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

Mapping Science

Maps are often used as a metaphor, a way of describing direction (as in “the road map to peace”) or success (as in “getting a town on the map”). Similarly, the “Mapping Science” looks to literally use map-like objects to indicate the state and direction of science today. The Science, Business and Technology Library of the New York Public Library is hosting the exhibit put together by the Places and Spaces folks noted earlier in this blog. The exhibit “uses innovative mapping techniques to physically show what and where science is today, how different branches of science relate to each other and where different branches of study are heading, where cutting edge science is erupting as archipelagos in the oceans of the yet unknown - and - how it all relates back to the physical centers of research. The world of science is turned into a navigable landscape.”

The exhibit runs from April 4th to August 31st.


Foriegn Names in Antarctica

This little news story from IOL, a South African news web site:
Amundsen and Scott may have to share billing with Confucius and Mao Zedong when China publishes a new map of Antarctica.

Chinese researchers back from a four-month expedition said 46 newly surveyed Antarctic islands would receive Chinese names, state media said on Wednesday. Scholars, politicians, emperors and artists figured high on the 160-name shortlist.

"This first map will be a landmark contribution made by China to the world in Antarctic research," Xinhua news agency quoted Zhao Yue, a scientist on the expedition, as saying.

Zhao added that Chinese names should be featured given China's independent survey of the Grove area - a mountainous area in Antarctica's eastern extreme - and the prevalence of foreign names on Antarctic maps.

The map will be published in March 2007.
Aren’t all names in Antarctica foriegn?


Statistics Canada Maps

Statistics Canada, the section of the government of Canada that keeps track of nationally significant statistics from population numbers to the health and activity of the economy, has a number of thematic and reference maps available on its site.

Reference maps include maps of the various census divisions and subdivisions and disssemation areas - the mutli-block areas that Census Canada uses to conduct its census. Each of these maps comes complete with community and street names where appropriate. Maps are available in pdf format.

The thematic map collection contains colourful maps of several of the larger cities on such themes as populatyion change, household income and nighttime population. These maps are also available in pdf format.

Some Statistics Canada boundary files are available for download from Geogratis.

Also available on the site is an interactive map tool that allows users to query by city, town or street.


Online Aeronautical Charts

La Cartoteca has posted an interesting link to SkyVector, a collection of online American aeronautical charts set up in a Google Maps-like format. Users can navigate around the map by panning and zooming (the zoom toolbar is in the bottom right corner). Users can also select from a list of airports to view a map.


Toxic Maps

Toxmap has an online mapping feature provided by the U. S. National Library of Medicine that displays the Enviromental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory and Superfund Programs. The small map interface can be used to zoom, pan and query; for those who have access to GIS software it might be better to download the data.

The FAQ page provides some interesting comments such as “Remember that not all maps are made by professional cartographers. Today’s image and cartography software have made it possible for non-cartographers to create and design maps that may hide or obscure features that many users would expect to find.” Cartographers, of course, would never do such a thing.


Mapping the Arctic Seabed

The Globe and Mail reports today that Canada will join Denmark in a cooperative initiative to map an underwater mountain ridge on the Arctic Ocean floor that may extend beyond the North Pole. The geological survey may support Danish and Canadian claims to the seabed north of Greenland and the Canadian Arctic islands. At stake are potential deposits of minerals, oil and gas.
“In geologic terms, the Canadian and Danish team is trying to demonstrate that the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of the North American continent. If this is so, the countries can claim control over the slope and the seabed well beyond the usual 200 nautical miles from shore. They call their project LORITA, for the Lomonosov Ridge Test of Appurtenance. Canada is putting more than $30-million into the work this year.”
By drilling through the Arctic ice, lowering explosives through the holes, detonating them and capturing the echoes that result, the team will gather information about the seafloor.

Read The Globe and Mail story on the initiative or visit the project website.


Intact Forest Cover Data and Maps

Greenpeace released a couple of maps depicted the remaining intact forest and a suggested network of marine reserves (also available in pdf format). Data for intact forest cover is available in ESRI shapefile or Google Earth kmz formats. Intact forest is defined by Greenpeace as blocks that are larger than 500 square kilometres that have not been fragmented by human infrastructure development. Also available is a poster of world intact forest landscapes with explanatory text and images (jpg and pdf - sample at right).


