Joy and co-host Asa learn about the year without a summer, and how it led to some amazing inventions! 1816 was a very strange year. In many parts of the world, warm summer weather never came. Lakes froze, crops died and there were even snowstorms — in summer! Scientists now know these were the effects of a massive volcanic eruption, but back then, people had no idea what was happening. Still, this tragedy kicked off a lot of innovation, from new works of art to new ways of growing food. Come learn all about it while Joy and Asa wait out a rainstorm at Camp Chronology. Plus, as always, a new First Things First featuring coolers, canoes and compasses!
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[BIRDS CHIRPING] [ALARM BUZZING]
JOY DOLO: Ah, good morning, Camp Chronology. [SNIFF] Ah, I love the smell of a cabin in the morning. Asa, are you stoked for the first day of summer camp?
ASA: Of course, Joy. I slept in my bathing suit so I'll wake up ready.
JOY DOLO: That's the kind of genius thinking we're going to need if we're going to have--
--ultimate summer fun.
OK, I've got my sunscreen, my shades, my flip-flops, my ultrasonic radar-powered mosquito zapper. [BUZZ] [BUZZ]
ASA: Was it supposed to do that?
JOY DOLO: No, I think it's supposed to do that. [CLEARS THROAT] I also have my lakeside reading, 101 Ways to Tell Mayonnaise Lovers They're Wrong. Plus, my towel, my snorkel, my extra large water bottle for hydrating, and the most crucial of all summer staples--
ASA: A hat?
JOY DOLO: No, my s'mores canon.
You get a s'more. [POP] And you get a s'more. [POP] And I get a s'more. [POP] Mm, food just tastes better when it's shot out of a cannon, you know?
ASA: Not soup, trust me. But that cannon is definitely ultimate fun. Joy, we're all set for the most epic summer ever!
Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, not today.
JOY DOLO: Don't worry, Asa, it's probably just some clouds in the distance.
Oh, wow. It's really coming down out there. Well, I'm sure the storm will pass quickly.
CREW: Attention, campers. There's a massive storm overhead that will not pass quickly.
ASA: Oh, no. Summer is ruined.
JOY DOLO: No, it's not. We can still have ultimate fun. We'll just splash in puddles.
CREW: Update, the rain caused the camp's beehive to fall over and now there are bees swarming everywhere.
JOY DOLO: We'll just wear thick rubber suits and--
CREW: Now hungry bears are looking for the bees' honey--
JOY DOLO: We'll--
CREW: And there's mudslides--
JOY DOLO: We'll--
CREW: --and sinkholes, probably. Just whatever you're thinking, don't. Just stay inside, OK? Have a camptastic day.
ASA: This is it. Somewhere is literally trashed now. We are having zero fun. And, listen, I really needed the summer to be awesome, amazing, you know?
JOY DOLO: I get it. I was looking forward to this too. Here, I know how to make you feel better.
ASA: A hug?
JOY DOLO: Better. Sympathy s'mores!
This is Forever Ago, where we explore the before. I'm Joy Dolo.
ASA: And I'm Asa, I guess, whatever.
JOY DOLO: I'm sorry this terrible weather is bumming you out. The camp counselor said it should pass in a few hours.
ASA: It's just bringing up a lot of bad memories. You know, in 2020 when the coronavirus shut everything down? I had big plans that summer too. And all of them were canceled. I was hoping to make up for lost time this year.
JOY DOLO: Oof, yeah, 2020 was a hard year.
ASA: It really was. People were worried. Some people got really sick. Some even lost loved ones. Being stuck inside is reminding me of all that.
JOY DOLO: But, luckily, this is just a temporary indoor moment.
ASA: I mean, you wouldn't get it. You're like a full adult. You lived through, what? 50, 100 summers?
JOY DOLO: Wow, Asa, actually, I--
ASA: I've only had a few. I don't want to miss out on another.
JOY DOLO: Yeah, I totally get it. Well, how about we focus on all the things we'll do when the rain clears? Asa, what are your favorite things to do in the summer?
