Science Art: Close-up view of a rock cutter in the Everglades Drainage District, c. 1920

Scientific illustration of some rock-cutting equipment from the 1920s. Dieselpunk machinery.

Scientific illustration of some rock-cutting equipment from the 1920s. Dieselpunk machinery.Click to embiggen

This is a machine for cutting through rock in a swamp. Or really, in a very broad, very shallow river – which is what the Everglades really is. The rock in question would be oolitic limestone, the remains of prehistoric coral reefs. And the project would be draining the Everglades to make rich muckland for growing sugar cane, pineapples and winter tomatoes for the folks up north.

Only later on did Floridians figure out that the Everglades, among other things, fed the water table so most of the state could have drinking water, and also nourished the living coral reef ecosystems offshore, which kept the ocean from washing away the valuable oceanfront communities. Oops.

The image came from the State Library and Archives of Florida, via Flickr’s The Commons archive of public domain images.