New model of the Aurora on display at the Hergé Museum

The Hergé Museum is proud to announce the installation of a new model of the Aurora, the famous ship appearing in The Shooting Star.
© Samirant - Tintinimaginatio - 2023
This remarkable creation was made by Michel Samirant (19/08/1941 - 10/02/2022), a chemical engineer, doctor in physics and researcher at the CNRS, research director at the Franco-German Institute of Saint-Louis. Passionate about models, Michel Samirant meticulously built the Aurora piece by piece based on the book L'Aurore and the plans of Gérard Piouffre.
La maquette a été généreusement offerte par la Famille Samirant en 2022, et elle constitue un ajout précieux à la collection du Musée Hergé. Les visiteurs auront désormais l'opportunité de découvrir de près les détails minutieux de ce navire emblématique de l'univers de Tintin.
About the Aurora...
© Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2023

Sources of inspiration

The Shooting Star tells the tale of a European expedition to the Arctic, for which Hergé drew inspiration from a scientific figure and explorer who was very prominent in francophone media at the time. When the ship Pourquoi-Pas? captained by Jean-Baptiste Charcot sank off the coast of Álftanes in Iceland on 16 September 1936, it left a deep impression on the general public.
Such was the impact of the disaster that the deceased captain was granted the honour of a national funeral one month later, with a ceremony held at the Notre-Dame in Paris. The press were quick to pick up on the story of the sole survivor and master helmsman of the vessel, Eugène Gonidec, whose report included certain extracts that painted a vivid picture of what it must have been like when the ship went down. The Pourquoi-Pas? served as a model for the Peary, the Aurora’s competitor vessel.
Hergé's increasingly meticulous and precise documentation about the boats would almost certainly have included detailed photographs on which he could base the Aurora, although according to the account he gave to Numa Sadoul in 1971, he would have preferred to use a model so that his boat would be ‘seaworthy’ in real life.

The investigation begins

To this day, a shroud of mystery surrounds the documentary sources used by Hergé, but a thorough investigation by Hergé expert Philippe Goddin has helped us to pierce the veil in places.
Hergé’s Aurora was based on the research vessel RRS (Royal Research Ship) William Scoresby, a ship named after the British scientist William Scoresby Junior (1789–1857) who set sail for the Antarctic on six occasions between 1926 and 1938.
The various photos of this ship that Philippe Goddin was able to collect and compare to Hergé’s drawings were taken by biologist and amateur photographer George Rainer, who sailed on board the RRS Discovery II. During their joint missions the two polar expedition ships travelled alongside each other, allowing the photographer to capture the RRS William Scoresby in its entirety. However, it was not until 1984 that these photographs were bequeathed to the Victoria Museum in Melbourne by the biologist’s widow. Since they did not appear until after Hergé's death, we cannot know for certain whether these are the photographs he might have based his drawings on.
Avid Finnish tintinophile Severi Nygärd happened upon a few photos of this ship in an edition of Le Crapouillot from November 1931, but they do not show the vessel in its entirety. As such, they would not have been sufficient for Hergé to draw the roughly 175 panels featuring all or part of the ship. But could Le Crapouillot have published other photographs of this ship on another occasion? We will have to wait and see...

From the Lockheed Vega to the Arado

As of its second expedition to the Antarctic in 1927–1930, the RRS William Scoresby carried a small plane that was intended to help the crew with their observation missions. The plane in question was a Lockheed Vega donated by American press magnate Randolph Hearst, who financed the research. Housed on the afterdeck, the craft was lowered down onto the ice using a crane boom, from where it was then able to take off normally. It was later decided that it was more practical to equip the aircraft with floats to allow it to take off from and land in open water.
In the early 1940s, reviews such as Le Patriote Illustré would have informed Hergé about more reliable systems combining a ship and a seaplane. In 1941, Hergé chose to base the aircraft on board the Aurora on the German Arado seaplane, which was more modern and more powerful.
documentation © Hergé / Tintinimaginatio - 2023

Philippulus’ crow's nest

The ‘crow’s nest’ from which Philippulus the Prophet issues his threats to blow up the Aurora right before it embarks on its quest for the aerolite is a lookout post in the form of a barrel affixed to the masthead of the vessel.
When Tintin climbs the ratlines to unseat the mad ‘prophet’, the drawings of his endeavour are inspired by archive photographs of a watchman balancing on the ropes of a ship and an authentic crow’s nest.
Interesting fact: the crow’s nest was invented in 1807 by William Scoresby Senior (1760–1829), a formidable whale hunter and father of the polar explorer William Scoresby Junior.
In 1806, William Scoresby Senior reached latitude 81°30’N, the highest latitude anyone would travel to in the Northern Hemisphere until more than 20 years later. He was also responsible for mapping the eastern coastline of Greenland between latitudes 69°30’ and 72°30’ in 1822. Moreover, we have him to thank for refining the magnetic compass. These are just some of the reasons why, a full century later, an English ship was named ‘William Scoresby’ after him.

Autor : P.Goddin

"Tintin, Haddock et les bateaux", p.12
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