A Map Projections Roundup

Three things make a roundup. Here we go:

Here’s a gallery of all 68 map projections supported in ArcGIS 10.7.1 and ArcGIS Pro 2.4, from Bojan Šavrič and Melita Kennedy. Some interesting projections included here, some of which are only suitable for a specific region (such as the complex New Zealand map grid). No Gall-Peters, interestingly.

Chris Whong

Chris Whong uses a clementine as a substitute for Tissot’s indicatrix: “I found myself eating a clementine this morning, and thought it would be interesting to slice up the orange peel on an 8×8 grid to visualize how much of the earth’s surface is represented in WebMercator tiles at zoom level 3. This is kind of an inverse of the Tissot’s Indicatrix above, showing chunks of the spheroid’s surface over the projected tiles that represent them in web maps.”

Alberto Cairo’s short piece arguing that the Mercator projection isn’t a monstrosity doesn’t cover particularly new ground: the Mercator was created for a specific purpose (bearing-based navigation) and is a good choice for small-scale maps, but it has no business on a world map. But it’s probably worth reiterating, since I still see over-the-top condemnations of the projection on colonialist grounds, channeling Arno Peters (which, you know: not new).

Mapping Deep Space Nine’s Bajor

Adam Whitehead (based on a map by Robert Hewitt Wolfe)

Fantasy worlds have established maps. Science fictional worlds not so much: what maps exist of imaginary planets are often fan imaginings rather than “official” work. One exception is the planet Bajor, a key location in the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Its map was created by DS9 writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe, who drew it on a white board in the show’s writer’s room, and maintained it over five seasons. Wolfe posted the map to Twitter last week.

Adam Whitehead, who runs the Atlas of Ice and Fire blog, has created a version of Wolfe’s map of Bajor; he also used Map to Globe to give us a spheroid version.

First You Make the Maps

Portolan chart signed by Gabriel de Vallseca, ca. 1447. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Wikimedia Commons.

First You Make the Maps, a Story Map produced for Lapham’s Quarterly by Elizabeth Della Zazzera, surveys maps and mapmaking for sea navigation from the 15th through the 18th centuries.

From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, European powers sent voyagers to lands farther and farther away from the continent in an expansionist period we now call the Age of Exploration. These journeys were propelled by religious fervor and fierce colonial sentiment—and an overall desire for new trade routes. They would not have been possible without the rise of modern cartography. While geographically accurate maps had existed before, the Age of Exploration saw the emergence of a sustained tradition of topographic surveying. Maps were being made specifically to guide travelers. Technology progressed quickly through the centuries, helping explorers and traders find their way to new imperial outposts—at least sometimes. On other occasions, hiccups in cartographic reasoning led their users even farther astray.

[Kottke]

The New York Times Maps Democratic Donors

The New York Times

In a series of maps, the New York Times explores where the donors to the various Democratic candidates for U.S. president live. The maps are based on data to June 30, and include donations of $200 or more. Bernie Sanders has by far the most donors so far, and they’re distributed broadly, so the second map on the page excludes Sanders donors to tease out where other candidates’ donors are concentrated regionally.

Keith Myrmel’s Hand-Drawn Trail Maps

Keith Myrmel

Keith Myrmel, a retired landscape architect from Minnesota, has produced two maps of the Boundary Waters region that are proving popular with hikers and canoers. The maps—one of the Superior Hiking Trail, the other of the North Country Trail and Arrowhead region—are large (26 by 40 inches) and intricately hand-drawn. The Twin Cities Pioneer Press covered Myrmel and his work last June:

“It’s fascinating how many people are map lovers,” Myrmel said. He has an extensive collection of Boundary Waters Wilderness maps dating back to the 1950s. “I said, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this old-school style. It’s all by hand.”

Using pencils, markers and watercolor paint, he put down information from books, maps, the internet and personal experience on a 2-by-13-foot map. The process took hundreds of hours, he said.

