January 2005

Pearcy’s 38 States

In the 1970s, geography professor C. Etzel Pearcy proposed reconfiguring the United States into 38 states that were, in his view, more physically and culturally coherent. This page has the story — and, more importantly for our purposes, the map.

When Pearcy realigned the U.S., he gave high priority to population density, location of cities, lines of transportation, land relief, and size and shape of individual States. Each major city which fell into the “straddling” category is neatly tucked within the boundaries of a new State. Pearcy tried to place a major metropolitan area in the center of each State. St. Louis is in the center of the State of Osage, Chicago is centered in the State of Dearborn.

Via Things Magazine; thanks also to Owen.

Journal of Maps

Richard writes to draw our attention to a new online scholarly journal, the Journal of Maps, which launched last year and had their first issue this month. From their about page:

The Journal of Maps is a new inter-disciplinary online, electronic, journal that aims to provide a forum for researchers to publish their maps. Using full peer review and a reverse publishing method (where the author pays for the review process), all published maps will be freely distributed to anyone wishing to view them.

Articles and maps are published in PDF format. The maps are first-rate: I had a look at a couple of the geomorphological maps, which are stunning. Free registration is required, about which I have one gripe: it appears that you cannot opt out of receiving their newsletter — I found that you had to check that box, which is not cricket (see Mike Smith’s comment).

Question: How to Create a Better Trail Map?

Brod Berser writes:

I have the [National Geographic] Topo! California regional software and a Garmin III+ GPS. I would like to make a trail map for Torrey Pines State Reserve here in San Diego. There is a hand-drawn map but it is not much use. I need information on a reasonably accurate method to follow, or a map source that could provide a better map. [Link added]

Basically, Brod is trying to avoid reinventing the wheel. If you were to go about making a good trail map, how would you do it?

Where Do You Want to Go Today?

A bug in Microsoft’s MapPoint software makes a trip from Haugesund to Trondheim, Norway, look like an episode from The Amazing Race: it recommends a circuitous, 2,700-kilometre route through the U.K., Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Hilarity ensues, because Microsoft Schadenfreude is the very best kind.

Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble says that Microsoft is aware of the problem; a fix is supposedly due next month.

Via CNet News.com.


OpenStreetMap “is an effort to produce free (CC-licensed) streetmaps of the world.” It’s in “pre-pre-pre alpha” at the moment.

The idea is to get free data by running around with a GPS, analysis of aerial photography or other methods since map data is expensive in Europe and elsewhere. We are at a fairly early stage with an open XML-RPC interface and an applet that can edit point data from GPS units and streets drawn on top of that. There is an active mailing list and a wiki you’re welcome to join.

Via Matt. See previous entry: London Free Map.

Question: Best World Atlas?

Marc asks, “Which is the best overall general-purpose atlas I can buy? My criteria would include depth, detail and quality of design.”

There are, of course, several options, including the Great, Hammond, National Geographic (Amazon, National Geographic Store), Oxford University Press, Rand McNally and Times (see previous entry) world atlases, as well as their student and concise versions.

I actually don’t own an atlas — I don’t know how that happened — so I’d be interested to hear your recommendations as well.

So, which one do you recommend? Is there another atlas that I’ve missed? Try to be specific: if you like (or dislike) a particular edition, tell us why.

European Capitals Quiz

Another damn geography quiz (see previous entry): this one, from the German version of RTL, requires you to throw a dart on the capital cities of various European countries; you’re scored based on how off the mark you are. In German, with German grades (one to six, with six being the worst). I got a three, despite being only a couple of kilometres off in some places. Via MetaFilter.

Satellite Images and the Weather

A couple of links tonight; the tenuous connection is that they both have to do with the weather and satellite imagery.

  • I’ve never heard of Software MacKiev before, but they appear to do educational software for the Mac. They’ve released a $40 program called 3D Weather Globe and Atlas, which lets you muck around with satellite maps and realtime weather and cloud-cover data. Via MacNN.
  • Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has a satellite image home page, where you can download the latest satellite images of Australia, naturally. (How’s that for begging the question?) The colour temperature maps are particularly interesting. Via Plep.

