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Archive for the ‘Exploration’ Category

Flickr Commons: Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands

Posted by Laurie Frost on October 20, 2012

Here are a few items from the Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands collections in the Flickr Commons.

Can’t get enough of zeppelins and balloons, one of the collections from this source.

Santos-Dumont vaart met een zeppelin langs de Eiffeltoren / Zeppelin passing the Eiffel Tower


‘Allo Spaceboy!

“Ruimtepak” voor stratosfeerballon / Space suit for stratospheric balloon, 1935


Zeppelin bij Empire State Building in aanbouw / Zeppelin near the Empire State Building under construction. The American airship ZR 3 Los Angeles flying near the Empire State Building under construction. The Zeppelin, built as LZ 126, is accompanied by some blimps. New York, the United States of America, 29 October 1930.

Another collection deals with tobacco:

Smokkelen van sigaretten in een boek /Smuggling cigarettes in a book. Germany, 1932.

Automaat voor brandende sigaretten / Cigarette machine delivering burning cigarettes for a penny. England, 1931.

Another, called Allerzielen, Allerheiligen / All Souls’ Day, All Saints’ Day, features graves.

Graven van Vincent en Theo van Gogh. The graves of the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) and his brother Theo [Theodore] van Gogh (1857-1891) at the churchyard in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. Photo out of 1927.

Another focuses on “new life”:

Uit ei gebroken kuiken/Chick facing daylight for the first time, 1936.

Inventions, some stranger than others:

Houten badpakken /Wooden bathing suits, supposed to make swimming a lot easier. Haquian, Washington, USA, 1929


Eénwielige motorfiets / One wheel motor cycle. Invented by Italian M. Goventosa de Udine. Maximum speed: 150 kilometers per hour ( 93 Mph).

Gasaanvalbestendige kinderwagen / Gas war resistant pram, England, Hextable, 1938.




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Flickr Commons: Transportation and Exploration from the National Archives, UK

Posted by Laurie Frost on March 31, 2012

There are hundreds of public domain images in the Flickr Commons contributed by the National Archives of the United Kingdom. There are three collections: Africa Through a Lens; Artwork, Artifacts and Documents; and Photography.

Today’s images are from sets within the Photography Collection.


German Graf Zeppelin flies over St. Paul's Cathedral while on a press visit to London. 1930.

A British made Cierva Autogiro flies over Manhattan Island. The brainchild of Spanish aeronautical engineer Juan de la Cierva, the autogyro was developed in the early 1920s.

Hiram Maxim's Glider
The Anglo-American inventor of the machine gun, Sir Hiram Maxim experimented unsuccessfully with powered flight during much of the 1890s. In 1911 he established a company to develop military aircraft with Louis Blériot, the first man to fly across the English Channel and engineer Claude Grahame White, one of Britain's first qualified pilots. c.1915

Fighter squadron in formation. Photograph from the log book of RAF Squadron Leader B.J.E. Lane. 1940-2.

Photograph from the Trench Warfare Section of the Ministry of Munitions showing a man wearing breathing apparatus against gas attack. WWI.

In the early 20th century sailing ships would compete to be the first to bring a grain cargo from Australia to the UK. Built in 1911 S.V. Passat was the winner of the final race in 1949/50, reaching Penarth, Wales in four months. Its cargo of wheat was destined for the mills of Methodist mill owner and film magnate J. Arthur Rank.


'With Captain Scott to the South Pole (British Antarctic Expedition)'. Steam Yacht 'Terra Nova' with dogs on Ice at side.'
"This image shows a single frame from the very short (3-4 frame) sections of nitrate film stock accessioned at The National Archives from Herbert Ponting's footage of the Antarctic." c.1911.

Posted in Exploration, Flickr Commons, Historical, Transportation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Happy Birthday, Philip Pullman

Posted by Laurie Frost on October 19, 2010

October 19 is novelist Philip Pullman’s birthday. I started looking for public domain images on the internet when I was compiling a guide to his trilogy, His Dark Materials. So today I’ve decided to indulge myself and return to have a look at some of these.