See also this 2018 story from the Star Tribune. The maps cost $34 or $35 and are available for sale from Myrmel’s website or from a number of local businesses.

Complaints about Facebook’s Automated Edits in Thailand

Facebook’s AI tool has added some 480,000 kilometres of previously unmapped roads in Thailand to OpenStreetMap, BBC News reports, but some local mappers have been complaining about the quality of those edits, and the overwriting of existing edits by Facebook’s editors: see OSM Forum threads here and here. In particular, see OSM contributor Russ McD’s rant on the Thai Visa Forum:

What Facebook fail to state is the inaccurate manner in which their AI mapping worked. The OSM community in Thailand had for years, been working slowly on mapping the Country, with the aim of producing a free to use and accurate map for any user. Information was added backed by a strong local knowledge, which resulted in a usable GPS navigation system based on OSM data. Main road were main roads, and jungle tracks were tracks.

Then along came Facebook with its unlimited resources and steamrollered a project in Thailand with scant regard for contributors … sure they paid lip service to us, with offers of collaboration, and contact emails … but in reality, all our comments went unanswered, or simply ignored.

Sure, their imagery identified roads we had not plotted, but along with that came the irrigation ditches, the tracks though rice paddies, driveways to private houses, and in once case, an airport runway! All went on the map as “residential roads”, leaving any GPS system free to route the user on a physical challenge to make it to their destination.

Local users commented, but the geeky humans who were checking the AI, living thousands of miles away, having never visited Thailand, just ignored our comments. They would soon move onto bigger and better things, while sticking this “success” down on their resume.

Sounds like another case of local mapping vs. armchair mapping and automated edits, where local mappers are swamped and discouraged by edits from elsewhere. [Florian Ledermann]

Previously: OpenStreetMap at the Crossroads.

Quebec’s Updated Flood Maps Prove Controversial

Government of Quebec (screenshot)

In the wake of serious and devastating spring flooding in 2017 and 2019, the Quebec government issued proposed flood zone maps that marked areas where rebuilding and new construction would be put on hold. There was immediate pushback: as CBC News reported last month, the maps included substantial areas of small towns (such as, in my neck of the woods, the villages of Fort-Coulonge and Campbell’s Bay), or, in the case of Gatineau, areas that were not flooded in either 2017 or 2019 as well as major new developments. The mayor of Vaudreuil-Dorion suggested that the mapmakers forgot to correct for cloud cover. In the end, new maps were issued that removed substantial areas of Montreal from the flood zone, among other areas: some 20 percent of the 120,000 homes affected by the first set of maps were removed from the revised maps.

Previously: Quebec Flood Maps.

Copyright and Cartography

Copyright and Cartography is a research project exploring the historical relationship between cartography and copyright law.

Throughout history, maps have been made and used in different ways and for different purposes. They can be seen as cultural artefacts, artworks, sacred objects and tools for wayfinding. Often their purposes are legal—they can be used to administer property regimes, resolve proprietary disputes or make territorial claims. But what about the laws that regulate the maps themselves, that decide who can own them or who can distribute them? This website explores these questions, juxtaposing images of maps with the legal documents intimately involved in their creation and circulation.

The project focuses on mapmakers in London, Edinburgh, Melbourne and Sydney, and seems to be in the early stages, with only a dozen cases, relating to infringement and other copyright disputes, listed.

This project is limited to cases in the U.K. and Australia. Back in 2000, J. B. Post compiled a list of cases of copyright litigation in the U.S. from 1789 to 1998: the page is no longer online but can be accessed via the Wayback Machine.

Mapping the Flow of Antarctic Ice

UC Irvine/Jeremie Mouginot

This is a map of Antarctic surface ice velocity: the speed at which glaciers flow. It was produced by researchers at the University of California Irvine and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, using radar interferometry and multiple satellite passes to produce a map 10 times more accurate than previous maps. More: UCI News, Geophysical Research Letters.

