The Alaskan mining prospector ‘Professor’ Dick Willoughby was looking out across the Muir Glacier in June 1888 when he caught a glimpse of a most remarkable sight – the outline of a modern city skyline looming out of the misty horizon.
Although the mirage lasted only a few minutes, he was able to photograph it to prove that he had indeed seen it. Willoughby speculated that what he had witnessed was the reflection of a real city many thousands of miles away. Read more ›››
Vesna Vulović has an unusual claim to fame – according to the Guinness Book of Records, she holds the world record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute, some 33,330 feet.
This unsought achievement happened on 26th January 1972 when Vulović was a flight attendant on Yugoslav Airline Flight 367 and a bomb exploded on board. Read more ›››
There is a popular notion that elephants and other creatures get themselves drunk by eating the fermented fruit of the marula tree, but it is a complete myth created by the South African filmmaker, Jamie Uys.
Uys was born in Boksburg, SA, in 1921 and began his career as a mathematics teacher in his hometown. Then he married Hettie, a fellow maths teacher, and they took to farming and opened trading posts on the Palala River. Read more ›››
The recently published biography of war correspondent Marie Colvin illustrates the dangers and bravery of this peculiar profession and the very first woman on the frontline was photojournalist Gerda Taro.
Taro was born Gerta Pohorylle in Stuttgart in 1910 to a middle-class Jewish family. She would later change her name to overcome the increasing intolerance of Jews in Europe. Read more ›››
Remembrance Day rightly focussed on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War but there were those who served with distinction in both world wars and one such was Herbert Sulzbach.
Sulzbach was born in Frankfurt in 1894 to a wealthy Jewish banking family. His grandfather Rudolf founded the Bankhaus Gebruder Sulzbach in 1855, the forerunner of the modern-day Deutsche Bank. Read more ›››
You may not recognise the name Rebecca Rolfe, but she is a major figure in American folklore, became an animated star for Disney and was the first American to be buried in England. You will know her better by her original name – Pocahontas.
She was born near what is now Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of the supreme chief of the Powhatan Confederacy, an alliance of Algonquin tribes who lived around Chesapeake Boy. Read more ›››
I’ve written before about the early pioneers of flight from the exciting early years of the 20th century and some are less well known than they should be for all sorts of reasons.
One such is Harriet Quimby whose greatest aviation achievement in a tragically short career was overshadowed by an event of even greater historical significance. Read more ›››
When I was a boy. an annual treat was the Christmas visit to Belle Vue Circus and of all the acts – the lions and tigers, the trapeze artists and horse riders – my favourite was Nickolai Poliakov, also known as Coco the Clown.
Poliakov was born in Latvia in 1900 when it was part of the Russian Empire. His parents worked in the theatre and Poliakov began earning a living by busking from the age of five. Read more ›››