Before there was Manhattan, there was Mannahatta.
It meant “the island of many hills,” in Lenape, the original inhabitants of the island. New York City is known as the concrete jungle but before the skyscrapers, an entirely different ecosystem existed.
Calling Thunder, a collaborative project between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Wildlife Conservation Society and designer David Al-Ibrahim is the first chapter in a series of immersive explorations into the natural history of New York. In the video, you are transported back into what was New York City in the time of Henry Hudson through the use of interactive soundscapes and 360 media and design.
According to the video, when Henry Hudson made his way to New York in 1609, Manhattan supported more ecological diversity per acre than Yellowstone National Park! The video suggests that had Manhattan never been developed into the metropolis it is today, it easily could have been one of the biggest and most important natural parks in the United States.
“If Mannahatta existed today as it did then, it would be a national park – it would be the crowning glory of American national parks,” said Dr. Eric Sanderson, author of Mannahatta: The Natural History of New York.
See the city that might have been here (make sure you move your cursor around so you get the full 360-degree experience, and turn your volume up!):
The narrative behind the project aims to consider Manhattan’s ecological past in order to address its future, focusing on the preservation and uncovering of the natural history of the small green spaces still in existence in the city today. Some of the featured locations include Collect Pond Park, The High Line and The American Museum of Natural History.
You can check out the other videos and learn more about the entirety of the project on their website.
featured image source: The Welikia Project / Wildlife Conservation Society