Archive for the 'Animals' Category

We’ve been putting animals on trial probably as long as we’ve been putting one another on trial. In this episode we examine several animal trials spanning nearly a 600-year period. We cover six trials extending over three continents: A monkey in Hartlepool accused of espionage, a murderous pig in Savigny, a group of slugs who just wouldn’t listen, a circus elephant in Tennessee we should never forget, a bear who served time with good behavior in Kazakhstan, and a rooster (or basilisk depending on whom you ask) in Basel, Switzerland, burned at the stake for laying an egg. Grab you gavels and get ready to travel on this sometimes whimsical, sometimes sad, and constantly strange episode exploring the history of animals put on trial.

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It was believed the Coelacanth went extinct along with the dinosaurs around 66 million years ago when the Chicxulub impactor smashed into planet Earth…that was until Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, curator of the East London Museum, found one in a pile of fish on a dock in South Africa in 1938. This ancient fish surprised the scientific world when the first living specimen was pulled up by Captain Hendrik Goosen while he was trawling for fish near the mouth of the Chalumna River. The Coelacanth was dubbed a “living fossil” though it was eventually discovered that it has evolved over the last 400 million years. Come hear the story of how the determined Marjorie saved the world’s first extant Coelacanth specimen, and what exactly makes this strange, ancient species so special.

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Decades before the movie phenomenon of Jaws, our fear of sharks was ignited by a series of real shark attacks that all occurred within a 12-day period in the summer of 1916. Before these attacks along the New Jersey shore, many believed sharks were not capable of killing or attacking humans. This week we sift through the lore to find the real history surrounding the five attacks-and four deaths-that kindled our fascination with these animals. We also discuss how the shark mania that spread out from the 1916 attacks and the sensational film Jaws, has given sharks a reputation as blood thirsty killers, and how that mentality is shifting the more we learn about these incredible animals. Let’s jump into the water with some of history’s most famous sharks.

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History is weird sometimes. In this first episode of a two-part series, we discuss historical oddities, and highlight some of the most curious events and people history has to offer. Today we begin with Frank Hayes, an unstoppable jockey, and Sweet Kiss, a bay mare no one was betting on. She and her jockey would make history with one race—but not because of their victory. Then we skip across the pond to find the unsinkable Violet Jessop, a woman who survived three of the 20th century’s most harrowing shipwrecks. South Africa is our last stop where we find Jack the Baboon who was better at his job working for the Cape Town Port Elizabeth Railway service than most of us are today. Plug in and get weird!

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We know that a lot of our communication happens not just through words, but through facial expressions, tone, and body language too. This can cause a researcher to unintentionally influence the person or animal they are examining. There are ways of getting around this-double blind studies are one way-where neither the researcher nor the subject knows if they are in a control or experimental group. But where did our understanding of subtle cues come from? Well, they came from a particularly clever horse. Clever Hans, a horse who took the media by storm in the early 1900s. Clever Hans was wowing the world with his ability to calculate numbers, identify musical tones, and ace any test thrown his way. His trainer, retired school teacher Wilhelm Van Osten, taught this horse as he would have a human child in front of a chalkboard and a counting machine in his backyard for years. Van Osten and the world truly believed Clever Hans was capable of extraordinary things. And he was…it just wasn’t what they had all suspected. Little did they know, they were all being outsmarted by one clever horse. 

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This episode is the first in a series highlighting extraordinary people doing extraordinary things in times of crises. This week we travel to Belfast during the Blitz of 1941 and meet Denise Weston Austin. She worked as one of the Belfast Zoo’s first female zookeepers, and the friendship she developed with Sheila, the zoo’s baby elephant, would become an inspirational part of Irish history. For decades, Denise’s identity remained a mystery until an old black and white photo of a woman and a baby elephant in a backyard surfaced from the zoo’s archives. Come hear the story of the woman who risked everything to save a small, plucky elephant, and why Denise has become known around the world as the Elephant Angel. 

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The finale is here! Come find out just how one of the most inspiring stories of human endurance ended. We head back to Antarctica and watch the crew of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition make history as Shackleton attempts one last desperate attempt at a rescue mission. This episode has all the answers you've been waiting for. 

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In 1914 the 28 member crew of the Endurance left to trek across the continent of Antarctica on foot. It is now the beginning of 1916. Their ship has been crushed, they've been stranded on the ice with no way out, and they've taken to the boats in a last ditch effort to escape the ice melting beneath them. In Part 4 we hear what happens next as they head for the yet unexplored Elephant Island, and Shackleton with a sets out on an 820 mile open boat journey on the roughest sea passage in the world to either find rescue, or doom them all to an icy grave. 

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In Part 3 of Shackleton's Lost Voyage, we join the stranded crew of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914, who have been stranded on the ice now for well over a year. Their ship has been crushed, starvation and madness have begun to set in, and they've been trapped by the ice and sea with no way out. In this episode, we watch as they make a desperate escape attempt while the ice splits beneath them, before heading out towards the unknown on the open sea. 

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In this two story episode we travel to Guanajuato, Mexico, and discover a cache of mummies that were literally evicted from their graves. Then we head to Beni Hassan, Egypt, where a farmer digging a well in 1888 accidentally stumbled upon one of the largest hoards of cat mummies ever found, and, possibly, an ancient, illegal crime ring of cat killers (seriously). We also meet Bastet, the ancient Egyptian goddess that started it all. 

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In this episode we explore history's first monsters. From the prehistoric beasts that stalked our ancestors to the first mythological oral traditions, then to the first ancient written accounts through the modern day; this is the history of what scares us. What were the first monsters, why do we fear them, and why do we need them? Let's find out and examine the first things that appeared from the darkness. 

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In Part 2 of Shackleton's Lost Voyage, the crew of the Endurance find themselves frozen fast in the Antarctic pack ice in 1915. In this episode, we examine the psychology behind what happens to the human mind during the long Polar Night as we join the crew on the next leg of their journey. Disaster, heartbreak, and uncanny resilience unfold in this second chapter before the finale of Part 3. 

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In 1914 the crew of the Endurance left to trek across the continent of Antarctica on foot. Led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, they believed their journey would bring them adventure, scientific discovery, and fame. What actually unfolded would become one of the greatest stories of human endurance the world has ever seen. Crushed by ice, lost, and wandering at the bottom of the world, they would harrow the most severe environment on Earth as they gave everything to make it home again. Come hear the story of the Trans Antarctic Expedition and the polar explorers that colored in the last pieces of the world's map. 

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Come and meet Ham the astronaut chimp and discover how the animal astronauts of history just may have saved us all. Also featuring Space Dogs and one phenomenal Astro Cat for an episode that's literally out of this world. 

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Come and meet Poll, a presidential parrot so extra that his epic level of snark still lives on today. 

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And so it begins. 

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