SS Nomadic in Belfast, Northern Ireland

SS Nomadic

Commissioned in 1910 by the White Star Line, SS Nomadic was designed by Thomas Andrews (the designer of RMS Titanic) and built by Harland and Wolff (builders of Titanic and Olympic) in the Belfast shipyards (yard number 422, same as the Titanic and Olympic). Unlike the larger and more famous ships she was built to tender to, however, Nomadic is still afloat.

This charming tender ship was officially launched in 1911 and put into service in Cherbourg, France, transporting passengers, luggage, mail, and supplies from the city’s harbor to the massive ocean liners anchored in deeper waters off shore. Nomadic was (and is) exactly one quarter the size of Titanic and boasted many of the same luxurious features and furnishings as the famous Olympic-class liners. She carried 247 passengers from Cherbourg harbor to Titanic for her fateful maiden voyage, including Benjamin Guggenheim, John Jacob Astor, and Margaret Brown (a.k.a. “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”).

Despite Titanic’s demise, Nomadic went on to have a long and eventful career, serving for 57 years as a tender ship for both the White Star and Cunard lines, interspersed with active duty as a patrol boat, troop transport, and mine sweeper / layer in both the First and Second World Wars.

After being taken out of service in 1968, she spent several decades as an entertainment venue on the Seine in Paris. After the venue operator went out of business in 2002, Nomadic sat derelict in Le Havre until the government of Northern Ireland bought her to save her from being scrapped.

These days, she serves admirably in her final role as a historical exhibition at the Hamilton Dry Dock, where she permanently resides. Nomadic has “come home” after an illustrious career that lasted over a century, and in fact now occupies the very dock where it is believed she was originally fitted out. Having deteriorated considerably before her return to Belfast, Nomadic went through a few years of thorough restoration and installation of various interpretive historical exhibits starting in 2010, and was finally opened for tours in 2013. Now, visitors can retrace the footsteps of Titanic passengers by visiting this remarkable little ship.

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The Real Reason the EpiPen Is So Expensive

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Photo of the Day: Residential Density – Urban Toronto

Urban Toronto
Photo of the Day: Residential Density
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Seven Magic Mountains in Las Vegas, Nevada

Seven Magic Mountains at sunset

Most people visit Las Vegas for casinos and crazy night clubs, but drive 10 miles beyond the Sin City walls and you’ll come face to face with one of Nevada’s most unique and unknown sights, the Seven Magic Mountains.

Built as a public art exhibit by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, the 30-foot fluorescent “totems” stand like brightly colored beacons lighting up the desert sky. Rondinone used locally sourced boulders, and chose this location because it’s “physically and symbolically mid-way between the natural and the artificial.”

Visitors can walk right up to the mountains, and the site is just a quick 10 miles from Las Vegas. The Seven Magic Mountains are a temporary exhibit, and will be on display until 2018.

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Happy 100th Birthday! US National Parks in Photos

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Photo of the day: McLaren dress a P1 GTR in F1 colours – Top Gear

Top Gear
Photo of the day: McLaren dress a P1 GTR in F1 colours
Top Gear
McLaren's F1 racer – the MP4-31 – is about as good looking as it is competitive. In other words: not very. With predecessors such as the iconic MP4/4 and future descendants (hopefully) including the staggering MP4-X, there's something about the current …

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Volcanic Island of Heimaey in Iceland

Helgafell, the supposedly dormant volcano, seen from the slopes of Eldfell, the volcano created by Helgafell’s eruption.

The Vestmannaeyjar, or Westman Islands, are a volcanic archipelago just off the southern coast of Iceland. At 10 square miles, the largest and only inhabited island is Heimaey, whose once-solitary volcano, Helgafell (or “Holy Mountain”) created the island in an eruption 7,000 years ago.

In the 1970s Heimaey boasted a population of 5,200—all of whom were abruptly awakened by Helgafell at 2 a.m. on January 23, 1973 when the volcano erupted for the first time in recorded history.

