Tintin, the subject of 200 million comics sold, was likely based on a real 15-year-old …


In the overcrowded world of fictional characters, there are few faces as adorable as Tintin’s. Unlike Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman, Tintin, the young investigative reporter, is not a household name in America, but he is definitely one of the most beloved figures in Europe.

With no specific magic powers, he is the antithesis of a superhero, but that didn’t prevent him from being widely admired by both children and adults. Charles de Gaulle once declared that Tintin is his only international rival, saying that “nobody notices, because of my height. We are both little fellows who won’t be got at by big fellows.”

Tintin and his fox terrier, Snowy, appeared for the first time on January 10, 1929, in the children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siecle. What started as the subject of a supplement went on to become a symbol of the 20th century, appearing in an inde­pen­dent comic book, on television, and even on the big screen in Steven Spiel­berg’s animated movie The Adven­tures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.

Tintin is one of the most beloved figures in the comic book world.Author: Joi/Flickr-CC By 2.0

Georges Prosper Remi, known by the pen name Hergé, is the man behind the creation of Tintin. With almost no formal training, Hergé began drawing the legendary comic-book character in 1929, but little did he know that by doing so he would give birth to an entire European comics publishing industry.

Tintin and his fox terrier Snowy appeared for the first time in 1929. Author: karrikas/Flickr CC By 2.0

Since 1929, Tintin comics have sold more than 200 million copies, and over the years, this beloved character served as an inspiration for many people and influenced the ways comic book readers perceive the world around them. But what actually inspired Hergé to create the iconic character?

Debate still exists on what exactly inspired Hergé to come up with the snub-nosed teenage reporter, but most people agree that it was a real life person known by the name Palle Huld. It is one of the most original of origin stories in the comic book world.

Less than a year before Tintin made his first appearance, in the children’s supplement of  Le Vingtième Siecle, a 15-year-old Danish Boy Scout named Palle Huld won a competition organized by a Danish newspaper to mark the centennial of Jules Verne.


Palle Huld, during his trip around the world in 1928, almost certainly influenced Hergé to create Tintin.

The winner of the competition would re-enact Phileas Fogg’s voyage from Verne’s famous novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Strangely enough, only teenage boys were allowed to take part in the competition, and the 15-year-old was the perfect match. There was another twist: The winner had to complete the journey within 46 days, without any company and without using planes.

Hundreds of Danish teenagers applied to participate in the competition, and Palle was lucky enough to be chosen. He started his journey on March 1, 1928, from Copenhagen and traveled by rail and steamship through England, Scotland, Canada, Japan, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Germany.

His journey made the headlines at the time and when he arrived in Denmark, he was already a celebrity. Over 20,000 admirers greeted their hero when he came back home.

The next thing he did was write a book about his journey, which was quite popular among his admirers, and published in several languages. That book also came into the hands of a Belgian cartoonist known by the name of Hergé and that same year, when Huld’s book was published, Tintin made his debut.

Huld himself suggested on several occasions that he was the inspiration for Tintin. However, others believe that the inspiration behind the character was actually the French travel photojournalist Robert Sexe, whose journeys were exactly in the same order as Tintin’s first three books.

With no specific superpowers, Tintin is the antithesis of a superhero. Author: Hicham Souilmi CC By 2.0

Nonetheless, true Tintin fans couldn’t care less. For them it is all about the character, a hero they all know and love, representing something that others don’t have: uncompromising vigilance and the need to succeed no matter what the cost.

Tintin proves that a hero doesn’t need to be big or strong, he or she just needs to be tenacious and stubborn enough to do what needs to be done.

By Goran Blazeski


Experts accidentally discover 40 shipwrecks – massive insight into the history of the Black Sea

Shipwreck of the SS American Star on the shore of Fuerteventura. Credit: Wollex

The Expedition and Education Foundation (EEF) recently gave out a charitable donation that brought to life the Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project, also known as Black Sea MAP.

