‘Chatham Island Waterspouts 1912’

Triple Waterspouts, photographed off Chatham Islands, New Zealand 1912
Lemuel Lyes Collection

Background story here – https://historygeek.co.nz/2013/02/05/earliest-known-photograph-of-a-new-zealand-tornado/

4 replies »

    • I did wonder the same thing initially. I was convinced otherwise by the fact it appeared in the most reputable scientific journals of the time and is also it is similar in quality to some other early photographs of tornados.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if the postcard manufacturer has “tweaked” the waterspouts to appear more dramatic, but I don’t believe the image to be fake but more likely the result of the shutter speeds of the camera of the time – remembering also that the photographer was an amateur in a very remote location and likely only had very basic equipment.

      The one way to prove either way is to find the original negative, or at the very least a high quality print. Unfortunately these seem to have been lost to history, but one can hope one will show up.

      • As a local from the island and spending my whole life there… I wouldn’t like to believe this is a fake. I know these water spouts have been sighted before on the Chathams… even I saw three over the lagoon when I was a kid. Infact when they say “bay” the photo looks to me to be the same lagoon… It’s hard to tell because it’s such an old photo… so cool to see a piece of history from my home 🙂

      • Thanks for the local’s perspective Shenelle! I’m envious, both of the fact you are from the Chathams (I’d love to visit there one day!) and also that you’ve seen multiple water spouts with your own eyes!

        I don’t think it is a fake either. The best way to prove it would be to find an original negative of the photo, or at the least an original print. I’m hopeful that one might show up somewhere….In any event it is a genuinely cool bit of history.

        Thanks for stopping by!

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