ASA: Stay at home, sleep, eat.
JOY DOLO: You sleep during the summer? [CHUCKLING] Well, what about do you like any sports or swimming or anything like that?
ASA: Oh, I am doing basketball in the summer.
JOY DOLO: Oh, that sounds fun.
JOY DOLO: So you like basketball. And then you take a nap and then you eat something and then you basketball.
JOY DOLO: And do you like to hike or anything like that?
ASA: Oh, absolutely not. I have asthma. I have asthma, nope.
JOY DOLO: Oh, so hiking isn't for you. Do you have a dream summer getaway, like a vacation?
ASA: Probably to Los Angeles. Because I have a few friends there.
JOY DOLO: Oh, that sounds like fun. I bet it's not raining there. But, hey, I know what we can do and tell this rain clears up. Let me tell you about 1816, the year without a summer.
ASA: Was it really rainy then too?
JOY DOLO: No, I mean like America had snow in July.
There were record cold temperatures around the world, dead crops, frozen wells, monster floods. As one person put it, the weather was just backward.
ASA: For real? It sounds like some kind of weird science fiction world.
JOY DOLO: Oh, 1816 was so wild, it helped inspire the entire genre of science fiction. But let me back up. If I'm going to tell you this story, we got to do it right. Let me just grab my portable campfire.
ASA: Wait, you have a portable campfire?
JOY DOLO: Yeah, in my closet.
ASA: Joy, we are in a cabin at Camp Chronology, not your bedroom.
JOY DOLO: I know, packing stresses me out. So rather than pick and choose, I decided to just pack my whole closet. [ZIP] Let me just pull this door out. [WHOOP]
ASA: How in the--
JOY DOLO: It's a family packing trick. Mary Poppins is a distant aunt. Anyway, [CREAK] here is my closet. And--
Where is it?
Oh, not that.
God, I still have that? Ah, here's my campfire.
And there's a whole elephant in your closet?
JOY DOLO: Of course. Where else are you going to fit an elephant? His name is Hermie. Sup, Hermie?
Ah, you want a peanut?
ASA: No, he said he wants to hear the story about 1816 too.
And since you mentioned it, he would also like a peanut.
JOY DOLO: Wow, how'd you get so good at interpreting animals?
ASA: I use that language for elephants, Dumbo Lingo. They say elephants are all ears. But they really appreciate it when you listen to them. Oh, and also compliment them. Their love language is words of affirmation.
Ha, good one, Hermie.
JOY DOLO: What did he say?
ASA: It's an elephantese joke, you wouldn't get it.
JOY DOLO: Well, OK, then. [CLEARS THROAT] All right, Asa and Hermie, the elephant that lives in my closet, gather round and let me tell you about the year without a summer.
It all started one year earlier in the spring of 1815. In the part of the world that's now Indonesia, this volcano called Mount Tambora began to erupt. And this was a big eruption. [RUMBLE] 100 times bigger than Mount St. Helens, which erupted in the 1980s in Washington State, and 1,000 times bigger than the volcano that erupted in Iceland in 2010.
Yeah, it was so big that the technical scientific term is a colossal eruption.
ASA: Colossal yikes.
JOY DOLO: And it was as tragic as it was large. The volcano is on the island of Sumbawa. At the time, there were villages around the base. And the eruption pretty much destroyed all of them. Many, many people died too. Ash and smoke went everywhere, making it hard to find fresh food. So lots of people ended up moving off the island.
ASA: That's awful.
JOY DOLO: Truly. Today, we're much better at monitoring volcanoes. So we know when they're more likely to erupt. Plus, we can get warnings to people really quickly and help them move before things get dangerous. But people didn't have that kind of help back then.
ASA: Hermie says an eruption that size is also really, really rare.
Apparently, Hermie minored in volcano studies at elephant college. But Joy, what did this giant volcano eruption have to do with cold weather across the planet?
