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Eddie Polak at the AGH

Giving a talk in the AGH university building in Krakow was memorable, as far as I was concerned, because it was the building where Eddie Polak, one of my first geophysical mentors, studied during the four years that preceded the invasion of Poland and the start of the Second World War. I was able to imagine him in his time there all the better because he had left me with a typescript of his memoirs.

Naming the Carolines

IOn the 12th of March 1819 the Uranie passed close to the island known to those onboard as Bartolomé, but to the people who actually lived there as Pulusuk. The following day, the corvette was in sight of the island of Alet on the Poluwat atoll and of Tamatam, Fanadik and Pollap on the Pollap atoll, just 50 km to the NNE. They did not stop at any of these places, but the proas of the Carolinians were easily able to keep up with them while mutually satisfactory trading was carried on. Given that this was the nearest that Gaimard came to actually visiting the Carolinians on their home islands, he wrote a surprising amount about them.

Suella and Rand

The political future of Stella Braverman, Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, hangs in the balance, as she pursues her aim of becoming leader of the Conservative party. But what sort of a leader would she be? Is she, as are some others on the right of the Tory party, an admirer of Ayn Rand?

Zealandia completely mapped?

On 9 October, GNS Science, which is effectively New Zealand’s geological survey organisation, made a startling announcement. “Zealandia”, so its publicity department contended “just became the first continent to be completely mapped”. But what is Zealandia, and are these extravagant claims justified?

Rand and the Palestinians

By a macabre coincidence, I had just reached the point of commenting on Ayn Rand’s take on Israeli-Palestine relations, as revealed in her speech to the West Point graduating class of 1974, when Hamas launched its attack. Not a good time to be writing about that area, I thought, but then I looked at the note at the end of the passage (which was also the end of the talk) and I saw the words ‘thunderous applause’.


It was spice that brought Europeans to the remote shores of the northern Moluccas. By the time of the Uranie voyage the outlines of the future colonial empires had been established. Two hundred years earlier, however, things had been very different.