August 18, 1979 — Singer James Reyne is hit by a car

So imagine this: it’s the day before your band’s big debut. Your first single is doing well on the charts, but you’re still recording the rest of your first album. You’re even going to be on national television, on the highest rating music show in the country. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, your lead singer could hit by a car as he walks across Swanston St in central Melbourne. You could all wind up waiting anxiously at the hospital to see if he’s going to be okay.

As it happens, he is. James Reyne suffered minor fractures to his arms. Australian Crawl recorded their first appearance on Countdown the next day, Reyne sporting a matched pair of plaster casts on his forearms. Disaster was narrowly averted, and Reyne’s distinctive vocal style went national for the first time. The legend began, and the band later memorialised the incident in song on their first album.

While this date is almost certainly incorrect, this song was too much fun for me to leave out. I’ve dated it based on the generally agreed date that the car accident occurred the day before Reyne appeared on Countdown sporting plaster casts on both arms. The only problem with that is that Countdown was most likely pre-taped – this date is based on the broadcast date. it’s as close as we’re likely to get barring the release of the definitive James Reyne biography, though.

January 27, 1961 — Soviet submarine S-80 is lost with all hands in the Arctic Sea

Originally launched on October 21, 1950 at Krasnoye Sormovo Factory in Gorky, the S-80 was a Whiskey Class submarine, and was later overhauled between 1957 and 1959. On January 27, 1961, the S-80 was sailing through the Barents Sea (a portion of the Arctic Ocean between the Svalbard Islands and the Arkhangelsk Oblast, directly north of Murmansk). At about 1:27am, the S-80 dropped below snorkel depth, but a mechanical fault caused portions of the submarine to flood.

Alarm spread, but not as quickly as the water and the cascading mechanical faults. In the end, a total of 68 men – the complete complement of officers and crew – lost their lives in the sinking. The S-80 and the men aboard it were not found for seven and a half years.

December 26, 1935 — “Captain Blood” premieres

The 1935 adaptation of Rafael Sabatini’s 1922 novel, “Captain Blood” was the second film version of the story, after a 1924 silent version. It was a surprise hit for Warner Bros, which took a chance on two unknowns – Errol Flynn and Oliva de Haviland – as the leads. Not only were they both immensely attractive, but also, their chemistry was magnetic. The pair would go on to make 7 more films together over the next 6 years, almost always as a romantic couple. Their best known film is 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (which re-teamed them with their “Captain Blood” co-star Basil Rathbone).

Flynn in particular distinguished himself not just as a leading man, but also as an action star (although his swordplay was the despair of Rathbone, who was actually a trained fencer, but required to lose to Flynn by the plot). The film, while melodramatic by modern standards, was one of the first great pirate movies, and Flynn’s Captain Blood has influenced almost all subsequent cinematic pirates. The film grossed more than double its million dollar budget, and ensured the careers of not just its actors, but also its director, Michael Curtiz.

As mentioned in:

Errol — Australian Crawl

March 29, 1912 — Scott of the Antarctic writes the final entry in his diary

It’s really not clear when exactly Robert Falcon Scott – better known as Scott of the Antarctic – actually died. Certainly, he, Henry Bowers and Edward Wilson were all still alive, albeit in rather poor shape, when his previous diary entry was written six days earlier. It is possible that Scott survived writing this last entry for as much as a day – from the positions of the three men in the tent when their bodies were recovered, he seems to have been the last one to die.

The three were found in their tent in November that year, after the long the southern winter had abated. Scott and his men became martyred heroes to the British empire. Amundsen, whose team had beaten Scott’s to the south pole by five weeks, stated that he “…would gladly forgo any honour or money if thereby I could have saved Scott his terrible death”. Later, as Antarctic exploration slowly transformed into colonisation, Scott’s reputation suffered as historians examined the records of his journey.

June 20, 1909 — Errol Flynn is born

Errol Leslie Thomson Flynn was born in Hobart, Tasmania. His parents were Theodore Thomson Flynn, a professor of biology at the University of Tasmania; and Lily Mary Young, later Marelle Flynn. They had married in Balmain North, Sydney, on 23 January 1909 – which implies a little about their motivations for marriage.

That said, there is no reason to think that Flynn was unloved as a child (or at least, not unloved by the standards of his time and culture). He later attended school with future Australian Prime Minister John Gorton, who would also become a notorious larrikin.

Errol Flynn1

As mentioned in:

Errol — Australian Crawl

June 28, 1861 — Burke and Wills die in the Australian outback

Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills led an expedition of 18 men with the intention of crossing Australia from Melbourne in the south to the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north, a distance of around 2,800 kilometres across largely unsettled lands. The expedition set off from Royal Park, Melbourne at about 4pm on August 20, 1860, watched by a crowd about 15,000 strong.

The 19 men of the expedition included five Englishmen, six Irishmen, four Indian sepoys, three Germans and an American. They took twenty-three horses, six wagons and twenty-seven camels.

The party arrived at what would become known as the “Dig Tree” on December 6, 1860. Some of the party stayed behind, while Burke, Wills and another man named King pushed on. Those who stayed behind planned to wait for 13 weeks. In the event, they stayed for 18 weeks, finally departing on Sunday 21 April 1861.

The three men returned only 9 hours later. Over the next few weeks, the two parties missed each other several more times. Although King found a tribe of Yandruwandha willing to give him food and shelter and in return he shot birds to contribute to their supplies, Burke and Wills both died at the Dig Tree. The exact date of their death is unknown and different dates are given on various memorials in Victoria. The Exploration Committee fixed June 28, 1861 as the date both explorers died.