Solving History: DEVIL’S ISLAND: Tonight (23rd March), Discovery US, 7pm EST 23Mar10

Long before Alcatraz, there was Devil’s Island – the most notorious and vicious prison complex ever constructed. Over a century of operation, 70,000 men were incarcerated there, less than 10% survived. Built in the tropics of French Guiana, it was called the perfect prison – penned in by the jungle on one side and the sea on the other. Escape was said to be impossible. But was it? I explore the horrors of prison life and test out whether tales of great escapes could be true. Devil’s Island airs on Discovery US at 7pm EST tonight (23rd March)… Read my blog here –

The most famous person to escape from Devil’s Island was Papillion – made into an awesome film staring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. How much of it was actually true? The film was shot largely in Jamaica but in its design and narrative cuts closer to the reality than most Hollywood films. The book Papillion, on which the film was based on, was written by Henri Charriere and even by the author’s own admission was not entirely accurate: “let’s say I lived through 75% of what I wrote. So help me, the rest is purely questions of errors and memory”.

Charriere was born Nov 16th 1906, was imprisoned in the penal colony of French Guinea and escaped to Venezuela to write his book and die a millionaire. The records of his internment have been lost, so often it’s his words against another. One thing we do know – he did have the Papillion (butterfly) tattooed on his chest (as did McQueen in the film) as a symbol of freedom. Historians point to inaccuracies in his story including claiming to have escaped 9 times and murdered a fellow prisoner Bebert Collier for which he was given 8 years in solitary, whilst the maximum was only five. Splitting hairs perhaps, but Alexander Miles, author of Devil’s Island: Colony of the Damned and the historian featured in our film, believes that the events and adventures described in Charriere’s book were probably performed by others and compiled and claimed by Charriere himself. But to Charriere’s credit, he did say he only ‘lived through them’, so you can interpret that, as you like. Convicts that knew him described him an ‘unknown’, ‘a completely insignificant prisoner’, and ‘a mild non-rebellious type’. And the big question from the film? Did he escape on a bag of coconuts? Well, I put it to the test to see whether it was possible, but one thing I can say, is that there was no need to count the waves before jumping in.

Devil’s Island is two things – in general it’s the name that has become synonymous with the entire penal colony of French Guiana which included prisons and work camps on the mainland and the 3 Salvation Islands; but it’s also the name of the smallest of the Salvation Island – the others being Royale and St. Joseph. The name ‘Salvation’ is a touch misrepresentative of their penal history (the convicts called them the ‘Islands of Death’) and refers to the name the islands were given by the first French colonial settlers who arrived in 1763. 10,000 of the first 14,000 died of disease and starvation in the first two years, the survivors held out on the islands where typhus and malaria were less frequent. The French claimed this to be ‘a humanitarian triumph’ describing French Guiana as ‘one of the most generous ideas of the century, one that would allow convicts to release their chains… no longer would they rot in French dungeons but the eternal springtime of a lush and wholesome land’.

For the convicts it was hell on earth, an experience clarified when we visited the solitary confinement cells and where I spent one of the worst nights of my life. Men were sentenced to between 6months to 5 years for a variety of crimes including trying to escape. The ‘tiger cages’ were 5ft by 7ft, walls that broke men’s wills, a wooden plank for a bed, shackles, a bucket for the toilet, no windows, and the ceiling was iron bars where guards walked on a catwalk above. Noise was forbidden, occasionally broken by the screams of the men who cracked, often going insane, and usually described like the sound of men slowly becoming ‘howler monkeys’. The undisputed King of the Dark Cells was Paul Rossenq who spent a total of 3,779 days in the cells including for the following crimes:

• Tearing and destroying prison uniform: (30 days)
• Calling out to other prisoners in solitary (30 days)
• Refusing to put irons on at night (30 days)
• Refusing to be let out of irons in the morning (30 days)
• Accusing guards of stealing 2 Francs from him (60 days)
• Putting head between the bars and screaming (“Another punishment if you please” (30 days)

Rossenq wrote a 300 verse poem called Hell and immortalised the dehumanising process in the lines: “I am no longer a man, for prison has entered into me and I am the prison”. I spent a night in the cells to try and understand a little bit of what they experienced. The physical discomfort of the pressure-cooker unabating equatorial heat, the endless stream of cockroaches running over my sweating body could be over-come but it was the mental side that broke me. The rot set in whilst trying to communicate the experience to a night-vision camera, Iand recalling the stories of men like Rossenq and Belbenoit, the latter who wrote, “He lives in dim light, from dark to dawn – blackness and silence. He is alive in a tomb”.

