LIFE considers the phenomenal edifice through a single picture: Dmitri Kessel’s classic 1948 portrait of La Dame de Fer as seen on a winter’s day.
The popular French writer Guy de Maupassant (1850 – 1893) reportedly ate lunch in the Eiffel Tower’s restaurant every day for years — not because he loved the great iron monument but because, so the story goes, it was the only place in Paris where he could sit and not see the tower itself.
Maupassant, like countless French artists and aestheticians of the late 19th century, despised Gustave Eiffel‘s creation, seeing it as a vulgar eyesore and a blight on their beloved Parisian skyline.
Whatever. For the rest of the world, the Eiffel Tower is and has long been one of the singular architectural emblems anywhere on earth: a formidable, graceful, soaring structure that connotes Paris as surely and as indelibly as the Empire State Building, Il Duomo, Hagia Sophia and other enduring landmarks signify their own great, respective cities.
Perhaps it’s the absence of a single, visible human form that lends Kessel’s photograph its timeless power.
Maybe it’s the ill-defined look of the structure, almost phantasmal as it looms in the Parisian fog, that somehow draws the viewer even deeper into the scene — as if, given enough time, the fog itself might clear and, even as we watch, the spire might grow more defined in the stark winter light.
Whatever the source of this one picture’s abiding appeal, the tower itself remains undimmed 125 years after awestruck crowds first encountered what was then, and remained for the next four decades, the tallest manmade structure on the planet.
An isolated cumulonimbus (an extremelydense,verticallydevelopedcumuluswith a lowdarkbaseandfluffymassesthatextend to greatheights,usuallyproducingheavyrains,thunderstorms, or hailstorms) overshoots the tropopause as we deviate around it at 37000 FT south of Panama City, Panama.
The only light source is the powerful lightning within the storm.
Goodland Kansas by Mitch Dobrowner for MBS Photograph: Mitch Dobrowner
It was early evening, maybe six o’clock, when we stopped the van. The storms usually fire up at this time, when the sun has had all day to warm the earth.
Then the cumulonimbus towers burst up through the atmosphere and all hell breaks loose.In chasing terms, it had been an easy day – we’d covered maybe 400 miles to get on to this line of storms in the far west of Kansas.
We knew there was little chance of tornadoes, but our guide, my friend Roger Hill – a stormchasing veteran of at least 30 years – thought there was a good chance of some big hail and maybe even some landspout activity [where a tornado forms from the ground up].
We stopped downwind and waited for the developing storm to advance. As I set up, the storm turned into a monster: an almost-solid curtain of rain in the background. Then in the foreground, an unusually large landspout whipped up.
The scene was surreal, almost abstract – low-contrast, back-lit, the storm creeping towards us.
But all the while there were really strong outflow winds reminding you it was all too real … and just a wall of precipitation edging toward us. And this was huge for a landspout.
Just for scale, if you look carefully to the right of the spout, you can just make out an electricity tower. Landspouts are usually less powerful than regular tornadoes – this was such a rare occurrence that Roger had to confirm with the National Weather Service that it was just a landspout,
But you can see it has the classic cylinder shape, rather than a tornado’s typical cone or wedge.In eight years of chasing, I’ve never seen another storm like this one.