Bonus Stereo History Reels: Images Curated By Vsauce

Bonus Stereo History Reels: Images Curated By Vsauce

Reel 1: Things That Are Gone

We’re very excited about this set of stereoviews: things you would never be able to see in 3D without this technology (or at all!) because they are lost to us forever. Extinct animals, demolished buildings, natural wonders destroyed by time, or vanished into the depths of space: this is a reel of things we are truly privileged to see.

Slide 1: Quagga; went extinct in 1883

This may look like a weirdly striped zebra, and essentially, that’s what it is: the quagga was a subspecies of the plains zebra that had an unusual coat pattern - their stripes slowly faded below the neck, totally disappearing by the hindquarters (the rear was also more of a tan than the white color of a standard zebra). Extensively hunted for meat and hides, quaggas became extinct in the wild by 1878. The individual in your stereoview - the last living member of the subspecies - died in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883. 

But luckily, before they went extinct, some quaggas bred with the regular zebra population, and the genes for the distinct stripe pattern still exist in the zebra gene pool. In 1987, the Quagga Project, a selective breeding program, began to re-breed the quagga stripe pattern back; and they’ve had some success. After four generations, the project has bred “new” quaggas! Though not genetically identical to the last true quagga that you see on the slide, they sure do look alike. So in a sense, the “quagga” may be back.

Slide 2: Thylacine, or “Tasmanian tiger”; went extinct by 1936...or did it? 

The Thylacine, also known as the “Tasmanian tiger” and “Tasmanian wolf,” wasn’t really related to tigers or wolves at all:  it was the largest known predatory marsupial, and the apex predator of its environment.  That's right, it’s basically the T-rex version of a kangaroo!

The size of a medium dog, originally the thylacine lived all across Australia and New Zealand, but by the time of European contact, the only thylacines remaining were on the island of Tasmania, where they were hunted to extinction. In 1936, just two months after a law had been passed to protect the species - too little, too late - the last living animal, named Benjamin, died in a Tasmanian zoo.

 ...or did it? For decades after the “official” extinction of the thylacine in 1936, people reported seeing them in the wild. And not just a few people - over a thousand. Between 1910 (the supposed date of wild extinction) and 2020, 698 members of the public, and 429 experts, claimed to have spotted thylacines. Based on the range and frequency of the sightings, a group of biologists recently reset the extinction window, claiming that it probably happened sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s!  

Their study, if you’re curious, can be found here

Slide 3: Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire; collapsed in 2003

One of the most famous rock formations in the United States, the Old Man of the Mountain watched over Franconia, New Hampshire for more than 10,000 years before collapsing on May 3rd, 2003.  

The indigenous Abenaki called the formation Stone Face, and long before Euro-Americans discovered the Grand Canyon or the Yellowstone basin, the Old Man was seen as one of the predominant natural wonders of the newly-formed United States of America. He was a huge tourist attraction in the mid-1800s; Nathaniel Hawthrone wrote about the Old Man in his famous story, “The Great Stone Face,” in which a local prophecy says that a child would be born in the town beneath it, who would become "the greatest and noblest personage of his time.” Daniel Webster wrote “up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.”

But the face was actually a delicately-balanced geological feature, and was always in danger of collapse. Attempts to affix it to the mountain with metal ties and other contraptions were made in 1916, 1936, and 1958. In 2003, it fell due to two natural processes: kaolinization, a metamorphosis where stone chemically turns into clay, and the geological freeze-thaw cycle you’d expect of a New England winter. Sadly, all that remains today is a bare mountain cliff.

Slide 4: Pink Terraces, New Zealand; destroyed by volcano in 1886

Once known as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the dazzling Pink Terraces, called Te Otukapuarangi in Maori, were located on the shores of Lake Rotomahana in New Zealand. Formed by silica-rich water from a group of geothermal mineral springs tumbling down a hillside, the Pink and neighboring White Terraces drew visitors from thousands of kilometers away, who traveled for weeks, and even months, to see what you’re seeing right now.

Though other sinter terrace formations can still be found in Yellowstone National Park (US), Pamukkale (Turkey), and a few other places, the Pink and White Terraces were the largest formations of this type ever known to exist; they took between 500 and 1,000 years to form.

But being part of a volcanic geothermal system means that area was a ticking time bomb. On June 10th, 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted in what is considered the worst natural disaster in New Zealand history. It cost 150 lives, destroyed the Maori village of Te Wairoa, and radically altered the local landscape. The amazing Pink and White Terraces were completely obliterated.