Katharine Scherman described the scene in Daughter of Fire, pp. 45-46:

“They went outdoors to see a red glow through smoke over the mountain. As they watched, Helgafell appeared to explode. A fiery column burst out of its side and was thrown some 1,500 feet into the air. Burning ash rained down and the watchers ran for shelter. But their houses were no shelter. Mingled in the ash were red-hot stones, and from the east side of Helgafell a stream of lava crept toward the sea…”

Fortunately, Heimaey’s entire fishing fleet was moored in the harbor for the night, and would eventually carry everyone to the mainland. Heimaey’s only casualty in the eruption was a horse that fell into the fissure that tore the island from end to end. The force of Helgafell’s eruption added a new volcano to Heimaey’s skyline in Eldfell, or the “mountain of fire.” 

While most of the lava from the first eruption flowed out to sea away from the harbor, the lava from a second eruption on January 24th crept slowly towards the town. The fishing fleet returned to evacuate a second cargo, $14 million worth of frozen fish stored at the docks. As lava engulfed the northeastern portion of the town and spilled into the harbor that enabled Heimaey’s livelihood, the islanders launched a last-ditch effort to save the town. Pumps and hoses were brought from the mainland, and seawater was pumped onto the flowing lava, eventually cooling it into a ninety-foot wall. All told, 8 million cubic yards of seawater were pumped onto the lava. Although the eastern side of the town was eventually buried under 120 feet of lava, the harbor was preserved. In total, 112 houses were burned or buried.

Heimaey’s population began to return in July of 1973, and the fish processing plants at the harbor were operational a year later. Nearly a million tons of volcanic ash were removed from the town, but the island itself had grown by almost a square mile once the lava cooled. The island’s 4,000 current residents have preserved several buildings crushed by the lava in their original state, all of which can be accessed via streets that were once buried in volcanic ash. However, the most obvious evidence of the 1973 calamity is outside the town, where you can walk up the green slopes of Helgafell, the original volcano, as well as the brown, still-steaming slopes of Eldfell, the now 43-year-old mountain created by the eruptions.

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Photo Of The Day: This cheeky picture of Odunlade Adekola – Pulse Nigeria

Photo Of The Day: This cheeky picture of Odunlade Adekola
Pulse Nigeria
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Shipka Pass in Gabrovo, Bulgaria

Shipka Pass, viewed from Shipka

In the summer of 1877, in this mountain pass within Bulgaria’s Balkan Mountains, the Russian and Ottoman Empires came head to head in four fierce battles over Bulgaria’s independence.

Part of the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), one of the most incredible moments was when 7,500 Russian and Bulgarian soldiers stood their ground against nearly 40,000 Ottoman troops. The total of four battles are collectively known as the Battle of Shipka Pass.

The pass runs between the towns of Gabrovo and Kazanlak, abuts Stara Planina Mountain, and is part of the Bulgarka Nature Park. Towards the top, at an elevation of around 1,190 m (3,904 ft) you’ll find the town of Shipka, and the hidden gem of the Shipka Memorial Church. Nearby, you’ll also come upon the Shipka Memorial, a 98-foot stone tower commemorating those who died during the many battles in the pass. Within the first floor of the tower is a marble sarcophagus with the remains of Russian and Bulgarian soldiers, while the other seven floors hold historic war relics, the top floor offering a panorama of the peak, the old battlefields—Shipka, Sheinovo and Stara Zagora—and the surrounding scenery. 

The memorial is one of 26 monuments in National Park Museum Shipka atop Shipka peak, where you’ll also find battle mementos such as dugouts and cannons. A bronze lion guards the memorial entrance that leads to 890 stone steps. Serbia, Montenegro and Romania, the Bulgarian Opalchentsi and the Finnish Guard Regiment were all part of the army of the Russian Empire during what was also known as the War of Liberation (for all but Finland). Overwhelmed by Russian Empire troops, the Ottoman army surrendered at the end of the fourth battle.

Today, you can experience the pass both on foot and by car. It crosses a main road as well as several hiking trails along the slopes. It is quiet and peaceful—unlike around 140 years ago.

