Monday, September 07, 2009

A Wayback Machine for Manhattan 

(via Benku) I am a fan of the Wayback Machine. It should come as no surprise then that I am now addicted to the Mannahhatta Project (that's a pun, not a misspelling). The project explores Manhattan before it became Manhattan. What did the island look like? What sort of flora/fauna was native to the island?
It turns out that the concrete jungle of New York City was once a vast deciduous forest, home to bears, wolves, songbirds, and salamanders, with clear, clean waters jumping with fish. In fact, with over 55 different ecological communities, Mannahatta’s biodiversity per acre rivaled that of national parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smoky Mountains!
The project uses detailed maps of the island created by British Army cartographers in 1782 together with a knowledge of the ecology and species around at the time to create computer-generated 3D images of Manhattan in the 1780's. There is a full 3-D topography of the island complete with vegetation going back to 1609. Heck, you can even look up specific addresses and see what it looked like way back when. Incredibly fascinating, and not just if you're addicted to Manhattan.