Talking About Map Thefts

Here’s a profile of Thomas Durrer, the University of Virginia detective assigned to the Gilbert Bland map theft case, in the spring 2016 issue of Virginia, the university’s alumni magazine. [via]

map-thief island-lost-mapsBland’s career predated Forbes Smiley’s (he lacked Smiley’s ostensible pedigree) and was the focus of Miles Harvey’s 2000 book The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime (AmazoniBooks).

Smiley was, of course, the subject of Michael Blanding’s 2014 book The Map Thief (Amazon, iBooks; see my review). Blanding is on a bit of a campus speaking tour at the moment, discussing the Smiley case. He’s at the University of Florida tonight, the University of Miami tomorrow night, and more college campuses in April and May.

New Gravity Map of Mars


A new gravity map of Mars, based on data from three orbiting spacecraft, has been released. “Slight differences in Mars’ gravity changed the trajectory of the NASA spacecraft orbiting the planet, which altered the signal being sent from the spacecraft to the Deep Space Network. These small fluctuations in the orbital data were used to build a map of the Martian gravity field.”

Mars Gravity Map
NASA/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio

The data enables the crustal thickness of Mars to be determined to a resolution of approximately 120 kilometres. Here’s a short video explaining the significance:

Women in Cartography (Continued)

wac-cartographerOn the Library of Congress’s map blog, a post about the women cartographers employed by the military and government during World War II—the so-called “Military Mapping Maidens.”

The Guardian has a brief item on ocean mapper Marie Tharp.

CityLab’s Laura Bliss presents a selection of maps by women mapmakers like Mary Ann Roque, the Haussard sisters and Shanawdithit, the last known member of the Beothuk people.

Previously: Women in Cartography.

Crowdsourcing Street Photos of Dar es Salaam

Point Google Maps or OpenStreetMap at a city like Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and you’ll get a reasonably good map. What you won’t get is Street View or street-level imagery—or, necessarily, the data that comes from a street-level understanding of the territory. NPR’s Nadia Whitehead looks at a joint project of the World Bank and Mapillary, a company that crowdsources street-level photos, to produce those images. “Volunteers are mounting camera rigs to their tuk tuks—three-wheeled motor-powered vehicles—to snap pictures as they cruise Dar es Salaam’s dirt roads. Others download the Mapillary app on their smartphones and capture images as they walk or hitch rides on motorbikes. In all, more than 260 people have volunteered.” [via]

The Return of the Electric Map

The Electric Map of the Battle of Gettysburg, once a mainstay of Gettysburg National Military Park, closed in 2008; in 2012 it was purchased at auction for $14,000 by Scott Roland, a businessman who planned to reopen it as a tourist attraction in downtown Hanover, Pennsylvania, about 16 miles east of Gettysburg. Renovating and reassembling the map has taken Roland longer than he originally expected, the Evening Sun reports, but he believes the map will be ready by the end of the school year. [via]

1853 Texas Map Bought for $10, Sells for $10,000


A copy of an 1853 map of Texas by Jacob de Cordova found in a $10 box of ragtime sheet music sold at auction last weekend for $10,000. The map, once owned by surveyor James M. Manning, who died in 1872, was bought, along with a related letter, by Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi, whose library houses the Manning papers. [via]

Support Update

In the 48 hours since I posted on how to support The Map Room, 18 readers have contributed a total of $166. That’s tremendous given the size of my audience: there may not be many of you, but you’re hardcore. The split between buying me a coffee (it’s a tip jar, actually) and contributing to my web hosting was 28:72. Contributions to the latter are sufficient to pay for 10 months of web hosting on my current plan; they’d take a big bite out of the additional cost of the upgraded plan, which I will now look into. I deeply appreciate the support. Thank you.

International Workshop on Portolan Charts

Vesconte Maggiolo, Portolan chart, 1541. Kartenabteilung der Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. Reproduced from Wikimedia Commons.

The program for the First International Workshop on the Origin and Evolution of Portolan Charts, which takes place 5-6 June 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal, is now live. The conference focuses on the history of portolan charts and the analytical techniques used to study them. [via]

People and Places

people-and-places Coming next month from Policy Press, the third edition of People and Places: A 21st-Century Atlas of the U.K. by Danny Dorling and Bethan Thomas. The Independent has a long profile of the book, which makes extensive use of cartograms to illustrate data about the British population, and one of its co-authors, Oxford geography professor Danny Dorling. Pre-order at Amazon (direct Amazon U.K. link—it’s more likely to be in stock there). [via]

Mapping Global Sea Surface Height

Credit: NASA/JPL Ocean Surface Topography Team.

Jason-3 is the latest earth observation satellite tasked with measuring global sea surface height; its data will be used in weather and climate research (e.g., El Niño, climate change). Launched on January 17, it’s now in its six-month checkout phase and has produced its first complete map, which corresponds well with the map produced by the still-operational Jason-2 satellite, so that’s a good sign. [via]

Sexism in the GIS Workplace

Is Sexism a Problem in GIS? Caitlin Dempsey Morais of GIS Lounge grapples with a thorny subject. “Over a two week period in September of 2015, I opened a survey on GIS Lounge to those working in the geospatial industry in order to take a look at the question of, ‘is sexism in the workplace an issue for women (and men) working in GIS?’ This article reports back on the results from that survey.”

Map as Metaphor

Map as Metaphor is the theme for this year’s History of Art series, hosted by the New York-based Center for Book Arts. Starting tomorrow and running on three consecutive Friday evenings, a series of panels will investigate “how the map can be understood as a metaphor, both as material artifact and cultural object as well as an artistic tool”: The Socio-Political Map: Control and Power (18 March); The Eco-Techno Map: Data and Online Initiatives (25 March); and The Artist Map: Appropriation and Creation (1 April). Each panel takes place at the Center for Book Arts, 28 W 27th St, 3rd Floor, New York, and begins at 6:30 PM. Reservations recommended; donations requested. [via]