On this first day of January in 1739, French explorer Jean Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier discovered an island in the South Sea – where it is summer in our winter – far south of the vague line where the Atlantic ocean ‘ends’, and the vast expanse of far southern water begins. The small ice covered island – 19 square miles  – is 93% glacier, with only one rocky landing point. I mention this neglected piece of real estate, now governed by Norway – primarily since it is the most remote piece of land on the face of God’s good earth, the farthest island from anywhere else. Hence, it provides an imaginative escape from these Covidian lockdowns, dreaming of place far, far away, with brisk Antarctic air, cold cerulean water, and, well, freedom, at least of a sort.

For a pandemic of truly apocalyptic proportions, read over what the mis-named ‘Spanish’ flu did in 1918, killing far more people than the just-ending World War – some say 100 million – until the virus burned itself out, reaching even into the very depths of the Arctic and Antarctic, wiping out whole villages. It was only called after Spain, since that country was one of the few places left with a free press, the rest of the world, including America under Woodrow Wilson, censored any American connection; only the government allowed to speak on the effects and nature of the pandemic, whose existence they virtually denied:

Wilson’s Sedition Act of 1918 criminalized “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” and punished offenders with up to 20 years in prison. Newspapers and magazines considered “unpatriotic” were canceled, as we would say today. Dissenting civilians were intimidated, and sometimes worse. The government spied on private citizens and arrested them even for casual offhand remarks. These efforts were bolstered by the American Protective League, a secret police network staffed by 250,000 employees who spied on citizens in 600 cities and towns. They implanted themselves as undercover agents in places like factories, where they could listen to conversations. They inspired schoolboys to form their own informant organization, the Anti–Yellow Dog League…

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