The silence was overwhelming, the silence of ghosts… there was an awful presence that seemed to perspire from the walls, of the 100s, if not 1000s of souls that were extinguished en masse, imprisoned to a living death. After a while I stopped talking to the camera, as it’s just seemed to take my mind into a darkness I did not want it go. But once that bit of the brain had been opened, it couldn’t be shut – memories that I’d buried away deep in the dusty recesses hoping never to be recalled, seemed to emerge like ghosts crawling back along the synapses to commune with the other dark horrors that inhabited those cells. Psychiatrists believe that just 2 hours in solitary confinement is enough to generate significant psychological change in a patient (some still use it), and within a few hours I was a broken man. Despite the reassuring knowledge that come morning I would see the sun and sky, I thought I would have had the strength to deal with it, but I didn’t. The experience did help my understanding of prison life but there is obviously no way I could extrapolate upon my superficial experience to truly understand what those men went through.

Nobody denies that crimes should be punished but the extent of that punishment should be relative to the crime and according to judicial and human standards. The numbers speak for themselves – less than 10% of convicts survived and with them the painful double paradox of one of the most sophisticated nations on earth, maintaining for nearly 100 years, one of the most brutal penal systems in the world whilst the forsaken men took up the challenge to try to beat the system and survive at almost incalculable odds. For the men that did survive and the few that did escape, they remain a beacon of almost unimaginable strength and bravery that can exist in the depths of human spirit.

51 Responses to “Solving History: DEVIL’S ISLAND: Tonight (23rd March), Discovery US, 7pm EST”

  1. Lolita Says:

    I have looking forward to viewing this episode the most of this series.
    I have to tell you that I miss the Olly that lets village women place flowers in his hair. In the series with Mark you opened a part of yourself that we only get a glimps of. I am referring to your singing, dancing, the faces you made while not holding back your reactions to events (frog head, grubs, the fire ant tree). I think it is fair to say many, myself the most of all, would love to see more of the silly, funloving, valnurable Olly. Yes, most of your female fans find you handsome or attractive, but what makes you sexy (not the romance novel sort, but as a real man) is your ablility and willingness to allow us to see you not at your best. I love your humor, sarcasim and wit, esp. when directed at your self or those deserving. I admire you inteligence, your gift of the written word, your ablity to take complex theries and information and make it appealing to the masses.

    I am so sorry that I will miss this show tonight. I hope there will be re-runs or a DVD to buy. I will be looking forward to your continued adventures.

    PS sorry for the spelling severely dyslexic, no spell check!!

    Lolita xoxo

  2. Amanda Says:


  3. Barbara Says:

    Wow – got goosebumps reading about your solitary experience. Can’t wait to see the show tonight. You certainly sacrifice for your craft, Olly. You ‘da man! ;)

  4. Amanda Says:

    sorry about the last submit, my computer has a mind of it’s own. However, before i was interrupted, i just wanted to say that your show and the previous ones you have done with Mark have, as you can see, touched so many hearts. i want to thank you for opening the door to the world and letting me look in in wonder. believe it or not you show has pushed me towards doing what i’ve always wanted to do… travel. i’ve always wanted to go to those places you only read about in the pages of National Geographic, but now i guess i can because soon i leave on a 2 week long trip through Europe, im freaking out a little, but your shows were what finally persuaded me to ask my mother for permission. so thanks again Olly for your adivce, especially about the career thing, i’ll so be applying to Savannah College of Art and Design. thanks a million!!!

  5. Reena Says:

    Hi Olly,

    Talk about immersing yourself in a story, I feel as if you went above and beyond in this episode.
    I am sorry but this one was hard to watch, I had to leave the room for some parts, Bear G. would be proud, your family on the other hand hopefully will give you a lecture or 2.
    Did your family get a chance to watch Solving History because it is not in England as of yet, if they have not may I suggest you are not around when Devils Island is shown.
    Why oh why would you go off in your own in the middle of the sea, what did you think you would get out of it?
    When you were all by yourself what was going through your mind & does the water still have sharks in there? What do you do to decompress from such stress?
    Please tell me that when the crew did come to get you, you let them have it in more ways than one.
    I have a good feeling that there will be a season 4 of Solving History let alone a season 2 so please take it easy out there. Seeing you going through such stress is hard to watch and I do not even know you personally :(.
    The world is a much, much, much better place with you in it.
    The tribes will be proud of you when you cought the butterfly, I just think your heart was not into killing another living soul, that is why you were not a good hunter with the tribes.

    Wishing you health, happiness, health & wealth.

