Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The Oseberg ship (Norwegian: Osebergskipet) is a well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in Vestfold county, Norway. This ship is commonly acknowledged to be among the finer artifacts to have survived from the Viking Era. The ship and some of its contents are displayed at the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy on the western side of Oslo, Norway.
The Oseberg burial mound (Norwegian: Oseberghaugen ved Slagen from the Old Norse word haugr meaning kurgan mound or barrow) contained numerous grave goods and two female human skeletons. The ship's interment into its burial mound dates from 834 AD, but parts of the ship date from around 800, and the ship itself is thought to be older. It was excavated by Norwegian archaeologist Haakon Shetelig and Swedish archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson in 1904-1905.
The ship is a Karve, clinker built almost entirely of oak. It is 21.58 m long and 5.10 m broad, with a mast of approximately 9–10 m. With a sail of c. 90 m², the ship could achieve a speed up to 10 knots. The ship has 15 pairs of oar holes, which means that 30 people could row the ship. Other fittings include a broad steering oar, iron anchor, gangplank, and a bailer. The bow and stern of the ship are elaborately decorated with complex woodcarvings in the characteristic "gripping beast" style, also known as the Oseberg style.
During the debate on whether to move the original ship to a new proposed museum, thorough investigations were made into the possibilities of moving the ship without damaging it. During this process, very thorough photo scans and laser scans of both the outside and inside of the ship were made.
In 2004, an attempt to build a copy of the Oseberg ship was launched. A collective effort of Norwegian and Danish professional builders, scientist and volunteers engaged in this new attempt with the photo scans and laser scans made available for free to the enthusiastic builders. During this new attempt it was discovered that during the initial restoration of the ship a breach in one of the beams was made and the ship was therefore inadvertently shortened. This fact had not been discovered prior. It is believed this is perhaps the prime reason why several earlier replicas sank: previous attempts at working replicas had failed due to lack of correct data.
In 2010, a new reconstruction was started titled Saga Oseberg. Using timber from Denmark and Norway and utilizing traditional building methods from the Viking age, this newest Oseberg ship was successfully completed. On the 20th of June 2012 the new ship was launched from the city of Tønsberg. The ship floated very well and in March 2014 it was taken to open seas, with Færder as its destination, under full sail. A speed of 10 knots was achieved. The construction was a success, the ship performing very well. It demonstrated that the Oseberg ship really could sail and was not just a burial chamber on land.
The skeletons of two women were found in the grave with the ship. One, probably aged 60–70, suffered badly from arthritis and other maladies. The second was initially believed to be aged 25–30, but analysis of tooth-root translucency suggests she was older (aged 50–55). It is not clear which one was the more important in life or whether one was sacrificed to accompany the other in death. The younger woman had a broken collarbone, initially thought to be evidence that she was a human sacrifice, but closer examination showed that the bone had been healing for several weeks. The opulence of the burial rite and the grave-goods suggests that this was a burial of very high status. One woman wore a very fine red wool dress with a lozenge twill pattern (a luxury commodity) and a fine white linen veil in a gauze weave, while the other wore a plainer blue wool dress with a wool veil, possibly showing some stratification in their social status. Neither woman wore anything entirely made of silk, although small silk strips were appliqued onto a tunic worn under the red dress.
Dendrochronological analysis of timbers in the grave chamber dates the burial to the autumn of 834. Although the high-ranking woman's identity is unknown, it has been suggested that she is Queen Åsa of the Yngling clan, mother of Halfdan the Black and grandmother of Harald Fairhair. Recent tests of the women's remains suggest that they lived in Agder in Norway, as had Queen Åsa. This theory has been challenged, however, and some think that she may have been a völva. There were also the skeletal remains of 14 horses, an ox, and three dogs found on the ship.
According to Per Holck of Oslo University, the younger woman's mitochondrial haplogroup was discovered to be U7. Her ancestors came to Norway from the Pontic littoral, probably Iran. Three subsequent studies failed to confirm these results, however, and it is likely that the bone samples contain little (if any) original DNA or have been contaminated through handling.
Examinations of fragments of the skeletons have provided more insight into their lives. The younger woman's teeth showed signs that she used a metal toothpick, a rare 9th century luxury. Both women had a diet composed mainly of meat, another luxury when most Vikings ate fish. However, there was not enough DNA to tell if they were related, for instance a queen and her daughter.