The characters in His Dark Materials move between worlds. One of them is ours, and one, the setting of the first novel, Northern Lights in the UK and The Golden Compass in the US, is a lot like ours, but has a number of intriguing differences. One is that the soul or conscience, the essence that distinguishes humans, called a dæmon, is externalized in the form of an animal. In childhood a person’s dæmon can change forms, but once puberty is reached, it settles in one species’ form.

In the course of the story, the main character, Lyra, matures into a young woman. As a child, one of her dæmon Pantalaimon’s favorite forms was that of a pine marten, and that is what Pan settles as. Here, courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is a delightful image of a pine marten.

 Pine Marten. By Erwin and Peggy Bauer. FWS

Another wonderful dæmon is Hester, whose person is Lee Scoresby, a brave and compassionate aëronaut. Hester settled as a hare, and this jackrabbit at Yellowstone National Park reminded me of her. 


 Jackrabbit. By W.L. Miller for the National Park Service

In Lyra’s world, history has taken a different route as well, but some of the peoples, if not nations, are the same as in ours. Lyra’s father tells her he’ll bring her back a carved walrus tusk from his travels to the Arctic, and one of the windows connecting her world to ours is not far from Nunivak, Alaska. So I was pleased to find this image in the Library of Congress:

The ivory carver--Nunivak

The ivory carver–Nunivak by Edward Curtis, 1929. LC-USZ62-74131

A turquoise ring of his mother’s  is important to Lee Scoresby and Stanislaus Grumman, who in our world was an explorer but when he accidentally found himself in Lyra’s took instruction from a Siberian shaman.

Navajo silversmith

  Navajo silversmith by William J. Carpenter, 1915. LC-USZ62-99580

 Goldi shaman priest and assistant

Goldi shaman priest and assistant by William Henry Jackson, 1895.  LC-USZC2-6391

Posted in Exploration, Fish and Wildlife Service, Historical, Library of Congress, National Park Service, People, Places | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by Laurie Frost on September 7, 2009


You could be an aerial photographer. [LC-USZ62-61731]

You could be a hanging judge.


“Judge Roy Bean, the `Law West of the Pecos,’ holding court at the old town of Langtry, Texas in 1900, trying a horse thief. This building was courthouse and saloon. No other peace officers in the locality at that time.” [National Archives 111-SC-93343]

Or an explosives expert:


Bushnell’s TURTLE used to place explosives to British ships in 1776.
Image ID: nur09503, Voyage To Inner Space – Exploring the Seas With NOAA Collect
Credit: OAR/National Undersea Research Program

Have you considered bathing beach policeman?


“Col. Sherrell, Supt. of Public Buildings and Grounds, has issued an order that bathing suits at the Wash[ington] bathing beach must not be over six inches above the knee…Bill Norton the bathing beach policeman measuring distance between knee and bathing suit on woman.” 1922. LC-USZ62-99824

Assembling ordnance shells?


[National Archives ARC Identifier 292129]

Why not a bike-chute aeronaut?



Whatever. Happy Labor Day.

Posted in Exploration, Historical, Library of Congress, National Archives, NOAA Photo Library, People, Places | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Professions

NOAA: The Unexpected

Posted by Laurie Frost on August 21, 2009


Credit: OAR/NURP [nur09515]

Once more to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Photo Library, for some images that just might surprise you.

Take, for example, the one above, “In 1680, physicist Giovanni Borelli attempts to recycle his own breathing air.” You’ll find it under Graphics in the National Undersea Research Program (NURP) album, which is part of the Voyage to Inner Space – Exploring the Sea with NOAA collection.

The next three are from the Treasures of the NOAA Library Collection.


This man-goat-fish “merman satyr” is an illustration from a 1696 volume, Specula physico-mathematico-historica by Johann Zahn. (Credit: Archival Photograph by Mr. Sean Linehan, NOS, NGS [libr0079])

Or perhaps you’d prefer to encounter “A Monster Born of a Ewe,” like in this illustration appearing in the 1714 Journal des Observations Physiques, Mathematiques et Botaniquesby Louis Feuillee. The NOAA caption page notes that what we have here is “A ‘monster’ observed by the author in Buenos Aires in 1708. The author was serious as he reported this creature to the King of France.” (Credit: NOAA libr0408)libr0408

Isn’t this a pleasant looking sun? It reminds me of the one on The Teletubbies but is in fact from the title page of De Thermis Andreae Baccii Elpidiani, Civis Romani by Andrea Bacci, published 1622. (Credit:  libr0469)


These two, filed under Sculpture and Carvings in the Art of the NOAA Photo Library collection, were shot by NOAA photographer William Folsom in the Florida Keys. He found the first on Islamorada (Credit: NOAA, NMFS [line1108]); the giant spiny lobster is at Treasure Village on Plantation Key (Credit: NOAA, NMFS [line1115]).



