Remotely Operated Vessel Maps Tonga Caldera

Aerial view of the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai (HT-HH) volcano, showing new multibeam depth data overlaid on a satellite image of the islands (deep depths in blue, shallow depths in red).
SEA-KIT/NIWA-Nippon Foundation TESMaP survey team

As part of the Tonga Eruption Seabed Mapping Project, a robotic vessel has conducted a bathymetric survey of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai volcano’s underwater caldera. Said volcano, you will recall, erupted spectacularly last January. The 12-metre vessel, USV Maxlimer, was controlled remotely from 16,000 km away, and carried sensors to measure the state of the seabed, temperature, salinity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and chemical plumes. More at the press release. BBC News coverage.

Previously: The Rise and Fall of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai; Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha‘apai, Before and After; How Satellites Revealed the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha‘apai Eruption.

Mapping Drought in Europe

European Drought Observatory (screenshot)

The European Drought Observatory maps drought the way meteorologists map extreme weather: it maps watches, warnings and alerts based on a lack of rainfall, a lack of soil moisture, and stress to vegetation following a lack of moisture, respectively. In addition to the online map viewer, there is a comparison tool and a way to generate your own maps from the data, among other tools. As of early August, the Observatory says, 47 percent of EU territory is facing warning conditions, 17 percent in alert conditions. It’s been a bad summer. [Maps Mania]

Mapping the Watery Past of Mars

ESA

A new map of Mars reveals the abundance of aqueous minerals—clays and salts that form in the presence of water—that were created during the planet’s distant watery past. “The big surprise is the prevalence of these minerals. Ten years ago, planetary scientists knew of around 1000 outcrops on Mars. This made them interesting as geological oddities. However, the new map has reversed the situation, revealing hundreds of thousands of such areas in the oldest parts of the planet.”

Another Onion Riff on Fantasy Novels and Maps

The Onion: Fantasy map of OhioThe Onion: Underwhelming Fantasy Novel Starts With Map Of Ohio. “Feeling let down to see a straightforward rendering of the Midwestern state, local reader Kyle Nuebart reported Friday that underwhelming fantasy novel Dayton Rising featured a map of Ohio in its opening pages.” I’m impressed that they went to the trouble of creating a fantasy map of Ohio to illustrate a one-joke article (admittedly, it’s a really good joke).

Previously: The Onion on Fantasy Maps.

Online Map Roundup for August 2022

Google Maps sends people looking for abortion providers to so-called crisis pregnancy centres, which discourage the procedure, Bloomberg reports.

Also in Bloomberg, Mark Gurman discusses Apple’s plans to expand its advertising business, which apparently includes adding ads to Apple Maps.

Apple’s cycling maps now include Hawaii, and its detailed 3D cities now include Atlanta, Miami and Seattle. They’re also testing their upgraded maps in Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia.

Google Maps updates outlined in a blog post last month include cycling route information, location sharing, and photorealistic aerial views of major landmarks.

Instagram announced a searchable map feature last month, expanding its map feature beyond geolocating posts. This, after a Google VP noted that young users are using apps and TikTok for discovery purposes rather than Google’s Search or Maps. You wouldn’t think that Instagram and TikTok qualify as map apps, but the street finds its uses.

Esri Pays $2.3 Million in Back Wages to Resolve Pay Discrimination Case

Esri has agreed to pay $2.3 million in back wages and will review its compensation system and provide training as part of a conciliation agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, the department announced yesterday. The case dates to 2017, when, in the course of a federal compliance evaluation, the department alleged that Esri engaged in systemic pay discrimination, paying 176 female employees less than their male counterparts. Esri entered into the conciliation agreement voluntarily.

How Far Can You Go in Five Hours? Or on a Single Train?

Screenshot of chronotrains-eu.vercel.app
Screenshot

Benjamin Tran Dinh (previously) has built an interactive isochrone map of Europe that shows you how far you can go by train from a given station in five hours (assuming a connection time of 20 minutes, which is an approximation: generous if same-station, less so if you have to cross the city). The map updates as you move the pointer across it, which is a lot of fun.

The isochrones are generated from data from the direct.bahn.guru site, a site that is worth looking at in and of itself: it shows all the direct connections from a given station, i.e., everywhere you can get to on a single train. That site, in turn, gets its data from the Deutsche Bahn via a legacy API that is necessarily incomplete and only covers destinations reachable from Germany. But there are no complete datasets of European transport routes, so this’ll do. [Maps Mania]

GPS Negatively Impacts Spatial Memory

Rebecca Solnit points to a 2020 study that attempts to measure the impact of using GPS navigation devices on our spatial memory. After assessing 50 drivers, researchers found that drivers with more GPS experience had worse spatial memory when navigating without GPS. But more significantly, it’s a longitudinal study: 13 of the participants (admittedly a small sample) were retested three years later, and greater GPS use correlated with a steeper decline in spatial memory.

