A weblog for members of the Canadian Cartographic Association and other individuals interested in all things cartographic

Soviet topographic maps: Update

John Davies, the gentleman who has researched and written about Soviet topographic maps (see earlier blog post), has updated his website with a couple of papers that were presented at a recent discussion in Cambridge on the topic.

One paper (or transcript - pdf), by David Watt, talks about Soviet military mapping since its formal establishment in 1812. He notes that, during the Second World War, the need for large scale mapping of European Russia was particularly acute and was met with an heroic effort in which “80 million copies of 13,000 map sheets were printed in the first six months of the war.” He goes on the estimate that 35,000 to 40,000 cartographers worked for the Russian mapping program in 1996 - a time when the program was hardly at its zenith. It is estimated that the mapping program produced over 1 million separate sheets, 800,000 for the USSR alone. Additionally, another 1 million cadastral and city plan sheets were also probably produced.

A second paper by John Davies (pdf), discusses some of the sources of the Soviet topographic maps of the UK and the possibility of their use in military planning. He suggests that the early Soviet maps of the 1950s were probably based on older Ordinance Survey maps and that these maps were later updated using satellite imagery and supplemental information gathered on the ground. As a result, “the maps show more recent developments than contemporary OS maps . . . the net effect is that for the town plans of 1970s onwards, the only information that can be seen derived from OS material is the spot heights” dating from maps from the 1910s and 1920s.

John has also posted a copy of the OS’ copyright statement (pdf) on his site but suggests that there might still be some contention as to “whether or not the copied content [in the Russian maps] is ‘significant.’”

Also included on the site is a guide (pdf) to an exhibition of Soviet maps that were on display at the recent Soviet Military Mapping Study Day in Cambridge. It includes images and descriptions of some of the maps that were discussed.


Balkanized North America

Balkanized North America shows what North America might look like if every separatist movement on the contient succeeded in establishing its own country. The criteria include“regions which either:
  1. administered themselves as autonomous nations at some point in American history, or ...
  2. shed blood to achieve or maintain their independence, or at least ...
  3. threatened to.
Feelings of alienation in Western Canada, apparently, don’t make the grade for this map maker. I daresay that if separatists had become so successful in North America even more nation-states would have resulted.

By way of Great Map.


Map of the Star Wars galaxy

SuperShow.com has a map of the galaxy according to the Star Wars series of movies. The map is, of course, fictional but it would be made more interesting if there was a description of how it was created, particularly how the locations of features were determined (similar to what the creators of the Simpsons’ Springfield map have done - see earlier blog posting). In any case, the creators of this Star Wars map need to work on their cartographic skills.

Update (30 November 2005): NavComputer has the same map on its site along with a number of more detailed inset, sector and system maps.


Auto-Carto 2006: Call for Papers

A CaGIS Research Symposium
Organized by the Cartography and Geographic Information Society
In conjunction with the
UCGIS 2006 Summer Assembly
Heathman Lodge,
Vancouver, Washington
June 26-28, 2006

First Call for Papers/Posters
The Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS) is hosting a research symposium on cartography in the 21st century. With the advent of these technologies cartography has changed again and new research is underway to develop maps, geospatial data, and geographic databases for the 21st century.

CaGIS invites cartographers, geographers, geo-geeks, and other scientists conducting research on the cutting edge of the new geospatial web and Internet cartography to submit abstracts for AUTO-CARTO 2006 to be held in conjunction with the UCGIS 2006 Summer Assembly at the Heathman Lodge, Vancouver, Washington June 26-28, 2006. Join us at the conference exploring exciting new research in cartography and geographic information science (GI Science).

Topics Include:
  • The Geospatial Web & Interactive Mapping
  • Mobile Mapping and GIS / for Location-Based Services
  • Ubiquitous Mapping
  • Open Source in Geospatial Science
  • GoogleEarth and its applications; Virtual Earth, Yahoo Maps
  • Spatio-temporal GIS & Dynamic Maps
  • Homeland Security, The National Map, Geospatial One Stop
  • National and Regional Atlases
  • Geovisualization
  • Geovirtual Environments
  • Geospatial Data Models
  • Geospatial Data Integration
  • Spatial Data Mining
  • Map Use and Design
  • Spatial Cognition
  • Projection and Transformation of Geographic Databases
  • Spatialization
  • Geographic and Cartographic Standards
  • History Digital Cartography and GIScience
  • Geographic Information Technologies, Governance, and Administration
Before the Conference:
Three International Cartographic Association Commissions meetings will be held on the 26th of June at the some location:
  • Commission on Generalization
  • Commission on Map Projections
  • Commission on Visualization
Paper Submissions
Abstracts of 250 to 500 words are due in pdf or Word format by January 15, 2006. Final papers are due by April 1, 2006. A subset of the papers may be selected for peer review and publication as a special issue of the journal Cartography and Geographic Information Science.

Poster Submissions
Abstracts of 250 to 500 words are due in pdf or Word format by March 1, 2006 Final Poster are due at the time of the symposium. Final poster submitted in pdf format may be published on the CaGIS website following the symposium.

