Tupaia’s Map Reinterpreted

Tupaia’s map
Tupaia’s map

At Knowable, Cristy Gelling looks at new interpretations of Tupaia’s map of the Pacific Ocean. Tupaia was a Polynesian navigator who became attached to Cook’s expedition. His map, drawn beginning in 1769, has confounded observers because its islands do not line up with the actual geography of the Pacific’s islands. One 2018 study deciphers the map with an alternative, more complicated arrangement in which north is at the centre of the map. This proposal is not universally accepted.

States of Confusion

Richard Peter Johnson has been posting quizzes on Reddit where the shapes of countries and U.S. states are flipped, rotated and/or inverted and you’re challenged to identify them. It’s actually harder than you might think—especially when they’re inverted or mirror-flipped—and messes with your perception in the way that, say, upside-down world maps do.

COVID-19 Deaths in the Post-Vaccine Era

Maps from the New York Times showing in which U.S. counties COVID deaths increased or decreased after vaccines became widely available.
The New York Times

The New York Times looks at the death rates from COVID-19 after vaccines became widely available. Along with analyses of racial and age groups, there is this on the geographic front: “Where people are dying of Covid-19 also has changed since vaccines became widely available. Death rates fell in most counties across the country, and in about one in five counties, the death rate fell by more than half. But in about one in 10 counties, death rates have more than doubled.”

CityLab Continues Its COVID Mapping Project

Bloomberg CityLab is continuing its COVID-19 mapping project: they’ve issued another call for reader-submitted maps. “[T]he new year is a chance to take stock of where we stand now. Once again, Bloomberg CityLab invites you to make a map that reflects on how your world has shifted or been reframed during the pandemic.” Due date is 17 January.

The Quarantine Atlas (book cover)Previously: CityLab Wants Your Hand-Drawn Quarantine Maps; Maps from Isolation; CityLab Wants Your Homemade Map of 2020.

Preorder The Quarantine Atlas: Mapping Life under COVID-19 at Amazon (Canada, UK).

Google Rerouted Traffic Up Poorly Maintained Mountain Roads During a Blizzard

Screenshot of Google Maps showing driving directions in California
Screenshot (Crystal A. Kolden/@pyrogeog on Twitter)

Last week, when a snowstorm closed Interstate 80 east of Sacramento, Google Maps started redirecting traffic up poorly maintained mountain roads, which is about as good an idea during a blizzard as it sounds.

As SFGate reports,

Other dispatches from Twitter allege that the service—particularly its mobile app—directed people to closed-off highways, mountain passes and lakeside roads to get around. This is in direct contrast to Caltrans’ messaging to avoid workarounds. Caltrans District 3 spokesperson Steve Nelson told SFGATE on Monday that they were seeing drivers trying to skirt highway closures with side streets. “They’ll take side roads and try and sneak past the closures, and that never ends well,” he said.

Google engineer Sören Meyer-Eppler responded on Twitter to spell out some of the technical and logistical problems involved in rerouting traffic during bad weather: the difficulty in finding timely data (and in such cases data need to be really timely) and the risk of false positives. More at Jalopnik.

Hand-drawn Map Leads Man Abducted in Childhood to Birth Mother

Vice: “In an attempt to locate his birth family, a man who was abducted at the age of four resorted to drawing a map of his childhood hometown from memory and posting it online. The map went viral in China, resulting in the 37-year-old reconnecting this week with his long-lost mother, whom he is set to see for the first time in 33 years on Jan. 1.” [MAPS-L]

Upcoming Guardian Masterclass on Maps

An Evolution of Cartography is an online workshop offered by the Guardian as part of a series they’re calling masterclasses. “In this insightful masterclass with experts from Ordnance Survey, you will discover how maps, and our relationship to them, have evolved over time. You will learn how the way that a map is designed can influence the way in which it is interpreted, and why this means that even the most authoritative map may not be as objective as we think.” The three-hour course, taught by the OS’s Paul Naylor and Jess Baker, focuses on data visualizations and map techniques. It takes place on Thursday, 17 March 2022 and costs £89 plus booking fee. [WMS]

‘Map Heaven’

“I call this ‘map heaven,’” said G. Salim Mohammed, the center’s head and curator. “This is a place where maps come alive.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s piece on the David Rumsey Map Center (paywalled; alternative Apple News+ link) focuses on the digital experiments undertaken by the center to make maps more accessible. (Examples we’ve covered here previously include digitally assembled versions of the Urbano Monte Map and a 1940 model of San Francisco, and also an AR globe app.) [David Rumsey Map Collection]

Maps and Mistletoe

Movie cover image: Maps and MistletoeBefore we’re completely out of the holiday season, I should mention that one of the 34 Christmas movies premiering on the Lifetime network just this year is relevant to our interests: Maps and Mistletoe,1 which premiered on the channel on 13 December. “Emilia Martin (Humberly González), a cartographer of school maps, has plans for a cozy Christmas at home until her boss has a last-minute project for her, designing a novelty treasure map of the North Pole. Emilia decides to seek out the expertise of North Pole explorer Drew Campbell (Ronnie Rowe), who reluctantly agrees to help her. As the two work closely, they discover more than either of them ever expected.” Not going to yuck what might be someone else’s yum. [MAPS-L]

The Map Lady and the Catholic Church

Earlier this year, the New Yorker published a profile of Molly Burhans. Burhans is the founder of GoodLands, a Catholic organization focusing on mobilizing the land and resources of the Church to address climate change and other environmental issues. Burhans, whose background is in GIS, began by wanting to analyse the Church’s property holdings; she soon found out that the Church’s own record-keeping was somewhere between out of date and nonexistent—and certainly not digital.

In the Office of the Secretariat of State that day, Burhans met with two priests. She showed them the prototype map that she had been working on, and explained what she was looking for. “I asked them where their maps were kept,” she said. The priests pointed to the frescoes on the walls. “Then I asked if I could speak to someone in their cartography department.” The priests said they didn’t have one.

Burhans, who became known as the Map Lady at the Vatican, was asked if she’d be willing to create a cartography institute at the Vatican; plans to develop one have been waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic (Burhans came down with a significant case herself.) Fascinating piece depicting the gap between modern data and an ancient institution, and the notion of using data as a force for progress. Thanks to John Greenhough for sending me a copy of this article; apologies for taking months to post about it.

Another profile of Burhans.

La Pérouse’s Expeditions

Library of Congress scan of Buache de Neuville's map of the northern Pacific Ocean, 1785.
Jean-Nicolas Buache de Neuville, “Carte de l’Océan où sont tracées les différentes routes des navigateurs au tour du monde,” 1785. Map in 3 sheets. Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress’s Carissa Pastuch has a blog post about the Pacific Ocean expeditions of Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse, and the maps that resulted from them—including the above map by Buache de Neuville, made in 1785 so that Louis XVI could follow La Pérouse’s progress.