JOY DOLO: Oh, it was the volcano that caused the cold weather. It sent up massive amounts of ash, rock, and gas into the sky. That stuff was blown all around the world. By the following summer, that volcano spew was blocking out so much sunlight that temperatures dropped around the globe.
I know. In North America, there were reports of summer blizzards, icy ponds, and frozen birds dropping out of the sky. It would go from normal to near freezing in just a couple of hours. In Italy, there was red snow because of all the ash and volcanic gases in the atmosphere. In Hungary, there was brown snow. In China, there was massive floods. And there was even snow in tropical Taiwan.
ASA: Wow, a volcano in Asia could change the weather in places all over the world? It's wild how interconnected this planet is.
JOY DOLO: Absolutely, for real. But people at the time didn't know this. Remember, this is the early 1800s. There were no telephones, no TV, no radio, no cars, no electricity even. Like in Europe and America, picture a time of horse-drawn carriages, steamboats, and gas lamps, fashionable men in pantaloons and fancy ladies and bodices and hats with long feathers. They definitely didn't have the kind of satellites and scientific equipment we have today. So they had no idea why the weather was weirding out on them.
ASA: Wait, so what did they think was happening?
JOY DOLO: Oh, they had theories. Some of them are interesting, some straight-up bananas. Here's a smattering of actual ideas people floated.
SUBJECT: I blame the ice on the Great Lakes. It's cooling us all off. We must chip it down and put it in our drinks immediately or it shall freeze us all.
SUBJECT: No, no, no, no, no, this is divine punishment. We must pray for salvation.
SUBJECT: You're all wrong. It's because of the end of the wars carried out by French general Napoleon. Without all the gunpowder in the sky, the air is cooling off. We should probably start more wars.
SUBJECT: Heed me, fellow freethinkers, I have looked at the sun with my mighty telescope and it appears to have a spot on it. I'm no sun doctor, but this seems like a case of [GASP] sun measles. The sun is sick. It shall die soon. Alas! Alas! Aladdin!
SUBJECT: Hear me, hear me, I know the true culprit. And it is as dastardly a villain as e'er there was. It's Ben Franklin. It's all his fault. Boo, Ben Franklin, boo.
SUBJECT: Uh, sir, Ben Franklin's been dead for more than 20 years.
SUBJECT: Yes, but he made us put up all those infernal lightning rods. He says they're to stop lightning from hitting our homes and burning them up, but they're actually stopping the planet from releasing heat. It's his fault, right? He ruined everything. Franklin's the worst, yeah.
SUBJECT: Seems like you really got a beef with Ben Franklin?
SUBJECT: Yeah, maybe bring that up in therapy or something?
SUBJECT: No, it's definitely his fault.
ASA: Wait, someone really blamed Ben Franklin?
JOY DOLO: Yeah, without a real scientific understanding of what was happening, it was hard to come up with an explanation. It wasn't until over 100 years later that scientists figured out that the volcanic eruption caused that weird weather. Imagine something so big happening and being completely in the dark about the science behind it. That's what life was like for most of human history. But most people didn't think so much about the cause as they did about the effect.
Because 1816 wasn't like today. Today, we have restaurants and grocery stores and friendly drivers who bring your ramen with a push of a button. Back then, people mostly grew food for themselves in their communities. And when this freezing summer hit, the crops froze and died. The cost of grain and corn went sky high and a lot of people went hungry. There were even riots.
ASA: Wow, OK, now I feel really bad for complaining about some weird rain. That sounds like a much worse summer.
JOY DOLO: It was. But, also, during all those hardships, some amazing things happened because humans are amazing. They dream, build, and invent when the going gets tough. In fact, it was this cold summer that kicked off ideas that would later change the world for the better.
CREW: Attention Camp Chronology campers, the storm is almost over.
ASA: [GASP] Did you hear that, Joy?
CREW: Sorry, speaker must have cut out. As I was saying, the storm is almost over the camp, right above us. Oh, it's really boring. Much like the campers staying in our glamping yurts, the storm is in-tents. Get it? A yurt is like a tent so they're in tents. [CHUCKLE] [CLEARS THROAT] Is this thing on? Anyway, don't go outside. Bye.