Internet Poster Submissions
Abstract of 250 to 500 words are due in pdf or Word format by March 1, 2006. Final Internet Posters are due at the time of the symposium. Presenters must provide their own computer with wireless network capabilities during the Poster Session. Presenters can bring a video projector if they choose.

Submit all papers and posters to info@autocarto.org

See http://autocarto2006.org/guidelines.htm for formatting guidelines.


GPS back-seat driver

Today’s Globe and Mail has a story about the testing of a unit that uses GPS and a digital map to let drivers know (and possibly prevent them from) speeding. From the article: “[The] device, which can be updated on the Web with new digital maps, can also be set to tip off drivers about high-risk intersections, pedestrian crosswalks, deer crossings and red-light cameras. The system can be set to go off when the vehicle is travelling anywhere from 2 to 10 per cent above the speed limit. The voice alarm can also be turned off.”

As indicated by the comments posted below this story indicate, this is sure to be a controversial tool if it is ever implemented.


Geocoding Canadian addresses

There is not much available for free online geocoding of Canadian addresses. Two sites, however, might be enough to satisfy any small geocoding needs you might have.

One is from NAC Geographic Products and has been around on the Internet in various forms for a few years. The site has been modified lately to prevent bulk geocoding so users need to input a code that appears on an image to be able to get a result. There is a limit of 10 addresses but if you close the browser window and reopen it, you can continue. As well as providing latitude and longitude values, the site also provides what it calls a universal address whichlooks like a postal or zip code on steroids. Geocoding at this site is available for a number of countries.

Geocoder.ca is rleatively new and users Statistics Canada data to derive a set of latitude and longitude values. As well as providing a set of coordinates, the site also provides a Google Map with the location marked. This Google Map functions like any other Google Map and can be panned and zoomed. Updated coordinates for the centre of the map are provided below the map. The site also provides reverse geocoding (i.e. provide a set of coordinates and get a street address).

The two sites provided slightly different coordinates for the same address (-78.3190266, 44.302410 from NAC Geo and -78.318871, 44.302496 from Geocoder). Some testing will be required to determine which is more accurate.


Online mapping sites popularity

A recent story in any number of papers looks at a recent survey by comScore Media Metrix that lists Mapquest as a market leader in the online mapping sector with 71% of visitors in September, followed by Yahoo! Maps at 32% and Google Maps with 25%. Compare this to a Hitwise survey in July that listed Yahoo! Maps with 41% of the market and MapQuest with 33%. Neither survey is accessible enough to be able to determine how the survey was conducted or what measures were used. Nor do the associated news stories provide enough background. In the end, these news stories and surveys need to be taken with a grain of salt.


Review: Here Be Dragons: Cartography of Globalization

I wasn't sure what to expect when I heard that the Toronto Free Gallery was hosting an exhibit entitled “Here Be Dragons: Cartography of Globalization” (see earlier blog post). I had never been to the gallery and the information on their website in text that was small and hard to read was not much help. So, I went to this small exhibit as a cartographer; this review is from that unique technical perspective.

The exhibit features the works of what the gallery calls “critical cartographers” who are tackling the hefty task of making “visible the vast networks of national governments, transnational corporations, and international institutions which channel massive flows of people, labour, interests, dollars and meaning.” While roaming about the two rooms of the gallery and looking at the works on the wall, I was not sure if what I was art or cartography. Take Adrian Blackwell’s maps entitled “Detroit: Separation > Divesture > Erasure > Encampment.” Blackwell takes mosaiced air photos and looks at the changes Detroit has experienced over the past 80 years or so. The maps are large , about 4 feet by 4 feet, and are accompanied by lengthy explanatory notes, and timelines laying out events in labour, industry, architecture and politics. There is so much information on and around these maps that it is not immediately clear as to what the map is trying to convey. What, for example, is meant by “encampment”?

Pierre Bélanger, Joshua Cohen and Maya Przybylski have created a huge diagram/map entitled “Watershed-The Landscape & Economies of Landfills in Michigan.” The centre of this diagram is an outline map of Michigan and the surrounding provinces and states. Using white and grey on a black background the—artists? cartographers? schematicists?—demonstrate the complexities of taking garbage from other jurisdictions and putting it into Michigan landfills. The result, a map-centred diagram with numerous arrows and boxes representing government agencies and pieces of relevant legislation, has a mandala look to it. It works as art, by which I mean it is balanced and attractive but, techinically speaking, the boxes and arrows could have been rearranged so as to make the diagram easier to read.

Govcom.org’s few maps of the digital divide are simple, clear and uncluttered—and from a cartographic and information design perspective, the most successful pieces in the gallery. On the opposite side of the room and the clarity spectrum was Brian Holmes’ “Bureau d’Etudes & Text.” This series of schematics is so dense that a magnifying glass provided for gallery visitors is needed to read it. What was this? Perhaps an artistic interpretation of bureaucratic density.

