Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850–1927), geologist and fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, is best remembered for discovering the main Burgess Shale site between Wapta Mountain and Mount Field, in 1909. This rock formation in Yoho National Park of British Columbia contains many unique fossils, including rare soft-bodied forms; it is one of the most important finds in paleontology, revealing much about marine life on earth during the Cambrian Period, 505 million years ago. For its importance to evolutionary studies, the Burgess Shale was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980, and is now part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage site.
Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850–1927), geologist and fourth Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, is best remembered for discovering the main Burgess Shale site between Wapta Mountain and Mount Field, in 1909. This rock formation in Yoho National Park of British Columbia contains many unique fossils, including rare soft-bodied forms; it is one of the most important finds in paleontology, revealing much about marine life on earth during the Cambrian Period, 505 million years ago. For its importance to evolutionary studies, the Burgess Shale was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1980, and is now part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage site.

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Photograph of a horsetrain on the trail to the Burgess Pass, 1910

A horsetrain carries supplies along the trail to the Burgess Pass, 1910.

 

© 2011, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. All Rights Reserved.


Walcott began experimenting with panoramic photography in 1905. This was cutting edge technology at the time, as the Cirkut Camera had been patented only in 1904 and manufactured by Kodak in 1905. By the time of his last field expedition in 1925, he had created more than 650 photographic panoramas of the Canadian Rockies. His images offer both the scenic grandeur of the Rockies and the documentary evidence of a geologist at work.

In an article from the National Geographic magazine (see below), it was said of Walcott’s work in the Rockies:


“NO ONE would be more surprised and delighted with Mr. Walcott’s beautiful panoramic view, which is published as a Supplement to this number, than the American scientist whose discoveries gave a practical value to Daguerre’s invention of photography (…) Mr. Walcott’s panorama is the most marvelous mountain view that has ever been published, and is remarkable not only for its exceeding beauty, but also because of the many lessons in geography learned from studying it.” (National Geographic magazine Read More
Walcott began experimenting with panoramic photography in 1905. This was cutting edge technology at the time, as the Cirkut Camera had been patented only in 1904 and manufactured by Kodak in 1905. By the time of his last field expedition in 1925, he had created more than 650 photographic panoramas of the Canadian Rockies. His images offer both the scenic grandeur of the Rockies and the documentary evidence of a geologist at work.

In an article from the National Geographic magazine (see below), it was said of Walcott’s work in the Rockies:


“NO ONE would be more surprised and delighted with Mr. Walcott’s beautiful panoramic view, which is published as a Supplement to this number, than the American scientist whose discoveries gave a practical value to Daguerre’s invention of photography (…) Mr. Walcott’s panorama is the most marvelous mountain view that has ever been published, and is remarkable not only for its exceeding beauty, but also because of the many lessons in geography learned from studying it.” (National Geographic magazine, June 1911).

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Photo of CD Walcott taking pictures using a Cirkut Camera

C.D. Walcott taking pictures using a Cirkut Camera (undated).

 

© 2011, Erin Younger Family Collection. All Rights Reserved.


Cover of June 1911 National Geographic Magazine

Front page of the June 1911 issue of National Geographic with Walcott’s article on the Burgess Shale called “A Geologist’s Paradise.”

 

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A panoramic photograph showing the main Burgess Shale locality

The National Geographic article included this supplement featuring a panoramic image of the area. The image folded out to a size of 2.5m (8 feet), making it the single largest photograph ever included in the magazine. About 100,000 copies were printed at the time; few of these copies remain today.

 

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Detail of the panorama (shown above) showing the main Burgess Shale locality, marked by an "X".

Detail of the Panorama (shown above) showing the main Burgess Shale locality (now the Walcott Quarry), marked by an "X".

 

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Map showing locations of Walcott's panoramic photographs

The number 3 on the map corresponds to the panoramic photograph shown above. Other numbers on the map show some other locations to which Walcott traveled and photographed using the Cirkut camera.

 

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


To document his scientific work Walcott mainly used a Cirkut camera, bringing enough photographic equipment to load a pack horse. In the early 1900s, photography in the field was no simple matter. The metal and wood camera itself weighed 4 kilograms (9 pounds). If you count the complete outfit, with tripod, top and cases, it weighed 20 kilograms (44 pounds). Walcott preferred glass-plate negatives, which meant hauling heavy, fragile glass over the mountains. Plastic film often faded before Walcott could get it developed. Early film was made of nitrocellulose plasticized with camphor which is highly flammable. It was also less stable under extreme temperature changes. Although lighter in weight, plastic film proved to be problematic for Walcott.

