Most of us think of Isaac Newton for things like Newtonian mechanics, Universal gravitation, Calculus, Newton’s laws of motion, Optics, Binomial series, Principa, and Newton’s method…ok, maybe not, I doubt if most of us know what most of that means, but we knew that he was a great mathematician. Newton was an English mathematician, but he was also a physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, and a key figure in the scientific revolution.
Politically and personally, Newton was tied to the Whig party, an early version of the Republican Party. He served two brief terms as Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge, in 1689-1690 and 1701-1702. He was noted by Cambridge diarist Abraham de la Pryme to have rebuked students who were frightening locals by claiming that a house was haunted. Newton moved to London to take up the post of warden of the Royal Mint in 1696, a position that he had obtained through the patronage of Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He took charge of England’s great recoining, trodden on the toes of Lord Lucas, Governor of the Tower, and secured the job of deputy comptroller of the temporary Chester branch for Edmond Halley. Newton became perhaps the best-known Master of the Mint upon the death of Thomas Neale in 1699. It was a position Newton held for the last 30 years of his life, and one of which he was very proud. These appointments were intended as type of figurehead position, but Newton took his job seriously. He retired from his Cambridge duties in 1701, and exercised his authority to reform the currency and punish clippers and counterfeiters. As Warden, and afterwards as Master, of the Royal Mint, Newton estimated that 20% of the coins taken in during the Great Recoinage of 1696 were counterfeit. Counterfeiting was high treason, which was punishable by the felon being hanged, drawn, and quartered. Despite that, it would be very difficult to convict even the most flagrant criminals. Nevertheless, Isaac Newton proved to be equal to the task.
Disguised as a frequent patron of bars and taverns, he gathered much of that evidence himself. For all the barriers placed to prosecution, and separating the branches of government, English law still had ancient and formidable customs of authority. Newton had been made a justice of the peace in all the home counties. A draft letter regarding the matter is included in Newton’s personal first edition of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which he must have been amending at the time. Then he conducted more than 100 cross-examinations of witnesses, informers, and suspects between June 1698 and Christmas 1699. Newton successfully prosecuted 28 coiners. In April 1705, Queen Anne knighted Newton during a royal visit to Trinity College, Cambridge. The knighthood is likely to have been motivated by political considerations connected with the Parliamentary election in May 1705, rather than any recognition of Newton’s scientific work or services as Master of the Mint. Newton was the second scientist to be knighted, after Sir Francis Bacon. Newton died in his sleep in London on 20 March 1727. His body was buried in Westminster Abbey. A bachelor all his life, Newton had distributed much of his estate to relatives during his last years, and in the end, he died intestate. That seems, to me, a sad ending to an extraordinary life.
I’m sure most of us have read “Moby Dick” at some point in our school years. For those who haven’t, it was the story of a whale, and while I didn’t know this before, the book was actually based on a true story. The book, written by Herman Melville, was first published in 1851. Melville had heard about the incident involving a whaling ship that had been attacked by a sperm whale…a giant 85 foot sperm whale, a few years earlier, and like most writers, there are just some things that you can’t get out of your head. Those are the stories that you know that you must write. Melville’s research gave him the facts of the incident, but it didn’t take him full circle to actually being in the place where that ship had started it fateful journey…Nantucket. Melville knew that someday he would have to make the trip to the Massachusetts island, where Captain George Pollard Jr lived. Pollard was the man Melville had modeled his fictional Captain Ahab after.
On his last day in Nantucket, Melville met George Pollard Jr, who was the captain of the Essex. He was an old man of 60 years, and in reality, probably didn’t resemble the captain of the Essex much at that point. He had been through so much. As they talked, Pollard told Melville’s fictional story from a far too real perspective…being there. Pollard was just 29 years old when he and his crew set out for a voyage that was to have lasted two and a half years. After the sinking of the Essex, Pollard told the full story to fellow captains over a dinner shortly after his rescue from the ordeal, and to a missionary named George Bennet. Bennet thought the tale was almost a confession. He told them of “92 days and sleepless nights at sea in a leaking boat with no food, his surviving crew going mad beneath the unforgiving sun, eventual cannibalism and the harrowing fate of two teenage boys, including Pollard’s first cousin, Owen Coffin.” Then he said, “But I can tell you no more…my head is on fire at the recollection. I hardly know what I say.”
