Potpourri Volume I: Survival

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In the course of doing research for shows, I often come across interesting facts that wouldn’t really make for an entire episode. They are really interesting, but I’m not sure how I could turn it into even a short daily podcast like this one. 

So, the solution was to create an episode where I could just randomly put all these loose ends together. 

With that, I bring to you my first potpourri show, on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.

The theme of this show, and I didn’t realize it until I had put everything together, is survival. Surviving under very unique circumstances.

The first story for this grab bag episode deals with an interesting question: Has anyone ever been hit by a meteor? As in, has a rock which has been hurled from space, entered the Earth’s atmosphere, and then actually hit a human being on their body?

The answer is surprisingly, yes……… and the person actually lived.  

The reason why it is surprising is that the actual space taken up by human bodies is quite small. Going under the assumption that you could fit 10 humans into a square meter, standing shoulder to shoulder, all 7 billion people on Earth could fit into New York City. Actually, the area is smaller than New York City, and that doesn’t include putting people in buildings or in subway tunnels. 

The odds that something would hit the Earth at the exact spot where someone is at that moment, is incredibly small. Meteorites hit the Earth quite frequently, but usually in the middle of nowhere. In fact, calculating the odds is difficult because calculations include very large events that could affect a large number of people, but they very rarely happen.

On November 30, 1954, at 12:46 pm local time in Oak Grove, Alabama, the only known case of a human getting hit by a meteorite occurred. Ann Hodges was taking a nap on her couch when a softball-size rock slammed through her ceiling, hit a radio, and then bounced and hit her in the leg, giving her a large bruise. 

This is the only confirmed case of someone getting hit by a meteorite that we know of. 

There was a case from 1677 in Italy where a priest was supposedly killed by one, but there is no real evidence behind it. Likewise, in 1992 a boy in Uganda might have been hit by a very small meteorite that fell on him as it bounced down a tree. It caused no damage whatsoever.

The next subject is about the luckiest or unluckiest man and woman in the world, depending on how you want to define luck.

Violet Jessup was born in 1887 in Argentina to an Irish family and moved to the UK at the age of 16. When she was 21 she took a job working as a stewardess for the White Star Line on their passenger ships which crossed the Atlantic.

In 1911, she got a position on the RMS Olympic which was the largest civilian ship in the world at that point. On the ship’s fifth voyage on September 20, 1911, the ship collided with the HMS Hawke. There were no fatalities, and the Olympic managed to limp home to port.

In 1912, Violet got a job on the new flagship for the White Star Line, the Titanic. I think you know where this story is going. Violet managed to survive the Titanic disaster, continuing her streak.

In WWI, she worked for the Red Cross and was a stewardess on the HMHS Britannic which was converted into a hospital ship. On November 21, 1916, the ship either was torpedoed or hit a mine, and it sank. Again, she survived, but this time did suffer a head injury. 

In the course of researching her, I came across the story of Arthur Priest.

Priest worked as a stoker on ships, which fed coal to the boilers. He served on the Titanic, which he survived. He was on the RMS Alcantara which was sunk in 1916 by a u-boat. He was then on the HMHS Asturias, which was sunk on March 20, 1917, by a German u-boat. He survived. He was on the HMHS Britannic along with Violet Jessup, which he survived. Finally, he was on the SS Donegal which was sunk in April 1917.

In total, he survived five different ship sinkings.

Finally, there is the case of Wenman Wykeham-Musgrave, who also survived three different ship sinkings……in one hour. 

On September 22, 1914 (You will notice that there were a lot of ships being sunk around this time), Wenman was on the HMS Aboukir when it was hit by a torpedo from a u-boat. 

He then swam to the HMS Hogue which was nearby and on patrol with the Aboukir. Just as he got on board the ship, it too was hit by a torpedo and sank. He then made it to the HMS Cressy, the third ship on the patrol, when it too was hit and sunk. Three ships, three sinkings, one hour.

He managed to survive the whole ordeal by finding some driftwood and floating until he was picked up by a Dutch fishing ship.

The final story of survival is that of Dr. Jerri Nielsen. She was an emergency room doctor who was stationed at the south pole in the winter of 1998. 

The people who stay at the south pole are pretty much isolated from the entire world during the winter. Planes can’t fly there because there is no light and the temperatures are extreme. The average temperature during this time of years is ?60 °C or ?76 °F.  The team which is there has to be self-sufficient until the spring.

During the winter she discovered a lump on her breast. Consulting with doctors, she did a biopsy on herself, but the results were inconclusive because they didn’t have adequate equipment to run a proper test.

The National Science Foundation arranged a rare winter airdrop for supplies so she could get the proper equipment and medicine. She also trained some of the other staff at the base to assist her so she could perform another biopsy. This time, with the equipment from the airdrop, she found out that the lump was indeed cancerous.

She began self-directed chemotherapy treatment at the south pole until she was evacuated on the first flight out in the spring.

Even eventually passed away in 2007 from the cancer detected at the south pole.

She wasn’t actually the first person in Antarctica to perform surgery on herself. 

In 1961, Leonid Rogozov was the medical officer in the Soviet Antarctic Expedition. He developed a case of appendicitis while at the base and winter was starting to set in. Other Antarctica bases couldn’t send help because of a blizzard, so he was forced to perform the appendectomy on himself.

Over a period of 2 hours, with the help of the base meteorologist and a truck driver, he managed to perform an incision on himself, remove the appendix, and suture the wound. 

He became a media sensation back in the Soviet Union and was awarded a medal for his bravery.