Many of the issues (local community interests, big business, big government, democracy, human rights) touched on by the—artists? cartographers? schematicists?—are certainly part of the anti-globalization movement; but the collection of works as a whole lacks a common focus. Perhaps in that way the exhibit is merely reflecting the nature of the movement-very much localized and disparate. If the creators of the works truly are cartographers, however, they would benefit from a review of basic cartographic principles. A cartographer’s point of view can be universally understood and accepted if it is clearly and simply conveyed.


Nuclear war map

The Daily Telegraph has a story on how the U. S. S. R. envisioned a nuclear war in 1979. The newly elected Polish government opened its military archives to reveal a 1979 map of “the Soviet bloc's vision of a seven-day atomic holocaust between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces.”

From the news article: “On the map, western Europe lay beneath a chilling overlay of large red mushroom clouds: Warsaw Pact nuclear strikes, using giant warheads to compensate for their relative lack of precision . . . . Smaller blue mushroom clouds showed expected NATO targets - most of them relatively precise attacks - including strikes on Warsaw and Prague.” The Daily Telegraph has an English version of the map.

It is a chilling document that reveals how close Europe and the world came to disaster.

By way of GeoCarta.



Flickrmap will plot the location of a user’s collection of Flickr photos, provided that the photos have some sort of geographic referencing (e.g. place name). It employs Flash and allows users to zoom, pan and click on photo locations to see a larger photo. The resulting map can be placed on a user's website. There is an annual subscription cost of $5 U. S. This seems like a good idea but the interface seems a little slow and clunky (perhaps it was just my network connection). Don’t be surprised if Flickrmap runs into some legal problems with Flickr over its choice of name.


Thanksgiving Day food maps

Now that our American friends have finished feasting on their roast turkey, cranberry, squash and other fine traditional Thanksgiving Day foods, they can learn where their food has come from. Indiana University Libraries has a series of pdf maps showing the sources of various food items from across the United States. Menu items include turkey, bean, squash, cranberry, pumpkin and others. There is a separate map for each food item and a composite poster containing all the maps. Classification of states by food production, however, is not very intuitive or consistent, nor is the colouring scheme logical.

Of course, it is surprising that Washington D. C. doesn’t produce more turkeys.


Shaking up our conceptions

Maps can shake up our conceptions of the world, particularly if they display unusual data or represent familar data in an unusual way. A simple example of this is turning the map upside down so that south is to the top. A Nepali Times article writes about a map produced by Himal Southasian that shows south Asia with south at the top. The response was, at times, hostile. “Why have you turned India upside down?!” asked one irate customer at a bookfair where the maps were being sold. Reports the article: “The bookstall attendants felt intimidated enough by the public reaction to pull the offering from the racks.” On the other hand, not all were unhappy with the map. “It was the Sri Lankans who were most pleased, happy to be heading the heap rather than trailing the edge of the Subcontinent.”

It all depends on one’s perspective . . . .


Holiday gift for the cartographically minded

Those who love maps are always happy to receive maps or atlases for presents (well, at least I am). One that looks good is Peter Barber’s The Map Book, pulbished this month.

I can’t vouch for its contents or quality since I haven’t seen or read the book but the folks at WIRED seemed to like it. David Downs of WIRED writes “From cave drawings to Google Maps, we humans love cartography. Maps give us a sense of place and scale, an idea of what’s around the corner - or the globe. In this elegant and fascinating volume, Peter Barber, head of the British Library’s maps collection, has compiled 175 works spanning 3,500 years, organized chronologically to chart the progress of our worldview. A sixth-century Greek map shows how flat-earth theories were fed by Christian doctrine; a 2005 digital rendering of Detroit is a dense aggregation of zoning and demographic data. The book’s essays, written by 68 map experts, provide wonderful context (one tidbit: cartographers struggled with copyright theft as far back as 1785), making this atlas a true treasure.”

Available in the U.S. from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

By way of Fantom Planet


Cartography of globalization

The Toronto Free Gallery current has an exhibit on entitled “Here Be Dragons: The Cartography of Globalization.” The exhibit runs until December 17, 2005 and features the works of a number of “critical cartographers [who] make visible the vast networks of national governments, transnational corporations, and international institutions which channel massive flows of people, labour, interests, dollars and meaning.” Among the works featured are some from govcom.org, highlighted in this blog earlier. There is more information on the gallery website (uses Flash).


Conflict maps

The organization that doles out Nobel Prizes in Peace, Literature, Medicine, Physics, Economics and Chemistry (but no cartography) has a website containing all sorts of information on past prize winners. Tucked away in the Peace section of the site is a Shockwave map depicting armed conflicts in the 20th century. This includes inter-state, civil and colonial wars. A moveable timeline at the bottom of the map is broken up by decade, allowing the user to see the progression of (or regression into) war throughout the century. It is surprising to see the number of conflicts that have occurred in the 1990s. The map is zoomable, pannable and queryable. As well, below the map is a chart showing the number of Nobel Peace Prize nominees and winners for each decade.

Compare this to a pdf map published by Goals for Americans. The map is 36 inches x 28 inches with two sides, one for the map and numerous tables and charts, the other for an index of conflicts in 2000. A little too heavy on the text, this map could benefit from a little more subtlety in its presentation.