It was hard to tell if the camera needed adjusting in the field. At the start of each expedition, Walcott took a few test shots and shipped the negatives to Washington. The Smithsonian’s official photographer, T.W. Smillie, made prints and sent a telegram to Walcott, advising him on technical problems and exposure. Walcott then made adjustments before proceeding to more remote locations.
To document his scientific work Walcott mainly used a Cirkut camera, bringing enough photographic equipment to load a pack horse. In the early 1900s, photography in the field was no simple matter. The metal and wood camera itself weighed 4 kilograms (9 pounds). If you count the complete outfit, with tripod, top and cases, it weighed 20 kilograms (44 pounds). Walcott preferred glass-plate negatives, which meant hauling heavy, fragile glass over the mountains. Plastic film often faded before Walcott could get it developed. Early film was made of nitrocellulose plasticized with camphor which is highly flammable. It was also less stable under extreme temperature changes. Although lighter in weight, plastic film proved to be problematic for Walcott.

It was hard to tell if the camera needed adjusting in the field. At the start of each expedition, Walcott took a few test shots and shipped the negatives to Washington. The Smithsonian’s official photographer, T.W. Smillie, made prints and sent a telegram to Walcott, advising him on technical problems and exposure. Walcott then made adjustments before proceeding to more remote locations.

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Photograph of a Cirkut Camera, similar to that used by Walcott

This Cirkut camera is of a similar model and age as the one used by Charles Walcott to photograph the Canadian Rockies in the early twentieth century.

Photo: Jean-Bernard Caron

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Getting these shots required patience and skill. Walcott himself commented: “Often in the Canadian Rockies days will pass in which atmospheric conditions are unfavorable for an extended view — dust blown in from the plains, smoke from forest fires . . . the best conditions usually occur after a heavy storm of either snow or rain has cleared the air.” (National Geographic magazine, June 1911).
Getting these shots required patience and skill. Walcott himself commented: “Often in the Canadian Rockies days will pass in which atmospheric conditions are unfavorable for an extended view — dust blown in from the plains, smoke from forest fires . . . the best conditions usually occur after a heavy storm of either snow or rain has cleared the air.” (National Geographic magazine, June 1911).

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Walcott’s wife, Helena, and three of their four children often accompanied him on his earlier expeditions to the Rockies, where the children joined in the work of splitting rocks in search of fossils. Walcott named one of the Burgess Shale animals Sidneyia, after his son Sidney, who discovered the first specimen in 1910. Helena died in 1911 in a train wreck, and three years later Walcott married Mary Vaux, a talented artist, photographer, and mountaineer. She took an interest in the botany of the Rockies and assisted Walcott in the field.
Walcott’s wife, Helena, and three of their four children often accompanied him on his earlier expeditions to the Rockies, where the children joined in the work of splitting rocks in search of fossils. Walcott named one of the Burgess Shale animals Sidneyia, after his son Sidney, who discovered the first specimen in 1910. Helena died in 1911 in a train wreck, and three years later Walcott married Mary Vaux, a talented artist, photographer, and mountaineer. She took an interest in the botany of the Rockies and assisted Walcott in the field.

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Photograph of the Walcott Family at Wapta Falls, Yoho National Park, 1910

Walcott's family at Wapta Falls (Yoho National Park), July 1910 (left to right: Stuart, Helena, Sidney, Charles, Helen).

 

© 2011, Erin Younger family collection. All Rights Reserved.


Photograph of Sidneyia

Photograph of Sidneyia inexpectens specimen, the first of which was discovered by Walcott's son, Sidney, for whom it was named. Right, retouched photograph of the same specimen published by Walcott. Follow this link here

 

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Two Canadians, John Connon and William J. Johnston were involved in the development of the Cirkut camera used by Walcott in the Canadian Rockies. As reported by Charles Long in his article In the Round, published in The Beaver (April/May 2000), these Canadians played an important pioneering role which eventually made it possible for a camera to take a 360º panoramic view in one continuous exposure.

An experienced photographer, John Connon designed the modifications on a camera to make this kind of photograph possible. His first 360º panoramic view was of the town of Elora, Ontario taken from the top of the town’s tallest building in February 1887. Although he succeeded in patenting his design, it was never manufactured.

Eventually another Canadian, William J. Johnston, took Connon’s design a step further. “The same basic design surfaced again in 1904 as the Cirkut Camera, patented by (…) William J. Johnston, and manufactured by the Rochester Panoramic Camera Company. Two quick mergers and two years later, that too became part of the American company Eastman Kodak. The Kodak Cirkut would become the most successful Read More
Two Canadians, John Connon and William J. Johnston were involved in the development of the Cirkut camera used by Walcott in the Canadian Rockies. As reported by Charles Long in his article In the Round, published in The Beaver (April/May 2000), these Canadians played an important pioneering role which eventually made it possible for a camera to take a 360º panoramic view in one continuous exposure.

An experienced photographer, John Connon designed the modifications on a camera to make this kind of photograph possible. His first 360º panoramic view was of the town of Elora, Ontario taken from the top of the town’s tallest building in February 1887. Although he succeeded in patenting his design, it was never manufactured.

