Author: Nate Galt

The Remarkable Voyage of Officer De Long and the Jeannette

Nate Galt | United States

The De Long Islands is a group of small, rocky islands in the middle of the East Siberian Sea, off the coast of Russia. During Soviet times, the islands were used as weather stations to better understand the Arctic climate. After the fall of the USSR in 1991, the weather stations were abandoned. Even though the archipelago may be desolate and uninhabited, its discovery has quite an interesting backstory. The island group is named after George W. De Long, a largely forgotten American explorer who risked life and limb to find a warm water route to the North Pole. 

On July 8, 1879, De Long’s ship, the U.S.S. Jeannette, departed with 33 crew members from the harbor of San Francisco. They were searching for an “open polar route” to the North Pole, which had been a popular theory for centuries. The naval commander had experience in far northern waters and knew that winter would be coming when he would pass through the Bering Strait. Although his ship had a reinforced hull to prevent the Arctic ice from cracking it, he was not sure if it would last throughout the whole winter.  In September 1879, the Jeannette was trapped in the ice in the middle of the East Siberian Sea, near the 75th parallel north. The ship’s commander and crew still did not lose hope, even in these dangerous conditions. The current would push the trapped ship towards an island in May of the next year, which would be the first time the crew saw dry land for an entire year. The sighting of the island was a relief for many crew members and boosted their morale. The crew hoped that the onset of the Arctic summer would free their ship from the thick pack ice, allowing them to continue their expedition. They would journey northwest, following their plan to find the “open polar route” to the North Pole.

Unfortunately for them, the U.S.S. Jeannette would still be trapped inside the ice, which was starting to crack its hull. On the evening of June 12, 1880, the ship would sink just north of the 77th parallel. Desperate and running out of options, the crew took three lifeboats and followed the orders of their commander, De Long, to head over to the Lena River delta. He predicted that there would be numerous native Yakut villages which would provide his men with food and shelter. In order to keep their slim hope of survival alive, they needed to brave the harsh winds and march over the frozen East Siberian Sea, all while hauling their boats. They displayed a strong sense of camaraderie, knowing that they needed to support each other if they wanted to have a sliver of a chance at life.

In July, the party spotted small uninhabited islands with cliffs and named them after their ship and after De Long’s family. De Long claimed these newly discovered islands for the United States and planted an American flag on the largest one. Following a brief rest, they set out on foot again. Since the ice was melting, the men had to use their boats in order to get to the Russian coast. Melville, the group’s engineer, was placed in command of one lifeboat, while Lieutenant Chipp, a naval officer, was made the captain of the smallest boat. The third lifeboat was piloted by De Long himself. Everyone was ordered to stay together, no matter how terrible the conditions became. Unfortunately, on September 12, strong gale-force winds tore the group apart. Hope was quickly dwindling for all three parties. The De Long party tried to maintain their path towards the Lena delta and proceeded to land at its northernmost extremity.

De Long kept meticulous records of his experience, from the unique wildlife to the frigid climate of the region. He noted that food was running out, writing in his journal that “there was nothing to eat but a spoonful of glycerine.” The men were in poor physical condition, with many barely walking a mile per day. Even though their decreasing food rations were replenished by shooting the occasional reindeer or bird, morale was low. One by one, De Long’s men were falling, either due to frostbite or starvation. The first casualty of the expedition came on October 6. As the harsh, biting Siberian winter set in, more men died. The last three men desperately tried to set up camp on higher ground. De Long was among them, and on the last day of October 1880, he passed away. Chipp’s party was never found, and it is assumed that the crew disappeared in the frigid waters of the East Siberian Sea due to their boat capsizing. Melville’s vessel landed at the southeastern part of the enormous river delta. He soon found a sizable native Yakut village and rested there. He ordered that everyone in his party except for two of the fittest crewmen should go to the large city of Yakutsk, which was upstream. Melville wanted to search for De Long but had to wait for the biting cold to ease. He began his search in mid- to late March, when the river ice would have melted, bringing along two of his men and two natives. In a village, a group of natives brought Melville several notes written by expedition members. When he discovered De Long’s body, he found several artifacts as well as his commander’s diary. This journal would be invaluable as there were detailed descriptions of everything that his commander’s party had encountered. All but one body of the group would be recovered and buried on top of a hill in the middle of the river delta. Melville heaped some rocks over the men’s graves and planted a large wooden cross over them to mark their resting place. For one more month, he unsuccessfully tried to find any news about Chipp and his men. He returned to Yakutsk in May and began his long journey back to the United States. 