  6. Lisa Says:

    How long did it take to make the raft? It seems to get the machete and build the raft would be a process. Where would they hide these things? From your experience, all things considered, would this be likely to make an escape? Of all the possibilities, luck, seems be the only thing that could determine if one’s escape could be successful. The reference to Tuberculosis sure leaves no doubt what their lives in prison were like!

    Changing the subject, I believe you said your friends were involved in making Life, . . . hint,hint . . . oh please, do give them a nice big hug. I know I speak for many when I say, it is astounding!!!! Their effort is very appreciated!

    Thanks for the adventure, I hope it has only just begun!

  7. Glenda Says:

    Hi olly I only saw the last 30 min of the devil’s island but it was the best one yet. When you were in the cell over night Did ever say to to yourself forget this Iam out of here? But you stay until morning I think is very brave Because not alot of people would what to put themself and they mind in that kind of place in the dark.I wonder why paul rossnq got his self in to trouble that they would but him in to solitary continement for 3,779 day why do you think?And saw LIFE it is amazing :):)

  8. Carmen Says:

    To quote my daughter when she saw you floating on the pitiful coconut raft in the middle of the ocean… “Oh, poor Olly!” Why did they leave you like that?! Did you know that you were going to be left out there alone, and for 3 hours? Did you have a way to contact someone for help? That was too dangerous!

    In the solitary confinement area, could they see during the daylight hours, or was it black in the cells night and day? Either way it would be horrific, but I can’t even fathom 24 hour darkness. Was the one night in the cell really as bad as you say?

    Good show tonight. I will certainly miss “Solving History” and I really hope it comes back for another season. Someone on FB mentioned looking into the Taj Mahal as a Hindu temple. I checked that out and the evidence is actually rather compelling, not the least of which is the Hindu crescent at the pinnacle and not an Islamic crescent. It may have a logical explanation, but it does seem odd. (Lots of other evidence, too, if you can believe what you read on the internet.) If you do another season that would be an excellent show.

    Also, will you be doing more with Unreported World? That seems like really tough work, but you did an incredible job on that. (But again, dangerous!)

    Take care, Olly. Be safe out there.

  9. Lissa Says:

    Impressive jungle skills, Olly! Great episode, well done!
    But, was it necessary to subject yourself to solitary confinement? That bit was hard to watch. We would have believed you anyway if you simply told us the consequences. But, as before, you want to experience what you’re investigating first-hand… which proves your dedication to your craft.

    I agree with you, the punishment should fit the crime. Really horrible what the prisoners went through. Recurring theme in the series, don’t let History repeat itself. But as we learned from previous blogs, ill-treatment of prisoners is still happening in some parts of the world. Perhaps not as harsh, right? But still.

    On a lighter note, must admit, I laughed when your machete got stuck on the bamboo tree…sorry couldn’t help it – really
    funny! ;-D
    Questions: What happened to prisoners who were caught by police in Dutch Guiana? Did you have a mantra while swimming? What were your best moments while filming the series? If you could invite 3 Historical figures (dead or alive) to dinner, who would they be and why? Please name some of your favorite books.
    You and your show make learning and re-discovering History fun and thought-provoking – NEVER boring! Thank you for sharing with us part of your world and for continually letting us in it through your websites.
    Keep safe,

  10. Kat Says:

    Olly -

    What a fantastic episode and your blog was emotionally moving. It is unbelievable to imagine such horrors happened in a land so beautiful. Thank you for letting us share these adventures with you.

    Did the episode mention what years the prison was in operation? I think I missed that.

    I feverently hope there will be a season 2, There are so many more mysteries to explore. If you ever end up in Indiana investigating the crystal skulls, let me know I’d be happy to show you where to get a good cup of Earl Grey,… or better yet some Vodka :o)

    Take care and be safe

  11. Barbara Says:

    Kat – You’re in Indiana? Me too! =)

  12. Jessie Says:

    It was with mixed emotion I settled in to watch the final episode of Solving History. Excited and curious as always to go on another exciting and intriguing adventure with you and of course saddened to think that this was the last time…it is with that I say thank you for those of us living vicariously through your work, and please be careful the next time you decide to set out upon the ocean on a coconut raft! I have added sitting down with you over a nice whiskey and picking your brain for hours to my bucket list and I’m a very determined person so watch out ;)

    A question about the episode…did the French government know what the conditions were like at Devil’s Island and turn the other cheek or were they simply kept in the dark about the horrors going on there?

  13. admin Says:

    Thank you so much for all your thoughts, questions, ideas and support. here’s a few answers…

    Amanda: Good luck with the journey through Europe. Be nice to the French ;-) and god luck at Art and Design College – hope you’re trip inspires you…

    Reena: All at sea: Well that wasn’t quite to plan – the film crew claim it was a bit of production cock-up as we had 2 boats to help with filming and they got their wires crossed, both thought the other one would pick me up and in the end I was left floating out to sea for quite a while. The other possibility was that they were trying to kill me.

