During World War I, Australian troops staying at nearby Hurdcott Camp carved a gigantic map of Australia into a Wiltshire hillside. Chalk gravel was used to fill shallow trenches to create an outline map some 150 feet wide with 18-foot-tall letters. Since then, despite a restoration in the 1950s and its designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, the map has faded, but for the past four years the Map of Australia Trust has been working on restoring the map. It was finished in time for Armistice Day. More from BBC News (video) and Historic England. [Jonathan Potter]
Stanford University Libraries’ collection of Office of Strategic Services Maps: The OSS Map Division, directed by Arthur H. Robinson, produced nearly 6,000 maps before the OSS was disbanded in 1945. Stanford has digitized and posted around 700. These maps focus on wartime theatres of operation and deal with subjects like industrial capacity, ports, railroads and other strategic interests. [Open Geography]
Forgotten Wrecks of the First World War is an interactive map of more than 1,000 wartime wrecks along England’s south coast. Like much of the material and personal history of that war, the wreck sites—”which include merchant and naval ships, passenger, troop and hospital ships, ports, wharfs, buildings and foreshore hulks”—are degrading; this is a project designed both to raise awareness and preserve information. Selecting a wreck site brings up a wealth of detail about the ship, its current state, and the circumstances of its loss. More at the project page and from BBC News. The map itself is a basic Mapbox affair, with a layer that only looks vintage (there are motorways). [Kenneth Field]
In Scotland: Defending the Nation (Birlinn, 4 October), Carolyn Anderson and Christopher Fleet “explore the extraordinarily rich legacy of Scottish military mapping, including fortification plans, reconnaissance mapping, battle plans, plans of military roads and routeways, tactical maps, plans of mines, enemy maps showing targets, as well as plans showing the construction of defences. In addition to plans, elevations and views, they also discuss unrealised proposals and projected schemes. Most of the maps—some of them reproduced in book form for the first time—are visually striking and attractive, and all have been selected for the particular stories they tell about both attacking and defending the country.”
Brian Tomaszewski writes about his project to train Syrian refugees in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan to map the camp. “They have intimate knowledge of the camp’s layout, understand where important resources are located and benefit most from camp maps.” Over 18 months his team trained 10 refugees basic concepts, field collection techniques, and how to map with mobile phones. “Within a relatively short amount of time, they were able to create professional maps that now serve camp management staff and refugees themselves.” His team is now working on obtaining GIS certifications for some of them. [Leventhal]
There are 671,000 Rohingya refugees living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. The UN Refugee Agency has produced a story map, Rohingya Refugee Emergency at a Glance, that maps in detail the dire situation in those camps: overcrowding; risk of natural disaster (landslides, monsoon season); access to health services, food, clean water and sanitation.
Six months into the crisis, the priority in Bangladesh is to prevent an emergency within an emergency. The single greatest challenge to refugee protection is the physical environment of the settlements themselves, notably the congestion, access challenges due to a lack of roads and pathways, the high rates of water contamination and the significant risk of epidemics. These risks disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, notably children, pregnant women, single-headed households and people with disabilities. This already dire situation could further deteriorate during the upcoming monsoon season, as large parts of the refugee sites could be devastated by flash floods or landslides and become inaccessible.
“The world-changing differences documented by maps in the Eastern Bloc Borderlands project cannot be overstated,” says Michelle Dalmau, head of Digital Collections Services for IU Libraries, and the project’s principal investigator. “In some cases we see villages and settlements depicted that no longer exist.”
Created by the Russian Military from 1883 to 1947, the maps traveled widely through their tactical use in the field. In the years surrounding World War II, many were captured by opposing forces, including German and American troops. As a result, myriad stamps from institutions they passed through—such as the University of Berlin, the U.S. Army Map Service, and the CIA Map Library—mark the maps with a unique and visual history.
The Unwritten Record, a blog by staff at the U.S. National Archives’s Special Media Archives Services Division, announced last month: “Civil War maps are always popular at the National Archives, and the Cartographic Branch is pleased to announce the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109. All are now available to view or download through our online catalog.” [Texas Map Society]
During the second half of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union’s military and civilian cartographers created topographical maps of the entire world of a very high standard of quality and accuracy. How they did so, and why, remains in large part a mystery, one that John Davies and Alexander J. Kent’s new book, The Red Atlas: How the Soviet Union Secretly Mapped the World (University of Chicago Press, October) fails to solve completely.
The Red Atlas is not the definitive history of those Soviet mapping efforts because so much about those efforts remains a secret. The only reason we know about them is because, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, so many physical copies of those once-highly secret maps fell into the hands of map collectors. The Red Atlas talks about that: for more than a decade, Davies and Kent have been studying those maps. (I’ve been following their work. See the links at the bottom of this post for my earlier posts on the subject.) What they know about the Soviet mapping efforts—sources, methods, their reason for doing it—is extrapolated from the final product of those effort: the maps. The Red Atlas is above all else an exercise in cartographic forensics.
Geographical magazine reviewsThe Red Atlas, the survey of Soviet-era topo maps of the world by John Davies and Alexander J. Kent out this month from University of Chicago Press. National Geographic’s All Over the Map blog also has a feature on The Red Atlas. I’ve received my own review copy of The Red Atlas and hope to have a review for you … at some point (I’m rather backlogged).