This is a single study, and a small sample, so I’m hesitant to draw firm conclusions. And in any case it’s not necessarily a surprising conclusion: the more you rely on a tool, the less able you are to do without it. Well, yes. When we talk about how GPS is destroying our ability to navigate or read a map, there is a presumption that this is an objectively bad thing. Except that I’ve encountered too many people who couldn’t navigate their way out of a bag before GPS. A lot of people who let their GPS receivers get them lost were, I think, pretty good at getting themselves lost without it.

The question isn’t whether GPS use atrophies an individual’s ability to navigate: that’s like worrying that a calculator reduces your ability to do sums in your head, or that a word processor excuses you from knowing how to spell. Of course it does. Those of us who are good at navigation (or sums, or spelling) and think an important skill is being lost will clutch our pearls, but making something easier also makes it more accessible. The question is whether people are, on balance, at a societal level, getting lost less often. That’s not a question neuroscience can solve, nor something you can test with an fMRI. I’m not sure how to measure it, or even if it can be measured. But I’d love to find out.

Previously: Wayfinding: A New Book about the Neuroscience of Navigation; Satnavs and ‘Switching Off’ the Brain; McKinlay: ‘Use or Lose Our Navigation Skills’; ‘Could Society’s Embrace of GPS Be Eroding Our Cognitive Maps?’; How GPS Eats Our Brains.

New Osher Exhibition: Vacationland

Banner image for the Osher Map Library’s exhibition, Vacationland

Vacationland: Mapping History in Maine, the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education’s latest exhibition, “looks at tourism through the lens of travel and transportation, quite literally the mapping of tourism in Maine from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. This exhibition invites you to think about the changing landscape interventions created by and for tourists, as well as the impact such changes had on people living in Maine year round, and upon the environment.” This exhibition opened on 15 June and runs until 11 October; reservations required for social distancing reasons to visit the gallery in person. It’s not yet online; the Osher usually gets an online version up a little later on.

Review: The Cartographers

Book cover: The CartographersI bet you’ve been wondering what I thought about Peng Shepherd’s novel The Cartographers (William Morrow/Orion, March 2022). After all, it’s a literary fantasy about maps: is it even possible for a book to be more relevant to my interests? Well, wonder no longer, because I’ve reviewed it for Strange Horizons.

This piece is a little bit different from the usual review, in that it examines The Cartographers in the context of mysteries and fantasy that deploy similar map tropes, as well as the idées fixes our culture has about maps. As I write in the review, there’s an awful lot for me to unpack:

I have been writing about maps for nearly two decades, and in that time I have encountered many works of fiction that incorporate maps and map tropes into their storytelling, whether as paratexts or as plot elements, and I have never encountered a story, at any length, as thoroughly encompassed by maps as The Cartographers. It’s not just that almost every character in the book works with maps in some fashion, whether as a cartographer, artist, librarian, map dealer, or technician. Nor are maps just a plot point—they are the point. The Cartographers is a Stations of the Map: its pilgrimage follows a path that touches on so many aspects of maps and mapmaking, from academic cartography to fire insurance maps. It spends time on the purpose and meaning of maps: it aspires to an almost Socratic dialogue. It deploys familiar fantasy genre tropes about maps. But it’s structured as a mystery novel, and opens with a murder.

Amazon (Canada, UK) | Apple Books (UK) | Bookshop

The World in Maps: New Exhibition at Yale’s Beinecke Library

An exhibition at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library opens this Friday: The World in Maps, 1400-1600.

This exhibition presents many of the most historically significant manuscript maps from the late medieval and early modern period from the Beinecke Library’s vast collection of maps. It is focused on portolan charts—large, colorful charts that showed the shoreline of the Mediterranean, and were used by sailors to navigate from port to port. These maps were crucial to the expansion of European trade in the fiftieth and sixteenth century. Yale University Library has one of the most significant map collections of this period and owns some unique items not found in any other collection. […]

This exhibition presents maps from several different historical groups and demonstrates how maps functioned to place people within a larger world context. While primarily focusing on European maps, it also includes Middle Eastern and Asian world maps to illustrate common elements and also highlight significant differences. In addition, the exhibition presents some map forgeries and how they were determined to be fakes using scientific and historic analysis.

On that last point, yes, the Vinland Map will be a highlight of the exhibition, as will the Aguiar and Beccari portolan charts, the Martellus world map, and the Abenzara map.

The exhibition runs until 8 January 2023. Lectures will be taking place in the fall.