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“We try to come up with funky stuff that is full of surprises,” says illustrations editor Susan Welchman, who picks the images each month for National Geographic’s most popular feature. “They have to be light, related to the stories in the magazine, and, if possible, funny.”

Click a year to display the archive at right.

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A cartoon image of an alien drawn by an explorer from the early 1900s.
Gorillas are transported by car to the St. Louis Zoo in 1938.
A caravan of camels exits the Tatar City gates in Peking, China. Published in 1920.
A masked dancer from the Elema people of Papua balances a shark-effigy headdress made from bark cloth and cane.
Swimmers dive into the waters of Spirit Lake, below Mount St. Helens, in the 1940s.
London ladies picnic on a roof overlooking the Thames’ Tower Bridge in 1932.

A boulder wedged in a slot canyon in the Grand Canyon in 1905.
Fishermen grasp onto a 12-foot (3.6-meter) oarfish from Sydney Harbour in June 1954.
Lunar New Year observances at Saidaiji Temple in Okayama, Japan.
In the 1920s sensibilities were different, as seen in this photograph of a visitor to Australia’s Mast Head Islet taking a ride on the back of a green turtle.
This doggy diner got biting criticism at a time when buildings shaped like owls, teakettles, and shoes were popping up along roadsides surrounding Los Angeles.
A polar bear cub gets a bath on the trip from the Arctic to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.