Russian maps from World War 2

RKKA in World War 2 has an extensive collective of maps from the Second World War, depicting Russian and German army positions and movements for various battles. The maps are mostly in Russian and are organized chronologically. The maps do not follow any set standards and vary in quality and size. A great site for the World War 2 history buff. As well as maps, the site hosts photos and information on uniforms and equipment.


Forest cover maps and data

There has frequently been talk in the media about the disappearing rainforest in South America and elsewhere. Global Forest Watch has been tracking not only the extent of the rainforest but forests everywhere. The top image at the right shows the original extent of forest cover in the world; the bottom image indicates the world’s current forest cover.

Global Forest Watch provides forest-related data. Their current data extents are somewhat spotty - many of the areas of the world are not at all represented except at the global level). As well, some of the data layers are not fully explained. Data is copyrighted by Global Forest watch but can be used for non-commercial purposes.

There are also a number of interactive maps that use ArcIMS which users can navigate and query. (These do not seem to work with the Firefox browser.)


Mapping personal weather stations

Weather Underground has a Google Maps mashup on which anyone who has a weather station can upload their data and set it displayed on their website and on a Google Map. There are already hundreds, if not thousands of these stations plotted on the map (which defaults to the San Fransisco Bay area). Current and past temperatures, air pressure and humidity readings are available for each weather station. Weather stations must use compatible software (see details).

This is an incredible way of collecting data (provided everyone’s weather station is accurate and functioning). However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is almost too much data - the map icons fail to appear and the map becomes difficult to navigate.


If you are looking for data or maps on various environment-related themes for parts of Europe, visit the European Environment Agency’s website. They have a number of prepared maps available for download and use on such things as soil, land cover and ecological regions. Files are in gif or png formats. If you wish to make your own maps and run your own analysis, data for these themes is also available in shapefile format. Maps and data seem to cover most of the European Union member states.

By way of Le Petit Blog Cartographique.


The Canadian Insitute of Geomatics presents Cybercartography in the context of contemporary mapping.

The world of maps and mapping is being rapidly transformed. Recent technological developments have brought maps into the daily life of societies all over the world in unprecedented ways. The entire domain of mapmaking is experiencing a profound change in the way maps (re)produce territories. This change is the result of developments in industry, the open source community, community based initiatives as well as in academia, science and art. Cybercartography aims to capture and build on this diversity and to further explore the changing nature of maps. In January 2003 a multidisciplinary research team at Carleton University in Ottawa began to further develop a foundational paradigm for cybercartography. This paradigm will be presented and discussed, illustrated by examples developed in the context of the Cybercartography and the New Economy project.

Date: Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

Time: Cash bar: 19:00 hrs, Meeting: 20:00 hrs

Location: Control Tower, Airforce Mess, 158 Gloucester Street, Ottawa, Canada

Contact: David Broscoe (broscod@algonquincollege.com) for reservations.

Visit the CIG website for more information.


Soviet topographic maps

For the 50 years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Soviet military sought to map every corner of the globe. The result was an extensive collection of standardized maps at various scales. John Davies has written a 28 page, 2 part paper on the topic for Sheetlines, the publication of the Charles Close Society, an organization that studies the U. K.’s Ordinance Survey maps. In his paper he indicates that the Soviets mapped the entire world at 1:1,000,000, 1:500,000 and 1:200,000, most of Asia, Europe, north Africa and North America at 1:100,000, the Soviet Union, Europe and parts of Asia at 1:50,000, the Soviet Union and eastern Europe at 1:25,000 and about a quarter of the Soviet Union at 1:10,000. “In addition,” writes Davies, “plans at 1:25,000 and 1:10,000 were produced of thousands of towns and cities around the world.” In some areas, the Soviet maps are still among the best available.

What is just as amazing as the number of maps churned out by the Soviet military is the fact that none of these maps are copyrighted since the Soviet Union was not a signatory to the Berne Convention on copyright. The U. K. ’s Ordinance Survey believes that the Russian topographic maps of the U. K. are simply copies of OS maps of the time; however, Davies compares the two side by side and raises questions about the OS’ position.

A 1958 map symbol guide is available online in pdf.

Update: For an update, see the blog post for 30 November 2005.

Some of these maps are freely available on the Internet. The two best sources are the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of California, Berkeley. Together they have an extensive collection of mostly 1:100,000 and 1:200,000 maps for Asia and parts of Europe and Africa. The Perry-Castañeda Library has links to various bits and pieces of Russian topographic maps (search by country).

Paper versions of Russian topographic maps for other parts of the world can still be purchased from a variety of sources (for example Omnimap, Eastview Cartographic, Fourone)


Tracking air traffic

FlightAware is a site that takes real-time air traffic in Canada and the United States. As well as providing overview maps of the region showing specific aircraft movement, local maps for airports and traffic associated with that airport are available. Users can search by airport or commercial flight number. An animated map showing the movement of traffic throughout the day (similar to what Flight Patterns displays - see previous blog entry) is also available.

By way of 7.5th Floor / Where Are You From?