JOY DOLO: OK, I know that wasn't the news you were hoping to hear, but I have something that will take your mind off of it, Asa. How about we pause the story and play a round of--
[AUDIO LOGO] First Things First.
JOY DOLO: That's the game where we try to guess the order things came in history. Since we're at camp, let's look at camp-related stuff. We've got the three C's-- compasses, canoes, and coolers, specifically those lightweight ones you store your food in when camping. So which do you think came first, which came second, and which came most recently in history? Asa, which one of these do you think is the oldest?
ASA: Maybe canoes?
JOY DOLO: Oh, that's the oldest you think? Why?
ASA: Um, I see a lot of old people using them.
JOY DOLO: Oh, no, I think I'm an old person Yeah, yeah, so it's probably been around for a long time if they're using it.
JOY DOLO: All right, so if you have canoes first and then we have coolers or compasses?
JOY DOLO: So we have canoes and then compasses. Why do you think compasses came second?
ASA: Oh, well, I thought it came-- wait, I thought compasses came first.
JOY DOLO: Oh, OK, so you want compasses to be the oldest?
JOY DOLO: So you have compasses first and then canoes or coolers?
JOY DOLO: Canoes--
ASA: They didn't really have frozen stuff.
JOY DOLO: Yeah, that's right because you have to think about ice, right?
JOY DOLO: That's good. I think that was most recent invention. And, also, compasses help canoes. So maybe they kind of like were a buy one get one kind of thing.
JOY DOLO: That seems logical. So we have compasses and then canoes and then coolers. Is that your final answer?
JOY DOLO: I think that's a pretty good guess. We'll be back with the answer after the credits.
ASA: So keep listening.
JOY DOLO: You're listening to Forever Ago with me, Joy.
ASA: And me, Asa.
And that's Hermie, the elephant that lives in Joy's closet.
Joy, Hermie wants another peanut--
--and an extra fuzzy blanket--
--and some s'mores from your s'mores cannon.
JOY DOLO: Well, bam, I love using this thing. We're sitting around this indoor portable campfire. Don't worry, it's podcast magic so it's totally safe. Don't think too hard about it.
And I was telling everyone the story of 1816, the year without a summer. So, basically, a giant volcanic eruption spat out all this ash and gas. And it clouded the sky around the world, cooling things down a lot.
ASA: Hermie says that's called a volcanic winter, even if it happens in the summer.
JOY DOLO: Wow, who knew it would be so helpful to have an elephant well versed in volcanology in my closet? Anyway, yes, this volcanic winter caused a very cold summer.
ASA: Yeah, like so cold, there was literally snow in July.
JOY DOLO: Oh yeah, imagine sledding in the summer. Ew, that's got to feel wrong.
ASA: Like wearing a suit in the shower?
JOY DOLO: Or eating an orange with the peel on.
ASA: Or seeing a dog stretch and not saying, oh, get that stretch, ooh, that's a good stretch.
JOY DOLO: Exactly, you took the words right out of my mouth, so wrong. But maybe fun? Asa, is there a winter activity you wish you could do year round?
ASA: Christmas every day.
JOY DOLO: Yeah, every day, yeah. Presents and cookies and turkey or ham--
JOY DOLO: --and hanging out with people and all that good stuff too. But also cookies, absolutely. Well, this chaotic weather also inspired some big changes in the world, some of which went on to do a whole lot of good. Let's start in Germany.
So there's this baron with a very barony name. Get ready for it. It's a lot, Karl Friedrich Christian Ludwig Freiherr Drais Von Sauerbronn.
ASA: Oh, that is a very long name.
JOY DOLO: Seriously, he was hogging all the names. Now, Karl was as good at inventing things as his name was long. Over the years, he'd come up with a version of a typewriter, a meat grinder, a railway vehicle, and a device for recording piano music. But back in 1816, he ran into a problem that needed the old Karl Drais touch. You see, since so many crops had died, people couldn't feed the horses.