The grave had been disturbed in antiquity, and precious metals were absent. Nevertheless, a great number of everyday items and artifacts were found during the 1904-1905 excavations. These included four elaborately decorated sleighs, a richly carved four-wheel wooden cart, bed-posts, and wooden chests, as well as the so-called "Buddha bucket" (Buddha-bøtte), a brass and cloisonné enamel ornament of a bucket (pail) handle in the shape of a figure sitting with crossed legs. The bucket is made from yew wood, held together with brass strips, and the handle is attached to two anthropomorphic figures compared to depictions of the Buddha in the lotus posture, although any connection is most uncertain. More relevant is the connection between the patterned enamel torso and similar human figures in the Gospel books of the Insular art of the British Isles, such as the Book of Durrow. More mundane items such as agricultural and household tools were also found. A series of textiles included woolen garments, imported silks, and narrow tapestries. The Oseberg burial is one of the few sources of Viking age textiles, and the wooden cart is the only complete Viking age cart found so far. A bedpost shows one of the few period examples of the use of what has been dubbed the valknut symbol.The conservation of the wooden artifacts is an ongoing problem. On May 3, 2011, thirteen years after debate began over the disposition of the ship, Norwegian Minister of Education Kristin Halvorsen stated that the ship will not be moved from Bygdøy.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
The Hawker Typhoon (Tiffy in RAF slang), was a British single-seat fighter-bomber, produced by Hawker Aircraft. It was intended to be a medium–high altitude interceptor, as a replacement for the Hawker Hurricane but several design problems were encountered and it never completely satisfied this requirement.
The Typhoon was originally designed to mount twelve .303 inch (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns and be powered by the latest 2000 hp engines. Its service introduction in mid-1941 was plagued with problems and for several months the aircraft faced a doubtful future. When the Luftwaffe brought the formidable Focke-Wulf Fw 190 into service in 1941, the Typhoon was the only RAF fighter capable of catching it at low altitudes; as a result it secured a new role as a low-altitude interceptor.
Through the support of pilots such as Roland Beamont it became established in roles such as night-time intruder and long-range fighter. From late 1942 the Typhoon was equipped with bombs and from late 1943 RP-3 ground attack rockets were added to its armoury. With those weapons and its four 20mm Hispano cannon, the Typhoon became one of the Second World War's most successful ground-attack aircraft.
The Typhoon was first produced with forward-opening "car door" style cockpit doors (complete with wind-down windows), with a transparent "roof" hinged to open to the left. The first 162 Typhoons featured a built-up metal-skinned dorsal fairing behind the pilot's armoured headrest; the mast for the radio aerial protruded through the fairing. From mid- to late 1941 the solid metal aft dorsal fairing was replaced with a transparent structure (later nicknamed "The Coffin Hood"), the pilot's head armour plate was modified to a triangular shape and the side cut-outs were fitted with armoured glass; the first production Typhoon to be fitted with this new structure was R7803. All earlier aircraft were quickly withdrawn and modified. From early 1942 a rear-view mirror was mounted in a perspex blister moulded into the later "car-door" canopy roofs. This modification was not very successful, because the mirror was subject to vibration. Despite the new canopy structure, the pilot's visibility was still restricted by the heavy frames and the clutter of equipment under the rear canopy; from August 1943, as an interim measure, pending the introduction of the new "bubble" canopy and cut-down dorsal fairing, the aerial mast and its associated bracing was removed and replaced with a whip aerial further back on the rear fuselage.
Starting in January 1943, R8809 was used to test a new, clear, one piece sliding "bubble" canopy and its associated new windscreen structure which had slimmer frames which, together with the "cut-down" rear dorsal fairing, provided a far superior all-around field of view to the car-door type. From November 1943 all production aircraft, starting with JR333, were to be so fitted. However, the complex modifications required to the fuselage and a long lead time for new components to reach the production line meant that it took some time before the new canopy became standard. In order to have as many Typhoons of 2nd TAF fitted before "Operation Overlord" conversion kits were produced and Gloster, Hawker and Cunliffe-Owen modified older Typhoons still fitted with the car-door canopy.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
The Type VIIC was the workhorse of the German U-boat force, with 568 commissioned from 1940 to 1945. The first VIIC boat commissioned was the U-69 in 1940. The Type VIIC was an effective fighting machine and was seen almost everywhere U-boats operated, although its range of only 8,500 nautical miles was not as great as that of the larger Type IX (11,000 nautical miles), severely limiting the time it could spend in the far reaches of the western and southern Atlantic without refueling from a tender or U-boat tanker. The VIIC came into service toward the end of the "First Happy Time near the beginning of the war and was still the most numerous type in service when Allied anti-submarine efforts finally defeated the U-boat campaign in late 1943 and 1944.
