Jason Kottke is fascinated by memory maps — that is to say, maps drawn entirely from memory. In addition to some sites we’ve seen here before (previous entries below), he presents a couple more for our enjoyment. First, the From Memory group on Flickr, which solicits maps and diagrams drawn from memory. Second, a collection of student maps from Mapping.com, a web site that sells teaching resources for learning geography, where drawing maps from memory is meant as a class activity (the companion book is Mapping the World By Heart).
Google Maps adds traffic conditions for 30 U.S. cities, appearing as another mode beside Map, Satellite and Hybrid: “If your route shows red, you’re looking at a stop-and-go commute; yellow, you could be a little late for dinner; green, you’ve got smooth sailing.”
Still another artist who uses maps as raw materials: Scot J. Wittman. He explains how:
I made large facial portraits of these explorers by collaging together tonal variations of the maps of the areas they explored. I then constructed images of important skulls (e.g. Homo habilis) by using maps of sites in which they were discovered. The next series, kings and queens represented by the areas they ruled, were equally didactic … but had no sense of wonder.
Via Very Spatial.
The Canadian International Polar Year Internet Map Server maps the research stations, projects and other information associated with the the International Polar Year. The map interface takes a bit of time to load; the data are available as separate downloads. Via Science Library Pad.
Speaking of 16th-century atlases, Sotheby’s is auctioning one off next month as part of the sale of an aristocrat’s library:
The work of Yorkshire surveyor Christopher Saxton, printed between 1579 and 1590, is bound in one volume with a rare set of five charts by Giovanni Battista Boazio, illustrating Sir Francis Drake’s expedition to the West Indies and America from 1585-1586.
The volume, which runs to 40 pages of maps and plates, is expected to fetch between £500,000 and £700,000.
The atlas is regarded as a landmark in Elizabethan cartography, showing — for the first time in print — a picture of England and its geography never before presented in its entirety.
Czech historians working in the research library in the city of Olomouc stumbled across a copy of a 1563 nautical atlas — only the sixth known to exist — by the Catalan cartographer Jaume Olives, Radio Praha reports. The story of how it arrived in Olomouc is a story in itself, and somewhat of a mystery — it’s a rather landlocked country, after all — but they believe it arrived some time after 1784. The library plans to digitize the rare atlas and make it available online, presumably here. Via Map the Universe.
So what is Maps for Canadians doing now that the federal government changed its mind and decided not to stop producing paper topo maps? They’re campaigning to bring our topo maps up to date — and they want people to write their MPs, the Minister of Natural Resources and, in the pre-budget period, the Minister of Finance to that end. Via Slashgeo.
They argue that many of the country’s topo maps are decades out of date, and some areas haven’t been mapped at all. But, to be fair, many of the areas not updated recently have not significantly changed in that time, and some of the areas not mapped are remote areas that have not been mapped at a 1:50,000 scale — presumably they’ve been mapped at lower resolutions, yes?
The Chicago Tribune’s Eric Benderoff argues that GPS-enabled cellphones will doom standalone GPS units (and the companies that make them). Not that music-enabled phones have doomed iPods or cameraphones have doomed digital cameras — the apostles of convergence devices have rarely been right — but whatever. He’s arguing that the ubiquity of GPS chips will render standalone GPS receivers superfluous. Then again, I’m not sure what standalone GPS receivers are any more: the old-style handheld GPS receiver has been subsumed by dash-mounted navigation units, wrist-mounted fitness devices, and GPS-equipped handhelds. Via GeoCarta.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll recall that the mapping data for most of the online mapping services, and for the driving directions on GPS navigation systems, invariably comes from one of two map database suppliers: NAVTEQ and Tele Atlas. With that kind of duopoly, we might expect a kind of holy war of the likes of Mac vs. PC or Canon vs. Nikon, were it not for the fact that businesses, not consumers, are these companies’ customers.
