JF Ptak Science Books Post 1389
This indelible image was made by an anonymous photographer for the Central News Service of New York City in 1918. The Central News Service was a photographic supply house that would send requested photos to newspapers throughout the United States for publication as illustrations for a story. They would've been sent rolled in a tube with a description of the image and with the stern warning to "Watch Your Credit Line", making sure that once the newspaper had paid for the use of the photo that it also told its readers the source of the (agency) photographic.
The image is insatiable--it demands that you look at it and look at it long and hard, as it tries to give some sort of idea of the tremendous number of shells that were shot from canons by the just British against the Germans during the First World War.. There were something like one million tons of these fired against Germany; this picture represents about .001% ( of that total). We see approximately 800 shells at two hundred pounds apiece, surrounded by a group of about 150 soldiers.
I looked very closely at this photograph.
Of this single line of soldiers along the perimeter of the bomb cache, of the 150 of them, there are, it looks like, only five of them who have placed their hands on one of the bombs, and four of them are touching the fuse with just their middle finger. It is an odd picture of restraint, these soldiers paying the weapons of mass destruction the respect of room.
I think that this is an extraordinary photograph of the testament of understatement and small, small percentages--even with this photo being so enormously graphic it still gives you absolutely no idea of how much explosive material was hurled back and forth, even knowing in your mind's eye that this image represents something like FOUR ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE less than the total tonnage of bombs used. By the British.
This difference in orders of magnitude is roughly equivalent to the difference in size between an ant and a human being, or between an amoeba and an ant, or between a human and one of the pyramids, or between the earth and the sun. Basically, the shells in this photo meant nothing whatsoever to the total of shells used during the war.