One of the best ways to make yourself feel better after a rough day is to remember that it could always be worse. One of the best ways to remind yourself of how much worse it could be is to think of someone with worse luck than you. When it comes to moving, this part is relatively easy. History is full of unfortunate travelers and the moves they made. Some found themselves in their predicaments because of their own folly and others were just unlucky. In case you’re having a rough move, we’ve come up with a list of history’s worst moves to help ease you through it. And, in case reading all these horror stories at once depresses you, we’d like to remind you that every cloud has a silver lining. We’ve included one with each story. Please enjoy.
1. The passengers of the Titanic
When you think of bad luck or irony, think of these poor folks. The RMS Titanic was a modern marvel of its day. It was the pinnacle of human engineering and a testament to the ingenuity of mankind. To be on this vessel was to travel in style. As if all this wasn’t enough, it was “unsinkable.”
If it hadn’t been for a series of careless errors and some cut corners (at first metaphorical and later literal), these unlucky passengers would be on the list of the most fortunate people moving in history. They would have arrived in their new homes in America safe and sound and lived to brag about having arrived there on a modern marvel. Sadly, even the slightest mistake can ruin a move. In this case, this slight mistake resulted in the deaths of over 1,500 passengers. The only silver lining of this disaster is that James Cameron was able to make an Oscar-winning movie out of it.
Most people moving learn from their mistakes and those of their predecessors. Sadly, the crusaders took their time with it. The first crusade was a long march of misery, fraught with disease, food shortages, accumulating debt, freezing cold rain, poor medical treatment, attacks by vicious adversaries and, on top of all that, cannibalism. To make matters worse, when they finally did establish their new homes in the holy land, they couldn’t hold on to them for long.
As if this story wasn’t already depressing enough, the first crusade was the most successful one. This was the only crusade in which the crusaders actually accomplished their goal of retaking the “Holy Land.” The others only partially succeeded or failed outright, as each generation learned little from the previous crusaders. The only good news that came from these holy disasters was that the experience eventually taught the Europeans how to get better at moving.
3. Jamestown Settlers
Not that settling America isn’t admirable, but it would have been better for everyone involved if the settlers had been better prepared. The settlers had come hoping to find piles of gold and fertile soil that would make growing food easy. What they instead found was a barren swamp without an ounce of gold and full of hostile natives.
Their misfortune was partially due to bad luck, but these settlers have themselves to blame for the most part. They came over to a new land with tall tales and ridiculous fantasies in their heads. However, there is one silver lining, woefully unprepared as they were, they did eventually establish a colony that grew into a country.
4. The Donner Party
In 1846, a wagon train full of pioneers set out to cross the Sierra Nevadas in hopes of making a new home in the west. George Donner and his companions obviously weren’t excellent travelers and a combination of bad luck and silly mistakes led to ruin. The trip turned out to be a disaster that was bad enough to inspire several modern horror movies.
After a series of “mishaps,” including, broken wheels, group disintegration, murder and stupid accidents, the party was finally snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains. They quickly burned through their supplies and eventually had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Of the 87 people who attempted to cross the mountains, only 48 survived. We wish we could offer a better silver lining for this one, but the best we can find is a few mediocre horror movies, and a very nice ski resort near where they met their fate.
5. Juan Ponce de Leon
Leon was a Spanish conquistador who was famous for exploring what is now Florida and the Caribbean islands. He never did find the “fountain of youth” he was looking for (a quick look at the inhabitants of present-day Florida will prove that), but he did find some lovely beachfront property. In 1521, he did what any aspiring entrepreneur would do; he took a group of settlers to build some homes on his prime real estate.
Unfortunately, the move was very poorly planned. The biggest problem was that he didn’t get along well with his new neighbors, the Calusa people, and they eventually evicted him with a poisoned arrow to his thigh. This is a good example of why one shouldn’t neglect to invite any neighbors to the backyard barbecue. You never know what they might dip their arrows in.
On the bright side, Leon did discover a beautiful part of our great nation. He discovered the land that brought us Universal Studios, Disney World and the Miami Dolphins. On behalf of the American film industry, as well as America’s retired population, we would like to say “thank you.”