Still, comparisons are inevitable, and Tim at GPS Review has just done a doozy of a comparison, looking at how two GPS receivers, one using NAVTEQ data, the other using Tele Atlas data, resolve 500 addresses — half business, half residential. There was a six-point spread, in Tele Atlas’s favour, in both residential and business address accuracy, but in no case was accuracy less than 83 per cent — and Tim deliberately picked new addresses as a check against old data. His take: that the map data supplier shouldn’t be a deciding factor when picking out a GPS receiver — other factors are more important.
A large gallery of subway maps that includes cities that you might not know have a subway system. The maps aren’t much to write home about, graphically speaking, and they don’t include light rail systems even when they’re a component of a metropolitan transit system (but to be fair, the same is true of buses, and you have to draw the line somewhere — and it is what it says it is: a collection of subway maps). But, as I said, the site’s strength is its completeness, which I find very impressive indeed. Via Mapperz.
The Railway Association of Canada produces maps and atlases of Canadian (and North American) rail lines; I’ve got a 1999 edition of a single-sheet map that covers all Canadian and major U.S. tracks. Some of their maps are available online as small PDF files, as part of a web site about proximity issues co-sponsored by the RAC and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. That explains the city railway maps, in addition to the provincial maps. Fascinating stuff for me, especially since I’m trying to keep track of where all the track is, and who (and where) all the new short lines are. Via CPSIG.
The Map Room and my other sites will be offline for several hours while my hosting provider’s building management performs emergency maintenance; details here and here. The outage is expected to take place Sunday morning between 2:15 EST/7:15 UTC and 7 AM EST/noon UTC. Do not panic.
Update, 2/25 at 9:49 AM: Came back at about 9:30 AM EST this morning — about 2½ hours later than expected, due to a core router issue.
Remember those Soviet maps of the UK that Russian spies compiled during the Cold War? Now reprints are being offered for sale, El Reg reports. (This reminds me that my Soviet map of the world is badly torn and needs fixing, and that I should get it fixed and put it up on the wall.)
Flow maps show movement from one location to another; migration maps are probably the most commonly encountered example. Researchers at Stanford University have developed a method to generate flow maps by computer; prior to this, they say, most flow maps have had to be drawn by hand. Via Mapperz; see also Information Aesthetics.
Rob Boyer writes to tout his new software application, Ascent: “Ascent is a new application written for the Macintosh that is designed to help cyclists, runners, and hikers train better by displaying, in various ways, their activities uploaded from GPS devices. An activity’s path can be shown on various maps, and animation features allow the activity to be re-played with a heads-up display showing instantaneous data values such as speed, gradient, altitude, and heart rate. Ascent imports/exports GPS eXchange files (.gpx), and can directly upload data from Garmin USB GPS device.” $35 shareware, feature limited until registration.
Fed up with large trucks getting stuck along a narrow laneway that their navigation systems sent them down, residents of the Hampshire village of Exton asked for, and received, signs warning drivers to disregard their GPS receivers, The Mail on Sunday reports. One resident told the paper:
About two years ago we noticed a real increase in drivers using the lane. Vehicles are getting stuck and having to reverse back up, damaging the wall and fence. There’s even a piece of metal embedded 12 ft up in a tree which looks like it’s come off a lorry.
When I’ve asked drivers why they are using the lane they say they are just following satnav.
Previously: Ambulance Goes Slightly Astray; More German Driving Misadventures; Hang a Left at the Pile of Sand; Getting Stuck in a Narrow Welsh Laneway; Because My Car Said So; Crackpot Directions Send Drivers Along a Cliff.
Webmapper notes the availability of the first book about the Yahoo mapping APIs, Yahoo! Maps Mashups. “It was about time, especially as the Google Maps API is covered in quite a few books already,” writes Edward. The book’s author, Charles Freedman, talks about the book on the Yahoo! Developer Network; there is also a companion web site.
- Buy Yahoo! Maps Mashups at Amazon.com
They’re putting GPS in everything nowadays, the Boston Globe reports, and it’s not necessarily out of a pressing need to do so — it’s getting cheap enough to include that gadget makers simply include it and (presumably) figure out what to do with it later. We’re talking shoes and dog collars here, folks. Via All Points Blog.