Lunar Geology and the Apollo Program

Geologic Map of the Copernicus Quadrangle of the Moon
H. H. Schmitt, N. J. Trask and E. M. Shoemaker, “Geologic Map of the Copernicus Quadrangle of the Moon,” 1967. USGS.

Planetary geologist David Rothery writes about the early attempts to map the Moon’s geology, both before and after the Apollo program. There was a symbiotic relationship between the map and the mission: maps suggested where landings might be most profitable from a geological perspective; and field work by the astronauts informed later moon maps.

A Close Look at Apple Maps in iOS 13

Writing for MacStories, Ryan Christoffel takes a deep dive into the new features of Apple Maps in iOS 13. His conclusions?

Apple Maps in iOS 13 is the biggest step forward the app has ever taken. With new and greatly improved maps, Look Around, collections, repurposed favorites, and more, a tremendous level of progress has been made to elevate Maps to new heights. It’s now a more legitimate Google Maps alternative than ever before.

That said, due to the massive amount of work required to accurately map the entire world, the Apple Maps of iOS 13 is fragmented for different geographical areas. While the new Apple-designed maps and Look Around have been promised for the entire US before 2019’s over, it’s unclear what availability will be this fall when iOS 13 first launches. And if you’re outside the US, it could be a long, slow road before you’ll enjoy these developments. Strip away Look Around and the new maps and what you’re left with in iOS 13 is an app that’s still markedly improved, but likely not enough to tempt you away from Google.

iOS 13 is currently in beta and will be released in the fall.

Previously: Comparing Apple Maps in iOS 13 to Google Maps; Apple Maps at WWDC 2019: New Map Data, Look Around and More.

The Art of Illustrated Maps

Map illustrations. Illustrated maps. Pictorial maps. Map art. There are many different names for a form of mapmaking that is, to appropriate a phrase, “not intended for navigation,” but rather for purposes such as advertising and promotion, political propoganda, decoration, or simply pure art. You may not be able to find your way home with such maps, but that’s not to say they don’t have a purpose.

I’ve reviewed books about maps in this general field before. Stephen J. Hornsby’s Picturing America (reviewed here) explores the rich pictorial map tradition in the United States during the early and mid-20th century. The Art of Map Illustration (reviewed here), on the other hand, is a focused, step-by-step guide to the how of modern-day map illustration.

The Art of Illustrated Maps: A Complete Guide to Creative Mapmaking’s History, Process and Inspiration (HOW Books, October 2015) falls somewhere in between. Written by John Roman, it’s a book that talks about the creative process in considerable detail, and gives many contemporary examples of map illustrations, but tries to place that process in the context of the history of map illustrations.

Continue reading “The Art of Illustrated Maps”

Naming and Renaming Streets and Places in Vancouver

How are the names of roads, streets and other places on the map determined? In Vancouver, British Columbia, the process was until very recently pretty ad hoc and informal, until the formation, in 2012, of the city’s Civic Asset Naming Committee. The Tyee looks at the workings of that committee and the issues around naming and renaming places in Vancouver—where thanks to a legacy of colonialism, some names are rather more fraught than others.

New Canada-Shaped Coin Released

Royal Canadian Mint

This, believe it or not, is a coin—a coin in the shape of a map of Canada, with various animals forming the shape of each province and territory. The design was created by Ottawa illustrator Ali Giroux, who posted it online as a letterpress map. Then, as CBC News and CTV News report, the Royal Canadian Mint came calling.

Commemorative coins aren’t cheap. This one is made of three ounces of pure silver and sells for $340 (Canadian). It is being produced in a mintage of 2,000 and will ship in December.

(And yes, despite its weirdo shape, it is a real coin: the Queen is on the other side, a traditional, coin-shaped portrait embedded in the centre. It has a face value of $50, but that’s only if you want to use it to pay a bill or something, and who’d do that with this?)