- [With thanks to the captivating Pinterest account of the wonderful Public Domain Review which sparked this interest in the waterspout and which provided the first image, below.]
I've been involved in this blog at retrieving and tabulating antique images that look straight down on something. Today I imagine that we all take these sorts of views for granted, what with satellite images and Google Earth and airplanes and all. But in the pre-heavier-than-air era, seeing a published image that looked straight down from a height was quite rare. (And it needs to be strait down, not a bird's-eye view. Things are very different between looking obliquely from an airplane window onto a cityscape than skydiving directly down on top of it.)
Benjamin Franklin had long been thinking about waterspouts, going back at least to the early 1750's, though he did not have an article about them in print until the appearance of "Physical and Meteorological Observations: Conjectures and Suppositions" in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, LV (1765). The first image that I've been able to find of the waterspout occurs in 1774, though a prettier version of it is reworked a little, but with sharper delineations, in 1818:
Here's the full image (with a magic square that related to another article in the volume):
"Representation of waterspout accompanying" in "Water-spouts and Whirlwinds" by Benjamin Franklin, appearing in The complete works in philosophy, politics, and morals, of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin ...., 1806. Volume II, p. 26.
Another version appeared in the September 1774 issue of The Royal American Magazine, or Universal Repository of Instruction and Amusement (published January 1774 – March 1775, and which was a revolutionary-supportive periodical published by Isaiah Thomas in Boston):
A long and thorough explanation on Franklin and the mid-century debate over waterspouts appears in The Weather Doctor Blog, "Franklin Explains the Waterspout", here, so I don't feel it necessary to go through Franklin's thinking here or the debate that arose from the article. Suffice to say that the images of looking straight through the funnel of the waterspout are remarkable for the time.
[Stages in the life of a waterspout as found in A Treatise on Meteorology by Elias Loomis, New York, Harper & Brothers, 1880. Figure 63, page 171. ]
Waterspouts as depicted in Butler's Physical Geography, 1887, p. 72.
"Waterspouts observed in the Mediterranean, near Sicily, on the 27th of June, 1827, " a found in Physical Geography by the prolific Arnold Guyot, 1873. P. 83.
The three images above are from the interesting and very useful NOAA website, here