The case of the disappearing homing pigeons. Between 1968 and 1987, about 900 homing pigeons released at the Jersey Hill fire tower in upstate New York got lost, never to be seen again. Why couldn't they find their way home?
For thousands of years they were the worlds' fastest means of communication. Count Rothschild benefited financially when knew of Napoleon's defeat long before any other persons in England, thanks to a swift personal message. One critical message traveled 20 miles in 20 minutes and this speedy delivery saved 150 British troops from disaster by less than five minutes. But in 1851, German-born Paul Julius Reuter opened an office in the City of London which transmitted stock market quotations between London and Paris via the new Dover-Calais cable, and the days of pigeon post as a means of quick and reliable message transfer passed with the implementation of wire-based communications. Reuter had previously used pigeons to fly stock prices between Aachen and Brussels, a service that operated for a year until a gap in the telegraph link was closed. One of the last large-scale use of carrier pigeons ended in 2002, when India retired its Police Pigeon Service, opting for email and telephone to access remote areas. Contrary to appearances, this was not the end of the pigeon post. [more inside]