Mapping the Earthquake in Central Mexico

The New York Times

This crowdsourced map of collapsed and damaged buildings in Mexico City (in Spanish) appeared shortly after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit central Mexico on 19 September [via]. NASA also produced a map, based on radar data from the ESA’s Copernicus satellites that compared the state of the region before and after the quake. Interestingly, the data was validated against the crowdsourced map.

The New York Times produced maps showing the pattern of damage in Mexico City and the extent and severity of earthquake shaking (the Times graphics department’s version of the quake’s Shake Map, I suppose) as well as how Mexico City’s geology—it was built on the drained basin of Lake Texcoco—made the impact of the quake much worse.

The Cantino Planisphere

Cantino Planisphere, ca. 1502. Biblioteca Estense Universitaria, Modena, Italy. Wikimedia Commons.

Maps aren’t always named for their creators. The Gough map and the Selden map are named the people who owned them last before bequeathing them to the Bodleian Library. The Cantino planisphere, a Portuguese map of the world showing that country’s discoveries in the Americas and along the African coast, is named after the person who, ah, acquired it: in 1502 Alberto Cantino, undercover agent for the Duke of Ferrara, smuggled it out of Portugal, where maps were state secrets. Here’s an article about the Cantino planisphere from the March/April 2017 issue of National Geographic History magazine.

You Are Here: An Anthology of SF/Fantasy Map Stories

I can’t explain how I missed this one when it came out last fall. You Are Here: Tales of Cartographic Wonders is an anthology of 18 science fiction and fantasy stories about maps. Edited by N. E. White, it includes one story I’ve seen before: Charlotte Ashley’s “Eleusinian Mysteries.” I look forward to reading the others and reporting back. Amazon | iBooks

Maria’s Deluge

Some of the most striking maps of the recent bout of hurricanes have involved the sheer amount of water dropped by these storms. (See previous posts on Harvey and Irma.) Above, a is a short NASA video showing Maria’s track through the Caribbean, dumping water in its wake.

Relatedly, the Washington Post produced maps of precipitation and river gauge levels on Puerto Rico that show just how much water Maria threw at that island.

Washington Post

The 2017 German Federal Election

Berliner Morgenpost (screenshot)

A quick tour around European news sources this morning turned up few, or small, maps of the results of yesterday’s federal election in Germany. (At least so far: it’s only been a day, and I wasn’t very thorough.) I’ve mostly seen graphs and other infographics being used to show the results: see ZDF’s gallery. But yesterday Maps Mania found the Berliner Morgenpost’s live map of the results, which presumably was being updated in real time yesterday. German elections are a little complicated, so the map has a number of tabs showing various aspects of the results: first (constituency) and second (party) votes, who came second or third, where various parties got the bulk of their support and so forth.

Two Asian Map Exhibitions in the Netherlands

Two related map exhibitions are taking place right now in the Netherlands. Mapping Japan runs until 26 November at the Japan Museum SieboldHuis in Leiden. Its focus is on 18th- and 19th-century Japanese maps from the Leiden University Libraries’ collections. “The impressive scroll painting of the Japanese coast and the personal maps belonging to Philipp Franz van Siebold (on display for the first time) are unquestionably the highlights of this exhibition.” (Possessing those maps got Siebold in considerable trouble in Japan.) Also in Leiden, Mapping Asia runs until 14 January 2018 at the Museum Volkenkunde. Its focus is on the objectivity (or lack thereof) in cartography, and features maps of both European and Asian origin. One highlight is a digitally reconstructed map of the Chinese Empire. [WMS/WMS]

Guatemala’s Giant Relief Map

Mapa en Relieve de Guatemala. Photo by H. Grobe, July 2012. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons licence.

Atlas Obscura has the story of Guatemala’s Mapa en Relieve, an exaggerated-relief 3D relief model of the country. The 1:10,000-scale horizontal, 1:2,000-scale vertical map is approximately 1,800 square metres in area and made of concrete. Built by Francisco Vela and put on display in 1905, the map includes present-day Belize as part of Guatemala, which claimed the British Honduras at that time. It kind of reminds me of British Columbia’s Challenger Map, only a half-century older and made of concrete rather than wood. [WMS]

Predicting Future Malaria Outbreaks from Satellite Data

Data from NASA’s earth-observing satellites is being used to predict future malaria outbreaks in the Amazon rainforests of Peru. To be sure, as the above video shows, this is really about taking geospatial and remote sensing data from several different sources and correlating them to build a predictive model: it’s John Snow’s cholera map at large scale and for the satellite age.

