Friday, 21 December 2012

Those incredible "flying machines" that did not quite make it

A "ballon captif", used as an observation post during the battle of Fleurus in 1794.

In the early 1890s the airplane was not yet invented, but there had of course been many - not very succesful - attempts to construct a flying machine. In an article published in 1892 the Swedish writer Karl af Geijerstam cited experts, who were of the opinion that it was time discard the futile attempts to make "clumsy hot air balloons"steerable, and begin the search for other options.

Af Geijerstam mentioned that the "most serious attempts to build a flying machine" were being done in America. These attempts were according to af Geijerstam based on the idea that such a machine would imitate the flight of birds.

Not many years passed until there was a real breakthrough - in the US - but the first airplanes were not quite flying like birds ....

What I found interesting in af Geijerstam's article, were to illustrations of various, more or less unsuccessful "flying machines", some of which never had gone further than the drawing board. Here are some of them:

The electrically powered hot air balloon "La France", built  by Krebs and Renard, actually flew in 1884, but it was not able to function in windy circumstances.

A number of earlier projects for steerable hot air balloons. 

This hot air balloon, constructed by Giffard, was powered by a steam engine. It actually flew in 1852, but was unable to move against stronger winds.

A drawing of an "air ship" designed by Gabriel Yon. It was never actually built. 

An inventor by the name of Nadar had this kind of ideas about future flying machines. 


Although the airplane had already been invented, there was no lack of flying fantasies, as late as 1906. That year a Swedish news magazine published this picture of a "Flying House", which was said to be under construction in north London by some unnamed French inventors ...

"The Flying House"

The white cliffs of Dover will remain British

On this blog, I seldom comment on topical issues. However, today I make an exception. The Guardian reports about a historic victory for the inhabitants of Dover:

Dame Vera Lynn can relax. The white cliffs of Dover, the most famous symbol of Britain's indomitable wartime spirit, have been saved from the prospect of falling under French control.
The Port of Dover, which has sat at the foot of the cliffs since 1606, will remain forever England after the government scrapped plans to sell it off to the highest bidder – rumoured to be the local authority of Calais.
On Thursday thetransport minister Simon Burns bowed to public pressure and withdrew Dover from the auction, saving Europe's busiest passenger port – which handles 13 million passengers and 5m vehicles, including lorries carrying £50bn of goods a year – for the nation.

This well known tune is probably once again quite popular in the pubs of Dover:

A 1626 map of Finland

Old maps are beautiful. This map of Finland from 1626, made by Andreas Bureus (1571-1646), the founder of Swedish scientific cartography is one of my favorites. (Finland was until 1809 a part of Sweden).

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A view of Frankfurt in the 1880s and today

The skyline of the bustling German city of Frankfurt am Main is today dominated by skyscrapers. But the view from the river towards the Kaiserdom has not changed very much during the last 120 years or so:

On this 1880s photo you can see the tower of the Kaiserdom and the Eiserne Steg pedestrian bridge, which was built in  1869. The interesting stone formations in the foreground were probably used for building purposes.

The same view in 2007, from a somewhat closer distance. The pedestrian bridge is still there.
(image by wikipedia)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas lights and decorations brighten up the dark season in Scandinavia

This time of the year it is rather dark in Scandinavia. Not many hours of daylight. But people like to brighten up their homes with various types of creative Christmas lights and decorations. Tonight I made a short walk in my immediate neighborhood here in Hittarp (southern Sweden) in order to document some of the newly added decorative elements:

This is the community Christmas tree
What was new to me, as a fairly recent member of my local community, was that many people already now have installed their Christmas trees in their living rooms. Since my early childhood in another Nordic country, I have always done it on Christmas Eve.