...or were they? For over 100 years, people have pored over old maps and 19th century compass readings, looking for their remains. In 2011, scientists using underwater imaging equipment claimed to have found the remains of the terraces, about 60 meters below the lake’s surface. But another group of geologists challenged those claims, saying the first group had misread the original location of the terraces, and that they were actually buried by ash  on the shore of the lake. The two groups have been going back and forth for years, publishing increasingly snarky articles in scholarly journals saying the other group doesn’t know what they’re talking about, the most recent in 2020.

We may never know if anything remains of these beloved natural wonders. But we know nobody will ever be lucky enough to see them again, as you do on this slide.

Slide 5: Comet Morehouse; will not return after single 1908 visit


Comet Morehouse - official designation C/1908 R1, was a non-periodic comet discovered in 1908 by astronomer Daniel Morehouse, who got to name it.  Non-periodic means that the comet’s one and only visit to the Sun was in 1908, and it will never be seen (by human eyes) again.

Morehouse was known for the remarkable and unusual variation in its tail; sometimes it would be short, sometimes long, occasionally wavy, and sometimes it looked like the comet had seven different tails. Astronomers at the time suspected that bits of the comet’s nucleus split off and followed behind it, creating the extra mini-tails.

Morehouse was also one of the earliest comets to have its spectra studied, allowing scientists to determine its composition: in this case, a lot of carbon monoxide.

Slide 6: The Crystal Palace, London; burned to the ground in 1938

The Crystal Palace was a giant, glass-and-iron building, built for the 1851 Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, the first world’s fair, held in London and organized by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. 

The Palace was enormous: 1,848 feet long, 460 feet long wide, and 108 feet tall. When completed, it held over 100,000 exhibits (including pianos, perfumes, hydraulic presses, and other wonders of the Victorian age), laid out on eight miles of display tables,  and included a small forest of 90 foot tall trees. Millions of people passed through the glass doors, and the exhibition was one of the defining cultural moments of the 19th century.

The Palace was initially built in Hyde Park, just two years after the fair, they moved the entire building - including all 294,000 panes of glass - to a park in a different area of London. That park also became famous for the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, the first attempt ever to recreate dinosaurs life-sized.  

But in November 1938, a small fire in the palace (possibly in the workshop of John Logie Baird, the inventor of television) became a roaring inferno. More than 80 fire engines responded to save one of the treasures of London, but it burned to the ground. Winston Churchill called it “the end of an era.” 

Today, the Palace lives on in the Crystal Palace Football club, the oldest football/soccer club in the world, and the park surrounding the site. Of the Palace itself, only parts remain - mostly decapitated statues and a few stone sphinxes. But here you can see it in its heyday, as one of the most magnificent buildings of it’s time.

Slide 7: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, demolished in 1967

Frank Lloyd Wright is arguably the most famous architect in the world; certainly of the 20th century. But despite that, many of his remarkable buildings have been destroyed; and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo was among the most majestic. Wright had a deep affinity for Japan and it’s art, and it was the only country outside of the US where he ever lived and worked.

Designed by Wright in a Mayan Revival style (though he’d probably have denied this), the hotel took four years to build, 1919-1923. Wright was on the cutting edge of construction methods in that era, and the hotel is built of uniquely designed patterned concrete blocks, reinforced poured concrete, and Ōya stone.

It opened on September 1, 1923 - by horrible coincidence, the same day as the Great Tokyo Earthquake, a 7.9 Richter temblor that demolished almost all the buildings nearby, leaving the Hotel standing amidst a pile of rubble. It’s survival was credited to Wright’s unusual construction technique and several earthquake resistant features he’d built into the design. But nothing could save the Hotel from progress, and in 1968, it fell to the wrecking ball, where a newer, taller Imperial Hotel replaced it.

A small part remains: the central lobby and reflecting pool were saved, and are now at the Meiji-mura museum, in Inuyama, Japan.

Reel 2: The First and Oldest

This is a reel of truly historic photographs: the very first 3D images ever taken of these subjects. Prior to the ease of modern travel and proliferation of printed photos, most people never got a chance to see distant sights or attend legendary events. Imagine the wonder people experienced the first time they ever saw things like the pyramids of Egypt, an exhibition of ancient treasures they’d never otherwise visit, and the first wedding photos ever taken!  

As you look at the dates on these photos, remember that photography had literally just been invented. The first glass (daguerrotype) photos were taken in 1838; and the first collodion print - which many of these photos are - in 1851. Because of their age, very little is known about most of these photographs.

Slide 1: First 3D image of a museum, 1854

This image is from the first series of stereoviews ever taken of a museum, and shows the Egyptian Hall at the British Museum. It was taken by Peter Fenton, who was inspired to become a photographer after seeing early photos at the Great Exposition at the Crystal Palace (Slide 6 of the Things That Are Lost reel).  

