Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Ugly Australian?

Say it ain't so. Are Australians travelling abroad getting the same reputation as the Ugly Americans? Ben Groundwater thinks so, and he's got an interesting post on the Sydney Morning Herald's travel blog this week. He says that Aussies in Europe are now being tagged "New Yanks." He points to overexposure, jealousy, and involvement in the Iraq war as possible reasons for the change. Well, kind of sounds like America.

While the changing reputation of Aussies may be going on in Europe or Asia, I haven't gotten a sense of that happening in the U.S. But maybe that's disturbing in its own right: the Aussies are becoming just like us. I hope not. Not because I'm a self-loathing American, far from it. But it's the differences from the States that makes Australia such a great place to visit. Why sit on a plane for 20 hours if you are just going to end up landing in "antipodal America"?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Buried Treasure in Boston Harbor?

Pirates? In Boston Harbor? Argh!

Everyone is familiar with Boston’s Revolutionary past, but few know about Boston’s bygone buccaneers. It’s common to think of pirates stalking the tropical Caribbean, but as is the case with many vacationers today, they liked to summer in New England, too. During the 1600s and 1700s, piracy along the New England coast was prevalent as sea bandits lurked and pounced on unarmed merchant vessels, plundering their money and valuable goods and sometimes murdering their crews. There are rumors that some pirates buried their plunder or hid their ill-gotten goods in caves amid the islands of Boston Harbor. Numerous pirates were captured and executed in Boston, taking the location of their loot with them to their graves.

The infamous Captain Kidd was imprisoned in Boston after his capture in 1699 before being shipped to London, where he was tried and executed. Gallops Island is said to be one of the three possible islands where Kidd’s hidden treasure is buried. The pirate “Long Ben” Avery supposedly buried diamonds on Gallops Island that have yet to be found.

Pirates may not be the only source of hidden treasures. Hundreds of ships have met an untimely demise among the islands of Boston Harbor, scattering their contents on the island shores or taking their cargoes to the bottom of the sea.

Allen Gontz, an assistant professor in environmental earth and ocean sciences at UMass Boston, gave an interesting lecture last Thursday at the Old South Meeting House about the hunt for shipwrecks in Boston Harbor. Gontz has led a team of researchers to study the wrecks of the 74-gun French man-of-war Magnifique, which sank off Lovell’s Island in 1782, and the USS Niagara, which was sunk to the waterline near Grape Island. Over the years, silver and gold coins and other valuables have reportedly been found on Lovell's Island, but Gontz says that the French salvaged most of the contents from the Magnifique before it went under. So you may want to keep that day job before you break out the shovel and treasure map and head out to the Boston Harbor Islands.

More information will be in the forthcoming book: Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands.