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]
But on certain maps, in Switzerland’s more remote regions, there is also, curiously, a spider, a man’s face, a naked woman, a hiker, a fish, and a marmot. These barely-perceptible apparitions aren’t mistakes, but rather illustrations hidden by the official cartographers at Swisstopo in defiance of their mandate “to reconstitute reality.” Maps published by Swisstopo undergo a rigorous proofreading process, so to find an illicit drawing means that the cartographer has outsmarted his colleagues.
It also implies that the mapmaker has openly violated his commitment to accuracy, risking professional repercussions on account of an alpine rodent. No cartographer has been fired over these drawings, but then again, most were only discovered once their author had already left. (Many mapmakers timed the publication of their drawing to coincide with their retirement.) Over half of the known illustrations have been removed. The latest, the marmot drawing, was discovered by Swisstopo in 2016 and is likely to be eliminated from the next official map of Switzerland by next year. As the spokesperson for Swisstopo told me, “Creativity has no place on these maps.”
The article suggests these drawings are a coping mechanism, an opportunity to blow off a little steam. I can believe it. [r/MapPorn]
I’ve seen real-time maps of Swiss trains before; this one, Trafimage, comes courtesy of the Swiss Federal Railways, and includes all kinds of information about the network: rail and bus lines, stations, fare networks, as well as real-time train data. Clicking on “Train tracker” makes the trains appear as circles moving along the rail lines; it’s apparently timetable-based rather than tracking actual trains, but remember: these are Swiss trains. [Maps Mania]
Two items on maps for the blind and visually impaired—a subject I find terribly interesting:
Greg Miller of National Geographic’s All Over the Map reports on a new tactile atlas of Switzerland, which “is printed with special ink that expands when heated to create tiny bumps and ridges on the page.” I can’t find a direct link to said atlas, but Greg interviews Esri cartographer Anna Vetter, who led the project.
Earlier this year, a study in the Swiss Medical Weekly explored the spatial patterns of Swiss mortality rates between 2008 and 2012. The study looked at the most common causes of death and produced a number of maps. The Tages Anzeiger’s story on the study (in German) focused on only two of them—diabetes and liver disease—that produced the most dramatic regional variations: basically, people in German-speaking regions are more likely to die of diabetes, and people in French-speaking regions are more likely to die of liver disease. The newspaper’s interactive maps are nicer, too:
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]
The Local profiles Lausanne-based game and book company Helvetiq, which last year published Diccon Bewes’s Around Switzerland in 80 Maps. Those maps range, according to the publisher, “from the circular island map of 1480 to the birth of modern Swiss cartography; from the British rail plan for Switzerland to a Soviet map of Basel during the Cold War; from the 1970s Zurich map for men to the vision of a Greater Switzerland with 40 cantons.” Buy at Amazon. [via]
Researchers are mapping the shift in Swiss German dialect usage via an iOS app. The app asks users to take a 16-question survey based on maps from a language atlas that mapped Swiss German usage circa 1950. The app predicts the user’s actual home dialect location based on those maps; differences between that prediction and the user’s actual home dialect location reveal how Swiss German has changed over time. They ended up getting responses from 60,000 speakers. PLOS ONE article. [via]