Fenton was asked to photograph the museum by Charles Wheatstone, the inventor of stereoscopic photography, and became the museum’s first official photographer in 1853.

Slide 2: First 3D image of the moon, 1858-1859

This is actually a “trick” steroeoview! Photographing the Moon can be difficult even today - and it was really hard in the earliest days of photography. Due to exposure times and other limitations of the first cameras, instead of actually taking two simultaneous stereo images of the moon, this is really two individual photos taken 15 months apart, when the moon looked similar enough to make a stereo image.

The technique was invented by the man who took the photos, William de La Rue, one of the earliest astrophotographers. To do it, he not only had to figure out how far apart (in time) to take the pictures, but also develop his own clockwork mechanism to move the telescope and track the moon as the image slowly developed. De la Rue was a member of the wealthy De la Rue family, whose company (DeLaRue) still exists, literally printing money for countries around the world.

Slide 3: Michael Faraday, first 3D image of a scientist, 1848

This very early photograph (1848!) is of Michal Faraday, one of the preeminent minds of the mid 19th-century. Faraday’s discoveries revolutionized science, and led to a tremendous amount of the technology in our daily lives.

Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction, which creates an electrical current; and from that he invented the machines that are the foundation of much of modern society: the electric motor, transformer, and generator. He also discovered benzene, coined the terms “electrode,” “cathode,” and “ion,” and invented the Faraday Cage, which you'll find, among other places, in the window of many microwave ovens.

Slide 4: First 3D image of a woman, 1850

This stereograph of an unknown female model was taken by Alexis Gaudin in 1850. Gaudin was one of the earliest stereo photographers, and the only one to exhibit stereo images at the 1851 London Exposition; so it was probably his photos that inspired Peter Fenton, who took the British Museum photo in slide #1, as well as the interest of Queen Victoria, below. He also founded the magazine La Lumière, one of the very first publications dedicated to photography.

The identity of the woman in the image is, alas, lost to time.

Slide 5: Queen Victoria, first 3D image of a head of state

Queen Victoria is, without doubt, one of the most famous and influential monarchs in history, and oversaw the British Empire at its height. She was also fascinated by photography, first becoming entranced by stereographs at the 1851 London Exposition (you may be starting to sense a trend here). 

In 1854, she summoned photographer Antoine Claudet to Buckingham Palace, and had him make four stereo images. They are the first known 3D photos of a head of state; Victoria was just 35 years old at the time.

Photographs of that era were, of course, in black and white, but many of these slides were hand-colored to show Victoria’s blue dress and sash.

 Slide 6: Wedding of Tom thumb, first 3D wedding photo

The so-called “Fairy Wedding” of Charles Stratton, aka General Tom Thumb, was one of the biggest social events of the 19th century: it literally made international headlines, and bumped coverage of the Civil War off the front page of the New York Times for three straight days! It was also the first known wedding to be photographed.

Stratton was a little person, and one of the most popular performers managed by P.T. Barnum. And flawless promoter that he was, Barnum turned the wedding into the event of the mid-century. The bride and groom arrived at the church in a carriage made by Tiffany & Co.; Barnum charged people $75 each to attend the reception (about $1,600 in today’s money); and after the wedding, the Strattons were invited to the White House by Abraham Lincoln. Barnum then arranged for the wedding to be re-created in the studio of early photographer Matthew Brady, who created the photo on your stereo reel.

One of the strangest things to come out of the event was the proliferation of “Tom Thumb Weddings”: ceremonies where people would have two children dress up like grown-ups and pretend to get married, largely for entertainment purposes (sometimes, they argued, to teach the kids about manners). These were a huge deal in the 19th century, and amazingly still happen! About a dozen Tom Thumb Weddings occur each year in the United States.

Slide 7: Giza, Egypt, from the first set of 3D images taken outside Europe, 1856

Frances Frith wasn’t the first person to take photographs outside of Europe; several series of photos of Egypt were published before he made his famous trip there 1856. But he was, so far as we can determine, the first to take a stereo camera there, and produce 3D images for people to see these legendary locations.

Frith’s photo expeditions were complex affairs: he carried three cameras, and they each took photos on glass plates that had to be kept both intact and wet; no mean feat when you’re talking about carrying 16x20-inch glass plates over desert dunes on a camel.  

This photograph shows the Great Pyramid of Khufu and the Great Sphinx. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 4,000 years, and at 4,500 years, the Great Sphinx is considered to be the oldest monolithic statue in the world. The photo was taken when most of the sphinx was still buried in the desert sand, with only the neck and head exposed. The statue wouldn’t be completely excavated until 70 years later, in the mid 1920s!

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