SUBJECT: [? He ?] [? gods, ?] all the horses have perished. How will a young lad like myself get around? By foot? That could take days in this year of 1816 in which we don't have things like cars.
SUBJECT: What even is that word you said, Karl? Ca-cla-clar-car?
SUBJECT: I have no idea, dear friend. I made it up because it clearly doesn't exist. Anyway, without horses, one must procure a new way of getting around. I shall invent something.
JOY DOLO: Karl decided to create something like a horse that didn't need food. He came up with a long machine with handlebars, a padded seat, and two large wooden wheels-- one in back and one up front that you could steer. In 1817, he was ready to test it out.
SUBJECT: OK, I simply start running and then, whoop, hop up on my seat. And, woo, this is a pure delight. I'm gliding along on my new invention. And unlike a horse, it requires no food or grooming. And it leaves no unsightly poopage along the road either. What a truly remarkable thing I have here. Quick, someone take a video.
SUBJECT: Karl, what is this word, "video?"
SUBJECT: No idea. I must be so excited I am speaking gobbledegook because this is the year of 1817 and there is no such word as "video." But look at me go--
ASA: Wait, that invention sounds a lot like a bicycle.
JOY DOLO: Bingo. Karl invented the early ancestor of the bicycle. It didn't have any pedals, but many believe this was the start of horseless transport. And like Karl, his invention had a lot of names. It was known as the Laufmaschine or running machine, the draisine, the velocipede, a hobby horse, or the dandy horse. Do you use a bike, Asa?
ASA: Well, I used to until I was riding on gravel. And let's just say I had a little tumble.
JOY DOLO: Oh, no, oh, no. Did you like skin your knees?
ASA: I skinned everything. It washed off my bookmarks and--
JOY DOLO: Oh my goodness. Yeah, I understand why you wouldn't want to get back on that. I've had a bike in my garage for like 10 years. And I swear one day I'm going to take it out and we'll take it for a stroll.
Well, next time you hop on a two-wheeler think about old Karl and how a summer of bad weather forced him to get creative. Let's meet another big thinker who was influenced by this year. Justus von Liebig was the son of a hardware merchant who sold paint and chemicals. As a kid, he'd watched his father do what's called bucket chemistry.
ASA: Oh, yeah, that's when you combine ingredients in a bucket to make things like varnishes, paints, polishes, and pigments.
SUBJECT: So astounding. My papa just adds ingredients in a bucket and they make something totally new. Truly, that is the coolest thing I have ever seen.
JOY DOLO: He fell in love with chemistry and soon had a dream of being a big time chemist himself. He was only 13 when the year without a summer hit. He lived in Germany too like Baron Karl. And there are lots of farms that lost their crops. People were starving. Justus saw all this and it stuck with him.
SUBJECT: If only there were a way to add ingredients to a bucket and make something that would help bring back the farmlands. That would truly be a miracle.
JOY DOLO: Justus went to school, studied hard, and eventually became a total chemistry expert. But that memory of failed crops and empty bellies haunted him. So he turned his mind to the problem of growing food.
SUBJECT: I bet chemistry can unlock the secrets of the soil. Then we could rid the world of crop failure and famine forever.
JOY DOLO: Justus ended up creating one of the first artificial fertilizers.
ASA: Oh, like something you can add to plants to help them grow faster and better, even in bad weather?
JOY DOLO: Exactly.
ASA: Yeah, Hermie, elephant dung makes a great fertilizer. But Joy is talking about artificial fertilizers, like something made in a factory or a lab, not an elephant's butt.
JOY DOLO: Right, Justus found that if you add certain chemicals to plants, they grow better. His fertilizers helped kick off the modern age of farming. Thanks in part to him, people the world over can grow more food than ever before. On top of that, he also invented one of the world's first baby formulas.
ASA: Wow, he really went all in on feeding the world. And he actually seems to have made a huge difference. Now that's what I call career goals.