Historians couldn’t be more thankful. The researchers, including a group from the Maritime Archaeology Center at the University of Southampton, have been making splashes in the news while surveying Bulgarian waters in the Black Sea.

This area was actually land during the Ice Age, but when the ice around the world began to melt, the land was flooded and ultimately became a part of the sea.

The principle investigator of the Black Sea MAP, Jon Adams, stated that the goal of the team was to put to rest the heavily debated theories about when the land was submerged. The team is also looking at how quickly the water levels rose and how it affected the ancient population of the land.

EEF supplied funding so the team could survey and map the seabed. They investigated the characteristics of the floor and took core samples for dating and analysis.

The final results of the research will develop a palaeo-environmental reconstruction of the history of the Black Sea that has eluded historians to date.

To accomplish the mission, the experts used a ship named the Stril Explorer. The ship is equipped with some of the best surveying technology in the world. The vessel comes with two Remotely Operated Vehicles or ROVs. The first ROV is loaded with high-resolution 3D technology and supports video.

The second groundbreaking remote vehicle was designed by the survey companies Reach Subsea and MMT and can move at speeds that are four times faster than common ROVs and holds an incredible suite of geophysical instrumentation, flashlights, advanced cameras, and even a laser scanner.

During its missions for the project, the vehicle has broken records for the depth of an ROV (1,800 meters) and for sustained speed (an astounding six knots). The vehicle has also covered well over 1,000 kilometers during its mission.

ROVs provide the perfect tool to capture pictures of the ships without disturbing the precious finds or the seabed that the ships lie on. The best part about the technology the team had access to is that it marked the first time that a team has been able to successfully and completely remodel shipwrecks at these depths.

And while marine archaeology is extremely competitive, the partnership of academics and business has proven to be a perfect combination in the mission to uncover the history of the Black Sea.

However, during the time the team has been mapping out the ancient land that now forms part of the sea floor, they found some unexpected artifacts resting in the waters.

They discovered an incredible collection of more than 40 never-before-seen shipwrecks. Many of these ship models have been documented in historical records, but the ships of these types have never actually been seen by archaeologists.

Experts hope that these shipwrecks can provide an unprecedented insight into the elusive Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, as well as shed even more light on the structure of the economy of the Black Sea.

Thanks to the research efforts of the Black Sea MAP project, historians can fill in gaps in the maritime history of the area.  Due to the oxygen levels that exist in the Black Sea at levels deeper than 150 meters, the ships have been preserved astonishingly well, Quartz reported.

The team has managed to capture and recreate powerful images of the ships because of the use of the groundbreaking 3D cameras.

By Scott Antony

In WWII, Soviet partisans hid in the Odessa Catacombs, which stretch for thousands of miles below the city

Nothing is more intriguing than a labyrinth of underground tunnels running thousands of miles on three levels. Especially if that maze has so many stories about its existence that it becomes hard to distinguish what is real and what is myth.

And just like the Mines of Moria that Tolkien wrote about in the Lord of the Rings novels, the mines of Odessa have their fair share of legends too.

Found in Ukraine, the deepest of these tunnels runs almost 200 feet below the streets of Odessa. There are many entrances to the vast tunnel complex, at least 1,000, and a number of deaths have been reported over the years, of people wandering in and getting lost and never being seen again.

Most of the catacombs are the result of persistent stone mining that started in the 19th century. The city of Odessa was expanding rapidly at that time, and the stone mined here was used in the construction of buildings.

The miners used saws to cut through the limestone, a task that half a century later created a whole complex of tunnels.

old abandoned tunnel in the underground as part of catacombs in Odessa, Ukraine

After the Russia Revolution, the mining of stone was forbidden, especially in Odessa. During the Second World War, these tunnels were used by the Soviet partisan resistance movements as a perfect tactical hiding spot.

Soviet Partisans painting. Author: Андрей Николаевич Миронов/Andrey Mironov CC BY-SA 4.0

Following the end of the war, a club called “Poisk” (search) was created. Its task was to trace the footsteps of Soviet history down into these tunnels. The club was successful enough with its undertaking that, thanks to Poisk, today there are maps depicting large areas of the tunnels under Odessa. But no one has ever managed to fully map the whole labyrinth of tunnels.