Paris noise maps

The city of Paris has put together an interactive map (click on the link under the “Les cartes” heading on the right side of the page) that displays noise levels in the city. A colour ramp displays the different noise levels and the maps are viewable in 2-D or 3-D formats. For those not familar with the city, the 2-D format is probably the easier to navigate. A key map in the top left corner is also clickable and draws up the main map for the location selected.There are also a couple of drop-down boxes that enables searching by feature type or place name. Noise levels for either the day or the night can be displayed either singly or both at the same time. A statistics page that is clear and easy to read provides comparisons of noise levels for different arrondisments and for the city as a whole. An impressive, attractive and useful site available in French, English and Spanish.

By way of 7.5th Floor



ePodunk is a site that focuses on place and provides information on 25,000 communities in the U. S. The site also contains a number of interesting maps, including maps of the Katrina diaspora, ethnic origin, fastest growing counties and others. There is also a Canadian version of the site, focusing on Canadian places, but it, sadly, does not seem to have any maps.

By way of C. Weiss.


Mapping user input

Worldchill.com is a Coca-Cola site that allows users to select how they are feeling (anywhere from “freakin’” to “chill”) that maps the response on a world-wide map. By clicking on the map, users can zoom to a specific country or region. The data is, perhaps, meaningless but the site displays an interesting and attractive approach to mapping user input.

By way of information aesthetics.


Animated map of Google searches

The folks at Google Labs have, of course, been busy. A number of papers from their work are available on their website. Most deals with, not surprisingly, searching methods and file systems. One paper, entitled “Interpreting the Data: Parallel Analysis with Sawzall” refers to a gif movie that displays the geographical distribution of search requests throughout a particular day.

By way of information aesthetics.


The London Telegraph has a story about the discovery of the western world’s oldest map. It is a fragment of a terracotta vase about the size of a postage stamp and depicts the heel of the Italian peninsula. Dating from 500 BC, it was discovered more than 2 years ago. Its existence was kept secret until recently so research could be carried out on it.

From the article: “Its engraved place names are indicated by points, just as on maps today, and are written in ancient Greek. The sea on the western side, Taras (Taranto), today's Gulf of Taranto, is named in Greek. But the rest of the map is in Messapian, the ancient tongue of the local tribes, although the script is ancient Greek. The seas on either side of the peninsula, the Ionian and the Adriatic, are depicted by parallel zig-zag strokes. Many of the 13 towns marked on the map, such as Otranto, Soleto, Ugento and Leuca (now called Santa Maria di Leuca) still exist.”

The map is on display at the Archaeological National Museum of Taranto.

By way of GeoCarta.


Mapping reality . . . or fiction?

The dividing line between reality and fiction can at times be a little hazy, particularly in the neighbourhood of Hollywood, California. Google GlobeTrotting has a number of links to air photos and maps of Wisteria Lane (the best of which is the Google Earth link), the setting for the popular television show Desperate Housewives. The air photos clearly display the street, complete with sidewalks, cars and houses but the street doesn’t exist. It does not show up on street maps (or at least not in Google Maps). What is being mapped here? Or not being mapped? If a map is a representation of reality, what is “reality”?


Mobile maps

No, these are not ni-tech, electronic maps to be used on a cell phone or a hand-held portable. These are not even folded paper road maps. Judi Werthein, a artist / designer, has created colourful shoes for use by Mexicans looking to cross the border into the United States, complete with a removable insole that carries a map of the border area and a mini compass and flashlight. Selling for $215 US in a San Diego boutique, these shoes are being given away for free to would be migrants in Mexico before they cross the border.

The question is: does scale or map extent vary with the shoe size?

Read the story in the Monterey Herald.


The map as gospel

The North Queensland Register has a short story about one rancher’s efforts to change a vegetation map. It seems that some of his land was classed as “untouched” forest when, in fact, it was regrowth. “A colour gets incorrectly slapped on a map and it's gospel - then it's hell to get it changed.” The designation was finally changed after a two year battle.


CNET as (yet another) lengthy story about people combining already existing data with Google Maps and (to a lesser extent) the new Yahoo! Maps. It looks like mapping the hot item on the Internet these days. “Online mapping is evolving into a historic nexus of disparate technologies and communities that is changing the fundamental use of the Internet, as well as redefining the concept of maps in our culture. Along the way, map mashups are providing perhaps the clearest idea yet of commercial applications for the generation of so-called social technologies they represent.” Read the complete story.


A Short History of Rand-McNally

Designorati has posted a short history of Rand McNally, from their humble beginnings in Chicago as a print shop in 1855 to the well-known map company they are today.



Wayfaring.com allows users to make their own customized Google Map without having to know anything about the Google Map API. Registration is required but is free and allows users to input addresses, comments and links by either clicking on the map or typing an address (which seems to work for U. S. addresses only right now). Unfortunately, latitude and longitude values are not currently accepted.

By way of Andy Coates


Atlas of North American English

A recent issue of the New Yorker carried a brief story about William Labov’s Atlas of North American English. Labov “is often called the father of sociolinguistics” and his atlas charts “all of the major dialects spoken in the continental United States and Canada.” A teaser of the atlas is available on the web and includes interactive Flash maps and sound samples.

