Melting glaciers are keeping a special team of cartographers at Swisstopo, Switzerland’s national mapping agency, busy: they’re the ones charged with making changes to the Swiss alps on Swisstopo’s maps. The New York Times reports:
“The glaciers are melting, and I have more work to do,” as Adrian Dähler, part of that special group, put it.
Dähler is one of only three cartographers at the agency—the Federal Office of Topography, or Swisstopo—allowed to tinker with the Swiss Alps, the centerpiece of the country’s map. Known around the office as “felsiers,” a Swiss-German nickname that loosely translates as “the people who draw rocks,” Dähler, along with Jürg Gilgen and Markus Heger, are experts in shaded relief, a technique for illustrating a mountain (and any of its glaciers) so that it appears three-dimensional. Their skills and creativity also help them capture consequences of the thawing permafrost, like landslides, shifting crevasses and new lakes.
The article is a fascinating look at an extraordinarily exacting aspect of cartography. [WMS]
Estonia’s first national atlas is coming next month, ERR News reports. Among its 500-odd maps “will also be less serious themed maps, such as the spread of kama and blood sausage in Estonia, a map of 1938 with the birthplaces of the Estonian elite, and a map of the location of public saunas in 1967.” The atlas will be published in Estonian and English.
The map accompanying the Indigenous People’s Atlas of Canada is a map of Indigenous Canada: as iPolitics’s Anna Desmarais reports, “Dotting the map are the names of Indigenous languages, including Cree and Dene, and the geographical location where each language is spoken. The size of the word, officials said, depends on how big the Indigenous population is in a given region.” Meanwhile, the names and borders of provinces and territories are apparently absent, and the only cities that appear on the map are the ones with substantial Indigenous populations. It sounds marvellous. [WMS]
The physical atlas’s four volumes include one for First Nations, one for the Inuit, one for the Métis, and one focusing on Truth and Reconciliation. It has a list price of C$99.99 (online sellers will have it for less) and comes out in one week, on September 25th: Amazon. A French-language version comes out next month, on October 23rd: Amazon.
The online version of the atlas has the text but very little in the way of maps: I can only assume that this is not the case for the book versions. The companion app, for iOS and Android, does little more than link to the web version and includes a location finder for land acknowledgment.
This is a map of the United States without insets. Published in 1975 by the U.S. Geological Survey, it shows Alaska, Hawaii and the lower 48 states in the same, continuous view—though Hawaii’s Leeward Islands are cut off (as are the various territories). Can’t have everything, I guess. It’s available from the USGS as a free downloadable PDF; the paper version costs $9. [MapPorn]
At the CCA’s annual conference earlier this year, Natural Resources Canada launched its updated map of the North Circumpolar Region, which “shows the geography of the northern circumpolar region, north of approximately 55 degrees, at a scale of 1:9 000 000. The map uses the azimuthal equidistant projection. It includes all international boundaries, as well as the Canadian provincial and territorial boundaries and Canada’s 200 nautical mile offshore exclusive economic zone. National capital cities are shown, as are other cities, towns, villages and hamlets. Some seasonally populated places are also included. The map displays a number of significant northern features, including the median sea ice extent for September 1981 to 2010, the tree line, undersea relief, land relief, the Magnetic North Pole, glaciers, ice fields and coastal ice shelves. Many of the physiographic and hydrographic features are labelled.” [Cartophilia]
Danish officials today announced promising initial results of a project using satellites to collect cartographic data faster and more efficiently than has been possible using aeroplanes.
The project involved using SPOT 6 and 7, two commercially operated European satellites, flying at an altitude of 700km to collect images of four specific areas […]. The pictures they returned over a two-year period beginning in 2015 each measure 360 square km. Objects as small as 1.5 m can be discerned in the pictures, making them detailed enough to be used to make precise, high-resolution maps.
Cartographers are now in the process of turning the data into finished, on-line maps. The maps themselves are expected to publicly available by autumn. But, even before that, the data gathered by the satellites will be placed on-line.
“For the past number of years, I have been collecting the U.S.G.S.’s maps, treating them as eminently affordable pieces of American art,” writes Tom Vanderbilt in the New York Times Magazine. “The beauty intrinsic to these maps is the byproduct of an entirely different mode of production, the last gasp of an antiquated way of representing the world.” [Gretchen Peterson]
Switzerland is updating its official map series. The new maps are digitally based and use new fonts, symbols and colours—railways, for example, are now in red. They replace the 1:25,000 series that dates back to the 1950s; all 247 sheets should be replaced by 2019. You can compare the old and new map designs on this interactive map (screencap above). [via]
Whereas the older version of the map showed only that part of the sea ice that permanently covered Arctic waters year round at that time, the new edition uses a 30-year median of September sea-ice extent from 1981 through 2010. September sea ice hit a record low in 2012 and is projected to decline further. The change means there is far more ice shown on the 2015 version of the map than on its predecessor.
The changes can be seen below: the 2006 map is on the left, the 2015 map on the right.
Now as Semeniuk’s piece points out, neither way is wrong. But all maps have a point of view, and it’s naive to think that this change was made in a value-neutral environment: this was the result of a conscious decision. The reason for that decision—that’s what’s interesting.