PC World has taken a stab at reviewing online mapping services and in-car navigation systems. It only reviews 4 services (Google Local, Live Local, Mapquest and Yahoo! Maps. Live Local comes out on top in their review (it ranked it “superior;” the others were simply “very good”). No word on why they picked just these four. In the in-car navigation systems department, Tom-Tom’s Go 300 came in first when compared to 4 other competitors. The reviews finish off with a short discussion on mapping and GPS software.

Though the entire set of reviews is 16 pages, all the reviews are short and to the point; it wouldn’t take long to read through them all.

Compare to Cartography’s own review of online mapping sites from last year.


Maritime Piracy Maps

Piracy has long held the imagination of many and tall tales of danger, adventure and treasure fill numerous book shelves. Robert Louis Stevenson, of course, has much to answer for. His own story, Treasure Island, comes with its own map of the island, a map that has inspired many a young reader to further investigate the world of maps.

But piracy today is much less exotic (and so are its maps) and still very much a threat to commercial shipping. Few maps exist showing the location of piracy attacks, even though locational data for such events exists. The International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau issues a weekly piracy report that provides the location of suspicious incidents and reported attacks. The Bureau has also produced a number of maps showing the location of incidents over the past five years (scroll to the bottom of the page) but the quality of the maps leave much to be desired. A similar set of maps, just more colourful, exist elesewhere on the site. An interesting and relevant topic such as this deserves better cartographic treatment. Even a standard Google Map mashup would be an improvement.


Microsoft Beefs up its Remote Sensing

According to ZDNet, Microsoft plans to buy Vexcel, a maker of remote sensors, in an effort to expand is remote sensing imagery offerings:

Microsoft has confirmed that it plans to buy Vexcel, a maker of remote sensors, to help expand the software maker's digital mapping efforts.

In a statement on Monday, Microsoft said the pending deal will help it with its efforts "to deliver a dynamic immersive digital representation of the real world that provides the best local search and mapping experience."

"Vexcel's people products and services will play a key role in helping Microsoft deliver on this vision," the software maker said. Vexcel makes a digital aerial camera known as the UltraCam as well as remote sensor and satellite tools.

Aerial photography has become a hotbed of competition, with Google Earth and Microsoft's Virtual Earth racing to map the globe and beyond as part of their local search services. Google recently started mapping Mars as well.

Microsoft said in a statement that it has "entered into an agreement with Vexcel" to acquire the company, but did not offer any financial details of the transaction. Microsoft said the deal still requires approval from regulators in both the United States and in several European countries.

The deal was noted last week by the Daily Camera, Vexcel's hometown newspaper in Bolder, Colo. The paper reported that the 21-year-old company has 130 employees.


The European Space Agency has posted an animated map, a one minute movie, showing the fluctuations in sea surface temperature of the Mediterranean Sea. The period covered runs from the beginning of September, 2005 to the middle of March, 2006 and is based on Medspiration 2 km by 2km resolution data updated every 24 hours. The map is interesting to watch although it suffers from using a counter-intuitive colour grid (red should generally appear as one of the warmer colours).


The Changing Red-Blue Map

Following the 2000 and 2004 U. S. presidential elections, the red-blue divide has frequently been talked about and mapped, so much so that the map has become ubiquitous on the Internet (see 1, 2, 3 and so on). Radical Wit has posted an animated gif map of the country showing George Bush’s approval ratings using the same partisan colours as the election results maps. The map begins with the 2004 election and changes every five seconds to the next month. Images of individual maps are also available as static images.


Something New: Google Earth

Perhaps not to those of us in the geo-spatial industry but it’s worth remembering that not everyone has their head in data, maps and geo-spatial programs. James Fallows writes in the Atlantic Monthly that coming across Google Earth for the first time was one of his “truly memorable moments” in his long experience with computers, ranking up there with sending his first email or browsing the Internet for the first time. Jack Dangermond of ESRI (are there any other poster children for GIS?) gets his two cents in: “But because [Google Earth] is spellbinding to customers, it can only build awareness of geography. And if this exposure makes citizens more spatially literate, they can accept more of their information this way and visualize more about their local situations.”

Read James Fallows’ article online.


ACSM-CaGIS Map Competition Results

The American Congress on Surveying and Mapping Cartographic and Geographic Information Society announced the winners of their 33rd annual map design competition and have posted them on their website. Perhaps of most interest to Canadian Cartographic Association members will be some of the winners in the student category (of which yours truly was a reciepient a while ago): Vicki Gazzola, of Nova Scotia Community College (better known as the Centre of Geographic Sciences) won the award for best printed map; Paul Light, Jeff Wielki and Fiona Hariss, also students at CoGS, received honourable mentions.


