Photo: watercolour painted by John White
John White, explorer and artist - British Museum, London
Village of the Secotan in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White, 1585.
Photo: Clay pot of North Carolina Algonquins used for boiling.
John White, explorer and artist - British Museum, London
Clay pot of North Carolina Algonquins used for boiling.
Photo: Equipment for curing fish used by the North Carolina Algonquins.
John White, explorer and artist - British Museum, London
Equipment for curing fish used by the North Carolina Algonquins.
Photo: Man of the Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by John White in 1585.
John White, explorer and artist - British Museum, London
Man of the Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolor painted by John White in 1585.
A sweeping account of America's oldest unsolved mystery, the people racing to unearth its answer, and what the Lost Colony reveals about America today
In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived at Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina to establish the first English settlement in the New World. But when the new colony's leader returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission, his settlers had vanished, leaving behind only a single clue - a "secret token" etched into a tree.
What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke? That question has consumed historians, archeologists, and amateur sleuths for 400 years. In The Secret Token, Andrew Lawler sets out on a quest to determine the fate of the settlers, finding fresh leads as he encounters a host of characters obsessed with resolving the enigma. In the course of his journey, Lawler examines how the Lost Colony came to haunt our national consciousness.
Incisive and absorbing, The Secret Token offers a new understanding not just of the Lost Colony and its fate, but of how its absence continues to define - and divide - America.
Interview begins at 3:15
Today’s author interview on YouTube is with Andrew Lawler, author of The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke A sweeping account of America’s oldest unsolved mystery, the people racing to unearth its answer, and the sobering truths–about race, gender, and immigration–exposed by the Lost Colony of Roanoke In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived at Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina.
Chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, their colony was to establish England’s first foothold in the New World. But when the colony’s leader, John White, returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission, his settlers were nowhere to be found. They left behind only a single clue–a “secret token” carved into a tree. Neither White nor any other European laid eyes on the colonists again. What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke?
For four hundred years, that question has consumed historians and amateur sleuths, leading only to dead ends and hoaxes. But after a chance encounter with a British archaeologist, journalist Andrew Lawler discovered that solid answers to the mystery were within reach. He set out to unravel the enigma of the lost settlers, accompanying competing researchers, each hoping to be the first to solve its riddle. In the course of his journey, Lawler encounters a host of characters obsessed with the colonists and their fate, and he determines why the Lost Colony continues to haunt our national consciousness.
Thrilling and absorbing, The Secret Token offers a new understanding not just of the first English settlement in the New World but of how its disappearance continues to define–and divide–America. Andrew Lawler is the author of two books, The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke and Why Did the Chicken Cross the World: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization.
As a journalist, he has written more than a thousand newspaper and magazine articles from more than two dozen countries. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and many others. He is contributing writer for Science and contributing editor for Archaeology. Andrew’s work has appeared several times in The Best of Science and Nature Writing.
More than 200 million years ago, geological forces split apart the continents. Isolated from each other, the two halves of the world developed radically different suites of plants and animals. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, he ended that separation at a stroke. Driven by the economic goal of establishing trade with China, he accidentally set off an ecological convulsion as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans. The Columbian Exchange, as researchers call it, is the reason there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and chili peppers in Thailand. More important, creatures the colonists knew nothing about hitched along for the ride. Earthworms, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; honeybees, dandelions, and African grasses; bacteria, fungi, and viruses; rats of every description - all of them rushed like eager tourists into lands that had never seen their like before, changing lives and landscapes across the planet.
Eight decades after Columbus, a Spaniard named Legazpi succeeded where Columbus had failed. He sailed west to establish continual trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Manila, a city Legazpi founded, silver from the Americas, mined by African and Indian slaves, was sold to Asians in return for silk for Europeans. It was the first time that goods and people from every corner of the globe were connected in a single worldwide exchange. Much as Columbus created a new world biologically, Legazpi and the Spanish empire he served created a new world economically.