Type VIIC differed from the VIIB only in the addition of an active sonar and a few minor mechanical improvements, making it 2 feet longer and 8 tons heavier. Speed and range were essentially the same. Many of these boats were fitted with snorkels in 1944 and 1945.
They had the same torpedo tube arrangement as their predecessors, except for U-72, U-78, U-80, U-554, and U-555, which had only two bow tubes, and for U-203, U-331, U-351, U-401, U-431, and U-651, which had no stern tube.
On the surface the boats (except for U-88, U-90 and U-132 to U-136 which used MAN M6V40/46s) were propelled by two supercharged Germaniawerft, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesels totaling 2,800 to 3,200 PS (2,100 to 2,400 kW; 2,800 to 3,200 shp) at 470 to 490 rpm.
For submerged propulsion, several different electric motors were used. Early models used the VIIB configuration of two AEG GU 460/8-276 electric motors, totaling 750 PS (550 kW; 740 shp) with a max rpm of 296, while newer boats used two BBC GG UB 720/8, Garbe, Lahmeyer & Co. RP 137/c or Siemens-Schuckert-Werke (SSW) GU 343/38-8 electric motors with the same power output as the AEG motors.
Perhaps the most famous VIIC boat was U-96, featured in the movie Das Boot.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Itala was a car manufacturer based in Turin, Italy from 1904-1934, started by Matteo Ceirano and five partners in 1903.
The Ceirano brothers, Giovanni Battista, Giovanni, Ernesto and Matteo, were influential in the founding of the Italian auto industry, being variously responsible for : Ceirano; Welleyes (the technical basis of F.I.A.T.); Fratelli Ceirano; S.T.A.R. / Rapid (Società Torinese Automobili Rapid); SCAT (Società Ceirano Automobili Torino); Itala and S.P.A. (Società Piemontese Automobili). Giovanni's son Giovanni "Ernesto" was also influential, co-founding Ceirano Fabbrica Automobili (aka Giovanni Ceirano Fabbrica Automobili) and Fabrica Anonima Torinese Automobili (FATA).
In 1888, after eight years apprenticeship at his father's watch-making business, Giovanni Battista started building Welleyes bicycles, so named because English names had more sales appeal. In October 1898 Giovanni Battista and Matteo co-founded Ceirano GB & C and started producing the Welleyes motor car in 1899. In July 1899 the plant and patents were sold to Giovanni Agnelli and produced as the first F.I.A.T.s - the Fiat 4 HP. Giovanni Battista was employed by Fiat as the agent for Italy, but within a year he left to found Fratelli Ceirano & C. which in 1903 became Società Torinese Automobili Rapid (S.T.A.R.) building cars badged as 'Rapid'. In 1904 Matteo Ceirano left Ceirano GB & C to create his own brand - Itala. In 1906 Matteo left Itala to found S.P.A. (Società Piemontese Automobili) with chief designer, Alberto Ballacco. In 1906 Giovanni founded SCAT (Società Ceirano Automobili Torino) in Turin. In 1919 Giovanni and Giovanni "Ernesto" co-founded Ceirano Fabbrica Automobili (aka Giovanni Ceirano Fabbrica Automobili) and in 1922 they took control of Fabrica Anonima Torinese Automobili (FATA).
Three cars were offered in the first year, an 18 hp, a 24 hp and a 50 hp. In 1905 they started making very large engined racing cars with a 14.8 Litre 5 cylinder model which won the Coppa Florio and the year after that the Targa Florio. In 1907 a 7,433 cc (453.6 cu in) 35/45 hp model driven by Count Scipione Borghese won the Peking to Paris motor race by three weeks. These sporting successes helped sales dramatically, the company continued to grow. The company experimented with a range of novel engines such as variable stroke, sleeve valve, and "Avalve" rotary types and at the beginning of World War I, offered a wide range of cars. During the war Itala built aeroplane engines but made a loss producing them.