An entrance to the mines. Author: Дмитрий Жданов CC BY-SA 4.0

According to researchers, more than 90 percent of the catacombs are created by mining. The remainder is either natural underground formations or was dug for other reasons, such as for sewerage.

To those who don’t mind the lack of fresh air, there is the Museum of Partisan Glory that conducts tours within a small portion of the catacombs. But there are those that venture in the tunnels on their own. Needless to say, going there brings danger and even death.

Another entrance down to the mines. Author: Мокрицький Павло CC BY-SA 4.0

One of these stories inevitably brings us to Masha, a student who should have known better than to venture inside the tunnels. During New Year’s Eve celebrations in 2005, she and her friends had one drink too many and made a decision to spend the night inside one of the tunnels. Morning came and all of them left. But they forgot that Masha was with them and left her behind.

Danger behind every corner. Author: Полищук Денис Анатольевич CC BY 2.5

Masha was left down there:  lost, scared, disoriented, and in total darkness. Or so the story goes. Later research suggested that Masha was an invented character and her death never happened.And so Masha slowly became a legend, one of the many about this place.

Where stone was mined to build Odessa. Author: Полищук Денис Анатольевич CC BY 2.5
Dark underground chamber. Author: Полищук Денис Анатольевич CC BY 2.5

But what really is down there is hard to know, for the catacombs are five times as large as the famous Paris catacombs. It is easy to imagine dark secrets of murders, or lost people, or dumped bodies, all worthy of a horror movie.

In one of the tunnels. Author: Полищук Денис Анатольевич CC BY 2.5

There is a tragic real-life case of murder: a man in his twenties who killed his girlfriend with an ax in these mines.

The tragedies that remain hidden are what keeps the legend of this place alive. Thousands of miles of tunnels are more than enough to hold thousands of secrets.

By Scott Antony





James Naismith holding a ball and a peach basket, the first basketball equipment.
November 6, 1861

Almonte, Canada

November 28, 1939 (aged 78)



Ethan Hawke

Maria Shriver

Glenn Frey

Sally Field

Charles II



The Cleveland Browns (left) in a game against the Carolina Panthers.
1996  Art Modell, the owner of the NFL‘s Cleveland Browns, announced that he was moving the team to Baltimore, which enraged sportswriters and Cleveland fans.
Ronald Reagan.
1984  U.S. President Ronald Reagan won reelection in a landslide victory over Democratic candidate Walter F. Mondale.
Vladimir Ilich Lenin addressing the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets in Petrograd, November 8 [October 26, Old Style], 1917.
1917   The second phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917 began (October 25, Old Style) as the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia.
Benjamin Harrison, photograph by George Prince, 1888.
1888  Benjamin Harrison of the Republican Party was elected U.S. president by an electoral majority despite losing the popular vote by more than 90,000 to his Democratic opponent, Grover Cleveland.
Walter Johnson.
1887   Professional baseball player Walter Johnson, who had perhaps the greatest fastball in the history of the game, was born in Humboldt, Kansas.
John Philip Sousa.
1854   American bandmaster John Philip Sousa, who composed 136 military marches, was born.
Charles II of Spain, detail of a portrait by Juan Carreño, c. 1685; in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
1661  Charles II, who ruled Spain from 1665 to 1700 and was the last monarch of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty, was born.

Order of Maternal Glory – Soviet award for the women bearing and raising a large family

Order of Maternal Glory, all three classes

Soviet men might have felt that all honors and awards were given to them and not to the women around them. So, with nothing else to think of, the Soviet Union introduced the title of Mother Heroine in 1944. It was not only approved by Stalin, but he actually invented it.