New Gravity Map of Mars

NASA/Goddard/UMBC/MIT/E. Mazarico

A new gravity map of Mars that shows the thickness of the Martian crust based on gravity measurements from Martian orbiters, reveals a crust that is less dense and shows less variation than earlier maps. “The researchers mapped the density of the Martian crust, estimating the average density is 2,582 kilograms per meter cubed (about 161 pounds per cubic foot). That’s comparable to the average density of the lunar crust. Typically, Mars’ crust has been considered at least as dense as Earth’s oceanic crust, which is about 2,900 kilograms per meter cubed (about 181 pounds per cubic foot).”

Oxford Atlas of the World Updated, Reviewed

The Oxford Atlas of the World touts itself as the only world atlas series that gets updated every year. Unlike the Times and National Geographic series it doesn’t come in multiple sizes: there’s just the one, which is roughly equivalent to the Times Concise in size and page count but cheaper ($90 vs. $125). The next edition is the 24th, and it comes out later this fall; the changes are spelled out on the publisher’s page (adopting “Czechia” is one of them, for example). G. T. Dempsey has a review at Geo Lounge.

Le Jardin au Bout du Monde

A couple of weeks ago Atlas Obscura had a fascinating story about toponomy—the naming of places—and my adopted home province of Quebec. In 1997, the Quebec government decided to mark the 20th anniversary of the Charter of the French Language (known popularly around here as Bill 101) by naming 101 islands in the Caniapiscau Reservoir in northern Quebec after significant works of Quebec literature—the names of novels, short stories, poems and plays, as well as expressions taken from those works. Quebec’s Commission de toponymie called the archipelago le Jardin au Bout du Monde (the Garden at the Top of the World). Controversy ensued, as it tends to do in this province: as you might expect from a project commemorating Bill 101, the names came from exclusively francophone works; works by Quebec anglophones were ignored. And the indigenous communities pointed out that the islands were mountains before the reservoir was flooded in the early 1980s, and those mountains had indigenous names. See Atlas Obscura for the full story. [WMS]

Choosing Whether There Will Be a Map

A couple of data points on authors and their decision whether to have a map of their fantasy world.

Mark Lawrence says there won’t be maps for his Book of the Ancestor series of fantasy novels. “I’ve nothing against maps, I just never look at them,” he says; and besides, in the case of these books (Red Sister and the forthcoming Grey Sister) they wouldn’t be necessary.

There is an assumption there … fantasy books have maps. Which is odd, since I have read hundreds (possibly thousands) of novels without maps, many of them set in regions I’m unfamiliar with. The fact is that for a great many works of fiction maps are irrelevant, they are about what people are doing in their lives, if Sarah goes to visit her uncle in Vostok it is sufficient for me to know it took her several hours on the train and when she got there the forests were covered in snow. I don’t need to look it up on a map. It doesn’t matter. […]

In Red Sister the vast majority of the story takes place within a circle a few hundred yards across. The small amount of traveling is simple. The rare references to remote places are similarly simple. The habitable world is a corridor fifty miles wide and tens of thousands of miles long, following the equator. The empire is flanked to the west by one country behind a mountainous border, and to the east by a sea with another country on the far shore.

A map would be a long skinny thing on a page that was 90%+ white space. The detail would be hard to see and invented by me entirely to fill the map … no other reason.

On the other hand, Betsy Dornbusch, author of the Seven Eyes trilogy, finds that working out the map when writing a story—even when it’s in a real-world location—does aid the writing process. “It helped SO MUCH to map it early and while I wrote. Gave me ideas, provided realism and worldbuilding issues, helped the story immensely,” she wrote on Twitter. See the entire Twitter thread beginning here.

Previously: When Fantasy Authors Aren’t Fans of Fantasy Maps.

Repairing and Cleaning Old New York Maps

In yesterday’s New York Times, a piece on efforts by the New York City Municipal Archives to preserve the city’s earliest maps and architectural drawings.

Inside the lab, conservators talk about the care of antique maps like a doctor discusses a patient’s condition and treatment in an intensive care unit.

Conservators will lay a given map on a table for an exam and diagnose the issue: Is it brittle or burned? Damaged by water or tape? Crumbly, delaminated or peeling? Then they record the treatment in a chart of sorts so that years later, the next caretaker will know what remedy was given.

The repair process of a map—like that for a more than 200-year-old, torn illustration of Williamsburg, Brooklyn—typically takes several hours, though sometimes the conservators will spend days working on just one.

[WMS]