    Reena: Decompress from Stress? Just going home is a nice break from it all – a beer down the pub with my mates, talking sh*t, is the best way to return home and relax. Also having a terrible short-term memory helps a bit too, so I don’t remember just how awful it was so I can do it again ;-)

    Reena: Sharks? Well we actually did some chumming for sharks before hand which didn’t make the edit – but it was the lamest chumming scene you will have ever seen. I threw in a few chunks of dead chicken into the water and waited for a few minutes, nothing happens, so I concluded, no sharks! Although there is good evidence to suggest there were lots of sharks – such as the fishermen saying there are sharks, although probably more when it was still a prison. The prisoners who died on the islands (and there were a lot of them) were given a ‘sea burial’ – their corpses thrown into the sea for the sharks. What’s more, on Royale, there was a large slaughter house on the shore which supplied the meat etc for the prison guards (and occasionally the prisoners) but the run-off and entrails just flowed straight into the sea, making the islands a very popular hang out for sharks.

    Reena: The butterfly: I was amazed I actually caught one.but I did put it back you’ll be glad to hear.

    Glenda, Lissa, Carmen and others: Solitary: Yup I wanted to leave, and it was more awful than I could have imagined or wanted to. But it was only one night and I knew I was going to get out in the morning – so the least I could do was stay over night. Trust me I wanted to leave, I could have done, but thought I’d stick with it to see what happened to my mind. Not something I’d try again. The next day was pretty tough as I had to film a full day without sleep – much of it was building the raft and coconut bag at sea – hence I was a little bit snappy and didn’t care too much for the sharks.

    Lisa: Raft building: It took about a day in total – collecting all the wood etc and then building, roping it all together, stitching the sails etc. But of course it would have had to have been done in secret by the prisoners, probably over a 6month period and working as a team – hence getting Fabien to help me build it. I could have obviously done the TV thing and got someone else to build it for me and claim it as mine – but hopefully you know that’s not my style – we tell it how it is – and without Fabien my raft would have been a lot more rubbish!

    Lissa: Caught in Dutch Guiana: the usual punishment was solitary confinement – if you were a first time offender then you may get 6months or a year, but if you’d tried it before then you could get 5 years (max).

    Lissa: swimming mantra? Yup, I wished my body double was Michael Phelps.

    Lissa: 3 historical figures for dinner: Well it changes most days but today is a bit of G day – Yuri Gagarin, Gandhi and Grace Kelly ;-)

    Lissa: Books? Reading Ghost Wars by Steve Coll and Born to Run by Chris McDougal at the moment.

    Kat: Years of operation: 1852-1947

    Jessie: did the French Government know? Yes I think so, and they knew when they sent them in 1852. There’s a government report about French Guiana which states: “The climate is fatal for Europeans and the country is covered with forests and marshes exhaling a pestilential vapour”. One of the most famous prisoners as a political prisoner, unduly arrested and imprisoned on the actual Devil’s Island was Captain Alfred Dreyfus – he was a well known government officer and his imprisonment and the letters he wrote from the island were well known across France. In Jan 1895 Dreyfus wrote: “ it’s a debilitating climate, eternally furnace like atmosphere, plague of insects which run over my skin etc etc”.

    Series 2: Will let you know! But thank you all for your support with the series – just need to persuade the puppet masters now. Will keep you posted about developments with it.. but there’s a few things already in the pipes that I cant tell you about yet – but things coming up in May… so tune back in! It’s also going to air in the UK, Europe and Asia in May-June, July but as always, already looking ahead and plotting some more investigative documentaries to get my teeth into too…As ever, there’s a world out there of fun adventures and some bad people doing some bad shit, so my work is never done!

    A word from Shakespeare to sign off:
    “Whoever steals my purse, steals trash… but he who filches from me my good name, robs me of that which not enriches him and leave me poor indeed”.

  14. Venus Day Says:

    Dear Olly,

    Congratulations on a great freshman series. Hope to see it picked up for more seasons. With so many female fans fawning over you, I am sure DISCOVERY will be reluctant to see you at any other channel. ;-D

    I was wondering if you had ever investigated the Spear of Desting? I have always been fascinated by it and only found one “dedicated” show on this subject. Was it possessed by Hitler and did General Patton really take the actual spear for America to change the destiny of the war and out of the depths of the Depression, cause the Golden Age for the US?

    Another subject that I thought you might have “stumbled across” in your travels through the South Pacific was the mystery of the Maoi. Are the Maoi related to those found in South America and what are their potential relationship to the “universal conjunction?” What are your thoughts and is this a subject that you have researched before?