Another site, also with Labov’s involvement, displays more maps, including some regional ones (scroll to the bottom of the page). The quality and style of these maps, however, is inconsistent.

The atlas itself hasn’t been released yet but will be available for a mere $515 (U. S.).


Spatial data for the masses

The Greenwich Times has a news article on the town of Greenwich, CT selling compact discs of aerial photos for $70. This followed a court case in which a computer consultant argued that the tax-payer funded municipal GIS should make this and other data available. The town argued against this, citing security concerns. Not all of the requested data was released and there is still some dispute over the price charged for the compact disc. It appears that the legal issues are not yet completely resolved.

I suspect that this will soon become a trend. With easy access to aerial photos and detailed mapping on the Internet, arguments that the public release of municipal data is a threat to security might not fly.


ACSM-CaGIS 33rd Annual Map Design Competition

This posting was originally dated October 6, 2005.

Entry Deadline: January 15, 2006

The Cartography and Geographic Information Society of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping is pleased to announce this year's map design competition!

The purpose of the competition is to promote interest in map design and to recognize significant design advances in cartography. The focus of this competition is design; therefore, noted cartographers judge the entries based on creativity and cartographic design criteria: color, overall design and impression, craftsmanship, and typography.

Entries will be displayed at a number of national and international professional functions and will then become part of the permanent collection of the U.S. Library of Congress. Scans of winning entries will also be provided (with permission) to educators and teachers as examples of excellent map design for their students.

The competition is open to all map-makers in the United States and Canada for maps completed and/or published during 2005.

Students are particularly encouraged to apply for the awards sponsored by the National Geographic Society and Avenza-MAPublisher. Each student award consists of a cash prize ($500), a National Geographic atlas, a student license of MAPublisher (worth $249), and a certificate of award. Runners-up will receive a beautiful National Geographic map or atlas. Student mapmakers in a certificate, diploma, or degree program (bachelor, masters, doctorate) must have produced their entries with student facilities as part of an accredited course. Student entries must be signed by a course instructor.

Best of Show: The map or book selected from the winners of the categories below that is judged to be the best of this year's entries.

Best of Category:
  • Reference: A map whose objective is to show the location of a variety of different features. The focus of a reference map is on accurate depiction at a given scale of the location of individual environmental features.
  • Thematic: A map whose objective is to illustrate a theme or the relationship among several themes. The focus of a thematic map is on the structure of the distribution rather than on location.
  • Book/Atlas: Atlases and books use original maps as the primary (in the case of an atlas) or a significant (in the case of a book) communication device.
  • Recreation/Travel: A map designed to assist readers in pursuit of recreation or travel, such as road maps, trail maps, and maps of parks or natural areas.
  • Interactive Digital: A map designed for digital media (Internet, CD, DVD). Maps in this category include some level of interactivity, such as selection and transformation, or animation.
  • Other: This category is for submissions that do not fit into any other category. Judges reserve the right to assign entries to another category if they feel it is appropriate and will offer an award only for an exceptional map that does correspond with the other categories.
National Geographic Society/Avenza-MAPublisher Awards
  • Arthur Robinson Award for Best Printed Map: A map or map series designed specifically for print media.
  • David Woodward Award for Best Electronic Map: A map or series of related maps designed specifically for electronic media (i.e., CD, DVD, the Web, etc.)

Submit three copies of entries in the Professional Category and two in the Student Category. Fees are $10 per student map and $20 per professional map. The entry form is available at
http://www.acsm.net/cagis/mapentryform.pdf. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2006 for maps completed in 2005. Please send entries to:
ACSM Map Competition
6 Montgomery Village Avenue
Suite 403
Gaithersburg, MD 20879
For further information, see http://acsm.net/cagis/index.html or call (240) 632-9716 ext.109.

See excerpts from previous year's winners at http://acsm.net/cagis/maparchives.html.


Map mashups in the news

The San Fransisco Chronicle has a news article on the “Internet’s hottest phenomena,” the map mashup. As well as describing some of the wonderful combinations of map and adata, it also highlights the issue that most of the map mashup creators do not own the data they use. “Some mash-ups operate in a gray area of what’s permissible. Their operators crawl data from other Web sites that have no published policies about the practice, hoping nobody will notice.” Understandably, this can cause some problems. Still, expect the use of mashups to increase as the larger Internet companies get into the practice of combining data with maps.


Mapping the riots in France

The riots in France have been going on for quite awhile now but there has been a dearth of good maps on the subject. The best of the lot that I’ve seen comes from The Economist- finally a decent ly large map with some detail (scroll part way down the page). The maps in The Economist, by the way, are usually much smaller but follow a consistent style.

The BBC’s maps of the riots are okay but not quite as good. CNN has a static map is a little less detailed and appears to be not as complete (or up to date). There is also another “interactive” (just barely) map that shows a little more detail. CBC has an even vaguer and more out of date map as does the News-Telegraph. MSNBC has a map that allows the user to click through the days to display where riots occurred -whic is probably a more correct way of showing the situation than a single map showing all the locations at once. The last to be highlighted (though there are many more) is one from the Morocco Times. It is small but seems to indicate that a good third of France is up in flames.