JOY DOLO: Yeah, Hermie, it is bananas.
Oh, you want bananas. Sorry, my elephant is so rusty. What was that app you used again?
ASA: Here, Hermie, I have one in this picnic. I packed for me and Joy, but I guess we're not going to need it now.
JOY DOLO: Hey, we can have a picnic here inside the cabin. It's practically the same except, you know, instead of the sky, we have wood. And instead of scenic vistas, we have wood. And instead of the soft forest floor, we have also wood. This cabin is really one note when it comes to decor.
ASA: Yeah, that sounds fun.
JOY DOLO: Here, I made you this meal. It's the best summer ever burger with ultimate french fries, [BRING] like french fries, but like a lot more fun. I even added edible glitter to both of them for ultimate fun. [BRING] I don't know about you, but I'm having fun just hanging with my pals. And speaking of, I've got one last story for you that involves a few friends stuck inside on a rainy day.
ASA: Just like us.
JOY DOLO: Exactly. Pass the ketchup. Thanks. OK, it was 1816 still and a group of friends went on a vacation to a lake in Switzerland. They were planning on sailing, but the weather turned bad and they ended up stuck inside.
SUBJECT: Confound it! This dastardly weather has conspired to ruin our adventure.
SUBJECT: Oh, this is a total sail fail.
SUBJECT: Oh, go to Switzerland, they said. It'll be fun, they said. Ugh.
JOY DOLO: After they'd read everything they could read and talked about everything they could talk about, they got desperate.
SUBJECT: If I have to stare at this wall one second longer, I will surely snap.
SUBJECT: Ah, I know. What if we tell stories?
SUBJECT: Scary stories, like bone-chilling scary. Like what if we try to make up the scariest story ever and see who wins?
SUBJECT: OK, I'm listening.
JOY DOLO: The group took some time and plotted out the creepiest, spookiest, bloodcurdling stories they could think of. Then they shared their tales of terror. One of them came up with an idea that was truly horrifying. It was about a brilliant scientist who bent the laws of nature in a twisted way.
SUBJECT: He takes dead material and adds to it the spark of life, creating something not quite man, but tall, lumbering with long black hair. It stares at its maker with a dull yellow eye.
SUBJECT: Is it a monster?
SUBJECT: Um, do you mind if we light a few more lamps? I'm not scared. It's just I think I'd like to be able to see what's in the corners of the room a little better.
JOY DOLO: That storyteller was Mary Shelley. And her story became her masterpiece novel Frankenstein. It was one of the first stories ever to blend scientific ideas with wild fantasy. Some say it was the first true work of science fiction.
ASA: OK, that's super cool. Imagine if we never had that story. Just think of all the movies we might miss out on.
ASA: Right, Hermie. And all the Frankenstein's monster Halloween costumes we literally wouldn't have.
JOY DOLO: Exactly. And it's very possible Mary Shelley would have never dreamed it up if the weather was nice and calm as expected.
ASA: You know, this is making me feel better.
JOY DOLO: About the storm?
ASA: No, about 2020. Yeah, it was tough to miss out on so much. And it was really, really hard for so many people. But what if it sparked some good changes? Like what if we look back after a few decades and we see that, just like with 1816, us humans innervated and invented after 2020? And what if that made the whole world a better place?
JOY DOLO: I like that thought. I really hope.
CREW: Attention, campers, I've got some bad news. I've lost my lucky sandals. They're green and they're usually on my feet and-- oh, look at that. I'm wearing them. Crisis averted. Oh, and the rain stopped. You can go outside now. Bye.
JOY DOLO: You hear that? Summer's back on.
ASA: Yes, it's not too late. Now, let's get out there and make the most of it.
JOY DOLO: That's right. It's time for [DRUM ROLL] ultimate fun. [BRING] Ugh, I love laying by a lake. It's the perfect vibe. I'll just be here for the next three or four months.
ASA: Yeah, it feels so good to soak up that sun. [SIGH] You know, learning about the year without a summer really made me appreciate things.