Just two days after leaving Nantucket, Essex’s ordeal began. It was August 14, 1819. They hit a squall that destroyed it’s topgallant sail, almost causing it to sink. Still, Pollard continued on, making it to Cape Horn five weeks later. But the 20-man crew found the waters off South America nearly fished out, so they decided to sail for distant whaling grounds in the South Pacific, far from any shores. By November of 1820, after months of a prosperous voyage and a thousand miles from the nearest land, whaleboats from the Essex had harpooned whales that dragged them out toward the horizon in what the crew called “Nantucket sleigh rides.” Owen Chase, the 23 year old first mate, had stayed aboard the Essex to make repairs while Pollard went whaling. It was Chase who spotted a very big whale…85 feet in length, he estimated…lying quietly in the distance, its head facing the ship. Then, after two or three spouts, the giant whale headed straight for the Essex, “coming down for us at great celerity,” Chase would recall, “at about three knots. The whale smashed head-on into the ship with such an appalling and tremendous jar, as nearly threw us all on our faces.”
The whale passed underneath the ship and began thrashing in the water. “I could distinctly see him smite his jaws together, as if distracted with rage and fury,” Chase recalled. Then the whale disappeared. The crew was addressing the hole in the ship and getting the pumps working when one man cried out, “Here he is…he is making for us again.” Chase spotted the whale, his head half out of water, bearing down at great speed…this time at six knots, Chase thought. This time it hit the bow directly under the cathead and disappeared for good, but the damage was done. The water rushed into the ship so fast, the only thing the crew could do was lower the boats and try to fill them with navigational instruments, bread, water and supplies before the Essex turned over on its side. Pollard saw his ship listing from a distance, tand returned to see the Essex in ruin. In shock, he asked the first mate what had happened. I’m sure the tale seemed incredulous, but the evidence was right there staring them in the face. When the other boats returned, the men sat in silence, their captain still pale and speechless. Some, Chase observed, “had no idea of the extent of their deplorable situation.” Out of the original 20 men and 3 boats that set out, only 5 men would survive the ordeal, and that included a long time floating around the ocean, men dying, and the eventual cannibalism required to survive.
Through the years, I have seen so many changes in my niece, Chantel Balcerzak. When she was born, she was just a little teeny girl, a fact that hasn’t really changed very much. That is just about the only thing that hasn’t changed, however. From the very beginning, Chantel knew just what she wanted. Determination was her middle name. She wasn’t belligerent or anything, it was just that she set her mind to something, and she followed through to the finish.
Chantel has always wanted to be a writer. Like most authors, she has lots of projects she is working on. She is also a painter, and her work is quite beautiful. A while back, she finally decided to quit her job, and follow her dream. I’ve seen lots of her artwork, and it is beautiful, but I have not read any of her stories yet. I do look forward to doing so very soon, however. She has lots of great ideas, and with her love of fairies, I wouldn’t be surprised if her writing will contain fairies too. I think it takes a special kind of imagination to write about things like that. For me, it’s all about family and history. I don’t really have the kind of imagination that takes in the imaginary world, but then if every author wrote about the same things, it would get pretty boring too.
Chantel has always been a girly girl. She loves dressing up and looking pretty. Her height has always been something that made her stand out. I think that super tall and super short people are just noticed. Maybe it is the novelty of it. Chantel is a definite contrast to her husband, Dave, who is pretty tall. That seems to be the way it goes. Those short girls just seem to attract the tall men. It’s all about the long and the short of it. These short little girls look so cute next to their big strong husbands, and the husbands get to feel like their hero…especially when it comes to reaching those things that are just too far out of the reach of those little girls. Chantel has a look of forever young about her. Her pretty face never seems to age, and her short stature just adds to the illusion that she is much younger than she is. Not that she is old, mind you, because she is after all, my niece, and I’m not that old either…no matter what my husband says.