New Garmin Gadgetry

My coverage of Garmin’s first GPS/PDA was pretty compulsive — I don’t usually cover GPS receivers, but PDAs are one of my other hobbies — so for consistency’s sake I should at least note two new models announced by Garmin this month: the $750 iQue M5, which runs Windows Mobile 2003 instead of Palm OS 5 (Brighthand, Palm Infocenter); and the $1,100 iQue 3600a, an aviation GPS that does run the Palm OS and has a yoke-mounting cradle (Brighthand, Palm Infocenter). Both are U.S.-only.

Global MapAid

Global MapAid is a project that is trying to provide useful maps for humanitarian aid workers. The problem is, when things go blooey, whether due to natural disaster or war or famine, aid workers on the ground need accurate maps. But because of the situation, the available maps are suddenly out of date — that hospital or key supply route might just have been wiped out — or otherwise insufficient. The map may not show refugee camps or minefields, or provide the specialized information that aid workers need in particular: your average highway map doesn’t show local AIDS infection rates, for example. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has the story.

Question: Mapping Software That Tracks and Links to Where I’ve Been?

Bruce Frank asks a question that rings a bell with me, but I can’t put my finger on it:

I’m looking for mapping software that I can edit and add my own tracks (places I’ve been) when I’ve made deployments with the US Navy. I want to be able to place a pin on a country, have a link to that map and then to a city where anyone can click the city link and go to the appropriate pictures I have on my web site.
Any ideas? Not sure what to call this type of map software but I’ve seen something similar used for commercial web sites.

I remember seeing something along these lines on at least one blog’s sidebar, but it disappeared a redesign or two ago. Maybe one of you can help with that.

It sounds like Bruce is looking for something along the lines of pointMapper (which I blogged in 2003, when it was called “*mapper”), or MapMemo if it had a web export component (see previous entry). But I could be completely off-target. What do you think?

Fun with Flickr; Mappr

A little more about Flickr, which I wrote about in October (Flickr Users’ Map Photos). Some users tag their map pictures with “maps”, others with “map”; see them both here. You can get RSS and Atom feeds for either tag, but not for both at once — that would be asking too much, I think and here’s the feed for both tags (thanks, Simon).

There’s also a Cartography group on Flickr, in case you were a member and didn’t know about it. There it is; off you go.

I’m probably the last person in the universe to mention Mappr, which is a project that attempts to geolocate your Flickr photos based on the tags you assign them: photos tagged “los angeles”, for example, would be placed on the map in the appropriate spot. There are some ambiguous cases — all the Columbuses in the U.S. come to mind — and it’s pretty U.S.-centric at the moment, but it’s an interesting concept. Meant, they say, to hold us over until GPS coordinates are a standard part of a digital photo’s EXIF data and this can be done automatically and unambiguously.

Where Is Here?

Last month I finished reading Alan Morantz’s Where Is Here? Canada’s Maps and the Stories They Tell, which I got as a birthday gift last year — it was in the remainder pile. I suppose I should try to say a little bit about it.

It’s an interesting book, and certainly not dry: it’s full of tales of surveyors and speculators, and all manner of eccentric characters. It’s as much about the process of making maps — especially the surveying — as the maps themselves, and how they were used. Of particular interest is the material about aboriginal cartography and hobo signs, but the stories about maps being used to dupe settlers and map collecting are no less fascinating. The tale of one survey in northern British Columbia is pure comedy: you couldn’t make it up.

To a certain extent, it suffers from a nation-building paradigm — a lot of Canadian popular history is inherently Hegelian — but I nevertheless enjoyed it.

Question: World Hydrological Map?

James Geluso writes, “I’m looking for a really good world hydrological map. I’m especially interested in one that shows not just watercourses, but makes it easy to see the basins. I have the National Geographic Sept. 2002 map, ‘A Thirsty Planet,’ but it only shows a few major basins.” Any suggestions?

Question: Long Island Aerial Map?

(Questions are coming in fast and furious here at The Map Room; I’m afraid I’ll have to be selective. This little experiment is working far better than I had expected.)

Rocco Cammarota writes, “Can I get a map (aerial view) of the North Fork of Long Island to create a mural?”

I assume he’s looking for a physical map, and a large one at that, but I had a look around the web anyway.

I found a couple of sites dealing with aerial photographs of Long Island — this one and this one — but they’re taken from a “bird’s-eye” angle, which is probably not what Rocco had in mind. There’s also a page about the Fairchild Aerial Survey of the late 1920s and early 1930s. As for Long Island maps, SUNY Stony Brook’s library has a collection of links to maps of Long Island.

