Reading: Philip Mason, Niagara from the Air, Niagara Falls, Ontario: Travelpic Publications: a Review

"The Falls of Niagara", 1783, engraving by Heath after drawing by Metz
"The Falls of Niagara", 1783, engraving by Heath after drawing by Metz | Source

Air, water and ice

Philip Mason, Niagara from the Air, Niagara Falls, Ontario: Travelpic Publications, 202, p. p. 24

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As well as its memorable photos, this work has a thought-provoking text with all sorts of absorbing trivia and interesting facts about this almost mind-blowing geographical feature.

For example, I was aware that the American Falls are strictly expected to become rapids within the next hundred or so years because of the continuing accumulation of all the rocks and débris which are already visible at their base. But the Canadian (or Horseshoe) Falls are also fast eroding to what is described as a possibly irreversible extent.

Indeed, since 1764, the Horseshoe Falls have eroded about 300 metres.

I had not realize either that in winter the ice in the Niagara Gorge can be over 15 metres thick.

The Lower Gorge, and Whirlpool State Park on the US side of the Niagara River, are depicted and described; it is interesting that dolomite — a rock associated also particularly with parts of the European Alps — is found in the higher levels of the Gorge, with softer sandstone beneath.

The work underlines the immensely historic nature of the Niagara River area, with all four Forts — Fort George, Fort Mississauga, Fort Niagara and Fort Erie — depicted and described. The Niagara Frontier featured particularly heavily in the War of 1812; the Brock Monument is also shown.

Both the text and the fine, aerial photography are by Philip Mason, although the author has also acknowledged the use of photos from NASA and from Hirschl and Adler Galleries, NY. The work includes a commercial (well deserved? I think so!) for Niagara Helicopters, which offers year-round sighseeing of Falls area.

The variation in the seasons is also clearly shown; some of the most striking photos show bright green — almost emerald — fields shining in the sunlight, while another depicts the Falls in a seemingly desolate, apparently midwinter moonscapes from a certain angle.

Not only with helicopters, but also with light, winged airplanes, is sightseeing along the Niagara River area popular, for which activity St. Catharines Flying Club is evidently well placed, geographically; one of the most impressive photos in the collection is of a Piper Cherokee Cruiser, against the backdrop of the Skylon and the Falls, flying from St. Catherines.

I have found myself regularly re-reading this short work, which for some people would be a back-handed recommendation in itself.

September 12, 2013

MJFenn is an independent writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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