Internet Map of North America

The above is a map of the North American Internet, as drawn by Bill Cheswick of Lumenta, a network intelligence company. Unlike some of his other work already on the Internet, this map uses fairly recent data (collected on March 8, 2006) and is available in pdf format. The map, of course, is not geographic (even though each node or router has a geographic location); rather the manner in which items are laid out reflects the shortest path from a test computer in New Jersey to the various announced nets on the Internet. “Each end node can represent a handful of computers on a small network, or perhaps a parge company with hundreds of thousands of hosts.” The colours on the map inidicate different corporate ownership.

Read Ben Worthen’s CIO blog entry on the map.


The NanoMap

The NewScientist reports today that a map of North and South America has been created at a scale of 1:200,000,000,000,000 using “meticulously folded strands of DNA.” No word on the projection that used but it appears to be Mercator or geographic.

By way of BLDGLOG.


Mapping the Siege of Sarajevo

In the painful breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the city of Sarajevo was encircled and besieged for close to 4 years. When the siege ended just over 10 years ago, constant shelling and sniper fire killed 10,000 inhabitants and wounded 50,000 more. FAMA International, a Sarajevo-based publishing house, has created a hand-drawn map showing the besieged city surrounded by guns, tanks and snipers. The 875 kb file is freely available for download and viewing. An extensive online text legend explains the significance of features and locations. Altogether, it creates it a disturbing picture of 4 years of uncertain life for the residents of Sarajevo.

Thanks Joe.


Mapping Shipwrecks

Wreck is a website with a specific interest in shipwrecks in the English Channel and the North Sea. They have put together an interactive mapping application that plots the locations of shipwrecks against scanned nautical charts. The points representing the shipwrecks are queryable and provide information on the ship such as type, size, and date and circumstance of its sinking. Where available it also includes photos of the fated ship. Users can also query by geographic location. The application does not seem to work in Firefox; better to use IE. The application is nicely put together but clicking on a point to draw up information is sometimes problematic.


German Naval Maps

During the Second World War, German U-boats and surface ships used a series of maps or charts that employed their own quadrant system to avoid passing along vital location information to their enemies. The entire world was divided into quadrants and these were further subdivided down to a 6 sea mile by 6 sea mile square. A detailed description of this Kriegsmarine Marinequadratskarte with some illustrations can be found at a number of locations (1, 2 and 3). There is also a small program available that will convert any 6 digit Kriegsmarine Marinequadratskarte to latitude and longitude values (although not vice versa). Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any images of original naval maps about.

One of the sites linked to above, U-boat.net, has a very thorough web-accessible database on the more than 1,100 U-boats that sailed during the war. As well as including information on their commanders, when they were built and what ships they sunk, the database also includes the coordinates of the locations where the U-boats met their end. The website also provides a number of maps showing the locations of U-boat sinkings. The site also provides a listing of Allied warships involved in the war but does not provide any information or maps on the locations of their sinkings.

German Naval History, another of the sites mentioned above, also has a number of java applets that display some of the naval battles that German surface ships were involved in. The maps are a bit clunky but effective in showing the movement of ships during battle.


Google Mars

Google has added another feature to its ever-expanding line of services. This one, called Google Mars, is similar to Google Local except that it displays the surface of Mars instead. Instead of having a streets, satellite and hygrid view as in Google Local, Google Mars offers a coloured shaded elevation view, a black and white visible satellite view and a partially coloured infrared satellite view. There is even a search box to enter in not addresses but named physical locations. The standard location icons appear along with a link to another site with more information on that feature. For more information on Google Mars, check out Google’s faqs.


Online Historical Map Digitization Project

The Online Historical Map Digitization Project is a rather long and unweildy name for a site that displays scanned maps, mostly from the early 20th century and mostly of Canadian locations. The site boasts a number of interesting maps, including the 1926 Saskatchewan Road Map, the Rand McNally 1924 Indexed Pocket Map Tourists’ and Shippers’ Guide, the Survey of the Dominion of Canada (1904 / 1907) and a number of railway maps (1 and 2). The images are, thankfully, large enough to read onscreen.


