Inaccurate Maps of the Ebola Virus Outbreak

World Health Organization

The Atlantic’s Ed Yong looks at a problem in the public health response to this month’s Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo: inaccurate maps of the areas affected by the virus.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization released a map showing parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are currently being affected by Ebola. The map showed four cases in Wangata, one of three “health zones” in the large city of Mbandaka. Wangata, according to the map, lies north of the main city, in a forested area on the other side of a river.

That is not where Wangata is.

“It’s actually here, in the middle of Mbandaka city,” says Cyrus Sinai, indicating a region about 8 miles farther south, on a screen that he shares with me over Skype.

Almost all the maps of the outbreak zone that have thus far been released contain mistakes of this kind. Different health organizations all seem to use their own maps, most of which contain significant discrepancies. Things are roughly in the right place, but their exact positions can be off by miles, as can the boundaries between different regions. […]

To be clear, there’s no evidence that these problems are hampering the response to the current outbreak. It’s not like doctors are showing up in the middle of the forest, wondering why they’re in the wrong place. “Everyone on the ground knows where the health zones start and end,” says Sinai. “I don’t think this will make or break the response. But you surely want the most accurate data.”

The WHO map in question, reproduced at the top of this post, can be found here. See Virology Down Under’s roundup of maps put out by the various NGOs, which the Atlantic article refers to.

A Gang of Hungarian Map Thieves on Trial in France

“French prosecutors on Thursday sought prison terms of up to seven years for a group of Hungarians on trial over accusations they stole rare maps worth millions of euros from a string of French libraries,” Agence France-Presse reported yesterday (Expatica France, The Local). The group of seven reportedly cut maps from books in libraries in cities like Lille, Nancy and Toulouse; they were caught when one of them was stopped by Hungarian customs officials. We usually talk about map thieves as single, even singular individuals, but a gang of map thieves? Move aside, Smiley. [Tony Campbell/WMS]

Mapping Denali in Detail

Matt Nolan and his family have created a topographic map of Denali, the highest peak in North America, using a form of stereo photogrammetry Nolan calls fodar: they repeatedly overflew the peak in a small airplane and took photos of the terrain below with a digital SLR. The end result is a 20-cm terrain model they’re touting as the best ever of the mountain, far more detailed than previous maps. Nolan outlines their endeavour in two blog posts: one focusing on the personal, the other on the technical; the latter also has lots of terrain models and comparisons with USGS data.

He’s also running a crowdfunding campaign to underwrite the costs of additional map flights. [WMS]

Daniel Huffman’s “Root-and-Branch” Airline Route Map

Daniel Huffman had the opportunity to redesign an airline’s route map for their in-flight magazine. He came up with the above design, which in the end the client decided against, but he talks about how he came up with it in this blog post. He calls it a cartogram, because he’s expanding or shrinking the continents to account for where the routes are clustered (which I guess kind of counts); and he’s adopted what he calls a “root-and-branch” style to avoid the cluttering and overlapping of multiple lines. It’s a fascinating read, particularly if you like learning about the mapmaking process.

Mapping the Post-Hurricane Maria Migration

Puerto Ricans, as U.S. citizens, are able to travel freely between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, many of them sought refuge in Florida, New York and other parts of the U.S. Using anonymized cell phone location data for some 500,000 smart phones, data analysis firm Teralytics was able to map where Puerto Ricans moved from August 2017 to February 2018. CityLab has the maps and the story: “Between these months, nearly 6 percent of the Puerto Rican population left the island and is still living in the continental U.S. Another 6 percent left between October and September 2017 but returned to the island by February 2018.”

Before Beck: Perman’s Underground Railways of London

E. G. Perman, Underground Railways of London (London: Waterlo & Sons, 1928). Pocket map, 36×45 cm. David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Colour-corrected.

Mapping London takes a close look at a 1928 map of the London Underground by E. G. Perman. Perman’s map, with its use of colour, italic lettering and focus on green spaces, seems like it comes from a completely different era, even though it was published only a few years before the release of Beck’s iconic Tube map.

Previously: Before Beck: The Prior Art of Diagrammatic Transit Maps.

Mapping Tornado Migration

John Nelson’s map of tornado migration in the United States, showing the seasonal variations in tornado occurrence, is a master class in data visualization and design—in deciding on the right way to present geographic information. The map combines three styles—impressionistic choropleth, weighted mean centre movement diagram, and small multiple—to present month-by-month information all at once; in the accompanying text (also here), Nelson discusses some of the alternatives he could have chosen instead. And in a separate post he talks about how he made the map. [Esri]

Previously: Mapping Tornado Tracks.