    I sound pretty silly and hope that I do not sound like a blushing fan, but I thought I would ask. There are not too many investigative journalists wandering around my neck of the woods that would know the answers.

    Ave Atque Vale

  15. Barbara Says:

    Thanks for the info, Olly. I thought I read something about at least one more episode? Maybe that’s the hush-hush? K, won’t spill any beans, lol.

    Boat confusion – wth?? More than a little shocking….

    Sending good vibes your way for season 2!

  16. Carmen Says:

    I love your last sentence referring to “bad people” when you say “so my work is never done!”, I can’t help picturing you in blue tights, red cape and “Super Olly” emblazoned across your chest. lol ;o) You do a great job, Olly. Truly.

    I’m with Barbara on the whole boat thing. I think if it was me floating in the water when they came to get me, there probably would have been so many expletives flying out of my mouth that they would have turned around and left me there. Oi.

    Curious… Why that particular Shakespeare quote?

    Thanks for your replies above. I look forward to seeing what you’ll come up with next. In the mean time, travel safely… and watch out for kryptonite.


  17. admin Says:

    thanks for your notes – guess I should clarify the quote! Sorry it kind of made sense with French Guiana – especially Alfred Dreyfus – who was imprisoned because of political motivations… and a thought to all those today who are still wrongfully imprisoned… need to get myself some blue tights and cape! Thanks for the idea ;-)

  18. Jessie Says:

    I didn’t catch on my first read through of your replies that you were reading Ghost Wars…I’m about a third of the way through that book also. As am American I began reading the book as a way maybe put into context the Sept 11th attacks and perhaps gleam a bit of insight into what if anything had gone wrong, could it have been prevented etc etc. I am reserving judgment until I finish the book but I never had imagined a more complicated and precarious set of circumstances and had no idea of the American governments complete allienation of Afghanistan after their use had been meet in the Soviet invasion situation. How are you finding the book?

  19. Reena Says:

    Hi Mr. Steeds

    Thanks for your response. Reading what you wrote bought a smile to my face (I needed that very badly this week). My family has been going through medical hell with my baby sisters who is only in her twenties.
    Thanks for a bit of sunshine, I really needed it.
    Do you really respond to all the questions by yourself?
    Can’t wait to see what you have been up to. I hope I get a chance to
    watch it. May looks very interesting.

    Wishing you health, happiness, love & wealth.

  20. Lissa Says:

    Thanks, Olly, for your answers. And Reena, wishing your sister speedy recovery.

  21. Carmen Says:

    Ahhh, now I understand. Thank you. I’m relieved to know that no one has “filched from you your good name”. But then I did have to look up Alfred Dreyfus. How terrible. At least he was exonerated eventually, which is more than most poor souls got. But still… He’s lucky he lived to leave that place.

    Get yourself those tights and cape, and if I see a blue and red streak flash through the sky I’ll know it’s Super Olly off to defend justice in a forlorn corner of the world. ;o)


    Reena… Lots of positive thoughts and energy sent your way. I hope for the very best for your sister.

  22. Barbara Says:

    Yay – I found some Solving History repeats that come on Friday afternoon! Luckily, I have the day off work, so hopefully I can catch a couple of them. I missed the last part of the Ark show when it first aired, so I didn’t get to see what I’m sure was a priceless look on your face when you ate the goat testicles, Olly. (Is that wrong of me? lol) Ok, I admit it – I was a wimp and fell asleep before the show was over… offense!

    Be safe out there!

  23. Amanda Says:

    Hi Olly,
    I just want to say thanks for the response to the comment I left. I truly think your doing a great thing, and I wish I could do the same thing one day, not the reality show thing, but they real life superhero thing! One day I hope to be journalist, and that’s why I can’t wait for a second season! I think I would do well with my own show ” solving mysteries with Amanda Musa”. It’s got a nice ring to it! Anyway, enough of my ranting! Thanks a lot for giving a new perspective to teenagers well beyong their years!:)
    Also, Reena, Im keeping your sister in my prayers. I remember when my mother had my brother, she almost bled to death, but she fought hard and got through, now she and my brother are doing fine! I’m sure your sister and her baby will both
    live long happy lives! God bless!

  24. admin Says:

    Jessie: Ghost Wars: Enjoying it would be the wrong words, but it’s challenging, well researched, and well written – key reading to understanding the history and complexities of the problems in Afghanistan. Another book on the subject (well mainly focused on Osama Bin Laden and the lead up to 9-11) which I thought was excellent was Imperial Hubris. Well worth a read too.

