Second Decade

A historical show examining the fascinating events and people of the second decade of the 19th century (the 1810s), hosted by historian Sean Munger.
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Nov 28, 2016

This is the story of Charles Barnard, a real-life Robinson Crusoe who spent nearly two years marooned in one of the most forbidding and desolate landscapes on Earth: the Falkland Islands, far south in the Atlantic, near Antarctica. It happened in 1813 as a result of war between the United States and Great Britain, and after a dizzying series of double-crosses, table-turns and stabs-in-the-back that wouldn’t be out of place on the modern TV show Lost. Barnard is forced to find shelter, food, fuel and clothing in a landscape so barren that the only vegetation that will grow is tussock grass, and in which humans are decidedly unwelcome. In addition, Barnard must stay one step ahead of the surly and treacherous British sailor Sam Ansel, who makes the war a very personal affair.

Sean Munger brings you this true story from the 1810s, chronicled in Barnard’s own memoirs documenting his amazing and dangerous around-the-world journey and his incredible feat of survival against seemingly impossible odds. In this episode you’ll not only meet Barnard and the villian Sam Ansel, but an untrustworthy British sea captain, a hardy African-American whaler from New Bedford who’s also stranded on the island, Barnard’s long-suffering wife and three kids who assume he’s dead, and various species of wild boars, albatrosses and penguins, all of whom wind up on Barnard’s survival rations menu at one time or another. This story, worthy of a Hollywood movie, actually happened, proving once again that truth is usually stranger than fiction.

(Background music for this episode licensed CC3.0 by Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston).

  • over a year ago
    Oh I really enjoyed this! I was not aware of this story. This guy Barnard was pretty tenacious. A thousand times over, any other person would have given up. I was even going to forgive him for taking trusting and taking back Ansel. I'm even optimistic his long suffering wife took him back.

    I liked the information about the impressment by the British Navy. My brother told me the War of 1812 was started in part because of the inhumane treatment of non officer sailors aboard those ships. I would like to think after Waterloo, that behavior had improved.

    Enjoyed this very much. Looking forward to more.