As Charles C. Mann shows, the Columbian Exchange underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest research by ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Mexico City - where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted - the center of the world. In such encounters, he uncovers the germ of today's fiercest political disputes, from immigration to trade policy to culture...
As political change sweeps the streets and squares, the parliaments and presidential palaces of the Arab world, Shereen El Feki has been looking at an upheaval a little closer to home—in the sexual lives of men and women in Egypt and across the region. The result is an informative, insightful, and engaging account of a highly sensitive and still largely secret aspect of Arab society.
Sex is entwined in religion, tradition, politics, economics, and culture, so it is the perfect lens through which to examine the complex social landscape of the Arab world. From pregnant virgins to desperate housewives, from fearless activists to religious firebrands, from sex work to same-sex relations, Sex and the Citadel takes a fresh look at the sexual history of the region and brings new voices to the debate over its future.
This is no peep show or academic treatise but a highly personal and often humorous account of one woman’s journey to better understand Arab society at its most intimate and, in the process, to better understand her own origins. Rich with five years of groundbreaking research, Sex and the Citadel gives us a unique and timely understanding of everyday lives in a part of the world that is changing before our eyes.
For nearly four centuries, the Ottoman sultans dwelt amid the secret splendors of Topkapi Palace. Access to the Grand Seraglio--which served as the empire's administrative, legislative, and judicial center and an academy of fine arts, as well as the ruler's home--was jealously guarded, even after the sultans ceased to reside there in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1936, a distinguished scholar of Orientalism, Norman Mosley Penzer (1892-1960), was afforded a rare opportunity to step inside the Grand Seraglio; in this eagerly embraced and much-consulted volume, he reveals what he found.
Constructed between 1459 and 1465 at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Topkapi Palace stands in present-day Istanbul, near the confluence of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, and the Marmara Sea. Penzer surveyed the entire palace from end to end during numerous visits over the course of two years, and he presents photographs and floor plans that provide a comprehensive view of Topkapi's structure. Penzer's illustrations of the opulent gardens, chambers, and pavilions come to imaginative life with his explorations of day-to-day palace life--particularly among the women of the harem and their eunuch guards. His evocative accounts of the manners, dress, and politics of Turkish court life continue to influence the scholarly work of the twenty-first century, and this classic history remains indispensable to studies of harem life.
There are over 100 identified ethnic groups in Russia. Of them, 41 are legally recognized as “Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East.” These are the only groups that are legally protected as Indigenous peoples; to meet the requirements, a group of peoples must number fewer than 50,000 people, maintain a traditional way of life, inhabit certain remote areas of the country, and identify as a distinct ethnic group. Some groups are disqualified because of their larger populations, such as the Sakha (Yakuts), Buryat, Komi, and Khakas; others are currently striving to get recognition. Additionally, there are 24 larger ethnic groups that are identified as national identities or titular nations. These groups inhabit independent states or autonomous areas in Russia, but do not have specific protections under the law.
The smallest of these Indigenous groups are the Enets (350 people) and the Oroks (450 people), while the largest are the Nenets and Evenkis, which both have nearly 30,000 members. Of the 41 peoples, ten have fewer than 1,000 members and eleven live beyond the Arctic Circle. At least 16 of these peoples have such small populations that they are considered to be endangered; at least eleven have been declared extinct. Though Russia’s Indigenous peoples only make up 0.2% of the total population, or 250,000 people total, they inhabit about 2/3 of Russia’s territory.
The Indigenous peoples of Russia are so varied and diverse that it would be a disservice to try and provide a cultural overview. They do have some characteristics in common: many are nomadic or seminomadic, practice animism, and have lifestyles based on hunting, gathering, fishing, and reindeer herding. In many of these groups, an adherence to traditional lifestyle has become even more important since the collapse of the Soviet economy. The languages of the Indigenous groups of Russia are numerous, but most of them belong to one of three main ethno-linguistic groups: Uralic, Altaic, and Paleo-Siberian. We highly encourage you to look into the amazing cultures of the individual tribes – this website provides a great starting point with introductions to each group.
