Restoring a 150-Foot Map of Australia in the English Countryside

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]

Clickhole: Rising Sea Levels to Turn Australia into a Rhombus

Clickhole

Clickhole, The Onion’s satirical clickbait website, had a hilarious piece last October declaring that rising sea levels will turn Australia into a rhombus: good news for cartographers, for whom Australia will be easier to draw.

According to a new study by the National Ocean Service, melting icecaps and glaciers will raise sea levels enough to cause drastic coastal erosion to virtually every landmass on the planet, including Australia, which will transform from its current shapeless continental configuration into a crisp, tightly angled quadrilateral. While this will unquestionably result in an incalculable amount of economic and ecological devastation, it will likely be a welcome change for cartographers, who instead of spending hours trying to perfect the jagged and asymmetrical outline of the Australian coast like they do now, will in the coming decades be able to handily dash off a geographically accurate rendering of the continent in just a few seconds flat.

In your face, Wyoming. [Cartophilia]

High-Resolution Sea Floor Maps of the Great Barrier Reef

The Australian government has released high-resolution sea floor map data of the Great Barrier Reef; the data improves the view of the relief by a factor of eight, from 250-metre resolution to 30-metre resolution. The result of a collaboration between James Cook University, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Hydrographic Service, the data “can be used for policy, planning and scientific work. For example, this data is an important input for oceanographic modelling, which we can use to enhance our knowledge of climate change impacts, marine biodiversity, and species distribution.” Press release, data files.

Mapping the Results of Australia’s Same-Sex Marriage Referendum

Sydney Morning Herald (screenshot)

When it comes to maps of the results of Australia’s same-sex marriage referendum (or, to be more precise, postal survey), it’s a mixed bag. At the official end, the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides infographics, but no maps. The Sydney Morning Herald provides a map of the results by district (see screenshot above), but it’s boolean (yes/no) rather than a choropleth or heat map. For that, you’ll want to look at The Australian’s interactive map (they also have a map showing yes/no by constituency, centred on Sydney, whose western districts voted against the most).

Finally, this map by “lunatic map maker” Matthew Isbell is making the rounds; I want to make sure he’s correctly attributed.

Blaue’s ‘Archipelagus Orientalis’ Restored

Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, 1663. Map, 118.5 cm × 152 cm. National Library of Australia. Post-restoration.

The National Library of Australia’s fragile copy of Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (1663) has now been restored. (I told you about the fundraising campaign for its conservation, and its trip to the University of Melbourne to begin conservation work, back in May 2016.)

It took over one thousand hours for the 11 person team at the Grimwade Centre to painstakingly restore the 354-year-old map.

“Normally we’d only dedicate one or two people to a conservation project, but this was a very special object, and it was significantly more difficult to conserve than most of our projects.

“The surface was very fragile and there were a lot of complications along the way.

“We thought we were just removing varnish, but we discovered a dirty layer underneath which meant we had four passes at each square on the gridded map—of which there were around 300.”

There’s a video of the conservation process:

And if you need a reminder of what the map looked like before restoration:

Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, 1663. Map, 118.5 cm × 152 cm. National Library of Australia. Pre-restoration.

[Tony Campbell/WMS]

Australian Braille Globe Being Digitized

A rare Braille globe held by the Queensland State Library is being digitized so as to create a 3D-printed replica. The globe, invented by Richard Frank Tunley in the 1950s, is one of the last copies still in existence and is in poor physical shape—problematic for something designed to be touched. That’s where the replica comes in. It’s funded by the library foundation’s crowdfunding initiative, which will also help fund the original globe’s restoration. ABC NewsSydney Morning Herald. Media release. [ANZMapS]

Recent Auctions: Joan Blaeu and Australia, Sam Greer and Vancouver

Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, 1663. Map, 118.5 cm × 152 cm. National Library of Australia.

Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis is to Australia what Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map is to America: a case where a first appearance on a map is referred to as a country’s birth certificate. The 17th-century map included data from Tasman’s voyages and named New Holland (Australia) and New Zealand for the first time. The National Library of Australia is working on conserving its 1663 copy, but an earlier, unrestored version dating from around 1659 recently turned up in an Italian home; earlier this month it was auctioned at Sotheby’s and sold for nearly £250,000. [Tony Campbell]

Meanwhile, at a somewhat more modest scale, an 1884 hand-drawn map of what would later become the tony Vancouver neighbourhood of Kitsilano by colourful local Sam Greer went for C$24,200—five times its estimated price.

Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else: A Book on Australian Toponyms

mount-buggeryA decade ago Mark Monmonier published From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow, the definitive treatment on toponyms and the controversies behind naming places (here’s my review). Now we have an Australian entry: Eamon Evans’s Mount Buggery to Nowhere Else: The Stories Behind Australia’s Weird and Wonderful Place Names, which came out last week. The book, Joshua Nash reports for Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, “charts place names from the serious – the many names for Australia, for example—to the jocular, like Australia’s many rude and dirty topographic monikers.”

Many of Evans’s humorous stories go a way to responding to some of the scientific inadequacies and toponymic foibles so common in place naming studies. And after I’ve spent almost a decade inundated with often sterile and uninspirational place name theory and how it may fit within more general research in onomastics, the study of proper names, Evans’s tongue-in-cheek take is more than welcome.

I get the distinct impression that this is a less-serious work of scholarship than Monmonier’s. [WMS]

Australia to Correct Tectonically Induced GPS Discrepancy

Decades of continental drift mean that GPS coordinates in Australia are off by approximately 1.5 metres (5 feet), which has implications for self-driving cars and other applications that require very precise positioning. See coverage from Atlas ObscuraBBC NewsPopular Mechanics and the Washington Post.

Basically, the discrepancy comes from the fact that GPS is based on the Earth’s core rather than any point on the surface, whereas local coordinates are based on a geodetic datum—in Australia’s case, GDA94 (North America uses NAD83)—that is based on a fixed point on the surface. But with plate tectonics, points are not fixed: Australia moves northward at seven centimetres a year.

On 1 January 2017 Australia will shift its coordinates north by 1.8 metres, overshooting things a bit so that the continent and GPS will be in sync by 2020, with plans to keep the datum continually updated after that.

Preserving Blaeu’s ‘Archipelagus Orientalis’

archipelagus-orientalis
Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, 1663. Map, 118.5 cm × 152 cm. National Library of Australia.

The National Library of Australia’s copy of Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, a 1663 map that has one of the earliest depictions of New Holland and Tasmania, is in “an exceedingly fragile state”—and it’s only one of four copies left. After a successful appeal two years ago to raise funds for conservation work, the map is now heading to the University of Melbourne, where conservation experts will determine the best way to preserve it. [History of Cartography Project]

A Fantasy Map of Australia

Fantasy map of Australia (Samuel Fisher)

Like the fantasy map of the United States we saw last year, Samuel Fisher’s fantasy map of Australia is relevant to my interests because it shows what people think a fantasy map should look like—how it should be styled, what elements it should contain, and so forth. In this case, oblique mountains and forests drawn as stands of individual trees make their usual appearance; the labels are hand-drawn; and the colour scheme runs from cream to taupe. Via Maps on the Web.