Friday Fun Facts - 9/20/2013

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) This is an example of a powder horn, dating from around 1760. (Photo credit: Illinois State Museum) Made of cow, ox, or buffalo horn, the powder horn served as a waterproof container for gunpowder. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see that this powder horn is covered with very detailed engravings.
Grey didn’t let go of the powder horn but didn’t take it out of his pocket, either; his thumb rubbed back and forth, restless on the line of engraving round the rim.

Acta non verba, it said: action, not words.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 16, "Tower House". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a short video showing some examples of powder horns carried by soldiers during the American Revolution. Look here for a close-up view of one of them, dating from 1775. Notice the very prominent slogan, "Liberty or Death".

oak galls

2) Iron-gall ink, made from oak galls combined with iron, was commonly used in the 18th century for writing and drawing. The photo above shows what oak galls look like. (Photo credit: cloud_burst, on Flickr.) According to Wikipedia, oak galls are created when a gall wasp lays eggs within the leaf buds of an oak tree.
[Jamie] shook ink powder made of iron and oak gall into the stained half-gourd he used as a well, and poured a little water from the pitcher, using the shaft of a quill to stir the ink. He smiled at Brianna, and took a sheet of paper from the drawer.

“Now, then, lass, how is this man of yours to look at?"

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 50, "In Which All is Revealed". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a quick do-it-yourself method for making iron-gall ink:
[Take] a few iron nails and place them in a small jar with some distilled vinegar. Let that sit until the reaction of the acid vinegar dissolving iron from the nails is complete. Pour the liquid off the undissolved residue and into a bottle. In another jar, take some oak galls you've gathered and crush them. Put them in a Pyrex dish and pour some boiling water on them. After standing for some time, perhaps until cool, or at least lukewarm, filter them through a coffee filter, keeping the filtrate (the liquid portion). When you mix the two liquids together, you form an ink.
I've never tried this myself, but it doesn't sound too difficult.

3) The town of Port Royal, Jamaica, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692. The illustration above is a modern artist's rendering of what it might have looked like before the quake. You may recall that Lawrence Stern told Claire about it in VOYAGER:
"My informant was most discursive upon the habits of the buccaneers. Sodomites to a man,” he said, shaking his head.


“It was a matter of public knowledge,” he said. “My informant told me that when Port Royal fell into the sea some sixty years ago, it was widely assumed to be an act of divine vengeance upon these wicked persons in retribution for their vile and unnatural usages.”

“Gracious,” I said. I wondered what the voluptuous Tessa of The Impetuous Pirate would have thought about this.

He nodded, solemn as an owl. “They say you can hear the bells of the drowned churches of Port Royal when a storm is coming, ringing for the souls of the damned pirates."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 50, "I Meet a Priest". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
On the morning of June 7, 1692, a massive earthquake estimated at a 7.5 magnitude hit the island. The city, largely built over sand, suffered instantly from liquifaction, with buildings, roads, and citizens sucked into the ground. Geysers erupted from the earth, buildings collapsed, then finally the city was hit by tsunami waves, dragging what had not been destroyed out to sea.[....]As news spread of the destruction of Port Royal, it was picked up as a cautionary tale and a sure sign of divine retribution for the lewd behavior of the pirates and prostitutes, the pretensions and wealth of the gentry of the town, or the sins of slavery, depending on the city and the audience.

Here's a video from the History Channel that explores the history of Port Royal, and the efforts of underwater archaeologists to investigate the sunken city.  It's about 43 minutes long, but very interesting.

4) This photo shows a patient with a petechial rash, similar to what Jamie had after the snakebite in FIERY CROSS.
I peered closely at his hip. Here, I could see that the redness was caused by a denser version of the rash on his chest; the stipple of tiny dots showed up clearly on the stretched skin over the ilial crest.

“You look like you’ve been roasted over a slow fire,” I said, rubbing a finger over the rash in fascination. “I’ve never seen anything so red in my life.” Not raised; I couldn’t feel the individual spots, though I could see them at close range. Not a rash as such; I thought it must be petechiae, pinpoint hemorrhages under the skin. But so many of them...

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 91, "Domestic Management". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What exactly are petechiae? Here's a definition from the Mayo Clinic:
Petechiae (pronounced puh-TEE-kee-ee) are pinpoint, round spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding under the skin. The bleeding causes the petechiae to appear red, brown or purple. Petechiae commonly appear in clusters and may look like a rash. Usually flat to the touch, petechiae don't lose color when you press on them.
I agree with Claire that they're pretty bizarre-looking!

Loch Errochty Dam

5) This is the dam at Loch Errochty, Scotland, mentioned in AN ECHO IN THE BONE. Click on the photo for a bigger view. (Photo credit: Bob McDowall, on Flickr.)
[Bree] turned away from the power box, looking into the utter black. She hadn’t been in this particular tunnel before, though she’d seen one like it during her tour with Mr. Campbell. It was one of the original tunnels of the hydroelectric project, dug by hand with pick and shovel by the “hydro boys” back in the 1950s. It ran nearly a mile through the mountain and under part of the flooded valley that now held the greatly expanded Loch Errochty, and a toylike electric train ran on its track down the center of the tunnel.

Originally, the train had carried the workmen, the “tunnel tigers,” to the work face and back; now reduced to only an engine, it served the occasional hydroelectric workers checking the huge cables that ran along the tunnel’s walls or servicing the tremendous turbines at the foot of the dam, far off at the other end of the tunnel.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 27, "Tunnel Tigers". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a National Geographic photo slideshow about Scotland's hydro-electric plants. The photo below shows how dark it would be inside one of those dams (imagine it with the lights turned off!)

Here's an article from July 23, 2013, about the hydro-electric plant inside a mountain at Cruachan, Scotland. For more information about the Tunnel Tigers, look here.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts, and please come back next week for more.


Anonymous said...

I am just back from Scotland - stumbled on Cruachan in a B&B tour booklet. FASCINATING. Loved the tour.

catislander said...

Always very interesting, Karen, thank you for taking the time to research and compile them.

songster51 said...

I absolutely adore this kind of stuff. The detritus of history that brings the book to life. Thanks for doing it.

NancyB. said...

Thank you, Karen, for again posting such wonderful bits and pieces of information re: Diana's books, And, I really appreciate the fact that you reference all the facts with the chapters in which they appeared, The time you spend in research certainly is appreciated by us Outlander

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