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Military Uses

Chapter 15 - Camouflage:
In Nature

Optical illusions played many roles in the art and science of deception during the Great War, but in the later stages of the war, they served most prominently upon the sea. Inasmuch as the story of the science of camouflage is not generally available, it appears worth while to present it briefly. Besides being of interest, it will reveal to the reader the part that the science of light, color, lighting, and vision played in deception. Furthermore, the reader will sense the numberless optical illusions which are woven into camouflage as developed in nature, and in human activities. The word camouflage by origin does not include all kinds of deception; however, by extension it may and will here signify almost the entire art and science of deception as found in nature and as practiced in the World War.

Terrestrial Camouflage. Camouflage is an art which is the natural outgrowth of our instinct for concealment and deception when pitting our wits against those of a crafty prey or enemy. It is an art older than the human race, for its beginnings may be traced back to the obscurity of the early ages of the evolution of animal life. The name was coined by the French to apply to a definite art which developed during the Great War to a high state, as many other arts developed by drawing deeply upon the resources of scientific knowledge. With the introduction of this specific word to cover a vast field of activity in scientifically concealing and deceiving, many are led to believe that this is a new art, but such is not the case. However, like many other arts, such as that of flying, the exigencies of modern warfare have provided an impetus which has resulted in a highly developed art.

Chapter 15 - Camouflage: In Nature
A Random Illusion
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Scientists have recognized for many years, and perhaps more or less vaguely for centuries, that nature exhibits wonderful examples of concealment and deception. The survival of the fittest, as Darwin expressed his doctrine, included those individuals of a species who were best fitted by their markings and perhaps by peculiar habits to survive in the environment in which they lived. Naturally, markings, habits, and environment became more and more adapted to each other until the species became in equilibrium with nature sufficiently to insure its perpetuity. If we look about us upon animal life we see on every hand examples of concealing coloration and attitudes designed to deceive the prey or enemy. The rabbit is mottled because nature's infinite variety of highlights, shadows, and hues demand variety in the markings of an animal if the latter is to be securely hidden. Solid color does not exist in nature's landscapes in large areas. The rabbit is lighter underneath to compensate for the lower intensity of illumination received on these portions. As winter approaches, animals in rigorous climates need warmer coats, and the hairs grow longer. In many cases the color of the hairs changes to gray or white, providing a better coating for the winter environment.

Animals are known to mimic inanimate objects for the sake of safety. For example, the bittern will stand rigid with its bill pointed skyward for many minutes if it suspects an enemy. Non-poisonous snakes resemble poisonous ones in general characteristics and get along in the world on the reputation of their harmful relatives. The drone-bee has no sting, but to the casual observer it is a bee and bees generally sting. Some animals have very contrasting patterns which are conspicuous in shape, yet these very features disguise the fact that they are animals. Close observation of fishes in their natural environment provides striking examples of concealing coloration. Vast works have been written on this subject by scientists, so it will only be touched upon here.

There are many examples of "mobile" camouflage to be found in nature. Seasonal changes have been cited in a foregoing paragraph. The chameleon changes its color from moment to moment. The flounder changes its color and pattern to suit its environment. It will even strive to imitate a black and white checkerboard.

In looking at a bird, animal, insect, or other living thing it is necessary to place it in its natural environment at least in the imagination, before analyzing its coloration. For example, a male mallard duck hanging in the market is a very gaudy object, but place it in the pond among the weeds, the green leaves, the highlights, and the shadows, and it is surprisingly inconspicuous. The zebra in the zoo appears to be marked for the purpose of heralding its presence anywhere in the range of vision, but in its reedy, bushy, grassy environment it is sufficiently inconspicuous for the species to survive in nature's continuous warfare.

Thus studies of nature reveal the importance of general hue, the necessity for broken color or pattern, the fact that black spots simulate shadows or voids, the compensation for lower illumination by counter-shading, and many other facts. The artist has aided in the development of camouflage, but the definite and working basis of all branches of camouflage are the laws and facts of light, color, and vision as the scientist knows them.

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Military Uses

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About This Book Preface Chap 1, Introduction Chap 2, The Eye Chap 3, Vision Chap 4, Geometrical Chap 5, Figures Chap 6, Angles Chap 7, Depth/Distance Chap 8 Brightness/Contrast Chap 9, Color Chap 10, Lighting Chap 11, Nature Chap 12, Painting/Decorating Chap 13, Architecture Chap 14, Magic Mirror Chap 15, Camouflage

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