Information passing in the First World War was made possible by pigeon post. Doing the job of spying by delivering letters up to 90 miles away was best done by tying them up on pigeon backs and releasing them home. At a time when enemy forces discovered the trick and were shooting them down, users of the 'pigeon post,' as it was known, painted them black so they would be confused for crows. Initially, they would only travel home (one way) but later on, their food was stationed away from home so they learned to travel to and fro destinations. According to Alexander Simon in his book Daily Book of Photography, the method was not only safe, it was less costly and environment-friendly. Exposing such vulnerable birds in the most dangerous and risky situations called for ideas to preserve and build caring 'homes' in honor and appreciation for their selflessness and sacrifice.
Pigeons have been revered since the biblical story on Noah (Blechman, 4) and have served in both world wars. Ancient romans are the earliest breeders on record (Vriends, 4)They are also considered less graceful than doves. In Jewish culture and especially during Jesus' time, Pigeons were used for burnt offerings at the temple in the Jerusalem. Business dealers in pigeon sales were present in 33AD when Jesus found and sent them away (Blechman, 14).
After the war, pigeon post was still needed. Juius Neubronner delivered medications across German cities. He was the first to use pigeons for aerial photography (Alexander, 178) Several pigeons would be used so the weight would be distributed. Since they could only 75grams, it was only fair not to burden them. Four years later (in 1907) he invented an aerial view photography technique popularly known as pigeon photography. By fixing a relatively lightweight camera not exceeding 75grams, Neburonner explored his hobby of capturing the view of Cities and other sceneries at height of 100meters. With the training, Andrew explains, the pigeons delivered desired photographs that were taken automatically with a specific time delay. Later, as late as 2004, the BBC used falcons fitted with miniature television cameras to capture live footage. To date, researchers and artists use critter cameras on various animals to reach places they will not reach and capture scenes angles and distances not possible for man.
The interaction of contemporary art, engineering and Science is an emerging issue in Beatriz da Costa's 'Pigeon Blog'. According to Jerolmack Collin, Through Costa's work, she defines the role and relevance of the artist in politics using techno-scientific ideas. Pigeon blog is a social Public experiment contributed by both humans and birds, explains Rusking. By providing a better alternative to save the environment by gathering data on air pollution, the project equips pigeons with GPS enabled electronic air pollution sensing devices. As they fly around, their real time location is detected and air pollution conditions sent to Google’s mapping environment (Collin, 2013). The flight patterns can be determined and the resulting air conditions displayed on a chart.
The project was inspired by Neubronner's initiative and the data obtained meant for the general public. It is an appropriate way of bridging scientific study agendas and citizen concern on the rising dangers and risks on health.
Homes for Pigeons
Dovecotes come in many shapes and sizes as a result of changes in architecture (Vriends, 7). The differences also emerge in the building material used since the earliest dovecotes in the 16th century. They were very attractive but never appreciated by the public. It was not until the 18th century that the decorative potential of dovecotes was exploited. By the end of the 19th century, the dovecotes constituted the landscape of gardens. Gertrude Jekyll states in her book Garden Ornament, that though the demand and preference for pigeon meat dwindled in the 20th century, and fewer dovecotes were built, beautiful dovecotes can still be found in the country-sides of most countries.
Since the Ancient Roman Empire, where columbaria were built underground, the evolution of designs in building Columbaria has been slow but steady. In new Kai Tak cruise terminal in Japan, local architecture firm designed a floating columbarium. Built on ship due to a shortage of burial space, the columbarium is a magnificent piece of architecture and an example to how far columbaria have evolved. The myths and beliefs that involve pigeons as sacred birds lead to the common phenomenon of constructing columbaria attached to Churches and cemeteries.
Their designs range from those similar to Buddhist sacred temples to flowery classical new-age designs.
Alexander, Simon. The Daily Book of Photography: [365 Readings That Teach, Inspire & Entertain]. Irvine, Calif: Walter Foster, 2010. Internet resource.
Blechman, Andrew D. Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2007. Print. http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=TVNuj8pmUKMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=homing+pigeons&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UcSJU7iJMK-u7Aah2oAQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=homing%20pigeons&f=false
Boswell, Peter. Bees, Pigeons, Rabbits, and the Canary Bird, Familiarly Described: Their Habits, Propensities, and Dispositions Explained; Mode of Treatment in Health and Disease Plainly Laid Down; and the Whole Adapted As a Text-Book for the Young Student. New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1842. Print.
Johns, Glover S. The Clay Pigeons of St. Lô. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002. Print.
Green-Armytage, Stephen. Extraordinary Pigeons. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003. Print.
Jerolmack, Colin. The Global Pigeon. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013. Internet resource.
Johnston, Richard F, and Marián Janiga. Feral Pigeons. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Print.
Vriends, Matthew M. Pigeons: Everything About Purchase, Care, Management, Diet, Diseases, and Behavior of Pigeons : with a Special Chapter, Understanding Pigeons. New York: Barron's, 1988. Print.