Though only in fits and starts so far, I’ve been slowly working my way through the maps in my local archives’ collection. We have what you might expect: a mixed bag of local topo and cadastral maps, both current and antique, and some maps donated by locals that themselves aren’t local — old road maps, for example.
But one thing we do have in great quantity: a whole whack of maps that appear to have emanated from the E. B. Eddy Company’s logging operations in my county. I took a few photos on Saturday to give you a sense of what they look like: 1, 2, 3. Most of the ones I’ve gone through so far date from the 1960s, and they’re printed in blue ink (that smears, let me tell you), with coloured highlights indicating areas of interest, on fairly cheap paper — these were maps printed for work, not for posterity.
I’m going to have a hell of a time trying to organize these things into some kind of serial order. Unfolding and flattening them for better storage is going to be fun, too. If you know anything about this kind of map, I’d love to hear from you.
Previously: Question: Cataloguing a Map Collection?
A $1-million project to map the terrain of Portland, Oregon will take place over the next few weeks, the Oregonian reports. The aerial LIDAR survey is intended to create a hyper-accurate terrain map that will be particularly useful in predicting areas at risk of landslides, to which Portland is particularly prone.
Identifying landslides is only one of the uses for the new lidar images. Madin also is searching for any signs on the surface of the Portland Hills Fault and other faults. Other agencies are using the data to update flood plain maps, plan roads and highways, and for stream-restoration projects.
Previous LIDAR-based mapping of Portland is available at Oregon Geology’s Pilot LIDAR Project site. Thanks to Lon Lasher for the link.
Not a map per se, but interesting and possibly useful: a 3-megabyte text file that contains ” a list of all towns, administrative divisions and agglomerations with their current population, their English name (if not equal to the international name) and parent country” as well as their geographic coordinates. In UTF-8 format, so you may have some issues reading it in some applications. I have no idea how complete it is, but my own (small) town is there; the file is 171,022 lines long. Other data available on the site. Via Kottke.
Nat Case writes, “I’ve recently started a blog on the ontology of maps (and other stuff that comes to mind). I’m a cartographer, head of production for Hedberg Maps and this blog is an outgrowth of 15+ years of talking about maps with folks in and out of the business.” Ontological indeed, from the posts so far — what maps are and what they mean, that sort of thing.
It’s a bit presumptuous to call them “hiker’s maps,” as the European Space Agency does in its announcement, but the Mars Express scientists have generated several sample topographic maps of the Iani Chaos region of Mars, in an exercise that seems to be a proof of concept. Should such maps be made for the entire Martian surface, they envision more than ten thousand sheets at 1:200,000 scale. Higher-resolution downloads are available. I’m extremely keen on this, since I’m very fond of both topo maps and extraterrestrial cartography. Via Very Spatial and GeoCarta.
Last week, Google launched Google Maps Australia, adding driving directions, business listings and mobile devices support to preexisting maps. (Previously: Australia, New Zealand Geocoding in Google Maps; Google Maps Adds Streets for Australia and New Zealand.)
My friend Robert, who’s the president of the local historical society, stopped by this afternoon with an interesting find — something he salvaged from a pile of junk that the town hall was about to throw out. It was a rolled wall map. We unrolled it, and discovered it was a 1907 map of Canada issued by the Department of the Interior. It was torn in several places, and there was some water damage at the top, but nothing was missing and it was otherwise in good shape. It was a map I liked: good colour, showing the rail lines and contemporary provincial boundaries. I could see getting it dry mounted to sort of gloss over the rips.
But then we turned the map over and saw what was on the other side. And that was a lot more interesting. Because on the back of this 1907 map of Canada was a map of my town, Shawville, drawn in September 1931 by Arthur W. Argue of the Shawville Water Works Department. The map showed water lines, connections, hydrants, and all the owners and tenants for each lot, and was a reasonably good map of the town circa 1931 besides. Argue used the back side of a map that in 1931 was already out of date to draw his map — I wonder why he did that. Was large paper hard to come by, or was it because it was already on a roll? Curious.