Unfortunately, the Indigenous peoples of Russia also share many common problems. Russia has not ratified ILO Convention 169. Though Indigenous Peoples are protected under Article 69 of the Russian Constitution, the implementation of protective laws and regulations are often not adequately enforced or are complicated by government decisions regarding natural resource use in the North. There are currently 70 places of potential conflict between local groups and extractive projects – for example, nickel mining has intruded on many reindeer pastures and sacred sites. In November 2011, the Committee of the Federation Council on Northern Affairs and Affairs of Indigenous Small-Numbered Peoples, the only federal legislation body specializing in Indigenous Affairs, was dissolved, along with several regional specialized government bodies.
In July 2012, Russia passed a law designating non-profits that accept foreign funding and participate in “political” activities such as Indigenous rights as “foreign agents,” subjecting many Indigenous organizing groups to more legal obligations and stigmatization. In November 2012, the government suspended the activities of the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON). Founded in 1990, RAIPON represents 42 Indigenous groups in Russia and is a permanent member of the crucial Arctic Council.
In 2001 the government adopted a law “On the Territories of Traditional Nature Use,” the only serious attempt to ensure Indigenous Peoples land-use rights to the land on which they depend for subsistence. However, since the law has gone into effect not a single Territory of Traditional Nature
Use (TTNU) has been established. Many Indigenous groups also suffer from insufficient fishing rights – in 2008 an amendment to federal law removed provisions of priority for access to fishing grounds for Indigenous peoples, and stipulated that Indigenous peoples may only fish for their personal needs. This excludes obshchinas, or Indigenous cooperatives – in many territories, the largest providers of income and employment for Indigenous peoples. There are over 2,300 obshchinas across Russia. It is also very difficult for nomadic fishers to obtain licenses, and they face heavy fines for fishing without a license.
These problems only make currently existing problems with unemployment and poverty worse. Unemployment in Indigenous populations is 1.5-2 times higher than in the general Russian population, and incomes are 2-3 times lower. Indigenous peoples suffer from a lack of clean drinking water, inadequate food, and insufficient drinking water. These problems contribute to numerous health problems such as tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, intestinal infections, upper respiratory infections, and alcoholism.
In the Indigenous communities of Russia, tuberculosis (TB), a health problem that is virtually nonexistent in developed nations, occurs at a rate of 3 times the national average. Maternal and child mortality is much higher in Indigenous territories – in some territories, the mortality rate is several times higher than the birth rate. Because of these issues, life expectancy for Indigenous peoples is much shorter than the already relatively short Russian life expectancy – 50 years for men and 60 years for women, compared to 64 years for men and 70 years for women in the general Russian population.
The Indigenous peoples of Russia also face many threats to their traditional cultures. For example, today only 10% of Siberia’s tribal people live a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, compared to 70% about 30 years ago. Since 2002, the population of 24 of the Russian Indigenous groups has declined, with only 10 increasing in membership. This is due primarily to a decline in self-identification with the tribe as well as assimilation with the Russian population. 90% of the population of Northern Russia has migrated there within the past two centuries, and patterns of forced promotion of the Russian language and culture have eroded many of the smaller Indigenous cultures. The proliferation of Russian-language public schools and boarding schools and mass media such as newspapers, television, and radio produced in Russia has threatened Indigenous languages – there are now 148 endangered languages in Russia.
The problems facing the Indigenous peoples of Russian are severe – but so is the will and resolve of the people. Having already survived incredible hardships – both environmental and political – the Russian Indigenous peoples evidently find great strength in their ancestors, culture, and ability to be both resilient and adaptive. Perhaps now, with the world turned towards Russia, is a good time for the rest of us to lend some support.
“I must say that the charm of the Arctic, its infinite diversity, its aloofness from the rest of the world, made it a field which gives its own reward. Only those who have seen the magnificent sunsets over the ice, who have…been buffeted by storms… can appreciate the spell which always draws us back there.”