After the armistice car production resumed with models based on the pre war cars such as the Tipo 50 25/35 hp and a re-appearance of the Avalve in the 4,426 cc (270.1 cu in) Tipo 55 but financial success eluded the company
From 1924 the company was being run under receivership and they appointed Giulio Cesare Cappa from Fiat as general manager. He produced a new car, the Tipo 61 with 7 cylinder alloy engine which was well received but he then decided to return to motor sport producing the Tipo 11, a very advanced car with front wheel drive, 1050 cc supercharged V12 engine and all round independent suspension but the car never raced. Two Tipo 61s did take part in the 1928 Le Mans 24 hour race winning the 2 litre class.
The company was bought by truck maker Officine Metallurgiche di Tortona in 1929 and a few more cars were made up to 1935. The remains of the company was sold to Fiat.
A distinctive feature of the pre-World War I 50 hp & 90 hp models was their use of a rotary valve. Each valve fed a pair of cylinders and was mounted alongside, rotating parallel to them. Four ports cast into the valve alternately connected ports to the cylinders through the side of the valve to the inlet and exhaust manifolds at bottom and top of the valves.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
The Type 63 multiple rocket launcher is a towed, 12-tube, 107mm rocket launcher produced by the People's Republic of China in the early 1960s and later exported and manufactured globally. Although no longer serving with active infantry units, the Type 63 is still in People's Liberation Army service with specialized formations such as mountain infantry units and special forces detachments. The Type 63 was widely used in the PLA until the late 1980s. It was adopted as the successor of the Type 50-5 of 102mm.
China has also developed a Type 63 multiple rocket launcher of 130mm. The RPU-14 is a Soviet 140mm MRL of similar design to the Type 63.
The launcher's 12 tubes are arranged in three removable rows of four each, mounted on a single-axle carriage with rubber tires. The Type 63 originally fired an 18.8 kilogram rocket (Type 63-2) with a 1.3 kilogram warhead. Ammunition for the Type 63 was later improved (Type 75 and Type 81 series), although the overall weight of the rocket remained the same. A fixed amount of propellant is contained in the rocket motor. The steel-cased rocket is stabilized with spin imparted by six angled nozzles in its base. Type 63 rockets may be launched without the launcher; improvised firing can employ tubing, rails or even dirt berms. The Type 63 was distributed on the basis of six per infantry regiment, or 18 per infantry division. For airborne and mountain units the lighter Type 63-I was developed.
Both the Type 63 and its copies can be mounted on different kinds of armoured and unarmoured vehicles, for example the MT-LB, the Safir, the Mamba, the RG-32 Scout, the GAZ-66 and the M113.
NATO and western sources have used the Soviet-style designation BM-12 to describe this weapon system, and further even ascribe Soviet origin and initial manufacture of both launcher and rockets. However, there is no evidence in non-western sources of Soviet development or production, or of the BM-12 moniker being applied. Very similar Type 50-5 or Type 488 102mm rockets were manufactured in China and used in the Korean War prior to development of the Type 63.
It appears the systems designated BM-12 (for example in Afghanistan and Libya) were or are all of Chinese origin, being merely used or cross-traded by Soviet interests.
- The Chinese Type 81 SPMRL 107mm is a self-propelled export version, based on the Nanjing NJ-230 truck.
- North Korea has developed versions with 18 and 24 launch tubes that are mounted on vehicles such as the tracked VTT-323 or the wheeled M1992.
- Roketsan of Turkey has designed an improved 107mm multiple rocket launch system, consisting of a HMMWV with two 12-round launch modules and a fire control system. The system uses the TR-107 and TRB-107 rockets but the range has been increased to 11 km.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Johannes Gutenberg's work on the printing press began in approximately 1436 when he partnered with Andreas Dritzehn—a man who had previously instructed in gem-cutting—and Andreas Heilmann, owner of a paper mill. However, it was not until a 1439 lawsuit against Gutenberg that an official record existed; witnesses' testimony discussed Gutenberg's types, an inventory of metals (including lead), and his type molds.
Having previously worked as a professional goldsmith, Gutenberg made skillful use of the knowledge of metals he had learned as a craftsman. He was the first to make type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, which was critical for producing durable type that produced high-quality printed books and proved to be much better suited for printing than all other known materials. To create these lead types, Gutenberg used what is considered one of his most ingenious inventions, a special matrix enabling the quick and precise molding of new type blocks from a uniform template. His type case is estimated to have contained around 290 separate letter boxes, most of which were required for special characters, ligatures, punctuation marks, and so forth.