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Photo Of The Day | August 24th 2016 – Transworld Motocross

Transworld Motocross
Photo Of The Day | August 24th 2016
Transworld Motocross
In between races, we took some time to browse our hard drives and look at photos taken throughout the year. We'll highlight each shot in a daily post, with the image sized to fit your computer screen or smartphone and described with a small backstory…

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Snake Island of Borneo in Kuala Penyu, Malaysia

Dock and shelter — the only structures on Snake Island

Pulau Tiga Park encompasses 158 square kilometers of open ocean containing three islands that were formed by mud volcano eruptions in the late 19th century. While the largest island (Tiga) is known for its natural volcanic mud baths, the smallest island (Kalampunian Damit) boasts an attraction that is far less relaxing but perhaps a bit more fascinating: lots and lots of deadly snakes.

An isolated rock covered with tall silver Pisonia trees, the calm pale surroundings of Kalampunian Damit — also known as Snake Island — stand in stark contrast to the community of wild serpents that call the island home. Known as yellow-lipped sea kraits or banded sea kraits, the venomous sea snakes spend their nights hunting deep waters for eels and small fish, returning to land by day to digest and get some sleep. Individual kraits tend to have one specific home island to which they return, forming a constant and fairly stable population. They also use their home base as a breeding ground, meaning Kalampunian Damit tends to be particularly snakey during mating season.

While banded sea kraits are considerably more poisonous than cobras, they are also fairly reclusive and non-aggressive and bite humans only in rare occasions where they are harassed or trod upon — which can admittedly be easy to do on a tiny island full of snakes, but as long as visitors watch their step they are in little danger.

Being somewhat off the beaten path, Pulau Tiga Park sees few visitors, and is most famous for being the shooting location of the first season of Survivor.

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Razzouk Ink in Jerusalem, Israel

Photographs hang on the shop’s wall depicting the last four generations of Razzouk family tattooers: (counterclockwise from top left) Jirius (with hand tool), Yacoub (with early machine), Wassim, Anton.

In Jerusalem’s Old City today, you can find a uniquely obscure historical relic—the sole surviving pilgrimage tattoo business, Razzouk Ink. It’s a place where ancient artifacts meet contemporary machines, rich history intersects with modern technology.

Just inside the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, you can duck down the second side street to the left, finding respite from the beating sun and leaving the bustle of the crowded main square. A tiny shop, almost dwarfed by its prominent sign, lies across a quiet cobblestone road. If you didn’t know anything about the incredible, centuries-long history of the family who runs this particular shop, the sign’s tagline might cause you to do a double-take: “Tattoo With Heritage Since 1300” it reads.  

For 700 years the Razzouk family has been tattooing marks of faith. Coptic Christians who settled in Jerusalem four generations ago, the family had learned the craft of tattooing in Egypt, where the devout wear similar inscriptions. Evidence of such tattoos dates back at least as far as the 8th century in Egypt and the 6th century in the Holy Land, where Procopius of Gaza wrote of tattooed Christians bearing designs of crosses and Christ’s name. Early tattoos self-identified indigenous Christians in the Middle East and Egypt. Later, as the faithful came to the Holy Land on pilgrimage, the practice expanded to offer these travelers permanent evidence of their devotion and peregrination. 

Upon entering Razzouk Ink, you will discover a blend of stone walls and exposed beams lending antique character to the space, while the sterile tattoo parlor hides behind a wall. A museum-like case holds family antiques, and an exhibition of pictures on the walls offers glimpses into the family’s past. Pilgrims’ accounts dating to the late 16th century offer a glimpse into the era’s tattoo culture, and how purveyors such as the Razzouks must have tattooed back then, with sewing needles bound to the end of a wooden handle.

In the 21st century, tattoos have emerged as popular travel souvenirs, but Razzouk Ink offers a truly unique experience—a link to hundreds of years of history through a visceral transaction of bloodletting and pain.

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Why Does the Moon Turn Red During a Total Lunar Eclipse?

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