What You’ll Find At A Getty Estate Sale

Stories like this validate to me that behind the walls of the old money Robber Barrons of years gone by are some astounding pieces of history that are waiting to be discovered and shared.

A guy named Alex Clausen – a map dealer – was parusing a virtual estate sale for Gordon and Ann Getty (as one does) where a unique map called a portolan chart caught his eye. What was unique to him was that the item description stated that the map was from 1500 – 1525, while the drawings and details on the map itself said to him that it was from an earlier time, which in turn would make the map that much more unique and valuable. And boy was he right.

The first known reference to the chart came from Italian scholar Pietro Amat di San Filippo, who saw the map in the library of a Corsini family palace in Florence in 1888 and included mention of it in an article he wrote for the Italian Geographic Society. The scholar tentatively dated it from 1347 to 1354. It changed hands several times before Ann and Gordon Getty purchased it in 1993.

The couple had the map restored and for years it hung in the library of their San Francisco townhouse. They paid roughly 56,500 British pounds for the map, then the equivalent of about $85,000. Nearly 30 years later, Clausen and the team from Barry Lawrence Ruderman purchased it for just over $239,000.

Los Angeles Times

After the purchase, Clausen and his team did more research and determined that the map dated to 1360 (!!), which turned that $239,000 purchase into an artifact worth a cool $7.5 Million.

Making the discovery “was really rewarding from an intellectual perspective,” Clausen said, surveying the chart, which measures roughly 2.2 feet by 3.7 feet and is framed in a heavy case at his office in La Jolla.

“And, of course, it’s also rewarding from a commercial perspective, because it takes something that I think was a reasonable buy from what it was listed as and moves it into an absolutely different category.”

Los Angeles Times

So if you have an extra $7.5 Mil hanging around, the Rex Tholomeus Portolan Chart of 1360 is here for the taking.

More visuals of Titanic wreck

Continuing with my high level of interest (obsession?) with the wreck of the Titanic (for whatever reason, I just can’t take in enough detail about the topic), some very high detail digital scans of the wreck site were released yesterday, showing it in amazing detail. It is so detailed in fact that you can see the serial number on one of the ship’s propeller blades. From the article:

The Titanic has been extensively explored since the wreck was discovered in 1985. But it’s so huge that in the gloom of the deep, cameras can only ever show us tantalizing snapshots of the decaying ship – never the whole thing.

The new scan captures the wreck in its entirety, revealing a complete view of the Titanic. It lies in two parts, with the bow and the stern separated by about 800m (2,600ft). A huge debris field surrounds the broken vessel.

The scan was carried out in summer 2022 by Magellan Ltd, a deep-sea mapping company, and Atlantic Productions, who are making a documentary about the project.

Submersibles, remotely controlled by a team on board a specialist ship, spent more than 200 hours surveying the length and breadth of the wreck.

They took more than 700,000 images from every angle, creating an exact 3D reconstruction.

Rebecca Morelle from the BBC

Footage from first discovery of Titanic in 1986

I am just a sucker for these types of stories – where footage of a seminal event is unearthed. As long as I can remember, the story of the Titanic checked all the boxes for me, way before James Cameron’s movie of the same name was released. So when the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute this week released previously unseen footage from their very first exploration of the wreckage site in 1986, I was all in. Yes, I sat and watched the whole video. Imagine being the scientists in 1986 and being the first humans to see the wreckage since it hit the ocean floor on that fateful night in 1912?

In a milestone that will definitely make you feel old, this year marks the 25th anniversary of Titanic’s (the movie) theatrical release and to celebrate, the studios re-released it in select theaters! So last weekend, I went to see it with my son – primarily because he had never seen the movie before! The movie has been made fun of, has been meme-ed to death, and has received its fair share of criticism, yet watching it again on the big screen was spectacular (!!!), I have to say. I picked up things I had not remembered or noticed the first few times I’d seen it. Seeing Leo and Kate 25 years younger was pretty awesome. And the scenes at the end when (spoiler alert) the ship is sinking and the stern of the vessel starts to raise out of the water were just stunning on the big screen! You can try all you want, but you won’t get that same experience watching it on your TV in a living room. Yes, the movie could have been shorter. Yeah, the water that breached the ship was ice cold in real life, yet the actors in the on-ship scenes made it feel like they were wading in the town pool on a 75 degree day. Yeah, Jack could have fit on the piece of wood with Rose. For all it’s flaws, seeing Titanic in the theater was an outstanding experience and I would recommend you take advantage of this opportunity to see it on the big screen!

The Return of Darwin’s Notebooks

Photo from The Guardian.

A bit over 20 years ago, some priceless notebooks from the famous biologist Charles Darwin were stolen from the main library at Cambridge University. After the staff of the library initially thought they were put back on the wrong shelf, they soon realized that they were in fact missing.

It was back in 2001 that the notebooks, which represent some of Darwin’s first inklings of his radical theory of evolution by natural selection, were originally found to be missing. They had been removed from storage to be photographed, and work was recorded as completed in November 2000. But during a subsequent routine check made in January 2001, it was found they had not been returned to their proper place. At the time staff believed they may have been mis-shelved.

Fast forward 20+ years, and whoever clipped them, had a change of heart and dropped them off in a bright pink bag with a little note wishing them a Happy Easter.

Surprisingly, there was no closed circuit camera footage in the area where the bag was dropped. The university is scouring other footage from the day they were returned in hopes of identifying the person who returned them.