner of news from this remote part of the world, funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the US Antarctic Programme. Expect to find stories on procedure for budding physicists on the search for neutrinos, comic strips, musings on the ‘utilitarian’ beauty of research station architecture and the cold hard facts of life in a sub-zero climate. The current editor, Mike Lucibella, publishes weekly during the austral summer, with the occasional mid-winter special.

Words by Matthew Iredale

These stories feature in issue 8 of Ernest Journal, alongside a fascinating article about the history of polar newspapers, written by Professor Elizabeth Leane. Pick up a copy of issue 8 today.

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Lighthouses of the British Isles

Britain’s coastline is punctuated by over 300 lighthouses, built in some of the most inhospitable places. Illustrator Ben Langworthy embarked on a mission to draw every single one of them and tell their stories – we shine a light on three.

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Ardnamurchan Point

Ardnamurchan is the most westerly point of mainland UK. Local legends tell of premonitions, kings and great battles, and there may be a husk of truth in such tales – in 2011, archaeologists uncovered a Viking boat burial nearby. The lighthouse, built in an ‘Egyptian’ style, was designed by Alan Stevenson (one of the great Scottish engineers) and fi rst lit in 1849. Today you can call in for a cuppa at the keepers’ cottages.

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Trwyn Du

Trwyn Du, meaning ‘black point’ in Welsh, was first lit in 1838 and stands at around 96ft high, overlooking Puffin Island. Its engineer James Walker, keen to pioneer new innovations, installed an early example of a water closet with a drain at the base of the tower. This proved a bad idea during storms, when seawater had a tendency to surge up the drain, giving a nasty shock to any unsuspecting keeper using the facilities at the time.

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Bell Rock

The oldest lighthouse still in use in the world, Bell Rock is named after the rock on which it sits. How the rock gained its name is immortalised in the ballad ‘The Inchcape Rock’, written by Robert Southey in 1802. In the tale, the Abbot of Arbroath installs a bell on the rock to warn mariners of the reef, but a villainous pirate throws the bell into the sea. In a twist of fate, the pirate is himself later wrecked upon the rocks.

Follow Ben’s progress on Instagram @benlangworthyillustration or via his column at caughtbytheriver.net.

You can also buy signed A4 prints of Ben’s lighthouses on his etsy page.

The Odysseum: Larry 'Lawnchair' Walters (1949-1993)

Fresh from our third book The Odysseum – meet Larry Walters, the truck-driver who flew away on his own lawn chair.

flickr/BrandonWalts

flickr/BrandonWalts

What do you do if your life’s ambition – to become a pilot with the US Air Force – gets shot down by poor eyesight? If you’re Larry Walters, you take matters into your own hands. In 1982 the California truck-driver, unperturbed by the stringent recruitment standards of the USAF, decided to take to the air in his own unique way: by attaching a large cluster of weather balloons to a lawn chair.

First, Larry and his girlfriend forged a requisition slip from his employer, Filmfair Studios, enabling them to purchase the 45 8-foot (2.4 m) weather balloons by saying they were to be used in a commercial. They then set about inflating the balloons and attaching them to Larry’s patio chair. He put on a parachute, strapped himself in and took off, carrying with him only the absolute essentials – a pellet gun (to shoot balloons if he went too high), a CB radio, a camera, sandwiches and, most essential
of all, a four-pack of beer.

The plan was to float 30 feet (9 m) above the Mojave Desert for a few hours, then effect a pleasant and gradual descent. To Larry’s horror, however, the chair rose from his yard in San Pedro much faster than expected – he was eventually to reach a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 m) – and was soon drifting over Los Angeles and into the primary approach corridor for Long Beach Airport, where he was spotted by several commercial airliners.

By this point, Larry had achieved his primary aim – to fly – but now faced the problem of how not to fly. Floating in LA airspace was not, he knew, going to make him very popular. Initially, though, he was too scared to shoot any of the balloons in case he unbalanced and fell from his madcap contraption. He tried getting in touch with REACT – a citizen’s band radio monitoring organisation. As he put it to them:

‘… the difficulty is, ah, this was an unauthorised balloon launch and, uh, I’m sure my ground crew has alerted the proper authority. But, uh, just call them and tell them I’m okay.’

After 45 minutes of literally hanging around, he eventually plucked up the courage to shoot a few balloons – just before the gun went overboard. Fortunately, the cull, as far as it went, proved sufficient to get him moving in the right direction. The slow descent concluded among power cables, blacking out an entire Long Beach neighbourhood for 20 minutes.

