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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Literary Dose #33

manahatta1.jpg
[Mannahatta Project's view of Mannahatta ca. 1609 overlaid with today's footprint of Manhattan | image source]
"When Dr. Eric Sanderson leads a tour through [Central Park], he and his flock usually pass Jagiello without pausing, because they are lost in another century altogether -- the 17th. Bespectacled under his wide-brimmed felt hat, a trim beard graying around his chin and a laptop jammed in his backpack, Sanderson is a landscape ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, a global squadron of researchers trying to save an imperiled world from itself. At its Bronx Zoo headquarters, Sanderson directs the Mannahatta Project, an attempt to re-create, virtually, Manhattan Island as it was when Henry Hudson's crew first saw it in 1609: a pre-urban vision that tempts speculation about how a posthuman future might look."
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[Mannahatta Project's view of Murray Hill ca. 1609 | image source]
"His team has scoured original Dutch documents, colonial British military maps, topographic surveys, and centuries of assorted archives throughout town. They've probed sediments, analyzed fossil pollens, and plugged thousands of bits of biological data into imaging software that generates three-dimensional panoramas of the heavily wooded wilderness on which a metropolis was juxtaposed. With each new entry of a species of grass or tree that is historically confirmed in some part of the city, the images grow more detailed, more startling, more convincing. Their goal is a block-by-city-block guide to this ghost forest, the one Erican Sanderson uncannily seems to see even when dogding Fifth Avenue buses."
- Alan Weisman from The World Without Us (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007).

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