Right Now

⏳ Waiting for the APIs in the Cloud for what's going on right now ...

Big Arrows And Beacons; Navigating Across The United States By Plane In The Pre-GPS Era

It's the mid-1920's and you're in a plane trying to navigate your way across the vastness of the United States. GPS hasn't been invented yet. VHF Omni Directional Radio Range, shortened to VOR, hasn't been invented yet. LFR, or Low Frequency Radio Range, hasn't been invented yet. How do you hope to stay on course?

As a pilot you'd have a compass, an altimeter and maybe a map of the railway system to help you navigate and this is just what pilots did from 1918 when the U.S. Postal Service introduced the U.S. Air Mail system. But you needed one critical thing to help you navigate, one thing that wasn't available 24 hours a day. You needed daylight.

In 1921, an experimental night flight was successfully completed using the clever solution of following bonfires along the length of the route between Chicago and North Platte in Nebraska. The bonfires were lit and tended by Postal Service employees and the occasional helpful farmer.

Doctor Who And The Underground Map; Enough Is Enough

Oh look. It's another reworking of Harry Beck's London Underground map. Ken Field probably won't like it. This one is Doctor Who related. All the usual suspects are present. Each line representing one of the Doctors? Yes. Stations representing monsters and adversaries? Yes. Vague notions of interchanges between the lines? Oh yes.

Now I'll freely admit I've been more than guilty of writing about re-workings of this particular map, at least 12 times. Doctor Who has been on, then off, then back on our TV screens for 50 years; longer than I've been around, but only by 2 years.

Making Maps The Hard Way - From Memory

In his book A Zebra Is The Piano Of The Animal Kingdom, Jarod Kintz wrote "when you're a cartographer, having to make maps sort of comes with the territory". He's right. When your business is making maps you should be able to do just that. But what if you're not a cartographer? What if you had to draw a map of the country you live in? From memory? What would that map look like?

Maybe something like this perhaps? The shape of the United Kingdom and Ireland is vaguely right, though Cornwall and all of the Scottish islands bar the Shetlands seem to be lacking. Then again, the Isle Of Wight is on holiday off the North Coast of Wales. The Channel Islands have evicted the Isle Of Man, which is off sulking in the North Sea, probably annoying cross Channel ferries into the bargain. Also "Woo! Geography".

King George III Was A Fellow Map Addict

The Wikipedia entry for George William Frederick of Hanover, better known as King George III of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, is full of details but misses out one key aspect of his life. In addition to concurrently being King, Duke and prince-elect of Brunswick-Lüneburg he was also a map addict and avid map collector.

During the course of his reign between 1760 and 1801, George amassed a collection of around 60,000 maps and views, all of which were housed in a room in Buckingham House (which eventually became Buckingham Palace in 1837) which was right next to his bedroom.

Upon his death, the map collection was bequeathed to the nation and now resides in the British Library and last night a lucky group of people, Alison and myself included, were given a rare chance to get to grips with some of the collection that focused on London. I use the phrase get to grips in the most literal sense. This was no viewing of maps in frames or behind glass. The maps were spread over the table of the library's boardroom and we were encouraged to get really close and do what we so often want to do with an old map but aren't usually allowed to. We got to touch them. We were even allowed to take photos too.

Push Pins, Dots, Customisation, Brands And Services; The Three Waves Of Making Digital Maps

The year 2013 has been a great year for maps and a greater year for maps in the United Kingdom, culminating in events that huddled together under the Maptember banner; OpenStreetMap's State Of The Map, the AGI's GeoCommunity and FOSS4G. But there was another event in 2013 that was map related and that was the 50th. anniversary of the British Cartographic Society's Cartographic Journal.

First published in 1964 and edited under the watchful eye of fellow map geek and cartography nerd Ken Field, the Cartographic Journal has been around for longer than I have. Just. This is something that makes me feel slightly less old than I usually do. In February of this year, Ken got in touch with me and asked me if I'd be willing to contribute an article to the 50th anniversary edition of the journal by writing something that attempts to answer the question what does cartography mean to you? Naturally I had to think long and hard about this and after some 30 seconds emailed Ken back saying I'd be privileged and delighted to. So I started writing. As is so often the way, what finally transpired and was published in May, bore little resemblance to my initial thoughts, but thanks to a permissive licensing approach on the part of the publishers, I'm able to reproduce the article below.

Maps For When The Ice Caps Melt and When The Magnetic Poles Reverse

About 2 years ago I wrote about something I called mapping the might have been; things that were planned and made it onto a map but which never came about. Now it's time for the opposite; maps of things that haven't yet come to be but which probably will. It's less mapping the might have been and more mapping the will be.

The planet we live on is one giant magnet, with poles that roughly align with the geographic poles which marks the axis on which the Earth spins. We're used to the notion that North is up at the top of the planet and South is on the other side. But what if these poles reverse? About every half a million years or so this happens and when it does, everything changes and magnetic compasses will no longer work the way we expect them to. When this does happen, maybe the map of the world that we're so familiar with will look something like this.