Eventually another Canadian, William J. Johnston, took Connon’s design a step further. “The same basic design surfaced again in 1904 as the Cirkut Camera, patented by (…) William J. Johnston, and manufactured by the Rochester Panoramic Camera Company. Two quick mergers and two years later, that too became part of the American company Eastman Kodak. The Kodak Cirkut would become the most successful workhorse of the industry, sold continuously until 1949, and still in use today.” (Charles Long, The Beaver, April/May 2000).

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

SUMMARY: Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, discusses Walcott’s use of the Kodak Cirkut Camera to take panoramic views of the landscapes in the Rockies
SUMMARY: Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, discusses Walcott’s use of the Kodak Cirkut Camera to take panoramic views of the landscapes in the Rockies

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Image of Caron showing what the Kodak Cirkut Camera looked like

Jean-Bernard Caron talks about using the Kodak Cirkut Camera

Royal Ontario Museum

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, discusses Walcott’s use of the Kodak Cirkut Camera to take panoramic views of the landscapes in the Rockies:

"Walcott used photography to study the rocks and the rock formations in the Canadian Rockies while he was exploring. And in particular he used this type of camera, called a Kodak Cirkut camera, a panoramic camera, which is basically a camera set on a tripod and on a rotating plate, so you can actually take panoramas up to 360 degrees."

Jean-Bernard Caron, Curator of invertebrate Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, discusses Walcott’s use of the Kodak Cirkut Camera to take panoramic views of the landscapes in the Rockies:

"Walcott used photography to study the rocks and the rock formations in the Canadian Rockies while he was exploring. And in particular he used this type of camera, called a Kodak Cirkut camera, a panoramic camera, which is basically a camera set on a tripod and on a rotating plate, so you can actually take panoramas up to 360 degrees."


© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Caron shows the panorama taken by Walcott

Panorama taken by Walcott that shows the Burgess Shale

Royal Ontario Museum

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


"And this is one of the most famous panoramas taken by Walcott himself, showing the Burgess Shale, which is located around here. Walcott’s camp will have been around here, so every day he will have walked and used his horses to go to the quarry, which would have been located around here. This is an image that was taken probably in 1910, and eventually was published by National Geographic in 1911. And to this day it remains the largest picture ever published by any magazine anywhere in the world. It’s more than 2 metres in width. The actual panorama was offered as a supplement to all the subscribers of National Geographic and we have a copy here that is relatively rare. And this is an original reprint of this particular picture."
"And this is one of the most famous panoramas taken by Walcott himself, showing the Burgess Shale, which is located around here. Walcott’s camp will have been around here, so every day he will have walked and used his horses to go to the quarry, which would have been located around here. This is an image that was taken probably in 1910, and eventually was published by National Geographic in 1911. And to this day it remains the largest picture ever published by any magazine anywhere in the world. It’s more than 2 metres in width. The actual panorama was offered as a supplement to all the subscribers of National Geographic and we have a copy here that is relatively rare. And this is an original reprint of this particular picture."

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Caron shows the panorama taken by Walcott in National Geographic

Copy of National Geographic magazine with large foldout panoramas taken by Walcott

Royal Ontario Museum

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.


"But most of these images were used to do some serious geological work. And many of these images were actually published in this monograph, describing the rocks of the Canadian Rockies. In fact, if you open this volume, in many places you are going to have large panoramas of many landscapes. So once again he used these images to do his work, there’s usually a description at the bottom of these images about what he sees on these images, and it’s a way to quickly take information in the field knowing that in the Canadian Rockies, the weather can change very quickly, and it’s very hard to stay in one place and probably draw all these mountains without being rained on. So usually photography still today is the best way to study the rocks."
"But most of these images were used to do some serious geological work. And many of these images were actually published in this monograph, describing the rocks of the Canadian Rockies. In fact, if you open this volume, in many places you are going to have large panoramas of many landscapes. So once again he used these images to do his work, there’s usually a description at the bottom of these images about what he sees on these images, and it’s a way to quickly take information in the field knowing that in the Canadian Rockies, the weather can change very quickly, and it’s very hard to stay in one place and probably draw all these mountains without being rained on. So usually photography still today is the best way to study the rocks."

© 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Panoramic photography started in 1843, but as camera technology evolved, so did the ways in which the method was used. New applications included shots of cities, landscapes, and large groups of people. 

Read Dr. Caron’s interview.

1.Determine why the panoramic camera was important to Charles Walcott in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

2.How does the design of the camera help to take panoramic pictures?

3.What record did Walcott set with a Cirkut camera?

4.Considering where Walcott did his research, list the inconveniences and challenges associated with using this camera.

Panoramic photography started in 1843, but as camera technology evolved, so did the ways in which the method was used. New applications included shots of cities, landscapes, and large groups of people. 

Read Dr. Caron’s interview.

1.Determine why the panoramic camera was important to Charles Walcott in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

2.How does the design of the camera help to take panoramic pictures?

3.What record did Walcott set with a Cirkut camera?

4.Considering where Walcott did his research, list the inconveniences and challenges associated with using this camera.

    © 2011, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

    Learning Objectives

    Students examine technological advances that promoted changes to Canada.


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