Only 13 of the 33 men that originally sailed from the U.S. survived the perilous expedition. Their return was celebrated by the American public, as their ordeals were not at all in vain. Public interest in the expedition had been high since the crew’s departure. Besides discovering new islands and sailing through uncharted waters, the crew of the USS Jeannette dismantled the theory of an “open polar sea” and the absence of currents in the Arctic Ocean. Early cartographers mapping the Arctic believed that there were no currents in this ocean. As a result of the crew of the Jeannette being trapped in ice that was floating with a current, this myth was debunked. This would change far northern exploration forever, as following explorers learned from the mistakes of De Long and used his journal entries to plan future voyages. The party’s treacherous journey in the high north was commemorated with a memorial cross in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Their exploration would be the first of its kind, as no one had made so many discoveries about the North Pole and the waters around it up to this point. De Long’s contribution was great, but if it weren’t for Melville’s determination and commitment to find his shipmates, we would not have learned all we know today. Melville had given the scientific world so much by recovering artifacts, especially the notes of his comrades and De Long’s diary. The men risked life and limb solely to prove a theory and ended up doing much more. Significant stories like these frequently fall through the cracks of history and should never be forgotten. 

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Silk Road: Double Life and Forty Years For a Website

By Nate Galt | United States

Ross William Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, has been the subject of controversy. Ulbricht was the head of the notorious dark web drug-trading market known as Silk Road. He became more interested in liberty and economic theory in college, reading the works of prominent libertarians such as Ron Paul and Samuel E. Konkin III. He decided to set up a market which relied on voluntary exchange in 2011. His ultimate goal was a marketplace, or “Agora,” where victimless goods could be bought and sold. 

Ulbricht’s new website, Silk Road, soon became the leading dark-net drug market. However, other goods were sold there, such as art, books, tee shirts, and tickets to events. The most commonly sold items were user amounts of cannabis. In just over two years, he had amassed a 28 million dollar net worth through all of the commission he had received. Interestingly, all transactions were done in Bitcoin, a new, unregulated cryptocurrency that had sprung up. For every purchase, “Dread Pirate Roberts,” Ulbricht’s online persona, would receive a certain percentage of the sale. He would attempt to calculate his net worth in several spreadsheets that were used as evidence in federal court. 

Several plans were made by the F.B.I. to arrest Ulbricht and to retrieve damning evidence to convict him. On October 1st, 2013, federal agents followed him into a San Francisco public library near his house. After a brief distraction, one of them seized his computer while another agent handcuffed him. All files on the computer were copied to a flash drive. 

Later, the case of U.S.A. v. Ulbricht went to court. Federal Judge Katherine B. Forrest wanted to make “an example” out of him in order to send a message to all deep web drug traffickers. She mentioned several murder-for-hire allegations that Ulbricht was accused of. His defense attorney said that these claims were not true and were just meant to sway the jury into convicting him.

In 2018, a Maryland judge dismissed the murder-for-hire allegations against Ulbricht. However, the jury had already associated the case with murder. Some jurors may have thought that Ulbricht had blood on his hands and was a kingpin who would stop at nothing to keep his drug ring operational, comparable with the likes of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Pablo Escobar. These fictitious accusations may have played a role in the jury’s decision. Judge Forrest did not mention that several F.B.I. agents violated protocol and that there was a debate as to whether Ulbricht’s constitutional rights had been infringed upon.

In federal court in New York City, Judge Forrest sentenced Ross Ulbricht to two life sentences without the possibility of parole plus forty years, the maximum possible penalty. He was a first-time, nonviolent offender. This draconian sentence was imposed on Ulbricht for hosting a site where drugs, primarily cannabis products, were sold.

Criminals whose actions have victims who did not consent to their actions, such as rapists, murderers, and pedophiles, get much lighter sentences. This clear disparity between the two sentences is extremely unjust. Furthermore, victimless crimes should not be considered crimes to begin with. Laws regulating what consenting adults partake in or consume are merely arbitrary dictates and attempts to legislate lawmakers’ versions of morality.

Every transaction on Silk Road had two consenting parties involved. A man who hosted a site with only voluntary transactions should not be punished harder than someone who violently killed or took advantage of another person. All laws to regulate victimless crimes such as drugs, gambling, and prostitution have failed miserably in their attempt to enforce morality. The only moral thing to do in this case would be for the president to pardon Ross Ulbricht for a crime that does not deserve jail time.

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The American First Amendment: A Poem

Nate Galt | United States

Many misguided young boys think they fight for freedom

But when barked commands to kill people, they heed them

When in the fields, men back home for little money toil

Believing that their liberties are defended, not America’s interests in oil

If bombing those an ocean away brings peace

That is an oxymoron, to say the least

But back home, those liberties for which soldiers believe they fight

Are being stripped by people who don’t care for rights

Only for their fragile sense of self

They wish to ban everything that they can’t help

They want their free-of-judgement safe spaces

By banning unpopular opinions from those same places

When real progressives would die for your right to speech

For whatever one wished to say or preach

Meanwhile, these supposed freedom fighters demand

That those who they disagree with get off their land

But the very law of the land, the Constitution,

Is being up-heaved in a revolution

To stop any speech or proselytization 

Which they deem a danger to this nation

But what is a danger? A mere opinion or thought?