The 1907 map of Canada was mass produced given the quality of the paper alone; the map on the other side is one of a kind.
KVOA, a Tucson, Arizona television station, has the story of a Flagstaff cartographer, Alex DiNatale, who has reverted to drawing maps by hand, in the style of late 19th-century surveyors’ maps:
“This is like a lost art,” DiNatale said. “It’s relaxing and stuff that’s been in my head 10 to 15 years.” […]
When DiNatale works in his professional capacity, his work is computer generated.
But the allure of the hand-drawn map to him is unmistakable.
“(Computer-generated mapping) is not as good as the hand stuff,” DiNatale said. “Not as personal.”
He anticipates offering reproductions of some of his maps at some point.
The Birmingham Public Library’s Rucker Agee Map Collection contains, as you would expect, a number of old maps of Alabama, surrounding states like Mississsippi, Georgia and Florida, the U.S., and North America, but there are also world maps and maps of other locales as well in there. 687 items in all, dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries. Via Map the Universe.
Peacay stumbled across a relatively new addition to Princeton’s digital collections, Il regno tutto di Candia. Abstract: “This work was published in Venice in 1651, three years after the Ottomans first tried to occupy the island of Crete, Venice’s last important trading foothold in the eastern Mediterreanean. Intended to raise European and Papal support for the Venetian defense of Crete, the carefully engraved maps show exquisite craftsmanship.” 70 pages scanned.
Just how hard is it to update the maps on in-dash GPS navigation systems? The fact that Toyota’s announcement — that it has developed a way to simplify and speed up the process by only updating the maps relevant to the driver — is getting the attention it has (Far East Gizmos, Engadget) suggests that it is pretty involved; the news release says it’s normally done twice a year, with the resulting delay in getting new map data to drivers. I suppose there’s a problem along these lines whenever map updates are done physically — for example, CD-ROM maps for GPS devices — rather than over a network.
It’s one thing to talk about online mapping tools in the abstract, or to play around with them a little bit, but quite another to use them to achieve a specific goal. James Fee’s recent experience using a few different online systems to look for a new house is therefore instructive. He found that the best results came from a combination of Zillow and Virtual Earth, which, he says, “was just killer in finding the house I wanted in the location I wanted. I figured I’d be using Google Earth for this exercise, but Virtual Earth’s scratch pad is so valuable with sharing multiple points of interest that I never even bothered with Google’s products.”
Olly Benson wrote in to mention that he’d done a cartogram showing the population of England by county. “Each block on the map represents 10,000 people living in that county — so London, with a population of just over 7 million has 712 blocks.”
Chris Yates has created a Beck-style diagram of the Interstate highway network — simplified, of course, so not every highway is listed. Interesting to see how the grid works: this is something my younger self, armed with an out-of-date Rand McNally road atlas, would have spent a lot of time playing with. Prints are available. Via Boing Boing.
The second Joint International Workshop on Digital Approaches to Cartographic Heritage will take place on May 18 and 19 in Athens; hosted by the ICA’s Digital Technologies in Cartographic Heritage working group, the conference is about all matters digital, from digitization to analysis to archiving. Via MapUtopia.
I’m sure you’ll forgive me a brief digression into road geekery. In yesterday’s New York Times, there was an article about how MapQuest et al. fail to display regionally unique intersection geometries, such as frontage roads, jughandles (at right), and Michigan lefts. Which is as good an excuse as any for the article to describe them, because they’re really neat, and to link to the Unconventional Arterial Intersection Design page, which showcases some examples of unorthodox intersections that might be unfathomable to out-of-towners. Via Gadling.
I remember the confusion in Winnipeg when a centre left-turn lane, common elsewhere but new to my city, was installed on St. James Street as part of lane control; some interchanges along Deerfoot Trail in Calgary are also a bit atypical; and those familiar with European right-of-way rules might find North American roundabouts, where the car at right does not necessarily have the right of way, counterintuitive. The question is, how do you map such differences? You probably can’t.