JOY DOLO: Yeah, like how when a big volcano erupts, we're all affected.
ASA: And how we're all more connected than we think. That volcano may have turned the weather backward, making it so cold in the summer that it snowed and crops died, but it didn't stop humans from dreaming and scheming. We learn and grow from tough times.
JOY DOLO: Well said. Now, can you pass me that book? I--
Oh, no, it's one of those hungry bears from before. Don't worry, Asa, I got this. Hey! Bear! You want to eat something? Well, chew on this.
This episode was written by Sanden Totten with production help from Molly Bloom, Anna Goldfield, Nico Gonzalez Wisler, Aron Woldeslassie, Rosie DuPont, Ruby Guthrie, and Anna [? Weigel. ?] It was edited by Shahla Farzan. Sound design by Rachel Brees. Theme music by Marc Sanchez. Beth Pearlman is our executive producer.
We had engineering help from Alex Simpson, [? Zach ?] [? Hani, ?] and Anna Haverman. The executives in charge of APM Studios are Chandra Kavati, Joanne Griffith, and Alex Schaffert. Special thanks to [? Raymond ?] [? Nu, ?] Vernon Neal, and Brant Miller.
ASA: Have a topic that you really want to know the history of? Send it to us at foreverago.org/contact.
JOY DOLO: OK, Asa, ready to hear the answers for First Things First?
ASA: Let's do it.
JOY DOLO: OK, just a reminder, you said compasses, canoes, and coolers.
JOY DOLO: So let's see what the truth is. Da-bada-ba! Oh my gosh, that's so funny. You were right the first time. It's canoe. Canoe was first.
JOY DOLO: Yeah. Canoe is at least 10,000 years old.
JOY DOLO: I know. It's hard to say when exactly the canoe was first invented, but the oldest one found so far is called the Pesse canoe it was found in the village of Pesse in what is now the Netherlands. Archeologists think it's not just the oldest canoe, but the oldest boat of any kind. It was a single hollowed-out tree log. Other similar dugout canoes, also thousands of years old, have also been discovered in present day Nigeria and China.
The English word "canoe" comes from the Taíno word "canoa." The Taino people lived in the Caribbean before the Spanish arrived and traveled between islands and dugout canoes. First of all, I did not know anything like that about canoes. I knew they were made from trees, but I didn't know they were like--
JOY DOLO: --they were like in China and Nigeria. Mind blown. Well, that was the first. And then second, which you were correct on--
JOY DOLO: --was compasses. And that was made in the 11th century.
JOY DOLO: Yeah. Historians think China may have been the first civilization to develop a magnetized compass for navigation. Civilizations in Europe followed, developing their own compasses by the 12th century. Because people in these civilizations would have been skilled at navigating using the sun or stars, early compasses were probably a backup to be used when it was cloudy. [CHUCKLING] I think I would use a compass. I get lost all the time. So last, but certainly not least, is coolers.
JOY DOLO: Coolers, which you were also right about, Asa-- high five-- they were made in the 1950s.
JOY DOLO: Humans have found ways to keep food cool for millennia. But a smallish lightweight box that keeps your sodas and sauerkraut chilly, that's pretty new. In 1951, Richard C. Laramy filed a patent for a portable ice chest for storing food and the like.
This portable icebox quickly became a household staple for lots of people there. Lots of other coolers have hit the market since then. Today, you can get ones that charge your phone or play music.
JOY DOLO: Isn't that something? Were you surprised by any of those answers.
ASA: I was very surprised. I don't know how they made canoes. Maybe the first one looked like really weird but then it started evolving, probably like that.
JOY DOLO: What if the first one was just like an actual trunk that they just sat on and they didn't carve it or anything?
JOY DOLO: It just floated down the water, the tree trunk.
ASA: They just stood on it, like not saying a word.
JOY DOLO: Yeah, straight ahead, dead face. We'll be back next week with an episode all about the history of pride flags
ASA: Thanks for listening.
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