Triumph and disaster in the War of Jenkins’ Ear

It all began in 1731 when Robert Jenkins, the captain of the Rebecca, had his ear sliced off by Juan de León Fandiño of the Spanish patrol boat La Isabela. Storming the British brig in the Caribbean, Fandiño accused Jenkins of smuggling sugar from Spanish colonies. He would cut King George’s ear off too, Fandiño threatened, were he to be caught stealing from Spain. Testifying before parliament in 1738, Jenkins produced the severed ear (pickled in a jar), which is why the nine years of fighting that followed became known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear. In retaliation, the British sent a squadron of five men-of-war and a scouting sloop

Journey to the end of the world: the full horror of the Belgica’s Antarctic expedition

The epic story of the Antarctic voyage of the Belgica (1897-9) has all the ingredients of a truly glorious misadventure: an aristocratic expedition commander who carries the pride of a small nation on his shoulders; an eccentric American surgeon who was to become known as one of the greatest frauds in the history of polar exploration; a cantankerous crew, racked by madness, scurvy and mutiny; a desperate sunless polar winter stuck in shifting sea ice that threatens to crush the ship; and finally an escape plan that involves half a ton of explosives and hand-sawing through a mile and a half of sea ice. It is an extraordinary tale of