For the last couple of weeks, Garmin’s blog has been hyping the company’s forthcoming Super Bowl ad, with an extended music video and behind the scenes clips. With the Super Bowl now over, the ad itself is now finally available:
I’m not sure how much to read into this ad. On the one hand, Super Bowl ads have in recent years been all about pushing the creative envelope, brand awareness and having a little fun — and doing an ad for GPS navigation systems in the style of Japanese tokusatsu certainly fits the bill. It’s cheese, but it’s high-concept cheese. Ed Parsons says that “you can tell that geospatial technology is mainstream when a GI company can afford the rates to place a Super Bowl ad on U.S. television.”
On the other hand, what is Garmin’s message in this ad? What is it saying about paper maps when a map transforms into a kaiju named Maposaurus that must be defeated by Garmin Man? Is Garmin’s message that the solution to an unwieldy $5 map is a several-hundred-dollar navigation system? (That will presumably tell you to drive off a cliff.) Maybe I’m reading too much into a silly one-off ad, but I’m surprised at the GPS vs. paper maps messaging, and concerned at the notion that maps aren’t necessary any more. False dichotomy, implications for map literacy, etc., etc.
Then again, the likely point of this ad — and of Super Bowl ads in general, for that matter — is just to get us talking about it. Thierry isn’t a fan of the ad. What do you think?
Though I don’t collect them per se, I’ve always been a big fan of old road maps, so I enjoyed reading Ephemera’s interview with Richard Horwitz — he’s a past president of the Road Map Collectors Association, he owns more than 12,000 road maps, and he shares a few tidbits about the hobby in this interview. Get thee behind me, Satan. Via Map the Universe.
The Washington Post had a brief profile of the National Geographic Society’s chief cartographer, Allen Carroll, earlier this week; if you think it reads a little funny, note that this was published in the paper’s children’s section. Via GeoCarta and Map the Universe.
An awful lot of geotagging utilities for the Mac (adding metadata to a file is probably not a difficult programming task). Here are two more, from the same company: PhotoInfoEditor and PhotoGPSEditor; they’re practically identical except that the latter adds GPX/NMEA file support. Each has a built-in Google Maps interface that could stand some improvement: I found it very non-intuitive. Via TUAW.
The story of the Piri Reis map is the story of how a perfectly innocent 16th-century navigational chart can end up, through no fault of its own, at the centre of a crackpot theory about our planet’s ancient history.
Our story begins in 1929, when the new republican government of Turkey was converting the old Topkapi Palace in Istanbul into a museum. During the work, a map was discovered that was more than 400 years old but had been hitherto unknown. (That in itself is not necessarily surprising: maps of that era were state secrets.) The map was the western third of a portolan chart of the world, drawn on gazelle skin. It covered the Americas, the Atlantic Ocean, the Iberian peninsula and the western part of Africa. The rest of the chart, covering the Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and Far East, is presumably lost forever.
The map was the handiwork of an Ottoman admiral named Piri Reis (“Reis” was his rank — admiral), who in 1513 compiled the map from many different sources — some ancient, some more recent, including Portuguese charts of Asia and charts made by Columbus that were obtained by his uncle in 1501 when he captured seven Spanish ships. Piri wrote about his sources in one of the map’s marginal notes:
In this century there is no map like this map in anyone’s possession. The hand of this poor man has drawn it and now it is constructed from about twenty charts and Mappae Mundi (these are charts drawn in the days of Alexander, Lord of the Two Horns, which show the inhabited quarter of the world; the Arabs name these charts Jaferiye), from eight Jaferiyes of that kind and one Arabic map of Hind, and from the maps just drawn by four Portuguese which show the countries of Hind, Sind and China geometrically drawn, and also from a map drawn by Colombo in the western region. By reducing all these maps to one scale this final form was arrived at. So that the present map is as correct and reliable for the Seven Seas as the maps of our own countries are considered correct and reliable by seamen.