An 18th-Century Manuscript Map of the St. Lawrence River

Jean-Nicolas Bellin, Carte du cours du fleuve St. Laurent, ca. 1733. Manuscript map, 3 sheets, 44.8×61.1 cm. Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Another one in French. Last month, Radio-Canada had the story of a manuscript map of the St. Lawrence River that was recently acquired by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. The 18th-century map takes three sheets to trace the course of the St. Lawrence from the Ottawa River to Anticosti Island, and the BANQ’s map librarians have concluded that it’s the work of French philosophe and cartographer Jean-Nicolas Bellin. The map can be viewed on the BANQ’s website, which those who can’t read French should be able to manage. [WMS]

National Geographic Teases Its Map Archive on Social Media

National Geographic has digitized its entire map archive—every map the magazine has published since 1888, more than six thousand of them—but you won’t be able to browse through it. (Subscribers can access the maps through their digital archive by consulting the issues they first appeared, but, again, no public access to the database.) What they’re doing instead is posting them through social media channels, forming the basis of “Map of the Day” posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Can’t help but feel they’re teasing us a bit.

Mercator Globes at the University of Lausanne

The University of Lausanne has come across a pair of globes—one celestial, one terrestrial—made by Mercator in the 16th century. Mercator apparently had a reputation as a globemaker, and a number of his globes are still in existence today. But “not particularly rare” is not the same as “not particularly  interesting,” and the globes, which first turned up on campus in 2004, are now the subject of an exhibition at the Espace Arlaud in Lausanne, which runs until 15 July, and an extensive and detailed website that talks about the globes and how they were discovered and authenticated. Digital versions of each globe have also been produced: here’s the terrestrial globe; here’s the celestial globe.

All of this, by the way, is in French. If reading French is not your thing, the Harvard Map Collection also has a pair of Mercator globes, which you can view via their (rather dated) website.

Mapping the 2018 Kīlauea Eruption

Last week new lava vents opened in the Kīlauea volcano’s eastern rift zone, with fissures destroying a number of homes in the Leilani Estates subdivision of the island of Hawai‘i’s Puna District. Here are some maps.

USGS

The Washington Post’s coverage is typically first rate, its maps providing both detailed coverage and context: start there. More detailed maps come from the Kīlauea section of the USGS’s Volcano Hazards Program website, with fissure maps of the entire eastern rift zone (see above) and thermal maps of the Leilani Estates fissures receiving daily or near-daily updates.

The eruption was preceded and accompanied by a number of earthquakes; NOAA has created an animated map showing the incidence, magnitude and depth of the earthquakes that took place during the week of the eruption.

Map of the Late Jurassic World

Paleoartist Julio Lacerda has produced a pictorial map of the world as it was during the Late Jurassic (163½ to 145 million years ago). Available via Studio 252MYA, which sells paleontology-related swag (we have their Lambeosaurus pillow—it was a housewarming gift), it comes as either as a poster or as a framed print, and in two sizes; prices range from $26.50 to $142. Julio is threatening to do maps of other periods, which I hope he follows through on.

Google Maps Announcements at I/O

Google unveiled its future plans for Google Maps at its I/O conference yesterday. They include an augmented reality mode that combines Google’s Street View and map data with the view through your phone’s camera and “assistive and personal” features that add some artificial intelligence to recommendations and reviews. The social and recommendation features are coming this summer; no word on when or if we’ll see the AR mode. AppleInsider, Google Blog, Engadget, The Verge.

In other Google Maps news from late March: Google announced that 39 new languages were being added to Google Maps; and restaurant wait times came to the iOS version of Google Maps.

The Urbano Monte Map in 20 Different Projections

More on Urbano Monte’s 1587 world map, which, you may remember, the Rumsey Collection digitally assembled into a single map from 60 manuscript pages. Now Visionscarto has taken it a step further, with a web tool that reprojects a map into other projections, taking the map’s original polar azimuthal equidistant projection and transmogrifying it into 20 other projections. Yes, sure, the Mercator is one of them, but so are the Goode Homolosine, the Hammer—even the Dymaxion. The tool is available on both the Visioncarto and Rumsey Collection websites. [David Rumsey]

Previously: Urbano Monte’s 1587 World Map, Digitally AssembledVan Duzer Assesses Urbano Monte’s Work.