An Almost-Too-Late Roundup of Historical and Unusual Eclipse Maps

I meant to post this before today’s solar eclipse, but I spent a good chunk of the past few days dealing with basic site maintenance; during the eclipse itself I was, well, observing and photographing it. But while the iron may not be as red-hot as it was even eight hours ago, it’s still glowing a bit, so how about I clear out some bookmarks:

Eclipse maps that pinpoint the zone of totality date back to the eighteenth century. Atlas Obscura looks at those early eclipse maps, notably those from Edmond Halley.

In the runup to the eclipse there have been some seriously weird and quirky eclipse maps, many of which correlating the path of the eclipse to utterly unrelated things. The first one I saw was this one: the path of the eclipse versus bigfoot sightings.

There have been others. Many others, to the point of absurdity. Maps on the Web has been collecting these maps over the past few weeks, and All Over the Map’s roundup of eclipse maps features them as well.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post’s Wonkblog noted the eerie correlation between Google searches about the eclipse and the path of the eclipse itself:

Washington Post

Finally, people were watching traffic maps to track the number of people travelling to watch the eclipse. Apparently eclipse-related traffic congestion was a thing. (Here’s Michael Zeiler’s forecast, based on population statistics.)

‘The Messed Up Mountains of Middle-earth’

Science fiction/fantasy novelist Alex Acks, a geologist by training, has some issues with Middle-earth’s mountain ranges. “Middle-earth’s got 99 problems, and mountains are basically 98 of them.” Basically it comes down to how Tolkien’s mountain ranges intersect at right angles—and mountains don’t do that.

And Mordor? Oh, I don’t even want to talk about Mordor.

Tectonic plates don’t tend to collide at neat right angles, let alone in some configuration as to create a nearly perfect box of mountains in the middle of a continent. […]

To be fair to J.R.R. Tolkien, while continental drift was a theory making headway in the world of geology from 1910 onwards, plate tectonics didn’t arrive on the scene until the mid-50s, and then it took a little while to become accepted science. (Though goodness, plate tectonics came down—I have it on good authority from geologists who were alive and in school at the time that it was like the holy light of understanding shining forth. Suddenly, so many things made sense.) Fantasy maps drawn after the 1960s don’t get even that overly generous pass.

And here I thought Tolkien’s mountains were better than most—but then I’m no geologist, and also than most may not be saying that much.

The Medieval Fantasy City Generator

It’s like Uncharted Atlas, but for cities: the Medieval Fantasy City Generator is a web application that “generates a random medieval city layout of a requested size. The generation method is rather arbitrary, the goal is to produce a nice looking map, not an accurate model of a city.” As was the case with Uncharted Atlas, the effect is accidentally damning: if an algorithm can create a fantasy setting indistinguishable from a human-made product, what does that say about the human-made product? [Ada Palmer]

Previously: Uncharted Atlas.

Hedberg Maps Survives Through Niche and Custom Mapmaking

Another tale of a traditional map publisher surviving in the face of Google Maps, GPS and smartphones from the Star Tribune, which profiled Minneapolis mapmaker Tom Hedberg earlier this month. Hedberg Maps’s traditional map products sell a fraction of what they used to, and they have fewer employees than they used to, but the company survives, the article says, by focusing on niche publications, like college and sports maps, and custom mapmaking, though their online store still has plenty of street maps. [MAPS-L]

Boston Immigration Map Exhibition

Along with Regions and Seasons (previously), the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center is hosting another exhibition, Who We Are: Boston Immigration Then and Now, which runs until 26 August. “This exhibition compares the landscape of today’s ‘new’ Boston with that of over 100 years ago. The maps and graphics on display here show where Boston’s foreign-born residents originate from, and where newer immigrant groups have settled, while celebrating who we are, and the vibrant diversity that is Boston.” Text is in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Mapping the August 2017 Solar Eclipse

Drive times to the centerline of the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse
Michael Zeiler,

Eclipse maps—maps that show the path of solar eclipses across the surface of the Earth—are very much a thing. As I wrote in my first blog post about eclipse maps back in 2010, “These maps are vital to eclipse chasers, who spend vast sums travelling to places where they can see one, and those slightly less insane who nevertheless are interested in when the next one comes around.” Eclipse chasers are already getting ready for next month’s solar eclipse, which transects the continental United States on 21 August, and of course there are lots of maps.

Michael Zeiler, whose website about solar eclipse maps, coincidentally called, I told you about in 2011, has launched a separate website dedicated to next month’s eclipse, called (wait for it)  There are eclipse maps for every state the path passes through, various maps presenting additional information, and a 10-foot-long strip map of the path of totality.

But knowing an eclipse’s path isn’t always enough. There’s nothing worse than spending a fortune to get to an eclipse-viewing spot only to discover it’s clouded over. You can’t predict the skies far enough in advance, but you can factor in the likelihood that skies will be clear or cloudy for a given location, based on historical weather data. That’s what NOAA’s eclipse cloudiness maps do. [GeoLounge]

Mapping the Tensorate Series

A post on reveals the map of the Protectorate, the world of JY Yang’s forthcoming Tensorate series (The Black Tides of Heaven and The Red Threads of Fortune, both coming in September), with a look at both the author’s initial sketch of the world with the final product created by artist Serena Malyon (who we last saw doing the map for Kij Johnson’s Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe).

Previously: Mapping the Dreamlands.