Mapping Boundary Changes

Alexander Ganse, a German teaching world history at the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy has put together a website that displays the changing international boundaries and national development of numerous countries throughout history. The primary focus seems to be on European and Asian countries and each country has a separate webpage that illustrates changes in its extents over time. Numerous other sites with historical maps are referenced as well. The maps available on the WHKMLA pages are available in gif format and, though they may not be examples of fine cartography, are useful and readable. A good source for anyone looking for historical boundary information.


Index of Economic Freedom

The Index of Economic Freedom has been published every year for the past 12 years. It assesses each country’s economic freedom by evaluating a country’s performance on a number of factors, including trade policy, fiscal burden, government intervention, monetary policy and property rights, among others. Using the latest results (available in Excel format), the index creators have also put together a map of the world (also in pdf format) that provides a quick overview of economic freedom throughout the world. Also interesting to view is a chart showing the correlation of per capita income and economic freedom. Individual country reports / analysis are also available.

The complete report, along with the methodology and process used, is available for download.

By way of La Cartoteca.


Portland, Maine Map Exhibit

The Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine currently has an exhibit on a number of historical maps of Portland and area. Many of the maps and images are accessible online, including a combination historical map / satellite image put together by Orbis Maps, a local GIS company specializing in historical analysis. The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram has a short news story on the company, started up by a couple of women - unusual in what is still probably a male dominated profession.

The exhibition at the Osher Map Library runs until July 31, 2006. The map library also has a number of past exhibits online.


Selective Data Use

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has recently released a map (pdf) of the U. S. that highlights the connection between conferences held by the ex-gay movement and anti-gay ballot measures in each state. Initially the co-relation looks clear: each state that has had or will be having what it calls an anti-gay ballot has also had “ex-gay” conferences helds by organizations such as Focus on the Family or Exodus International. The map appears somewhat clunky and graceless but the real issue with it is a little disclaimer at the bottom of the map that reads: “There have also been ex-gay conferences in other states without anti-gay ballot measures since 2003. These are not depicted here.” In other words, the correlation that is displayed is not as strong as the Task Force might hope for. Well, at least they’ve let us know of this shortcoming. How many other maps on the web do not?

Read the Task Force’s accompanying news release or a newspaper story from the Bay Area Reporter.



Pictograms are everywhere because they make simple and effective signs. Commonly seen in places like airports and railway stations, pictograms can also make effective cartographic symbols. The American Insitute for Graphic Arts has a collection of 50 pictograms “designed for use at the crossroads of modern life” in a collabrative effort with the U. S. Department of Transportation. Pictograms are available for free download and use in eps and gif formats.

Pictograms have also become familiar outside of airports and railway stations, perhaps most notably at events such as the World Cup or the Olympics. Get2Testing (also in German) has a small sample of pictograms from various such events on their site, including some results of surveys to discover which pictogram is most effective. The Japanese Ecomo-Ro Foundation, producers of pictograms from the 2002 FIFA World Cup, also has a sampling of pictograms that go beyond the standard sports or airport facilities collection.


Geographic Names

A number of countries offer up their official geographic names on the web for use and/or download (e.g. Canada). Geonames has compiled a worldwide database that is searchable and downloadable. Typing in a placename will bring up a Google Map mashup with the location pinpointed - along with all other nearby geographic names. Points on the map can be toggled on or off according to feature type and clicking on a point will produce an editable balloon with information associated with that placename. Links are also provided to Wikipedia listings where appropriate. Geonames also provides a limited listing of postal code information and is an accessible by WMS.

A great find by La Cartoteca.


Star Maps

Classic cartography it might not be, but these maps to the residences of Hollywood stars sell. One star map maker sells 10,000 maps a year, a map that is regularly updated to reflect who’s hot and who’s not. The New York Times has a lengthy story on the making and selling of these star maps.

“The evolution of the maps, which may be legally sold in Los Angeles County but not in Beverly Hills proper, mirror both the Hollywood publicity machine and real estate and tourism development . . . . Although it is not known for certain who published the first map, by the mid-1920's everyone had one, from studios like Paramount, which published the names and addresses of its stars, to greeters at hotels, mothproofers and storage companies, which distributed them as a promotional gimmick.”

Sources for addresses of the stars, however, are a closely garded trade secret. Nevertheless, expect to see a Google Maps mashup that not would not only provide directions to the stars but would also enable viewers to see what their backyards and houses are like from the air.

By way of Archinect.

Update (5 March 2006): Google Earth Blog provides a link to the Google Earth community where someone has posted a kmz file for Google Earth that marks the homes of the stars.