― Louise Arner Boyd
Sailing towards the west coast of Greenland in the war-torn summer of 1941, the Effie M. Morrissey navigated its way through a narrow fjord and anchored off the town of Julianehaab. The American ship appeared vulnerable and run-down next to the impressive U.S. Coast Guard vessels Bowdoin and Comanche.
It was a perilous time. Only eight weeks before, a British cargo vessel had been torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat off Cape Farewell just to the south. As newly minted members of the Greenland Patrol of the Atlantic Fleet, the Bowdoin and the Comanche were responsible for preventing German forces from establishing a base on Greenland and for providing vital support for the Allies.
As the Morrissey’s passengers disembarked, town residents gathered onshore. Commander Donald Macmillan of the Bowdoin hurried forward to greet the person in charge. Defying all expectations, the leader was no grizzled Navy man. Instead, a stately, well-coiffed California woman of a certain age clambered out of the rowboat and strode toward him.
Louise Arner Boyd was the world’s leading female Arctic explorer and geographer. By that time, she had organized, financed and led six maritime expeditions to East Greenland, Franz Josef Land, Jan Mayen Land and Spitsbergen. She had been showered with honors by five countries, and her scientific accomplishments and daring exploits had earned her newspaper headlines and global renown. A month earlier, many journalists had covered the departure of the 1941 Louise A. Boyd Expedition to Greenland from Washington D.C. But after the Morrissey weighed anchor, more than a few local residents wondered what this outspoken, unusual woman was doing in the company of high-ranking officers engaged in war matters.
The answer to that question was a secret. Boyd, operating under the guise of her work as an explorer, was conducting a covert mission for the American government, searching for possible military landing sites and investigating the improvement of radio communications in this region. Even the captain and crew of her own ship were unaware of the expedition’s true goals.
Boyd’s extensive technical knowledge of Greenland and her work as a U.S. military consultant would make her an invaluable asset to the Allied war effort. But, for all her accomplishments and service to her country, she has largely been forgotten, and not just because historians preferred to consider the larger-than-life dramas of her male colleagues. Her focus on contributing to scientific journals rather than pandering to the sensationalistic whims of the reading public cost her some acclaim. And she had no direct descendants to carry on her legacy.
Her 1941 mission along the western coast of Greenland and eastern Arctic Canada was Boyd’s seventh and final expedition. As on her previous voyages, she pushed the boundaries of geographic knowledge and undertook hazardous journeys to dangerous places. Boyd also brought in promising young scientists to participate in vital polar research. Exploration of the Arctic seascape—with its vast expanses of bobbing ice, the rhythmic sway of the wooden ship as it traversed the surging waves, the soothing solitude of the north—resonated deeply with Boyd and defined who she was and what she did.
“Far north, hidden behind grim barriers of pack ice, are lands that hold one spell-bound,” she wrote in 1935's The Fiord Region of East Greenland. “Gigantic imaginary gates, with hinges set in the horizon, seem to guard these lands. Slowly the gates swing open, and one enters another world where men are insignificant amid the awesome immensity of lonely mountains, fiords and glaciers.”
But her life had not always been like this. Born in 1887 to a California gold miner who struck it rich and a patrician mother from Rochester, Louise Arner Boyd was raised in a genteel mansion in San Rafael, California. As a child, she was enthralled by real-life tales of polar exploration, but grew up expecting to marry and have children. Like her mother, Boyd became a socialite and philanthropist active in community work.
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"Shortly before Christmas in 1943, five Army aviators left Alaska's Ladd Field on a routine flight to test their hastily retrofitted B-24 Liberator in harsh winter conditions. The mission ended in a crash that claimed all but one—Leon Crane, a city kid from Philadelphia with no wilderness experience. With little more than a parachute for cover and an old Boy Scout knife in his pocket, Crane found himself alone in subzero temperatures. 81 Days Below Zero recounts, for the first time, the full story of Crane's remarkable twelve-week saga."
"In 81 Days Below Zero, Brian Murphy rediscovers one of the most astounding survival stories in Alaskan history. The account is all the more remarkable because of Leon Crane's lifelong reluctance to talk about his ordeal. Murphy has saved from oblivion a tale that resonates with inspiration more than seventy years later."
