Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Great Wall Of China

China's Great Wall was built over centuries as protection against invading armies from the North. Construction of the 4,000 mile long fortification was begun in the 6th century BC and didn't end until the 16th century. It was continuously being rebuilt and maintained, at a cost, it is estimated of 2-3 million lives. In the beginning, the primary materials were stone, earth and wood, then bricks were found to be more lasting. To communicate along the line, signal towers were built on high points. These also doubled as barracks for the hundreds of thousands of men who stood guard. At one time it was guarded by a million men.

Large parts of the Wall have deteriorated from erosion, vandalism and the removal of stones and bricks by local people for constructing their own homes. An enduring myth is that the Wall can be seen from outer space with the naked eye. Not so. The wall is 30 feet at its widest point and is the same color as the countryside. It is visible from space with binoculars, but only under the most auspicious circumstances.

The sepia toned photograph was taken of the Great Wall in 1907, by Herbert Ponting, who was the most outstanding photographer during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. The photograph below was made of him in 1910, when he was chief photographer of Scott's epic Antarctic expedition on the Terra Nova.

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