China Atlas

The folks at Geocarta have pointed out that a working partnership between Oregon State University and the government of China has produced a soil and agriculture atlas. Entitled Visualizing China’s Future Agriculture: Climate, Soil and Suitability Maps for Improved Decision Making, the project was originally an internet mapping effort (still partially accessible) using Mapserver technology. “Using a model based on gridded climate and soils data, a map of species suitability is produced sing threshold values set by the user.” The threshold values could then be modified by the user and a new set of maps based on these values would be created. All GIS and raster cacluations were completed using GRASS.

What is unusual about this project is that the mapping moved from an interactive, web-based mapping system to a standard paper-based atlas. The first 13 pages of the 296 page, 11 inches x 17 inches book are available for viewing online as well as a couple of the maps.


Weird and Wacky Street Names

It must be Friday . . . .

Cartographers may palce alot of text and annotation on their maps but some of these street names that have come to light as a result of a contest by TheCarConnection.com would probably rate near the top of the list for bizarre names. Psycho Path, apparently, was the winner but my personal favourite is Farfrompoopen Road which is the only way into Constipation Ridge in Story, Arkanasas. Can’t seem to find it on a map, however . . . .

Have you come across an odd or humourous place or street name? Let us know, along with map to prove it.

By way of Archinect.


Early Animated Cartography

New technology (Google Video) presents old technology . . . .

Above is a short version of Allan Schmidt’s movie of the urban expansion of Lansing, Michigan. This film was produced in 1967, using SYMAP, an early computerized mapping system. “Every property transaction from 1850 to 1965 was coded by square-mile section of the Public Land Survey System. To produce the SYMAP output, a thematic attribute was generated of the percent of land developed during each five year period. Each annual SYMAP output formed a square about two feet by two feet. Hung in front of a movie camera, a set of frames were photographed.”

More about this and other digital ampping technologies is available in an upcoming book from ESRI Press entitled Charting the Unknown: How Computer Mapping at Harvard Became GIS.

A longer version of the above movie includes a slower sequence at the start. Also available is a 19 minute video in which ESRI recognizes the achievement (but which I couldn’t get the sound to work).


Another SRTM Source

The 90 m digital elevation models of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission are generally available from the USGS’s Seamless Data Distribution page where users can specifiy an area on a map, then download the data. CGIAR Consortium for Spatial Information also provides SRTM data but in 5 degree tiles as geotiffs or ArcInfo ASCII files. No data holes have been filled through interpolation (as opposed to Viewfinder Panorama’s apporach of filling in missing data from other sources).

CGIAR-CSI’s focus is on “the application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) for sustainable agricultural development.” No word on what CGIAR stands for.


Alberta Railway Maps

The Map Room has a great link to the Atlas of Alberta Railways. Don’t be deceived by the title for this online atlas contains maps of more than just railways. Included in the 224 maps are maps of topographic and climatic features, political and territorial development and, of course, railway maps. Maps are provided in “Zoomify” format as well as standard jpeg format (see the links on the left side of the page). Also included are numerous photographs and documentation.


Mountain DEMs

Viewfinder Panorama has an extensive collection of digital elevation models, panoramas and other mountain related information that is freely available for use, provided permission and credit is given.

The digital elevation models are based on the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data, are in HGT format and are available for a number of mountainous areas, including the Himalayas, the Alps, New Zealand and Japan. In cases where the SRTM data provides a no-data cell, Viewfinder Panoramas (or, more accurately Jonathan de Ferranti) has filled in the cell with a value using other available sources. Plans are afoot to complete all the SRTM tiles in this manner - a multiyear project - but most of the world’s major mountain ranges are planned for completion this spring.

The panoramas available on the site are computer generated and some have a on the ground photograph to compare to (see the examples on the right).

By way of Cartotalk.


The Barrington Atlas

Published in 2000, the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World is the first atlas of its kind to be published since 1875. It has 102 topographic maps and a 1,200 page “map-by-map directory” (is that an index?), also available on CD. It sells for a mere $225 US on Amazon.com but the Ancient World Mapping Center provides some of its map in pdf or jpeg format.

Also on the AWMC is some information about Pleiades, an open-content index of geographic information relating to the ancient world. “Pleiades will enable anyone — from university professors to casual students of antiquity — to suggest updates to geographic names, descriptive essays, bibliographic references and geographic coordinates.”

Read a related news story.


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