Chantel was my first introduction into the world of auntdom, and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer introduction. Today is Chantel’s birthday. I’m not telling her age, because, after all, she is ageless. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
I have been telling you about some of the family connections I have made recently, and how surprised I have been at just who some of these people are. It isn’t always about them being famous, but rather about what amazing things they have done in their lives. So often we don’t hear what our family members have accomplished…mostly because they are too humble to really share all of their accomplishments. Recently, I made a family connection with the Noyes side of my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s family. This would be Bob’s grandmother, Nettie Noyes Knox’s side of the family. The connection was one that in all reality, I stumbled on. I had been searching for information…over a year ago, and I had copied the web addresses of several sites I thought might help, and put them into a Word document. There they sat for far too long. Finally, I found the time to check on one of them, and found the email for Paul Noyes. What an amazing find that was!!
Paul has blessed me with information that I hadn’t found, and I sent him some pictures I had of Noyes family members, to add to his tree. Then he sent back more information on one of the pictures I sent him. He had no idea where that would lead…but I knew, because I had been thinking about a story about him and his family since I received his first response to my email. I love making these new connections, but some of them turn into a great cousinship and friendship too, and those are the most special ones, for sure. I had sent a picture of Eugene Noyes Jr in uniform…but Paul knew from looking at the uniform, that the uniform was from World War II. He knew this because of the 15th Army Air Forces shoulder patch on the uniform. I suppose I might have caught that too, since I had seen my dad’s 8th Army Air Forces shoulder patch, but it was simply something I didn’t notice at all.
In my defense, I am not a retired after 22 years veteran…and Paul is. Well, that got my curiosity going again. I asked Paul to tell me about his service time. True to the form I have seen with most military men and women…a humble breed…Paul told me a little bit about what he did. He spent most of his 22 year Army career was as an Army aviator. He started out as an Airborne Ranger, then served in Vietnam in Special Forces, where he was wounded. While recovering from the wounds, he was selected for flight school and served in Army Aviation special ops. I did a little research on what Special Operations does exactly, and this is the summary I came up with, “Conduct global special operations missions ranging from precision application of firepower to infiltration, aviation foreign internal defense, exfiltration, resupply and refueling of SOF operational elements.” If you’re like me, that doesn’t clarify much. Upon further research, I found that much of what Special Operations did in Vietnam was to train groups of the Vietnamese Army so they can train the remaining army members. Of course, I am probably generalizing Special Operations to a large degree, and I will have to ask Paul to tell me more about it as soon as I have a chance.
After he was wounded, Paul’s entire career changed when he was selected to become an Army Aviator. Having worked with a pilot for over 18 years now, I have had the opportunity to fly…and I use the term loosely…a small 4 seater plane. Basically what I really did was steer it, and I didn’t do that so well, because it kept climbing, and had to be brought back to level. It was an opportunity given to me with no preparation, and I really enjoyed it. I think to a degree, that is what happened with Paul too. After being wounded, he was given an opportunity to switch gears and do something he never expected to do, and he excelled at it. That is an awesome career change, and one I look forward to hearing more about.
Of course, in a 22 year career, Paul was also building a family. He was married to his lovely wife, Elizabeth, who is an author, and after collaborating with 11 other authors on a book called “A Dozen Apologies”, she released her first book this past August, called “Imperfect Wings”. I look forward to reading both. Paul and Elizabeth have two children, daughter Shari and husband Jimmy Nardello, and their children Cameryn and Reid; and son Chris who is married to Dr Christina Noyes, and they have a son named Owen. I am really looking forward to getting to know these wonderful, new to me cousins as time goes on.