Upon picking him up, the Long Beach Police Department made a decisive statement: ‘We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, some type of charge will be filed.’ Walters was eventually charged with ‘operating a civil aircraft within an airport traffic area without establishing and maintaining 2-way communications with the control tower’. He was fined $4,000 – but his pilot’s licence couldn’t be suspended, since he didn’t have one.

Having achieved his dream, Larry spent a short period as a motivational speaker and appeared on both The David Letterman Show and The Late Show. Eventually, however, he went back to a simple life – working for the United States Forest Service and as a security guard. He died in 1993, but will always be remembered as ‘Lawnchair Larry’, inspiring a song, various copycat flights and the 2003 Australian film Danny Deckchair, starring Rhys Ifans.

Larry was by no means the only weather balloon pilot – there have been many cases of people putting thin bits of rubber between themselves and an unpleasant meeting with terra firma. One such case was the Brazilian priest Father Adelir Antônia de Carli, whose 2008 foray into the atmosphere left him both wet and headless.

Seemingly well prepared – he was an experienced skydiver, and he’d trained extensively in survival skills prior to his launch – there was one huge gap in his safety plan, quickly exposed when he caught a breeze and got blown out across the Atlantic. While floating over the ocean, he rang the authorities from his mobile phone to ask someone to explain how his GPS equipment worked. Not long after that he lost contact entirely. A few months later, some of his balloons, along with the lower half
of his body, were found floating in the sea.

On a happier note, Tom Morgan – a member of the Bristol-based League of Adventurists, reached a height of 8,000 feet (2,438 m) in October 2017 by tying 100 helium balloons to a camping chair and flying over the Sahara. He returned to Earth safe, dry and with all parts of his body intact.

Words: Jen Rowe

The Odysseum is available to pre-order via Amazon.

Introducing our Third Book: The Odysseum

The Odysseum explores fascinating stories behind some of the world’s most extraordinary and unexpected journeys. Expect adventures with stowaways, astronauts, psychedelic pilgrims, prisoners of war and the artist who created the world’s biggest treasure hunt.

Brought to you by Ernest editor Jo Tinsley and co-author David Bramwell, The Odysseum is the final edition in our trilogy of wonder and eccentricity.

Discover why artist Grayson Perry took his teddy bear on a trip to Bavaria and what horrors befell film-maker Werner Herzog when he attempted to drag a 320-ton steamboat over a hill through impenetrable jungle. Learn about attempted voyages to the centre of the earth and accidental journeys into storm clouds, and follow Dadaist filmmaker Andrew Kötting as he takes a 12-foot inflatable ‘deadad’ on a trip around the globe.

Restlessly exploring the psychology of what it means to embark upon a journey, The Odysseum is a celebration of human imagination, motivation and resolve – from micro-journeys around a prison cell to the story of how Einstein’s brain and the corpses of Gram Parsons and Eva Peron embarked on remarkable trips beyond the grave.

The Odysseum is on available to order on Amazon.

Pie glossary

From throwaway crusts to royal banquet centrepieces, our beloved pie has a weird and wonderful history stowed away behind its pantry door. 

Illustration by Sue Gent

Illustration by Sue Gent

Cow heel (Cumbria and Lancashire)
The fatty cartilage around a cow’s heel was used to make a sticky and sweet gravy in a pie.

Swan (Nottinghamshire) 
The finest pieces of swan meat, stewed with sugar and spices and served in a Budby pie.

Lambs tail (Cotswolds and Kent) 
After docking the tails from lambs, the wool would be removed, the tails joined and stewed with root veg. Two dozen tails would be required for a pie. 

Sparrow brains
In a courageous tart these were mixed with sweet potatoes and fruit.The name likely refers to the rumoured aphrodisiac qualities of the dish. 

Rook
When young rooks were ‘cleared’ in spring, the breast and legs would be simmered in milk before being baked in a pie.The rest of the bird was too bitter for eating.

Larks
Recommended by Mrs Beeton to be served as an entree, these birds would be baked whole in a pie, bones and all. 

Intestines (Cornwall) 
The appetising sounding muggety pie contained cow entrails, boiled, sliced and mixed with cream and parsley.

Testicles
You could be forgiven for not knowing that ‘stones’ referred to testicles in the 18h century. Blanched and sliced, they were the main ingredient of a lambstone pie, mixed with artichokes and sweetbreads.

Piglests (Cornwall)
Or to be more specific, prematurely born piglets, the main ingredient of a tiddago pie.

Udder
Boiled and sliced with tongue and mixed with raisins, an udder pie was apparently tasty hot or cold.

Words: Steph Wetherell; thelocavore.co.uk

This featured in issue 7 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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