Posted in Animals, Exploration, Historical, NOAA Photo Library, People, Transportation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on NOAA: The Unexpected

Is It an Bullet? A Robot? No, It’s a Balloon Gondola!

Posted by Laurie Frost on July 21, 2009


credit for all photos/illustrations in this post: United States Air Force. [Explanation of public domain status.]

How would you like to spend 32 hours in this thing, 101,516 feet above the ground, suspended from a plastic balloon? That’s how by Maj. David Simons spent August 19-20, 1957, during one of the three flights conducted as part of the US Air Force’s MANHIGH program, designed

to obtain scientific data on the behavior of a balloon in an environment above 99 percent of the earth’s atmosphere. It also investigated cosmic rays and their effects on humans….

During the MANHIGH II flight, Maj. Simons flew the pressurized capsule on display on a 32-hour flight to 101,516 feet, thereby establishing an altitude record for manned balloons. Including the pilot and scientific equipment, the gondola weighed 1,648 pounds. At maximum altitude, the plastic balloon expanded to a diameter of 200 feet with a volume in excess of 3,000,000 cubic feet. PROJECT MANHIGH provided important information about the effects of high-altitude flight on humans in small capsules like those that would be flown in space.090304-F-1234P-004

Not a lot of amenities on this 32-hour flight. The photograph [below] of the control panel on the gondola’s interior makes the chamber seem spacious, compared to the artist’s illustration [above].090109-F-1234S-009

And finally, a picture of the balloon and gondola photographed by the Air Force seconds after launch.  According to the caption of the online exhibit of MANHIGH, “as the balloon climbed, the outside air pressure decreased, and the gas within the balloon expanded to fill the envelope.”090304-F-1234P-003

The MANHIGH gondola is on display in theMissile and Space Gallery of the National Museum of the US Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.  Also on display is the Stargazer gondola. 050328-F-1234P-013The Stargazer Project  (1959-1962), developed to allow  high altitude astronomical observations, also

provided valuable information relative to the development of pressure suits and associated life support systems during an extended period on the edge of space.

The balloon that supported the Stargazer capsule was a 280-foot diameter sphere of mylar film; however, at launch only a comparatively small bubble of helium gas occupied the top of the balloon with the remainder of the balloon envelope dangling beneath. As the balloon rose, the gas expanded, filling the balloon until at maximum altitude, it was completely filled and reshaped the envelope into a sphere. The gondola was supported below the balloon on a cable giving a total height at takeoff of approximately 400 feet. 

A replica of the gondola used in Project Excelsior is on display at the museum. This project (1958-1960) investigated parachute escapes at high altitudes:

As Project Excelsior did not have the resources to use high performance aircraft to test the new escape system, a balloon gondola was designed and built by the skilled staff at Wright Field to carry the pilot to the desired altitudes for the tests. The balloon held nearly 3 million cubic feet of helium to lift the open gondola high into the stratosphere.

On the third and last jump in Excelsior III on Aug. 16, 1960, Capt. [Joseph W.] Kittinger jumped from a height of 102,800 feet, almost 20 miles above the earth. With only the small stabilizing chute deployed, Capt. Kittinger fell for 4 minutes, 36 seconds. He experienced temperatures as low as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit and a maximum speed of 614 miles per hour, exceeding the speed of sound. The 28-foot main parachute did not open until Capt. Kittinger reached the much thicker atmosphere at 17,500 feet. Capt. Kittinger safely landed in the New Mexico desert after a 13 minute, 45 second descent.050328-F-1234P-014050419-F-1234P-036


Excelsior balloon launch in New Mexico.

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