6. John Gonzales Zarco and Tristan Vaz Teixeira
This one might make you laugh a little. In the early 15th century, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal dispatched two young sea captains, John Gonzales Zarco and Tristan Vaz Teixeira to the island of Porto Santo off the northern coast of Africa. These two dashing explorers and the colonists on-board had brought everything they needed to build a new colony. They had livestock, building supplies, can-do attitudes and even a cute little bunny who gave birth to several more on board.
What could have gone wrong on this expedition? The answer will surprise you. When the settlers set up their homes, the aforementioned rabbit’s children escaped and began setting up their own colony on the island. Both colonies succeeded at first, but the rabbits did a bit too well. They bred so quickly that they ate nearly every piece of vegetation on the island, including what the settlers had sown. The little creatures reproduced so quickly that the colonists couldn’t get rid of them fast enough.
The island was soon overrun by the rabbit population and the two captains and their followers moved over to the neighboring island of Madeira and began a bunny-free colony there. The silver lining in this case is that the people moving did better the second time. Another positive result was that, while the human colony did not succeed, the rabbit colonists certainly did.
7. LZ-129 Hindenburg Passengers
It was in 1937 that one of the most famous disasters on earth occurred, thousands of feet above it. The advanced and luxurious Hindenburg airship was a marvel of German engineering and the passengers and crew aboard were undoubtedly enjoying their aerial trip around the world in the moments before it happened. Many of them were returning to their homes from business trips, some were simply along for the ride, and some were moving to the US in order to escape the rising Nazi party. Little did any to them know, the craft would eventually meet the same fate as an equally luxurious and revolutionary vessel, the RMS Titanic. While passing over Lakehurst, New Jersey, the airship exploded, killing 25 of the 92 people on board.
Like the Titanic before it, the Hindenburg was a top-of-the-line mode of transportation. It could be considered the premiere luxury cruise of its day. Its interior consisted of a cushy lounge, a very elegant dining room and comfortable cabins for the passengers. The only downside was the immense amount of hydrogen between its chambers. All it took was a single spark to ignite the hydrogen and cause the catastrophic explosion that you’ve probably seen black and white pictures of.
It would be unfair to blame these passengers for the fate that befell them. Like the victims of the aforementioned Titanic, they were simply unfortunate people who thought that they had won the lottery but were quite literally brought down by the smallest of details. The silver linings to this story are the fact that 67 of the people onboard miraculously survived and, of course, the awe-inspiring desktop backgrounds that the photograph of the disaster makes.
In 1929, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, did something only the world’s richest man could do; he bought a piece of the Amazon rain-forest twice the size of Delaware and started construction on a town called Fordlandia. Can you guess why? (Hint: He wasn’t trying to save the rain-forest.) He was after rubber. Before the invention of synthetic rubber, the only source of the rubber that he needed for his automobiles’ tires was the rubber trees of the Amazon. At the time, a cartel of Dutch and English entrepreneurs controlled the world’s supply of rubber and Ford had to choose between paying their exorbitant fees or finding his own way to get at those precious rubber trees.
His attempt to produce his own rubber went foul in multiple ways. First of all, American engineers and technicians weren’t particularly good at growing rubber plants. They attempted to grow too many in too small a space and the crops failed miserably because of a blight that blew through them. It wasn’t until Ford came to his senses and hired a botanist that they were able to identify the problem and, by then, it was too late.
Even worse than the crop failure, was the company’s lack of respect for local workers. Ford did his best to create his own piece of America in the Brazilian rainforest. Sadly, it turned out that his piece didn’t fit. Brazilian workers were forced to adopted culture and speak English. Even worse, Ford established a prohibition of alcohol and expected the Brazilian workers to work American style nine-to-five shifts under the hot sun, instead of before sunrise and after sunset. Their discontent culminated in a riot, in which Ford’s managers were chased across the river or into the jungle by machete-wielding workers.
The epitome of American tenacity and/or stubbornness, Ford continued the project until synthetic rubber was invented in 1945. It took 16 years, but the move was finally over for all those involved. One silver lining of this nightmarish move was that the town was abandoned, and those 25,000 acres went back to the rainforest. You could say that Mother Nature won this one.