Mapping election results

Mapping election results can be more of a challenge than one might initially think. Electoral districts generally are generally the same size in terms of population but not necessarily by area. Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the University of Michigan highlight some of the challenges faced with mapping the United States presidential election results of 2004 and come up with varying successful solutions.

The cartogram seems to be a favourite solution to showing a more accurate weighting of population and this is one that Strategic Telemetry has taken when mapping the results from the recent Virginia state election (pdf) (which they describe as a “cartographic map”; or click here for a jpg version). The problem with the cartogram is that is can obliterate anythng recognizable. In this map, for instance, it’s only because we know that it is Virginia that we recognize it as such.

Perhaps style.org has provided a better solution that may or may not work with other jurisdictions. They have taken the example of the results of the Iowa caucus of 2004. Instead of stretching or squishing the state out of physical shape, they have maintained its form and added scaled symbols to represent the size and proportion of the vote. The result is much cleaner and more understandable than a cartogram.


Review of Online Mapping Sites

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an article in which the writer has reviewed 3 online mapping services: Mapquest, Google Maps and the new Yahoo! Maps. His conclusion? Aside from some of the nice new features in Google Maps and Yahoo! Maps, he’s sticking with Mapquest.

Compare to the reviews completed on this blog a few weeks ago.

By way of GeoCarta


An animated map of courier movements

OpenStreetMap has posted a link to an mpeg (4 MB file) that shows eCourier’s courier movement and routes in London over a three day period. eCourier supplies much the data used in OpenStreetMap’s London map.


Another historical map site

The University of Alabama has a collection of historical and contemporary maps on its site. Not surprisingly, many of the maps are of the U. S. south but there is quite a number of maps of other areas as well. Of special interest may be the “Topographical and drainage map of New Orleans” created by T. S. Hardee in 1878. Maps can be viewed as zoomable, pannable jpgs or as Mr SID files (although I couldn’t get the Mr SID plug-in to function).


Just yesterday I mentioned about some different maps utilizing the new Yahoo! Maps API. Apparently, Yahoo! has its own gallery of map applications, including an event browser and traffic map.

By way of gisblog.net


Maplecroft maps

Maplecroft maps is a JAVA script-driven world atlas showing maps and information from economic, social, political and environmental perspectives. Using a world map as a base, users can zoom and click on any country to get more information. The maps are attractive but the interface is a bit crowded; better to use the full-screen mode if you plan on spending any time with it. The maps are intended to This innovative tool is “to raise awareness amongst corporations, government and non governmental organisations, academics and students of how an organisation’s operations interact with wider society, and how the risks and opportunities generated can be responsibly managed through stakeholder engagement and partnership.” Also included is a disasters map.

By way of Very Spatial


Things to do with the new Yahoo! Maps

It was only last Thursday that Yahoo! Maps announced an beta release of an upgrade and already people are putting it through its paces. Justin Everett-Church has created two very different looking maps using Yahho! maps - one a pirate map and the other a radar-type screen - just to demonstrate what can be done. Expect to see more artistic renditions using the new beta release in the future.

Read UIE Brainsparks comments on these examples.


Bird Flu Maps 3

A couple of bird flu overlays are available for Google Earth. Both seem to use different source data and come up with different looking overlays. The one prepared by Declan Butler seems a little more extensive (sources: WHO, OIE, CDC, FAO and others) than the one prepared by purplelinny (sources: AP, BBC, WHO, OIE). Compare and contrast and make your own judgement as to which is better. This certainly highlights the issue of reliability and accuracy of data available on the Internet.

See previous entries onbird flu maps (1) and (2).


A font for cartographers

After studying maps and cartography, Felix Arnold has designed a font, called Cisalpin, specifically for cartographers. Offered through LinoType, the purveyors of such popular fonts as Frutiger and Helvetica, Cisalpin is offered in OpenType format for both Macs and Windows platforms. The font description or catalog copy comes complete with some map examples.

Thanks Stefan.


Ptolemy's Geography

Ptolemy’s Geography is essentially an atlas of the world as it was known to Ptolemy and his contemporaries 1,900 years ago. Bill Thayer has provided an English edition of Ptolemy’s Geography, an edition that is, by his own admission, “is hardly a scholarly one.” What is interesting is that, in addition to providing an English version of the text, Bill has also created maps using the coordinates and the instructions provided by Ptolemy in his book. The site seems to be a work in progress as not all maps and chapters are complete.


Central Park maps

If Central Park is your thing, then a visit to centralpark.com is in order. As well as having an attractive air photo and map poster available for purchase, it also has a freely downloadable runners’ map to the park and nicely constructed interactive Flash map. The latter is vaguely reminiscent of Google Maps with the pushpin icons and air photo and map options, but is much more attractive.

By way of Great Map



Mapscape has an interesting web mapping site of London, UK that uses Flash. What’s unusual about it is that, instead of the regular street map and points of interest it takes an oblique perspective on the streets, buildings and parks. The result is an clean, attractive clickable map of downtown London that’s a pleasure to look at. And no traffic on the streets! It also allows the user to mark a spot and notify others of a designated meeting place.

