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Londoners and New Yorkers gawk at each other through a transatlantic lens

A Victorian-era dream is reborn via fiberoptics and imagination in the 'telectroscope.'

The "Telectroscope" – a transatlantic art installation by Paul St. George – emerges in London, where reporter Brendan O'Neill awaited a glimpse of his New York colleague Matt Shaer.

Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters

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Jules Verne on the Thames?

From a distance, it looks as if one of Jules Verne's imagined flying contraptions has crashed in to the South Bank of the Thames. Next to Tower Bridge, the massive brown-and-gold item pokes up from the walkway, like the front end of a B-movie UFO – or perhaps some part of a ship's hull from 200 years ago – winning weird looks from passers-by. Is it a plane? Is it a time machine?

No, it's the Telectroscope, the wacky, wonderful invention of British artist Paul St. George. The story: Mr. St. George happened upon a stack of dusty papers in his grandmother's attic, which revealed that his great-grandfather – an eccentric Victorian engineer – had planned to bore a 3,471-mile tunnel from London to New York, allowing us Brits to gawk at you Yanks through the world's longest telescope. Now, St. George has made his great-gramp's dream a reality.

The truth is ... Oh, who cares about the truth? The point about the Telectroscope – a Victorian-style freakish fairground attraction – is that you believe, or you don't. And as soon as I look through it, I believe. There, on the other side of the "tunnel," as clear as day and as large as life, I see real-life, real-time New Yorkers.

I write a message on one of the white boards and hold it up: "Where's Matt?"

They look around and seem to call his name. One of them holds up a sign: "No Matt here."


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