The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth's Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes

Khalid Elhassan - April 29, 2021

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Interactions with tall natives in Patagonia gave rise to crazy tall tales about Patagonian giants. Princeton University

5. A Tragic Encounter With a Tall Native Grew Into Tall Tales About a Land of Giants

When Magellan was finally ready to depart from Patagonia and continue with his circumnavigation of the globe, he wanted to take some Patagonians to display back in Spain. So he invited some aboard his ship with the lure of trinkets, got them drunk until they passed out, and placed them in chains. When the Patagonians came to, the ships were already underway, sailing away from their homeland. Sadly, the kidnapped Patagonians did not survive the voyage. Nor, for that matter, did Magellan.

However, the sailors who completed the trip and returned to Spain brought back with them a crazy tale of a land inhabited by giants. It was a tall tale that kept growing taller. Later voyages described encounters with Patagonians who stood ten feet tall. Others reported coming in contact with ones whose height was measured at twelve feet. Yet others swore that they had encountered Patagonians who truly towered above normal people, and stood fifteen feet tall. Reports of the South American giants gripped European imaginations for over 250 years.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Patagonian giants. Fine Arts America

4. It Took Centuries to Dispel the Myth of Patagonian Giants

The first challenge to the tall tales of Patagonian giants came from Sir Francis Drake, the famous British seaman and pirate, who encountered Patagonians during his own circumnavigation of the globe. As described by his nephew: “Magellan was not altogether deceived in naming these giants, for they generally differ from the common sort of man both in stature, bigness and strength of body, as also in the hideousness of their voices: but they are nothing so monstrous and giant-like as they were represented, there being some English men as tall as the highest we could see, but peradventure the Spaniards did not think that ever any English man would come hither to reprove them, and therefore might presume the more boldly to lie.”

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Patagonian Tehuelche in 1904. Wikimedia

Nonetheless, the stories of South American giants persisted. As late as 1766, rumors circulated that a British Royal Navy ship had encountered a tribe of natives who stood nine feet tall. However, when the ship’s account of the voyage was finally published, the natives were recorded as being six and a half feet tall. That was tall, especially for that era, but not incredibly so. It certainly did not make the natives giants. In reality, the tribe in question, the Tehuelche, were statuesque and bigger than average. However, they stood in the six foot range.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
King Alexander of Greece. Bridgeman Art Gallery

3. A King Killed by a Monkey

King Alexander of Greece came to an undignified end, when he was taken out by a monkey. No, not that Alexander, the great conqueror of the ancient world, but a more recent one. This Alexander (1893 – 1920) reigned over the Kingdom of Greece from 1917 until he met an unfortunate end three years later. Less imposing than Alexander the Great, this Alexander is perhaps better known to history for the undignified manner of his death than for anything he accomplished in life.

Alexander became king in 1917 during World War I. He ascended the throne after the Allies forced his father to abdicate because he was pro German. Once Alexander took the throne, the pro Entente politician Eleutherios Venizelos became Greek premier. He dominated the king and government, and joined the war on the Allies’ side. After the Entente won, Venizelos and his puppet king were committed to an ambitious political platform called Great Greece. As seen below, that platform collapsed when His Majesty had an unfortunate run in with a monkey.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
King Alexander of Greece and his wife, Aspasia Manos. Wikimedia

2. An Unfortunate Brawl With a Barbary Macaque Monkey

The Great Greece plan consisted of expanding the kingdom to encompass all the lands that had once been inhabited by Greeks, going back millennia. The expansion was to come at the expense of the defeated Ottoman Empire, which had been reduced to a rump that is now Turkey. So in 1919, with tacit French and British support, King Alexander ordered an invasion of Turkey, to seize the Ionian coast. Then a monkey intervened, and ensured that the king never got to see the end of that adventure.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Barbary macaque monkeys. Julia Mathewson

It began with a visit to the Royal Gardens on September 30th, 1920. While strolling with his German Shepherd, Fritz, king and canine came across a Barbary macaque monkey. The dog attacked the monkey, which fought back. The king rushed forward to separate the brawling animals, but unbeknownst to him, the monkey had friends. Another monkey arrived at the scene, and seeing what appeared to be the king and a dog ganging up on his pal, joined the fray. He fell upon Alexander, and bit his leg and upper body several times.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Turkish propaganda poster, depicting the expulsion of Greeks from Anatolia. Pintrest

1. History’s Most Significant Monkey Attack

King Alexander’s entourage heard the commotion, rushed to his aid, and chased the monkeys away. By then, the damage had already been done. The monkey bites became inflamed, and the king developed a serious infection. Doctors debated amputation of the leg, but none of them wanted to take responsibility, so it was left until it was too late. By the time amputation was considered once again, the infection had spread into the body. King Alexander died of sepsis three weeks after the animal fight, at age 27. Those monkey bites had far reaching consequences.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
A Barbary macaque monkey. People Magazine

Alexander’s death resulted in the restoration of his deposed father. The restored king disliked the military, who had supported his deposition. So he drastically cut and reorganized the armed forces, and engineered the ouster of the pro Entente Premier Venizelos. That caused the French and British to question Greek commitment to the campaign in Turkey. As a result, they made their own deals with a resurgent Turkey. Between that and military turmoil, the Greek invasion of Turkey ended in a humiliating disaster and defeat. Crazy as it sounds, modern Greece and Turkey exist as they do today because a king and his dog picked the wrong monkey to mess with.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

All That is Interesting – Newly Declassified Documents Reveal That a Top US General Planned For Nuclear Attack During the Vietnam War

Amusing Planet – Franz Reichelt’s Fatal Jump

Atlas Obscura – The 1962 Laughter Epidemic of Tanganyika Was No Joke

Beschloss, Michael – Presidents of War (2018)

Boing Boing – US Air Force Proposal: Pause the Earth’s Rotation So Nukes Would Miss Targets

Cracked – America Wanted to Stop the Earth’s Rotation to Trick Soviet Nukes

Ellsberg, Daniel – The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (2017)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Marquis de Sade

History Collection – Weird Historic Events That Would Break the Internet

Lely, Gilbert – The Marquis de Sade, a Biography (1961)

Mad Monarchs – Farouk of Egypt

New York Times, October 6th, 2018 – US General Considered Nuclear Response in Vietnam, Cables Show

Seattle Times, October 6th, 2018 – Cables Show US Was Close to Adding Nuclear Weapons to Vietnam War

War History Online – Crazy: General Westmoreland Initiated Plan to Use Nukes in Vietnam

We Are the Mighty – America Wanted to Stop Earth’s Rotation During Cold War

Wikipedia – Alexander of Greece

Wikipedia – Davy Crockett (Nuclear Device)

Wikipedia – Farouk of Egypt

Wired – Fantastically Wrong: Magellan’s Strange Encounter With the 10-Foot Giants of Patagonia