‘You Are Blowing It’

Tom MacWright thinks that online maps are neglecting bicycle and multimodal routing at the expense of driving directions, which keep getting better.

Routing is the most powerful tool we have to reduce the environmental impact of driving, make cities quieter, safer, and more livable, and fight congestion. And you are blowing it.

This might be because HERE, the number two provider of map technologies, was bought by a bunch of car companies. Or because Google is headquartered in the suburbs. Or that the financial world is fixated on opening the pandora’s box of self-driving cars.

But the end result is the same: bicycle and multimodal routing continues to be a toy, and driving directions keep getting better.

This might well be about systems designed for in-car navigation first, or designed to replace them; or that are aimed at what is perceived to be the meat of the market. There are undoubtedly solutions out there that address Tom’s points, but there’s something to be said for having that solution front and centre in a mainstream service rather than having to find it in a less well-known app or a dedicated device.

Three Men Arrested for Map Thefts in France

Three men have been arrested for stealing approximately €20,000 worth of maps from municipal libraries in France, Le Parisien reports (in French). The men were arrested near Béziers after an investigation that began after an aborted attempt at stealing from Avignon’s municipal library. Between late 2018 and early 2019 the men managed to steal at least five 15th- or 16th-century maps from libraries in Limoges, Auxerre and Le Mans; the maps have not yet been recovered. [Tony Campbell]

Fantasy Maps Don’t Belong in the Hands of Fantasy Characters

Screenshot from Game of Thrones

My latest piece for Tor.com went live this morning. It’s called “Fantasy Maps Don’t Belong in the Hands of Fantasy Characters” and it deals with the question of in-world fantasy maps: the maps that characters inside a fantasy novel might use. (Hint: They wouldn’t look like the maps found on the endpapers of a fantasy novel.)

(For some background on how this article came to be, see this post on my personal blog.)

Mapping India’s Elections

If you’re interested in election results maps from around the world, you really ought to be following Maps Mania, where Keir provides first-rate coverage. Case in point, his post about maps of the recent elections to India’s Lok Sabha, its lower house of parliament, which points to interactive maps from The Indian Express and Reuters (also The Financial Times, but that’s behind a paywall).

Die Zeit Maps European Voting Patterns

Map of European voting patterns
Die Zeit (screenshot)

Die Zeit looks at European voting patterns in the runup to this weekend’s European elections: the interactive map categorizes each national political party on a spectrum from extreme left to extreme right and maps which political category received the most votes on a regional basis. “What immediately becomes clear: Europe is a colorful place. From leftist-socialist to far right-nationalist, the Continent is home to an extremely broad political spectrum—and every political creed is in the majority somewhere.” The map is also available in the original German.

Lunar Cartography During the Age of Apollo

Writing for Crosscut, Tom Reese memorializes his father, who worked as a cartographer and engineer for NASA’s Aeronautical Chart and Information Center during the Apollo program. Harlan Reese left behind a collection of maps, photos and charts in his garage which, Tom says, still contains “mesmerizing detail and mystery”:

One box has odds and ends of early lunar photography, some of the prints overlain with Dad’s hand-drawn compass points, landing site X’s and handwritten notations. The images were made through large telescopes on Earth, by the Surveyors and Rangers and Lunar Orbiters and early Apollos flying around and over the most promising landing sites. You can also see those smudged fingerprints that likely belong to Dad, mixed with those of many others who used magnifiers and X-Acto knives to carefully slice apart select sections of crater fields. Some small globs of cracked glue remain where they dripped during the process of pasting together the cut pieces to form mosaics of the unexplored landscape.

Some small indentations probably show how the prints were positioned in viewing devices like the extremely precise optical comparator, which helped human eyes interpret the length of shadows inside craters for the first time. These results were coordinated with data about altitude and lunar daylight to provide the most precise terrain measurements possible. Careful airbrushing would smooth over and fill in terra incognita with educated guessing. Finally, this data would be transformed into the precisely printed maps and charts that would help lunar lander pilots to, among other things, second-guess in real time the navigation decisions made by computers of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Below, a Target of Opprtunity Flight Chart for the Apollo 11 mission:

Apollo 11 Target of Opportunity Flight Chart

Quebec Flood Maps

In my neck of the woods we’ve been dealing with some pretty severe spring flooding. And as is often the case, existing flood maps are not up to handling the new normal imposed by climate change. Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, a community near Montreal, was hit hard by flooding this spring, but only two of the 800 flooded homes were in current maps’ flood zones. This isn’t an new situation; we had similar floods in 2017. Back then, CBC News reported that Montreal-area flood maps’ 20- and 100-year floodplains were exceeded by the then-current flood extent.