    Reena: Sorry to hear about your sister, hope the situation is improving – we all wish you and your family love and support. Our thoughts and prayers are with you… (And yes I do answer all the questions myself… whenever I get the chance – this time, on a train running with surprising speed and punctuality through the English countryside ;-) Getting someone else to pretend to me would be wrong, although you might get some more amusing, and certifiably insane answers if some of my friends took over ;-)

    Amanda: Journalist? go on…. If I can manage it (often by mistake) then I’m sure you’ll become an excellent journalist. The last few years has seen a radical weakening in the profession with a lack of resourcing, management failures to adjust to the changing financial landscape, and the double-edge sword of the rise of the citizen journalist (cell phones and blogs providing wider public engagement and contribution to ‘live news’ and on-the-spot information – sometimes with more integrity and accuracy, often with less) – anyway, the long and short of it, is that we need more people, like you who want to become journalists – so with knee to ground and palm to sky, I salute you!

  25. Chris Says:


    Awesome show, I always look forward to this show and I never miss an episode, even re-runs. It’s great to see re-creations of history and give the audience a taste of what people went through! Extremely informative and well done; definitely one of the best shows out there! I can’t wait for the next episode!


  26. Amanda Says:

    thanks Olly,
    I completely agree when you say there should be more journalists in this world! People should want to report on the struggles we have made and the struggles we will face, and most importantly the triumphs we we will make in the future. It’s people like you (also Christiane Amanpour,she is my idol!) who make it more abundantly cleary everyday that we need to inform inorder to stay grounded as a society, that’s why I feel obligated to make the world a better place, because that’s the way it should be!

  27. Reena Says:


    As soon as I wrote my comment I wished I could have taken it back. I was not in the right frame of mind.
    I do not know why I would write about her condition, I was hoping there would a delete button I could use.
    I wanted to thank everyone for what they wrote. It is amazing to see how loving people can be.
    Today, I planted rose bushes in my parents house in your names to remind me of your gracious words.
    It will take a long time for her to be 100% but her spirit is stronger than her families and your loving words
    helped me. One thing is for sure I will never call her left over DNA ever again.
    Mr. Steeds what I meant to ask is if you had an assistant to help you out who you would feed the answers to. The only way I could half of what you do is if I cloned myself. If you ever needed an assistant there would be a line of thousands. I would do it for free and I think many others would as well.
    Please tell me you are reading Ghost Wars to educate yourself and not for a story you are working on.

    Wishing all health, happiness, love & wealth.

  28. Glenda Says:

    Hi olly have you ever read the book of five rings by Miyamoto Musashi?

  29. Tan Says:

    Hi, Olly
    Sorry, for has not writing anything on your blog for the last couple of weeks. Everybody was doing a wonderful job on asking questions, so I just took the luxury of sitting back and read on:) I hope you get to do the 2nd series soon ’cause there’re many more mystery out there for you to solve. I promise to check-in and I hope you will keep us up to date not like other summer :) Anyway, how did you managed to be able to read two books at once? I suppose to read “The World Is Flat” for the past 6 months, checked it out from the library twice and only be able to goes as fas as page 20 :( But of cause in the mean times I did finished 2 Dean Koon and half-way on the 3rd one right now :) Just don’t know how to read Koon and the other book at the same time. I guess I will have to read the other one over the summer. One more thing since no one asks this question, but it has been on my mind, so here goes. On the Devil Island after the night of confinement, you got a bag and filled it with dry coconut and try to float away with it. What if you have about 10-20 of those bags and stitch them together, would that be possible to get away with it than try to build those raft? Becaues some people might not be a good handy man but is good with sewing stuff, just the thought I have. Anyway, I guess that all for now, take care and stay safe, Tan.

    PS. Reena, my hope and pray goes out for you and your family.

  30. Barbara Says:


    Hope you had a nice Easter holiday. I enjoyed catching up on the repeats Friday. I hope they show Devil’s Island again – so much going on in that one, I’m sure I missed something. =)

    Take care!


    a Blushing fan (lol) I know…………I’m bad………

  31. Jessie Says:

    Thank you for your replies Olly! I’m finding Ghost Wars to be a tad difficult to muddle through as the subject matter is pretty heavy and the thought keeps crossing my mind that way more of it than I’d like to believe is the truth. Incredibly well written though and that keeps me turning the pages for more although I have noticed he tends to use the word clandestine a lot :) lol

    Glenda, I’ve read The Book of Five Rings and as a student of jujitsu and tae kwon do and of all things philisophical I found it fascinating. I especially enjoyed his thoughts on timing.

    Reena, sending lots of positive and loving energy your way!