Obverse of the Order "Mother Heroine"
Obverse of the Order “Mother Heroine”

He believed that women who were taking care of families deserved a special reward for their labor of raising children and their dedication to it. So the “heroine mothers” were supposed not only to gain the title of the Order of Maternal Glory but also to receive financial incentives. The financial assistance included not only mothers of many children but also single mothers and pregnant women. The Soviet Union wanted healthy and happy children to fight for their country.

The Order of Maternal Glory was awarded on behalf of the Presidium of Supreme Soviet of the USSR through decrees of local Soviet presidencies. And although all women who had at least five children had the title “Mother Heroine”, there were different prizes depending on the number of children.

Kazakh "Алтын алка" ("Golden pendant")
Kazakh “Алтын алка” (“Golden pendant”)

First, there was the Maternity Medal, awarded to women with at least five children or up to 9 children.

The Order of Maternal Glory was divided into three categories: Third Class, for mothers who gave birth to ten children; Second Class, for women who had at least 20 children; and First Class, for mothers with 30 children. Women who had that many offspring, regardless of whether they were their biological or adopted children, were qualified for the medal.

Order of Maternal Glory, all three classes
Order of Maternal Glory, all three classes

The prize was given on the first birthday of the last-born child if the other nine were still alive. Exceptions were made in cases where children had died under heroic, military, or other selfless circumstances. Occupational diseases were also counted.

The award meant other benefits as well. For example, privileges in terms of retirement pension, the payment of public utility charges, and the supply of food and other goods.

Approximately 430,000 women were awarded this title during its existence in the Soviet Union.

By Tijana Radeska


Beautifully carved masks embody the spirits honored by the Yup’ik shamans


 Archaeologists believe that the ancestors of the Yup’ik people originated in Siberia, from where they slowly migrated, settling about 3,000 years ago along the Western Alaskan coastal regions and in the Yukon and Kuskokwim River valleys. Today they number some 25,700, with approximately 24,000 living in the United States (mainly in Alaska) and a further 1,700 living in Siberia.

The name Yup’ik (the plural is Yupiit) is a combination of the word Yuk, for “person” and Pik,meaning “real.” The language, known as Yuk or Yuiit, (some dialects use Cup’ik which refers to both the people and the language) is still spoken by about 75 percent of today’s Yupiit.

Dance mask of tunghat, Southwest Alaska Eskimo, acquired 1915.


Wooden Tuunraq mask. The main motif is the Morse (walrus) head with Eskimo figures on it. 1905, Qissunaq, Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

The Yup’ík people, being semi-nomadic, traditionally followed the seasons, moving in family groups. In the spring, they would travel to their fishing camps where they fished, hunted sea mammals (seals, walrus and–until fairly recently–whales), and collected berries and plants. As the seasons progressed and the weather became untenable, they returned to the village sites and settled down for the duration of the harsh winter. The women lived together in the ena, situated close to the qasgiq, which is the traditional communal house in which the men lived. The qasgiq also served as the center for teaching the young boys survival, hunting, and life skills, and where some of these skills were taught to the girls.

Wooden mask with the seal spirit in the middle, fish in the circle, and the hands are attached to the front and back with tendons, Hooper Bay, Alaska, 1930s

Probably the most important feature of the qasgiq, however, was that it was used as the community center for ceremonies and festivals where singing, dancing, and storytelling took place. It was here that the Yupiit learned and practiced their culture. This building was where the use of masks became a vital, integral part of their belief system.  This idea centered on the acceptance of good and evil spirits, and the assurance that all living creatures experience the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

Stuttgart, Linden-Museum ceremonial mask (possibly a shaman) of carved wood, around 1910, Inv. No. M 31,739th

Various ceremonies emphasized the different aspects of the relationship between humans, the animals, and the spirit world. The Shaman, an important person in this belief system, was seen as the mediator between the people and the spiritual world. He was there to invoke, through visions, various spirits that would give him guidance. He was also the person who exorcised evil spirits that caused illnesses; the Shaman was responsible for summoning friendly spirits to intervene when evil spirits caused bad occurrences. For all these ceremonies, he used specific masks to enable him to execute his duties correctly.

