A Mobile Mapping Roundup

Rerouting. Lifehacker talks about how to prevent mapping apps from rerouting you on the fly, and lists some options. [R. E. Sieber]

Traffic. Traffic congestion is a key feature of mobile mapping, and predicting it involves looking at historical data. CityLab reports on a recent study suggests that time-of-day electricity usage patterns can be used to predict traffic congestion patterns. A household that starts using power earlier in the morning gets up earlier and presumably will go to work earlier.) It’s another variable that can be put to use in traffic modelling.

Trail difficulty. OpenStreetMap doesn’t differentiate between “walk-in-the-park” trails and mountaineering routes, and that may have had something to do with hikers needing to be rescued from the side of a British Columbia mountain recently. The hikers apparently used OSM on a mobile phone app, and in OSM trail difficulty is an optional tag. The wisdom of using OSM in safety-critical environments notwithstanding, this is something that OSM editors need to get on. [Ian Dees]

Missing the Island: An Exhibition of Maps without PEI

Prince Edward Island is to maps of Canada what New Zealand is to world maps: it’s left off them an awful lot, and the residents are sore about it. Now, CBC News reports that there’s an exhibition about it: Missing the Island, “[a] light-hearted look at a small selection of maps and graphics that have omitted P.E.I.,” runs until October 7 at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. [WMS]

Previously: The Omitted Island; ‘Potato Drop’.

Alejandro Polanco’s Lost Worlds

Speaking of lost islands, invented places, myths and mistakes, our friend Alejandro Polanco’s latest project is this poster map of lost worlds—he calls it “the fantasy map I always dreamed of.” See his blog post (in Spanish) or the project’s Kickstarter page:

Over the last twenty years, in my work as a graphic designer and mapmaker, I have enjoyed reading numerous books on lost continents, mythological animals, phantom islands and cartographic errors. However, I have never found all those ingredients gathered in a single fantasy map. That’s why I decided to create “Lost Worlds,” a poster in which I have compiled some of the main details about lost continents, historical errors on famous maps, islands that once were believed to really exist, fantastic animals. . . . The documentation work has been meticulous and, for the final design, I have chosen the cases that I consider to be the most representative. It is, in short, a map to feed our imagination and our dreams.

Like his previous project, Minimal Geography, it’s full of inset maps and descriptive text. The main map locates lost continents, phantom islands and cryptid creatures; the inset maps include examples of old maps that contain the sorts of imaginary and erroneous features Edward Brooke-Hitching covers in The Phantom Atlas.

Alejandro is, as I mentioned, crowdfunding this map on Kickstarter, where it’s already past its (nominal) target. Available as a digital download; prices start at €6 (higher tiers include other products.

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.

New Zealand Launches Campaign to Get Itself Back on World Maps

Frustrated by being left off world maps, New Zealand has launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign called #getNZonthemap, the highlight of which is a three-minute video featuring New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and actor Rhys Darby, who goes full conspiracy theory in the clip. Fun all round. See the video on Facebook or Vimeo.

Previously: Maps Without New Zealand.

More on Two Books About Nonexistent Places

Two items on books about nonexistent places on maps and other map errors, each of which we’ve heard of before:

  1. The Santa Fe New Mexican has a piece on The Phantom Atlas: The Greatest Myths, Lies and Blunders on Maps by Edward Brooke-Hitching, which came out in the U.K. in late 2016 (previously); that edition is available via Amazon on the U.S. and Canada, but a separate U.S. edition is coming in April from Chronicle. [WMS]
  2. Meanwhile, at National Geographic’s All Over the Map blog, Greg Miller takes a look at The Un-Discovered Islands, Malachy Tallack’s book about phantom islands: places once thought real, but later proven nonexistent. Like The Phantom Atlas, it first saw publication in 2016; its U.S. edition came out last November (previously). Miller’s piece includes examples of such nonexistent places on maps from the Osher Map Library.

The Invention of Frisland

Nicolo Zeno and Girolamo Ruscelli, Septentrionalivm partivm nova tabvla, 1561.

Atlas Obscura has the odd and fascinating story of how a Venetian named Nicolò Zeno created an island in the middle of the North Atlantic called Frisland, in an apparent attempt to claim that Venetian explorers had discovered the New World. After it appeared on Zeno’s 1558 map, it persisted on other maps for a century afterward (it was even claimed for England in 1580), and the existence of Frisland itself was not fully debunked for a long time after that. “The answer to Zeno’s enduring success lies not with his works, but with his audience. For centuries, people believed Zeno because they wanted to believe him. That was Zeno’s true stroke of genius. He created a story too tantalizing for people to ignore.”

Fake Maps! (Very Dishonest)

Here’s a video of Steven Feldman’s informative and entertaining talk at FOSS4G in Boston last August: “Fake Maps, Very Dishonest” looks at the ways in which maps, through ignorance, incompetence or deliberate intent, can mislead, misinform, misfire and miss the point. Very much in the vein of Monmonier’s How to Lie with Maps, or Andrew Wiseman’s “When Maps Lie,” but very much aimed at working mapmakers. Slides of Steven’s presentation are available here (there are some that didn’t make it into the actual talk). Slides and videos of other FOSS4G presentations are also available online. [Benjamin Hennig]

‘The Un-Discovered Islands’ Comes to North America

Last year I told you about The Un-Discovered Islands, a book by Malachy Tallack that told the stories of some two dozen islands that were once thought real but are now no longer on the map. It existed only as a British edition, though a U.S. edition was said to be forthcoming. That U.S. edition is coming next month from Picador, so readers in North America will be able to lay hands on a copy more easily, should they wish. [Amazon]

Meanwhile, Tor.com has published an excerpt online.

Previously: Mapping Scottish and/or Nonexistent IslandsThe Un-Discovered Islands Reviewed.

Map Error Costs Centre $1.7 Million in Tax Credits

A map error has left a community centre in Burlington, Vermont scrambling to make up a nearly $2-million financial shortfall.

Specifically, the center had banked on equity from New Market Tax Credits to fund the final construction payment of $1.7 million. Its leaders believed the new building at 505 Lake Street fell in a qualifying U.S. Census tract for the federal program, according to the letter.

An online map based on the building address showed it within the tract, but it turned out that the building is actually just outside it.

[Bill Morris]

Debunking a Fake Hurricane Map

Also from last week: someone on Facebook circulated a map showing the path of Hurricane Irma hitting Houston, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a warning on Twitter about fake forecasts (real forecasts only go out five days). Media factchecking service PolitiFact has the details. Fun fact: making a counterfeit or false weather forecast is an offense in the United States.