Taken in 1864, these images very well could be the earliest photographic look at icebergs. Long before the Internet, on-demand video footage, and adventure-focused vacation packages, seeing a photograph of a natural phenomenon for the very first time can only be imagined as inspiring, if not a bit intimidating. Artists utilized their artistic license to share these experiences via paintings of the world’s most beautiful spaces. William Bradford is one of those artists—an American painter well known for his majestic paintings of Arctic scenes.
Bradford shared his work in a time where icebergs were rarely (if ever) seen in person, making his work a very important exploration opportunity. Some of his inspiration came from photos taken during an expedition to the Canada off of the Coast of Labrador in 1864, but the rarely seen photographs weren’t taken by Bradford. J.W Black sent along photographers to help document Bradford's trip, and these specific images were taken by William H. Pierce.
Bradford’s paintings may be seen around the world—some of his work has a home in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City—but Pierce’s inspirational photos are lesser known, but still available from the Library of Congress.
Erika Owen is the Audience Engagement Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @erikaraeowen.