  32. Jonathan Day Says:

    I’m interested in knowing what historical mysteries you plan on tackling next.

    There seem to be plenty of good ones even in safe places – the cave at Royston, Hertfordshire, UK, has a mix of Templar and what appear to be neolithic rock paintings. An odd mix. Seahenge was part of a complex of wood circles, joined by walkways. The strange neolithic village off the coast of the Isle of Wight has preserved material unknown from anywhere else, and fishing boats around the Dogger Bank routinely find mesolithic, paleolithic and even neandertal remains, suggesting underwater archaeology could yield insights into early Europe. The controversial gold bars from Alderley Edge with mysterious symbols may or may not be genuine or genuinely ancient – the site has yielded fascinating ancient artifacts but remains poorly-understood and steeped more in a mix of Victorianesque pseudo-mythology and a desperation by many archaeologists to avoid anything to do with the area.

    In less safe environs, the Sumerians refer to an additional city in their writings that has not been identified, making it a potentially superb cache of cuneiform writings. For that matter, their earliest writings (long after they’d started work on cities) used a pictogram of a tent peg to represent a house, which only makes sense if they’d already had writing by that time. To find that out requires someone to retrace the journey and see if there are curios along the way.

    Any of these sound appealing to you?

  33. Johnny Hartmann Says:

    Cheers Olly,

    Under Contact you encourage to get in touch but leave no email, so please excuse if I use this latest thread as a way to throw a question at you that relates to a less current episode.

    I just watched a rerun of the Ark of the Covenant episode and was left wondering why you and your team didn’t aim a thermal imaging camera at the chapel to see if you get any heat signatures.

    I know these cameras can be hard to get out of the country (at least in USA) but one reason I love your show is because you seem highly resourceful and determined to get to the truth.

    A Flir camera would have been an unintrusive way to see if “something” is there. No? Would love to know your thoughts and hope it’s not “Bloody hell, why didn’t I think of that!!”.

    – Johnny

  34. April Says:

    When will we find out about a season 2? I only caught the last couple of shows and they totally sucked me in. Very intriguing stuff. And as some of the other fans mentioned; I live a bit vicariously through adventerous persons such as yourself. I’ve been wanting to go on the Narlai Relief Ride for a while but it’s like waiting for some mystical planetary allignment. Not to mention I’ve never ridden a horse. The trip is 15 days but with me it could possibly last alot longer than comfortable. I can be almost a nuisance with anything requiring coordination. I wish you the best on your adventures and be safe

  35. Barbara Says:

    FABULOUS idea Johnny….

  36. Venus Says:

    Hope you and your umbrella are safe and sound — and not caught on a new island created by the volcano in Iceland. Hope you didn’t get stranded at a far off airport, either! ;-D

  37. Lissa Says:

    Hi Olly,
    Last night, I happened upon a documentary on National Geographic Channel and thought it’s worth sharing with you and the others who might have missed it. I found it very interesting because the show’s concept is the reverse of “Living with the Tribes” – where two tribesmen set out to explore the modern world…of all places…New York City! It’s called “Two Kenyan Guys: Taking on New York”. It’s really funny and endearing…one of the sneak previews is titled “Our ATM is a Goat”.
    Just want to clarify that I’m neither connected to NGC nor to the show. Simply want to share something I think others might enjoy watching as well. For those who are interested, see previews by clicking on either of the links below. Rerun is on April 30th. Hope all is well. – Lissa


  38. Amanda Says:

    So Olly,
    I think I figured out what is coming this May, but I will keep my mouth shut until then! I am sitting on the sofa with my father watching a soccer game or should I say a football game ( go Manchester!! ) when my father asked me “what happened to solving history?” I had to tell him the season ended weeks ago and he replied with a ” oh! Well let’s pray that they air another season!” my father is obsessed with your show and says that you are the only person who makes history interesting!! So make sure you have air another season or there will be a very upset 43 year-old man stopping his feet around the house!!
    Oh let me ask you, who do you prefer? Chelsea or Manchester, of course I won’t hate you if you like Chelsea, but my father might!!

  39. Tan Says:

    Hi, Olly
    Just checking in & see what else is going on. Hope everything is going great with you. Don’t forget to fill us in, about what you been doing. I hope is something big and adventurous. Anyway, hope you have a wonderful summer, best wish & stay safe, Tan

  40. Angie Says:

    So good to see your smiling face on TV again! (even if it was only a commercial – but we caught it going x60 in the DVR…wait…what was that?…could it be?… It is!!!) We are looking forward to the show!

  41. Amanda Says:

    I saw the same commercial and let me tell you I was floored!