Wooden mask, fur, feather, leaf and stalks, 57 cm, Kuskokwim Bay, 1930s

The Shaman wore a mask during many traditional rituals in which the relationships that occur between a man and his ancestors, or a man and the animals he relies on for food (life), were re-enforced. Using dances and storytelling, the Shaman, wearing his mask, would represent his own spiritual helpers. During his visit to the spiritual world, these helpers would inform him on the wishes of the game animals, and encourage the animal spirits to return in spring so that they may give their bodies to the hunters. The mask would usually be in the form of a chosen animal–the most popular being wolves, seals, sea birds, or even mythical creatures. Some masks would sport large or goggley eyes, which represented the enhanced spiritual state and vision which the wearer had reached.

All the people were involved in the making of masks, usually under the guidance of the Shaman, for the masks used in the ritual dances were aimed at pleasing the spirits. It is not possible to allocate a meaning to each mask, for often the storyteller would fashion a mask to be used for the enactment of a particular myth or traditional story in which animals or mythical beings took the form of humans. Many of the stories told were of an informative or an instructional nature and dealt with tribal, moral, and ethical mores. Sometimes the story related by the storyteller was of his personal experiences or adventures, and then the mask became a representation of his own beliefs.

It is painted in three colors (red, blue-green, white), with a wooden ring, a seal with a fish in the mouth, a hole with a big thumb as a jewel attached to the body, and feathers. Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas, late 19th century.

Use was made of skilled woodworkers to carve these very interesting, unusual, and often complex masks. They utilized materials readily available to them; wood was the most popularly used medium, but much use was also made of hides (leather), bones, and feathers. Some of these masks even had movable parts. The masks were usually carved, then decorated and painted. Those created from leather or hides were stitched or lashed together and also decorated with items such as stones, feathers, beads, or teeth. They were often painted with red ocher to a shade that would make them look similar to human skin.

Some very small masks were called finger masks and were often carved from bone or tusks. These would be made for wearing on the hands and were used in group dancing. The dancers remained in one position and moved only the upper body and arms in gentle, graceful movements that were accentuated by the finger masks. Masks used in the winter ceremonies were often so large that they required a number of people to hold them up. Some were so massive – to support a variety of theatrical devices – that they had to be hung from the roof.

Alaska Mask Bad spirit of the mountain DMA 1982-81

The masks formed part of the belief in a complicated spiritual life that honored those beings that made life livable for the Yupiit in their harsh homeland. Masks were an important feature in many ceremonies since they, in effect, would “illustrate” the story. Those used by Shamans to facilitate communication between the worlds of human beings, animals, and spirits, were said to have made the unseen spirit world visible. Most of the masks were discarded after use, and that fact, together with normal deterioration of the materials used, means that there are few original Yup’ik masks left today.

While we all know that times move on, it is sad that many of the old traditions have slowly become lost–and so it was with the Yupiit rituals of singing, dancing, and storytelling using these fascinating masks. The skills of mask-making have largely fallen away too. Fortunately, a small number of original Yup’ik masks found their way into collections, and many are on display in museums.

Contemporary stylized ivory single-color mask, ringed with ivory sculpted as a jewel in the circle, on the left with human eyes, musk cattle on the right.

The positive reaction to the public display of these beautiful masks has generated further interest in them as well as in the traditional ceremonies for which they were used. This has resulted in many of the masks being returned to their original homes. Some of the elders still remember many of the stories and dances associated with certain masks, and interest has been renewed in traditional mask-making. Many of these elders still recall that the wearing of masks seemed to engender a spiritual power that breathed life into the stories of the performers and was a way of “making prayer”.

Today, many of the younger Yup’ik people are, for the first time, being made aware of these artistic masks as pieces of their heritage. They have become interested in learning more about the historical traditions of singing and dancing and telling stories – all of which are beginning to have great meaning for them. We may yet see the Yup’ik youth “Making Prayer” once more.

By  Ian Harvey