Fast forward to this spring. The flood maps for Montreal-area municipalities have been updated—they’re now based on LIDAR data from 2014 onward—but have not yet made public: they’ve yet to be approved by the municipalities or adopted by the province; nonetheless they’ve been put to use during the recent emergency. On the new maps, some 1,500 homes in Sainte-Marthe are part of the flood zone.

Garmin Announces the Overlander, An Offroading GPS Receiver

Garmin Overlander (Garmin)

Garmin announced the Overlander GPS receiver today. It’s designed for off-road, off-grid navigation, with maps that include public lands boundaries and 4×4 trails (in the Americas, at least), sensors to detect roll and pitch angles, and other features suitable for mucking around in a Jeep or ATV. Costs $700. [Engadget]

Anyone who assumes that the GPS device market has been killed by smartphones will be (a) surprised that Garmin is still around and (b) wrong. Though its automotive segment continues to decline—last quarter it was down to only 16.6 percent of Garmin’s revenues, making it Garmin’s smallest market segment—Garmin continues to do well in other market segments. Building devices for very specialized uses, for which a smartphone app might not be up for the task—see above—seems to be one of the ways it goes about that.

2019 Ruderman Conference Announced

The 2019 edition of the biennial Barry Lawrence Ruderman Conference on Cartography has been announced. Like the inaugural conference in 2017, it will take place at the David Rumsey Map Center at Stanford University, this time from October 10 to 12. Gender is the theme of this year’s conference.

For this year’s meeting, all the papers will focus on the relationship between gender, sexuality, and cartography. While some scholars have examined the interplay of gender identities and mapping, particularly with regard to the role of women as buyers and sellers in the historical map market, this work remains isolated and has yet to make a significant impact on the wider field. This conference hopes to offer a counterpoint to this trend by bringing together diverse approaches and hosting interdisciplinary discussions.

The keynote speaker is Susan Schulten. Registration costs $100, or $25 if you’re a student.

The Ordnance Survey Releases a Moon Map

Map of The Moon: 50th Anniversary Edition Map
Ordnance Survey

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first crewed landing on the Moon, the Ordnance Survey has released a map of the Apollo 11 landing site. The map is based on a 60-metre digital elevation model and covers a roughly 1,350×1,000 km swath of the near side at a scale of 1:1,470,000. Details from the map are available at this Flickr album. Paul Naylor describes the creation of the map here. The Ordnance Survey is selling a paper version of the map (100×89 cm, in rolled and folded versions) for £16. I kind of want one for my wall.

The Ordnance Survey produced a map of Mars in 2016.

The Return of ‘Map Men’

After a hiatus of more than two and a half years, Jay Foreman and Mark Cooper-Jones are back to producing new episodes of Map Men. Back in 2016 I called the series “two silly people being very smart about often-silly cartographical situations” (though I may have gotten that backward). Anyway, they’re back, with episodes on the geological origins of the English-Scottish border and trap streets.

I’ve given the Map Books of 2019 page another update. At the moment it lists 31 books that have come out or are scheduled to come out this year. This list is always changing as publication schedules are adjusted and I learn about new books. As always, if there’s a book that should be on this list, let me know.

New Leventhal Exhibition: America Transformed

The Leventhal Map Center’s latest exhibition, America Transformed: Mapping the 19th Century, opened last Saturday and runs until 10 November 2019.

During the 19th century, the United States expanded dramatically westward. Immigrant settlers rapidly spread across the continent and transformed it, often through violent or deceptive means, from ancestral Native lands and borderlands teeming with diverse communities to landscapes that fueled the rise of industrialized cities. Historical maps, images and related objects tell the story of the sweeping changes made to the physical, cultural, and political landscape. Moving beyond the mythologized American frontier, this map exhibition explores the complexity of factors that shaped our country over the century.

As usual, there’s a comprehensive online version, which is peppered with acknowledgements of the very white, very settler-colonialist perspective of the maps on display. Which are, of course, justified, but as far as I can see they’re asterisks and asides on an otherwise unchanged exhibit.

Mapping Doggerland

The Guardian looks at efforts to map Doggerland, a prehistoric area of land in the North Sea between Britain and continental Europe that was submerged by rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age. “Using seabed mapping data the team plans to produce a 3D chart revealing the rivers, lakes, hills and coastlines of the country. Specialist survey ships will take core sediment samples from selected areas to extract millions of fragments of DNA from the buried plants and animals.”