By way of Great Map


This story in the Manchester Evening News is bound to provoke a few interesting conversations between the sexes. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Bradford suggested that women are better at shifting focus between tasks, making them better drivers. “Men are supposed to be better at spatial tasks, such as parking.”

By way of Geoplace


Google Maps on cellphones

In case you haven’t seen Google Maps enough these days, now you can download Google Maps to your cellphone. The service is free - provided you have some internet data plan with your cellphone company. read the story in USA Today. With an increasing number of cellphones having gps capability, expect to see your current location marked on the map with one of those colourful balloon icons soon.

By way of CartoTalk.



The virtual globe market is beginning to get a little crowded. Most people know of Google Earth, Microsoft’s Virtual Earth and NASA’s World Wind. But they might not have heard of WW2D - an open source, cross-platform application. It runs on JAVA and is free to download. I haven’t had the opportunity to do so and test it out but there are a few screenshots of the program and a comparison of the features available in the various virtual globes. The program uses Blue Marble Net Generation, Landsat 7, USGS Topo, Digital Ortho Imagery and urban area imagery. There is also a list of add-on data that can be downloaded and used within the application.

By way of Le Petit Blog Cartographique.


Google Maps vs Google Maps via API

In the recent review of online mapping sites, one of the comments about Google Maps was that it was missing some key datasets, notably minor water features. However, if one looks at any of the many Google Maps mashups, one can see that there is alot more data available than just roads. Compare these two images of the same area. The top one is taken from Google Maps and shows only roads and some railways. The bottom is taken from a Google Maps mashup and shows roads, more railways, parks, minor water features and commercial/industrial features. As well, the data seems to come from different sources (Navteq for Google Maps versus TeleAtlas for the mashups), resulting in slightly different geometries and road classifications (it would appear that the Navteq version is more correct). Why the difference?


Mapping Wireless Internet Use

The folks at ISPOTS, MIT have set up a real time map that displays wireless internet use on campus. The page loads an animation of the past 24 hours activity. As with any Flash animation, you can zoom by right-clicking on the image. The animation is slow to load so be prepared. More information on ISPOTS is available on a related web page. See a related earlier post on mapping cellphone usage.

By way of information aesthetics.


Chicago's Gangland, 1931

The Encyclopedia of Chicago has a Flash version of a map depicting Chicago's gang landscape as it appeared in 1931. With lots of illustrations and descriptive text, this is an entertaining map to read. Sadly, the Flash interface and image is fairly small; it would take a bit of time to go through the entire map. It would be nice to get a paper copy of this one. The University of Illinois has a larger viewer showing the map (and appears to have, at one time, a downloadable Mr. SID file).

By way of Great Map.


The National Geographic has a collection of interactive maps on the U. S. civil war, including a number of old maps showing battlefields and city plans. The main map is an interactive, zoom and click map that shows the location of battlefields and related historic sites, with links to more information.


Yahoo! Maps upgrades

Yahoo! Maps has released a beta version of an upgrade. Both the older version and the upgraded version are available for use. The upgrade looks alot like Google Maps. The map styling is very similar (even the colours are exactly the same - see below) and the pan and zoom tools operate in the same manner as those found in Google Maps, though probably not as smoothly as one wold expect. It even has a single search box, just like Google Maps. The maps appear to use Macromedia Flash and, as a result, the images cannot be saved for use in other programs. The map has also lost some of the data layers that showed up in the older version, including minor water features, parks, and commercial and residential areas.

In short, it looks like Yahoo! Maps is trying to look like Google Maps - perhaps a bit too much.

The Old Yahoo! Maps:

The New Yahoo! Maps:

Google Maps:


Flight Patterns

Aaron Koblin has put together a number of Quicktime videos depciting the movement of aircraft in and around the United States. These are definitely worthy of a look. It is amazing to see the cascades of aircraft coimng in over the Atlantic or the blossoming of flights originating from the east coast.

By way of information aesthetics and Future Feeder.


More thoughts on Google Maps

In frieze.com, George Pendle writes about Google Maps and the ever-increasing bits of data that is added to it by the growing number of mashups. “Such a vast and democratic project would seem to signal the last, and grandest, hurrah of the human cartographic impulse,” he writes. “For as the amount of information added to the map grows, and if, or rather when, Google Earth decides to add real-time rather than static satellite imagery to the process, a virtual mirror world will be created, containing vast swaths of information over which we can float like gods.”

His concludes his short essay by suggesting that “the infinitesimally detailed Google Earth is, by its very success, beginning to share the characteristics of a map first dreamed of by Lewis Carroll in his story Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), in which a map with a scale of one mile to one mile is produced but can never be fully unravelled since it would block out the sun. In consequence of this, people are forced to use the real world as its own map, which proves to do ‘nearly as well’.”


Bird Flu Maps (2)

The BBC has an interactive Flash map depicting the spread of avian flu from its origins in south east Asia. See earlier posting for other maps.


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