Ironically, it is the map’s correctness and reliability that has since become the issue.
Piri Reis’s map, fascinating on its own, now leaves the realm of 15th-century navigators and enters the lands of ancient astronauts, ice-age civilizations, and shifting poles. Enter Charles Hapgood, who uses the Piri Reis map to argue, in his 1966 book, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, a number of extraordinary things. Hapgood saw, at the bottom left of the map, what he believed to be an accurate representation of the ice-free coast of Antarctica. He fit that into his pre-existing theory that the Earth’s poles had shifted in the relatively recent past (or, of you like, that the Earth’s crust had shifted relative to the poles), leaving Antarctica ice-free, and that, 9,500 years ago, there was an advanced civilization that accurately mapped the Antarctic coastline. And that among Piri Reis’s ancient sources were maps from that civilization.
(Hapgood wasn’t alone; Erich von Däniken, fan of ancient alien astronauts, argued it was an azimuthal equidistant projection.)
So, the New Agers argue the following about a piece of a 16th-century portolan chart:
- It’s an insanely accurate azimuthal equidistant projection.
- It accurately shows the ice-free coast of Antarctica.
- It’s evidence of polar shifting.
- The mapping was done by an advanced ice-age civilization.
All of which is based on the fact that the coast of South America curves back towards Africa at the bottom of the map, and that it looks a little like the coast of Antarctica.
It’s an extraordinary claim, and according to the Sagan doctrine requires extraordinary evidence. But as is often the case with pseudoscience, the burden of proof is laid on those who have to disprove the claim. In other words: “Prove I’m wrong.”
So, inasmuch as there are pages about the map’s place in Hapgood’s theory, there are also plenty of web sites dedicated to disproving Hapgood’s theory — not on the basis of its own absurdity, but on Hapgood’s own terms. If claims are made to the map’s accuracy and representation, it’s surprisingly easy to refute them. Both Steven Dutch and Diego Cuoghi do just this, pointing out that
- the map is tremendously inaccurate around the Caribbean, reflecting Columbus’s own errors;
- the map does not fit an azimuthal equidistant projection; and, most importantly,
- the curve in South America’s coast does not match Antarctica nearly as well (for one thing, it misses lots of coastline, as well as Cape Horn) as it does Patagonia, if the map is suddenly turned at that point.
The most persuasive reason for the sudden curve in South America’s coastline is put forth by Paul Lunde:
To put it more simply, Piri Reis, or the scribe who copied his work, may have realized, as he came to the Rio de la Plata, that he was going to run off the edge of his valuable parchment if he continued south. So he did the logical thing and turned the coastline to the east, marking the turn with a semicircle of crenelations, so that he could fit the entire coastline on his page. If that was the case, then the elaborate Hapgood hypotheses — or at least those elements based entirely on the Piri Reis map — would have no foundation whatever.
As is often the case with pseudoscientific theories about old maps, innocuous explanations are ignored in favour of flights of fancy. It’s as though the phrase “Here Be Dragons” was taken, centuries later, as categorical proof of the existence of fire-breathing reptiles.
More links. Web pages dedicated to the Piri Reis map may be found here and here. Charles Hapgood’s theories are tackled by Paul Heinrich and Sean Mewhinney. See also this MetaFilter post from 2004 and the map’s Wikipedia entry.
Three-quarters of Alaska’s electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, mostly natural gas; the Renewable Energy Atlas of Alaska (26 MB, PDF) identifies potential sources of energy from renewable sources in the state, such as wind, hydro and tidal power (solar’s not much use up north). Via Maps-L.
It’s a pity that the Atlas of Tuna and Billfish Catches, from the UN’s Fish and Agriculture Organization, has such a terrible user interface — it’s a textbook case of mystery meat navigation — but, if you can stomach navigating your way through, there are some interesting maps showing the historic rise of catches of a number of different species of fish in all the oceans. The maps are too small, too. Via Kottke.