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.