Gutenberg is also credited with the introduction of an oil-based ink which was more durable than the previously used water-based inks. As printing material he used both paper and vellum (high-quality parchment). In the Gutenberg Bible, Gutenberg made a trial of coloured printing for a few of the page headings, present only in some copies. A later work, the Mainz Psalter of 1453, presumably designed by Gutenberg but published under the imprint of his successors Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer, had elaborate red and blue printed initials.
The new era in print ushered in by the Internet is a distant mirror to Gutenberg's work which similarly revolutionized the printing process.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
The Cord 810, and later Cord 812, was an automobile produced by the Cord Automobile division of the Auburn Automobile Company in 1936 and 1937. It was the first American-designed and built front wheel drive car with independent front suspension. It followed the 1934 Citroën Traction Avant and the Cord L-29, both of which also had front wheel drive. Both models were also the first to offer hidden headlights.
The styling of the Cord 810 was the work of designer Gordon M. Buehrig and his team of stylists, which included young Vince Gardner and Alex Tremulis. While the first American front-wheel-drive car with independent front suspension, it had an archaic tube rear axle with semi-elliptic rear springs. Power came from a 4,739 cc (289 cu in) Lycoming V8 of the same 125 hp (93 kW) as the L-29. The semi-automatic four-speed transmission (three plus overdrive) extended in front of the engine, like on a Traction Avant. This allowed Buehrig to dispense with the driveshaft and transmission tunnel; as a result, the new car was so low it required no running boards. It had a 125 in (3,175 mm) wheelbase.
Reportedly conceived as a Duesenberg and nearly devoid of chrome, the 810 had hidden door hinges and rear-hinged hood, rather than the side-opening type more usual at the time, both new items. It featured pontoon fenders with hidden headlamps (modified Stinson landing lights) (E. L. Cord owned a majority of Stinson stock) that disappeared into the fenders via dashboard hand cranks. This car was first and one of the few ever to include this feature.
It also featured a concealed fuel filler door and variable-speed windshield wipers (at a time when wipers were often operated by intake vacuum, and so tended to stop when the driver stepped on the gas pedal). Its engine-turned dashboard included complete instrumentation, a tachometer, and standard radio (which would not become an industry standard offering until well into the 1950s). The most famous feature was the "coffin nose", a louvered wraparound grille, from which its nickname derived, a product of Buehrig's desire not to have a conventional grille.
Supercharging was made available on the 1937 812 model. Supercharged 812 models were distinguished from the normally aspirated 812s by the brilliant chrome-plated external exhaust pipes mounted on each side of the hood and grill. With supercharging, horsepower was raised to 170.
Early reliability problems, including slipping out of gear and vapor lock, cooled initial enthusiasm. Although most new owners loved their sleek fast cars, the dealer base shrank rapidly. Unsold left-over and in-process 1936 810 models were re-numbered and sold as 1937 812 models. In 1937, after producing about 3000 of these cars, Auburn ceased production of the Cord. A single 1938 Cord prototype, with detail changes to the grille and transmission cover, was built, and it survived as of 2009.
The 810/812 design was re-marketed almost immediately, in 1940, as ailing automakers Hupmobile and Graham-Paige tried to save money, and revive the companies, by using the same body dies. Except for their similarity to the 810, their 4-door sedans, the Hupp Skylark and the Graham Hollywood, were unremarkable. Retractable headlights gave way to plain headlight pods, and power came from a standard front-engine/rear-wheel drive design. Only about 1900 were built before production ceased in the fall of 1940.
Between 1964 and 1970, two further attempts were made to replicate the original Buehrig design for limited production. Both Tulsa, Oklahoma-based companies soon halted production amid financial difficulties. The 1966 replica Cord 8/10 was powered by a Corvair drivetrain (the "8/10" designation represented the actual scale of the car), while the 1968 through 1970 models were Ford and Chrysler powered.
The design of the Cord 810/812 remains one of the most distinctive of the 20th Century. In 1996, American Heritage magazine proclaimed the Cord 810 sedan ‘The Single Most Beautiful American Car’. The ‘Classic Cord’ Hot Wheels toy car of the 1960s, a convertible coupé, is one of the most valuable, and commands up to US$800 (2006) if still in an unopened package.