Friday, 17 February, 2023

Help on the way to New Zealand; a Bolivian wolf in sheep’s clothing; new Titanic footage released; and a Queen’s letters decrypted. 


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Today’s Quick Links: 

New Zealand storm photos: 

Bolivian wolf in sheep’s clothing: 

Titanic footage – one minute version: 

Mary, Queen of Scots – news story with sample letter and cipher: 

Dig Deeper:

Titanic footage – 80 minute version:

Mary, Queen of Scots – Figures from academic paper, including ciphers:

Mary, Queen of Scots – Full academic paper, including historical background:

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If a friend asks for help, what do you do?
You help them, of course! 

And if you’re a really good friend, and you see that they’re having problems, you might actually get ready to help them before they even ask. 

Which is exactly what Australia has done for our friends in New Zealand. 

We’ve heard a lot this week about the devastation Cyclone Gabrielle has caused all over New Zealand’s north island, with flooding, landslides, roads washed away, thousands of people homeless, and tens of thousands of people without power.
Unfortunately, more storms are on their way. Heavy rains were falling on the North Island yesterday, and severe thunderstorms were forecast for today. Which could all make a bad situation worse. On Wednesday, the Australian government started to get organised to help our Kiwi friends, and yesterday, they officially asked for that help. Emergency management teams from both countries are working together and developing a plan. Because that’s what friends do. 




Each day we give the world globe a spin and find a news story from wherever it stops,  and today we’ve landed in the South American country of Bolivia, where an un-baaa-lievable prison escape attempt has been foiled. [DAD JOKE ALERT] I know some of you might be missing Bryce and his Dad jokes this week, so get prepared for some AWESOME mum jokes.
Earlier this month, an inmate tried to escape from Bolivia’s maximum security Chonchocoro prison by wrapping himself up in a sheepskin. José Luis Callisaya Diaz hoped to pull the wool over the eyes of prison security and impersonate a sheep. His plan? Crawl on all fours towards the prison walls and break through. But security couldn’t be fleeced – ! – and Callisaya Diaz was soon back behind BAAArs, looking rather sheepish.

And yes, of course, I’ve put some photos of this wolf in sheep’s clothing in your episode notes. I’m also pretty proud: unbaaalievable, pull the wool over, fleeced, BAAArs, sheepish – that’s FIVE Mum jokes in one segment! Top that, Bryce. 




It’s 25 years since the film Titanic was released … and to commemorate the event, not only was the film re-released this week, but over an hour of previously unseen footage of the great shipwreck’s discovery was made public on YouTube yesterday. The video itself is pretty cool – I’ll put a link in your episode notes – but what I found even cooler was learning that one of the people who discovered Titanic’s final resting place, back in 1985, was actually looking for something else. 


Robert Ballard told the Associated Press yesterday that during the entire trip, he was worried that the public would find out that he was a navy intelligence officer, and his real mission was military. This was the 1980s, during the Cold War, and Ballard was trying to find two nuclear submarines that had been sunk nearby. Looking for the Titanic, he said, was a bit of an afterthought. That didn’t stop him from getting quite emotional when he first spotted the world’s most famous shipwreck, and contemplated how many lives had been lost. 




Have you ever done one of those puzzles where you have to break a code and decipher a secret message? Well, three men have broken the ultimate code and caused a sensation by discovering, and deciphering, 57 lost letters written by Mary, Queen of Scots, while she was imprisoned by the Queen of England.

The three amateur codebreakers discovered the letters, which had been lost for over 400 years, in a French library. Amateur means that you aren’t getting paid, and it isn’t your job: the three are an Israeli computer scientist, a German pianist, and a Japanese physicist. They worked on nights and weekends to decipher the code, and eventually uncovered references making it clear that the imprisoned Mary was the author. 


I’ll put links in your episode notes so that you can understand how tough Mary’s code was: she had 200 different symbols which represented either letters, numbers, or names. In fact, the letters were so confusing that they’d been mistakenly filed away as Italian texts for centuries! 



This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening …

  1. In which country is a sheepish prisoner back behind BAAArs?
  2. One of the men who discovered the Titanic shipwreck was actually looking for what?  
  3. What is the word for someone who is not a professional, and does something in their spare time?  





It’s February 17 – which is Random Acts of Kindness day. Surprise someone today by doing something unexpectedly kind for them. It’ll make you both feel amazing. 


It’s also a Friday – and you know what that means .. lots of birthday shout outs for today and the coming weekend … for which we’re going to need to crack out the ol’ birthday reggae tune … hit it … 


It’s a special day for these Squiz Kids celebrating a birthday today… 

Arwen from Tumut, Archie from Montmorency, Paddy from Scone, Scarlett from Furnissdale, Hanna from Oyster Bay, Andrew from Kaleen, Celeste from Como, Edward, Jak and Angus from Sydney, Hellen from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Indi from Whanganui, New Zealand. 


Belated birthday wishes go to … Jasper from Brisbane, Eden from Footscray, Liam from Portland, Jamie from Belmont, Zane from Dawn, Lincoln from Yass, Finn from Camden and Jack from Denmark (in Western Australia). 


Not forgetting all the Squiz Kids who are celebrating a birthday over the coming weekend… Brooklyn from Beecroft, Niva from Woronora, Ayrton from Yass, Angus from Tumut, Violeta from Burpengary, Poppy from Montmorency, Hugo from Campbell, Evelyn from Austinmer, Viren from Baulkham Hills and Tomek from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.


The S’Quiz Answers:

  • Bolivia
  • Two sunken nuclear submarines
  • Amateur