  42. Jessie Says:

    Ok, no one else has asked and I don’t watch much television so fill me in! What commercial? ;)

  43. Tina Says:

    Show is on May 13th at 8:00pm ET on Discovery. Something to do with the story/legend of Robin Hood.

  44. Jessie Says:

    Robin Hood and Olly in the same show?! That has always been my favorite story! In fact my daughters middle name is Marion ;) I can’t wait!!!

  45. Carmen Says:

    Thanks for posting the date and time for this, Tina. I had read an article about a Robin Hood show, but still didn’t know when it was airing and I don’t watch tons of tv either, so I never caught a commercial and had no idea it was going to be on.

    Olly, why no heads up? Are you out in the boonies somewhere?

  46. Barbara Says:

    Yay – I was hoping this Robin Hood show was one of the surprises in May!

    Olly – come out, come out, where ever you are…..

  47. Tan Says:

    Hello, everyone, I saw the commercial too, last night, while watching the Deadliest Catch, It definitely says Thursday at 8:00 pm. ET. I cannot wait to see what this show is all about, just in time witht the movie Robin Hood. Welcome back Olly, Hooray…this time we get to see you in summer, just when I am about to wondering where you were this summer. Good to know you in your own backyard, doing the Robin Hood, should have caught on when you keep dropping clues about being on the train, etc. Of cause, I would never be able to figures it out until it hits me on the top of my head (like the commercial last night). Anyway, loking forward to see the show this Thursday. Olly, did you know it will be air this Thursday? Will write more after the show, best wish and stay safe, Tan.

  48. admin Says:

    Sorry for the delay in replying… been madly busy – but got a few minutes between flights in Asia… having a rocking time – in KL now heading for Singapore….

    Reena: assistant: sadly not! I do have a great team I work with on the series, but sadly that doesn’t cross over to everything else! PS: I’m reading Ghost Wars to learn more!

    Glenda: book of five rings by Miyamoto Musashi? Sorry I haven’t read it. I’ll look it up.

    Tan: stitch the bags together: Good idea although I imagine it would be very difficult to get some many bags and you’re still left with the same problem of being a target for the sharks and not have any control over your direction.

    Jonathan Day: Next mysteries: thanks for your ideas – currently focusing on completing this series and will keep you posted about the next series when I can say more ;-)

    Johnny: Heat cameras: a good idea but it was hard enough to get permission to film there! Ideally it would have been

    April: Season 2: Will let you know as soon as I can talk! You should definetly do the Narlai relief ride – I wouldn’t worry about not knowing how to ride a horse – I didn’t either before I rode across Mongolia – so I’m sure you can find someone to teach you how to hold on!

    Lissa: Return of the Tribe! Thanks for letting me know about it – I think they’ve got something similar on the Travel Channel to replace Mark and I. Think it’s brilliant so long as it is handled sensitively and the audience are allowed to engage with their perceptions rather than some sort of weird freak show. As ever I feel that the world’s tribal communities have so much to share and we have so much to learn but it has to be managed responsibly. Sounds like Nat Geo have done a good job – good on em!

  49. April Says:

    It lives!!!
    I like your response to my lack of horseback riding skills. I would imagine that holding on to the would indeed be critical… lol. Thats great. I’m hoping to be convince a friend of mine ( that I would believe to be worse at it than me ) to come. I have a rule to always have someone around to look rediculous with. It’s no fun looking the fool alone.
    The Narlai relief ride is a bit out of my finacial reach right now. I have been adventuring relatively local. I’m always amazed by how one adventure turns into so much more. I’ve also learned how much I love the area I live in.
    You said you learned to ride horses when you rode across Mongolia… that sounds so surreal to me. You must have the best pick up lines.
    Any how… I’m very much looking foward to season 2. Thanks for taking a few seconds to encourage a stranger. Be safe and enjoy.

  50. Lissa Says:

    Hi Olly,
    Just saw your reply today. You’re welcome. I agree with you, there are so much more to learn about the different tribes of the world and there stories always fascinate me. I do miss “Living with the Tribes” and if theTravel Channel is going to come up with a new tribal show, it just won’t be the same without you and Mark. A reunion in the future perhaps? (hint…hint)
    Looking forward for you to tell us about what you’ve been up to. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more of “Solving History” -season 2…season 2…
    Hope you’re having a great summer!
    Take care,

  51. Chrissie Parker Says:

    Dear Olly,

    I’m playing catch up with the series due to having too much research on my hands, being knee deep in writing and location fixing…

    I just wanted to say that I’m really impressed with the job you’ve done with this series, the range of subjects have been great and I hope that you are able to do some further docos in the future.

    Keep up the good work. :)


    Chrissie P

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