Censorship is an insult to those that fought

Not in Vietnam or Iraq, but to those who said that they see

A possibility for a new country with free speech and liberty.

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The Winter War

By Nate Galt | United States

Seventy-nine years ago today, the first shots of the Winter War were fired in southern Karelia in present-day Russia. Before the war started, the government of the Soviet Union wanted to protect its second-largest city, Leningrad. Soviet leadership demanded Finland move its border fifteen miles northwest to create a buffer zone between the city and Finnish soil. The Soviets then implored Finland to cede small parts of northern Karelia and its only access to the Arctic Ocean. Finland refused on the grounds that it is a sovereign country with pre-defined borders. After all other negotiations failed, the Soviets began their attack. 

Four days before the war officially started, the USSR pulled off a false flag operation to convince its people that Finland had shelled attacked Soviet troops. On November 30, 1939, the Red Army moved into the Karelian Isthmus and began bombing. In the middle of the isthmus, the Finnish army hastily built an array of fortifications which they called the “Mannerheim Line,” named after their leader, Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. The small stretch of land in between Lake Ladoga and the Gulf of Finland was viciously defended by the Finns. To the north, Joseph Stalin and Soviet General Voroshilov ordered a push towards the Finnish countryside and the Arctic Ocean port of Petsamo. 

The initial offensives were not completely successful due to Finnish guerrilla tactics and the onset of winter. The Finnish army used ski patrols, snipers, camouflage, and surprise flanks to patrol the heavily wooded areas of Karelia. For many soldiers, these areas were their home, and they made sure to know the exact layout of their terrain. The very thought of a hiding Finnish sniper struck fear into the hearts of Soviet soldiers. The legendary Finnish sharpshooter, Simo Häyhä, made a name for himself in the Winter War. He racked up over 500 confirmed kills during the war while hiding in the forest. Soviet high command tried to dispatch their most elite counter-snipers to kill Häyhä.

Ultimately, their efforts proved a massive failure. The Finnish sniper’s actual number of kills, including non-confirmed ones, would probably number anywhere from 800 to 1200. He was most successful during the 3-month long Battle of Kollaa in Karelia, where he killed over 25 Soviets per day in temperatures that only barely stayed above -25 degrees Fahrenheit during the few hours of daylight. The Red Army, frustrated by the results, tried to move their tanks into the heart of Finland. The Finns, now known for their guerrilla tactics, used Molotov cocktails and log jams to eliminate the tanks that traveled on the few roads linking the two countries. Other snipers were ordered to patrol those roads as well. The Molotov cocktail’s name came from a Finnish joke. When the world first heard of the bombing of the Finnish capital of Helsinki on November 30, the Soviet foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, said that his country merely provided “food aid” for the starving Finns and did not bomb any buildings. The Finnish army named their new tank-destroying device after him, calling it “a drink to go with the food.” 

Frustrated with the news of a slowed offensive, Stalin replaced his initial commander, General Voroshilov. He tried to break the fortifications on the Mannerheim Line. While this proved unsuccessful, the Finns’ supplies and ammunition began to steadily run out. On March 12, 1940, the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed. The Finnish government capitulated to Soviet demands and a ceasefire was called. Finland lost one-ninth of its territory and was forced to pay reparations to the USSR. While the results were disappointing for both countries, Finland still maintained its independence. Mannerheim became a national hero for his leadership of the Finnish army. After seeing how hard it was for the Red Army to win the Winter War, the Third Reich’s leadership thought that it would be very easy to defeat an incompetent army without strong leadership. 

While many write this conflict off as insignificant, the long-term effects of the Winter War would be felt for years after its end. The war could have been a justification for the breaking of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact by the Germans. Also, it was used as a reason for Finland fighting the Soviets in the Continuation War a year later. The Winter War was a very interesting conflict which gave birth to many guerrilla tactics. While it may seem like a minor conflict, it should never be forgotten.

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The Day Without A Mexican

By Nate Galt | United States

Picture this day, if you can-

The day without a Mexican.

Imagine America devising a plan

On what to do after an immigration ban


Now that no one crosses the border

There won’t be anyone to take your order

Since illegal immigration has been blocked

Your store’s shelves are no longer stocked


Your home’s roof will never be boarded

For all illegals have been deported

Since their entry has been thwarted

No agricultural product can be exported


All illegals were sent back to Mexico

So your front yard’s leaves won’t be blown

There won’t be anyone to fix the roads

Or any person to reap or sow


Therefore, if we try to build a wall

Or make sure to deport all

Illegal immigrants, our economy will fall

Millions of jobs will be vacated- no one can take them all


If we fulfill the wishes of the Klan

And picture the day, if we can

A disastrous time for the economy and for each American-

The day without a single Mexican 

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