If a downward-looking, map-like view is what’s called for, then you’re looking at satellite imagery, for which there’s always Keyhole. Whether or not the images there can be blown up into murals, I can’t say.

Anything else?


John Emerson has been working on something cool. He writes,

DIY Map is a clickable, zooming map written in Flash and colored by data from an external text file. The external data file makes it easy to customize and update, and to use the same Flash file many times in the same Web page with different data sets.
There are plenty more features to come … as soon as I find the time.

This looks seriously neat.

Shaded Relief

I’ve been meaning to post Tom Patterson’s Shaded Relief site for a while: this is a massive site that deals with the technical issues of creating relief maps. Way too technical for me, but the detail is absolutely fascinating. From Patterson’s introduction:

The goal of this site is to assist practicing cartographers with the presentation of relief on maps. The articles and tutorials that follow cover 2D shaded relief, 3D panoramas, and other types of raster map art. Using mostly graphics software and free data, I developed the techniques to support my work as a cartographer for the US National Park Service, Harpers Ferry Center. Attractively presented shaded relief has long been a hallmark of Park Service maps — a tradition that I attempt to continue through digital means.

Via The Cartoonist.

Question: European Map with English City Names?

Brian Hennessey writes, “I’m planning a trip to Europe this summer and can’t seem to find a map that I can fold and unfold to look at for planning purposes and has all the names of the cities in English. Can you recommend a good map and where can I find it?”

I’m assuming he wants something more than a National Geographic-sized map of Europe. Most of the smaller-scale maps I can think of — the Michelin series, for example — would have the local names. (If it were me, I’d probably just learn the local names as I planned the trip, Köln = Cologne, Firenze = Florence, Praha = Prague and so forth.) What would you suggest? Is there a map series for him?

Question: A Copy of the Erroneous PureCanada Map?

About a year and a half ago, there was a big stink in Canada over the first issue of the Canadian Tourism Commission’s magazine, PureCanada, which had an unacceptable number of errors and omissions (see this post from July 2003, plus others earlier that month).

Today, Caroline writes, “I just wanted to know where I can get a copy of the first edition map from PureCanada, the one where they leave out PEI and etc. Is there one available online for free possibly?”

Now I think I actually saw this map in December 2003, when I spent the holidays with my girlfriend’s parents. At the time a little voice in my head said, “Jon, you really ought to scan this.” And I should have; because, when I Google for it, I find lots of expired news links and some blog entries, but nothing where someone actually scanned in the map.

Short of finding a physical copy of PureCanada #1, I don’t think this map is available. But I could be wrong, so I’m posting this question: what do you think, is this map available anywhere? Or does one of you have a physical copy you could scan for us?

Question: Best Wall-sized World Map?

For our very first question, Sven Cahling from Sweden wonders whether anyone can recommend “a really good and beautiful world wall map.” I presume that means he’s looking for something that’s not only informative, but aesthetically pleasing as well.

I can’t think of anything off-hand, but then I don’t spend enough time in map stores. Any recommendations for Sven?

New Feature: Map Questions

Announcing a new feature on The Map Room: Map Questions.

Here’s the premise. Every now and then I get a question by e-mail about a map-related subject — for example, where they can buy a certain map, or whether an antique map in their possession has any value and what to do with it. But, much as I’d like to help, I can’t: even nearly two years into this project, I’m still no expert — even though some of you seem to believe that I am.

It occurred to me that some of my readers knew a lot more about this subject than I do, and that, if I didn’t know the answer, but posted it here, somebody else might be able to help by posting an answer in the comments.

So if you have a map-related question, go to this page and fill out the form. If your question is legitimate — I do get a lot of spam — then I’ll post it and let my clever readers take a crack at it.

This will only work, though, if my clever readers do take a crack at it. As such, it’ll be an interesting experiment. Let’s see how it goes.

Tsunami Wave Height Images and Animation

More on the Indian Ocean tsunami. The NOAA has a page of images that show the height of the tsunami wave as it progressed (and expanded) over time, using data collected from radar satellites. There’s also an animation of the tsunami wave that shows it spreading across every ocean on earth — yow! — which, I must confess, I saw for the first time on CNN yesterday. (Jennifer turned to me and said, “You’re posting that, aren’t you.”) The animation files are very large.

2005 Bloggies

Since I have neither shame nor subtlety, let me point out that nominations for the 2005 Bloggies are now open, if you’re interested in nominating this (or any other) blog in one of the categories.