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Modern airliners carry flight data recorders and cockpit voice recorders, commonly known as black boxes (though they are almost always red). When an accident occurs there is an immediate attempt to recover the black box, which may be the only way to piece together the cause of the disaster.
While everyone has heard of the black box, few people have seen one. These photographs document black boxes, and parts of boxes, that have been recovered from aircraft accidents. Some of the earliest boxes used wire, metal foil, or continuous magnetic tape for recording. As technological instruments they are visually fascinating. In addition, they are emotionally charged: some crushed, some burnt, they reveal stories of the tragedies that occurred. They may contain the last words of the pilots, and the best hope of understanding and preventing future mishaps. It is hard not to look at some of them without being reminded of our vulnerability.