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.
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.
The Amazing Telectroscope: telectroscope.net