Earliest First-hand Field Photos on iNaturalist?

I was taking a look again at the earliest images that I've scanned and uploaded to iNaturalist. Those date from the late 1960s (see below). There are now thousands of earlier images of organisms on iNaturalist but the majority of them are images of museum specimens of plants, insects, mollusks, etc. So I began looking for the earliest images of organisms in the field, so to speak, using the simple filters on the Explore page.

I quickly had to qualify my search of old observations on iNaturalist. First, I summarily ruled out those museum specimens, and since I wouldn't expect to see photographic field evidence prior to 1900, I started my search at the beginning of the 20th Century. I also disregarded the unfortunate set of modern observations with erroneous observation dates (evident from high quality digital images dated to the 1900's, etc.).

I began to uncover a number of "observations" from secondary sources like images out of newspapers of beached whales, captured sharks, etc., and photos from published research papers. Those certainly provide "evidence" of an organism, but the dates are sometimes estimated or very approximate and the original "observer", i.e. the photographer, is rarely stated. These include such examples as a Pel's Pouched Bat from Niangara, Congo, presumably a captured specimen and dated May 27, 1913, documented in a Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, and uploaded in 2014 by @jakob :
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/604690

So I began combing through observations chronologically, looking for the earliest first-hand personal evidence of living or recently dead animals or plants.

There is a photo of a public gathering around a Great White Shark, presumably captured off the coast of Turkey in 1920, and uploaded in 2021 by @gorkialkan.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/93239174

The earliest image of any animal which is not a captured or museum specimen seems to be the following beached Rorqual (Baleen whale) in Tampico, Mexico, dated February 4, 1922. @josecastaneda2 uploaded the image, stating that it is from the digital Historical Archives of Tampico.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/102773699

The earliest first-person, non-photographic account of an organism seems to be W. C. Russell's notes on Yellow-bellied Marmots ("woodchucks") in Elko Co., Nevada, recorded in his field journal for July 13, 1935, and uploaded by @floydch in 2019:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/26545985

And--drum roll, please--the earliest first-hand, field photo on iNaturalist of a living organism seems to be this Koala documented in Victoria, Australia on December 31, 1935. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/77862210
I've left a message for @nimzee, who uploaded the image in 2021, for more details on the photographer, etc. It does not appear to be a commercial or secondary source image, so I'll look forward to learning more about its provenance.

The earliest observations of any plant uploaded to iNaturalist are apparently some European Larch trees in the background of a set of family ski vacation images in the French Alps, taken by L. Hunault in January 1936, and uploaded in 2021 by @mercantour.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67659308

It gets a little difficult when trying to pin down the earliest first-hand, first-person photos of an organism, since it isn't often clearly stated that the iNaturalist/uploader was the person who took the image. But there are some likely candidates.
In 2020, @hoaryherper uploaded a couple of herp pics from his childhood. The earliest is one he took of a Blue Racer grabbed by his friend John Evans on June 20, 1949 in Ohio:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/47768061
@hoaryherper also uploaded an image of himself (taken by John Evans) with a captured Prairie Kingsnake in Pennington Co., South Dakota from June 21, 1955:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41106492

@blastcat uploaded a couple pictures of recently-caught fish at Chincoteague, Virginia in June 1955. These are akin to the above documentation of a Great White Shark but these are family photos, in the first instance taken by his grandfather:
Red Drum: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/106281440
Billfishes: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/106281439

My late pal Greg Lasley got minimal documentation with his dad's Bell and Howell movie camera of an Eastern Cottontail in Shillington, Pennsylvania, on/about September 19, 1962, during a family trip:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/52178520
And just 10 days later, about Septermber 29, 1962, found himself with his family in La Rochelle, France, using the same camera to document a Gray Heron:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/52178521

My own earliest personal upload of a first-hand field image dates from May 1969, a butterfly photographed in Taiwan with my first new SLR camera, a trusty Minolta SRT-101:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/69211543

So I offer a challenge for anyone to mine the iNaturalist database of images to find earlier personal, first-hand, field observations. What can you find?

Posted by gcwarbler gcwarbler, May 04, 2022 22:05

Comments

My earliest is this Black Rhino footprint https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/107750070 taken by my father in 1960, while I was present as a young boy, in the Mana Pools NP, Zimbabwe. I remember it well because I was told that rhinos have 3 toes and the similar hippo has 4 toes by our companion and experienced bushman, Joe Hamling . [I now know that they are in different orders Perissodactyla (=odd-toed) and Artiodactyla (=even-toed)].

Posted by nyoni-pete about 2 months ago (Flag)

Interesting project. Since I'm on the younger side, my earliest observation is from the rather recent year of 2006. I may take a look through some old family photos to see if I can find anything suitable. I know my great-grandfather and some members of that branch of my family were avid naturalists. Establishing where and when such photos were taken may be quite difficult however.

Posted by alexbinck about 2 months ago (Flag)

This is very interesting, thanks for sharing!

Posted by dinofelis about 2 months ago (Flag)

Cool idea, Chuck. I'll have to go back and upload an early fishing success as my personal first and earliest observation: a silver salmon that I caught with my late uncle in his favorite fishing hole. I really enjoy how this exercise almost inherently connects the observation to the personal context and memory of the observer.

Posted by muir about 2 months ago (Flag)

Yes, Diana, those are useful and interesting links, but they don't focus in on the particular subset of observations I wanted to find, that is, first-hand, first-person field images. It's great to now have the thousands of images of museum specimens cross-referenced to iNaturalist, and the old newspaper accounts and other published second-hand reports are also interesting. My search was for more personalized records. To date, I think the 1935 Koala in Australia (link above) comes the closest. I'm still waiting on confirmation that it was a first-hand photo taken by someone (presumably a photographer who is no longer with us) and not from a published source.

Posted by gcwarbler about 2 months ago (Flag)

Perhaps if you link to this journal post on both of those threads you will get a response that fits your question. The interested target audience who have a resource of old photos to work from.

Posted by dianastuder about 2 months ago (Flag)

Diana, Both of the Forum topics you link to have been closed for some time. How do I add a comment to a closed Forum topic?

Posted by gcwarbler about 2 months ago (Flag)

You need to ask a moderator to reopen it for you.
tiwane or bouteloa or ?

Posted by dianastuder about 2 months ago (Flag)

That's right, as I said before, those photos of the beached whale on the beach of Miramar (Tampico), the originals are from the city's chronicler, and I took them from the digitalized photo library of the Historical Archive of Tampico. My job is to try to document the fauna and flora of the region from the past to the present.

Posted by josecastaneda2 about 2 months ago (Flag)

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