In May 2008, a group of us ventured out to the
Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn, N. Y., to explore the
mysterious Telectroscope by Paul St George. We’d
read about this strange and beautiful Victorian-era
apparatus, but none of us had experienced it up close.
Photograph by Karl Hindson, courtesy of Twofour Digital
As the story goes, St George is the great-grandson
of Alexander Stanhope St George, who, in the mid-
1890s, came close to completing one of the greatest
engineering feats of all time — a transatlantic tunnel
connecting New York and London via a curious contraption dubbed the Telectroscope.
The Telectroscope is a powerful telescope, but
instead of peering into the heavens, it sees through
the Earth, connecting New York to London, 3,500
miles on the other side. Both the tunnel system and
this optical device were marvels of Victorian engineering, and the project has ended up taking more
than a century to complete.
There is an alternative, equally interesting theory
on how the Telectroscope is connected. This story
doesn’t start in the late 1800s, but rather, the early
2000s. The project was brought to life by the artist
St George and produced by Artichoke, a London-based creative organization known for its
extraordinary public shows. They worked with
Tiscali, a telecommunications firm, and Twofour
Digital, a media company, to create an ultra high-quality video conferencing system.
Each Telectroscope houses a Sony EX1 camera,
a Breeze Technologies Ice Blue encoder/decoder,
and a Sanyo XP- 100 projector. The camera captures
the video and the encoder/decoder converts it to
an MPEG- 2 format. The video is streamed over a
Tiscali VPN fiber network, then data is decoded and
projected onto the internal screen. The result is an
amazingly realistic real-time image 6 feet in diameter, housed within the Telectroscope itself.
In the end, the story of St George’s great-grandfather may have some truth to it. The Telectroscope
is a transatlantic tunnel between New York and
London, only it’s digital, not analog.
—Marc de Vinck
>> The Amazing Telectroscope: telectroscope.net