It’s said that Winston Churchill, in his dotage, lamented to his personal physician that modernity had shrunk the world beyond recognition. The destruction of vast distances by fuel, speed, and determination removed a great deal of the mystery and romance from travel and imagination, Churchill said.
Strictly speaking, he was right. And consider Winston’s point of view: as a former soldier and adventurer, he was exactly the kind of daring spirit designed to best profit from exuberant imperialism. And he did.
But even Churchill would have been amazed at what technology enables us to do today — if only just visually. As much as we’d like to go to many places, time and expense cross too many destinations off the list. But — we can still see, and marvel.
A friend put me onto a fascinating webcam, one of thousands in the world by now. This one spies openly on brown bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Alaska. At any given daylight moment, you can link up and see the ursine population of Katmai standing in the rushing stream below the falls, waiting for a hapless salmon to jump upstream. Occasionally, a bear snaps out of his lugubrious stupor long enough to grab a flying salmon and chow down.
It’s a simple thing, and no different than the technology that enables us to see Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, a lakeside beach in Chicago, or puffins in a nest in northeastern Maine. Really happening, confirming imagination, putting edges and colors on things once only dreamed of. And why did Churchill and his peers work so hard to travel to these places and see these things, if not to get us to a world where we could bring these curiosities to everyone?
Look. Learn. Enjoy.
© 2014 Adam Barr