—David Roberts, author of Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration
"This is a great story, wonderfully told. From the moment the doomed plane takes off until the lone survivor rejoins civilization, the reader is taken on a thrilling, emotional, and hugely satisfying ride. Seamlessly interweaving the pilot's intense struggle against the elements with the broader history of the war, Alaska, and the home front, Brian Murphy has created a fascinating page-turner that you will not want to put down."
—Eric Jay Dolin, author of Leviathan and When America First Met China
"The hardships endured by Leon Crane are unimaginable, and author Brian Murphy expertly takes the reader into Crane's inspiring journey of survival. You will find yourself rooting for Crane to take the next step, make the next right decision, and fight on. 81 Days Below Zero pulls you into Crane's thought process, and you might find yourself wondering, 'What would I have done in a similar situation?' Few of us would have that combination of creativeness and mental fortitude to do what Crane did."
—Michael J. Tougias, author of Fatal Forecast, A Storm Too Soon, and Overboard
Kirkus Reviews, 4/1/15
“A gripping story”
“A solid entry in the perennially popular canon of real-life adventure stories.”
Roanoke Times review, 6/17/15
“[A] thrilling true story… Many have been the tales of man against nature, the struggle for survival among icy peaks in a howling wilderness—some fictitious (Jack London's “To Build a Fire”), others far too true (“Alive”). Few if any have chronicled such an epic battle as this, the journey of a lone airman from near death to life, in the course of which might be seen a series of miracles, fortified by his indomitable will to survive… It is a well-told tale.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6/28/15
“81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy, is a thrilling page-turner of true-live adventure… Murphy's instincts for pacing and re-creating emotions, dialogue and details are so finely crafted that you might find yourself shivering right along with Crane as he struggles to hang on in subzero conditions with only his Boy Scout knife, 40 matches, a parachute and the clothes on his back.”
Alaska Dispatch News, 7/12/15
“Pilot's genuine Alaska survival story puts reality TV to shame… As survival tales go, this one is epic…81 Days Below Zero is a traditionally crafted narrative that balances historical details with themes of adventure and unlikely survival. But there is more here than just an unexpected World War II story, which is compelling enough…Murphy shows how close the 21st century is to the events of the past and the quietly heroic actions a historian can take. Reality television has very nearly convinced us that it takes manufactured drama to get our attention. Kudos to Brian Murphy for reminding readers how far from the truth that assertion can be.”
Portland Review of Books
“An exciting, caring, and interesting story.”
Jacksonville Journal-Courier, 8/16/15
“Murphy relays the incredible survival story in subzero conditions with masterful suspense.”
Washington Post, 10/11/15
“This would be a great read at the beach on a hot summer day…A riveting story…An interesting saga of survival against formidable odds.”
WWII History magazine, December 2015
“Leon Crane's amazing story is recounted in great detail. The author relates the young aviator's harrowing tale in smooth prose, which beckons the reader to continue reading. There are many survival stories of airmen and sailors adrift at sea and how they beat the odds. This story reveals how one flyer endured an experience just as extreme and lived to tell about it.”
Charleston Post and Courier, 1/17/16
“[A] sharply detailed, gripping account…The reader shivers with Crane as he ponders each next step through a desolate Alaskan forest when a warm day during the winter of 1943 is zero degrees Fahrenheit…A fresh, vivid, film-worthy tale of World War II survival.”
Military Officer, February 2016
“Murphy vividly describes Crane's World War II Alaskan ordeal.”
Collected Miscellany, 1/28/16
“Gripping…Murphy perfectly captures Crane's predicament of trying to survive in some of the most brutal terrain and weather on the planet…This book is an epic story of one man's will to survive in a harsh environment.”
About the Author
Brian Murphy is a journalist at the Washington Post. He joined the paper after more than twenty years as an award-winning foreign correspondent and bureau chief for The Associated Press in Europe and the Middle East. He has two previous books and currently lives in Washington, DC, with his wife Toula Vlahou.