Friday, 31 May 2013

BCS President's Report May 2013

31st May 2013

Lots of anniversaries this month, so no problem at all in filling space or having to scratch around for tenuous links to historic moments.

On the 17th May 1943, 19 Lancasters from 617 Squadron took off from RAF Scampton on Operation CHASTISE, better known simply as the "Dambusters Raid". The 70th anniversary was marked by a number of events including the "Battle of Britain Memorial Flight" Lancaster PA474 conducting a flypast over Derwent Water Reservoir in the Peak District, one of the reservoirs and dams used in training for the mission. Having been flown for much of her service with the BBMF as the "City of Lincoln", PA474 presently wears the markings of the "Phantom of the Ruhr", a Lancaster that flew 121 sorties. Just 3 of the original 133 crew are still alive: George Johnson, Les Munro and Frederick Sutherland. The map below shows part of the planned flight path to the dams.

Compared to today's pilots they flew incredibly low at 60ft to avoid detection. Given the lack of any sophisticated navigation aids it’s no wonder that at least one aircraft flew into power cables and another ditched in the sea. They also had to fly virtually the whole mission in the dark for the night-time raids and had to work out ways of maintaining exact height and distance from the dams so that the bombs hit the top of the dams and then dropped down, exploding by pressure fuse at what was assessed to be the weakest part of the dam.
If you have read your latest edition of Maplines, you will have noticed that the Historic Military Mapping Special Interest Group of the BCS is planning an autumn event that will tie in with the anniversary of the Dams raid. This will be a weekend in October based around a visit to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby airfield.This will include an opportunity to see their Lancaster, NX611"Just Jane", which is being refurbished with a view to making it airworthy again. At the moment it is only certified for tail-up taxi runs, sufficient speed to lift the tail wheel off the ground but no more.

Sixty years ago, on 29th May 1953, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first people to climb Everest. What has nowadays become a fairly regular occurrence; their feat was certainly ground breaking at the time, done without modern equipment, although they did have high altitude boots, rubber walkie-talkies and experimental oxygen tanks. May is traditionally one of the best times of the year to climb Everest, and this year has been one of the most crowded seasons with more than 500 people having scaled the mountain since the start of 2013.
Since the first successful climb, more than 4,500 people have reached the top. Amid the celebrations there are concerns about the growing number of climbers on Everest and the pollution they cause, so much so that Nepalese officials are now considering placing a limit on the number of climbers allowed to ascend Everest.
Interesting fact – the mountain as named after Colonel Sir George Everest, Surveyor-General of India from 1830 to 1843, whose name was pronounced Eve (as in the girl’s name) Rest, so by referring to it as Ev-e-rest we have been pronouncing it wrongly all these years!

This is one that I missed last month, but I wanted to include a slightly quirky map-related topic. Kenneth Ira Appel died on April 19 2013. If this is not a name that is immediately familiar, he was an American mathematician who in 1976, with colleague Wolfgang Haken solved one of the most famous problems in mathematics, the "Four Colour Theorem". They proved that any two-dimensional map, with certain limitations, can be filled in with four colours without any adjacent "countries" sharing the same colour. The proof has been one of the most controversial of modern mathematics because of its heavy dependence on computer "number-crunching" to sort through possibilities, which drew criticism from many in the mathematical community for its inelegance, including the comment "a good mathematical proof is like a poem—this is a telephone directory!”

The "map" on the left was designed to celebrate the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show. One hundred years ago, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show was held for the first time. Back in 1913 it was a three-day affair with 244 exhibitors, about half of them nurseries and a third sundriesmen (manufacturers of glasshouses, retailers of gardening tools and chemicals, stands for gardening magazines and makers of garden furniture). The remainder were a mixture of amateur gardeners, most representing the still-thriving world of country-house gardening, and professional garden designers. The RHS had held a Great Spring Show since 1862, but it moved to its current home and assumed the title in 1913. We haven’t yet hit the hundredth show as it was cancelled in 1917 and 1918 and for the whole of the Second World War.

Sundriesman is probably a word that is unfamiliar to most and is one of those professions that has become rare if not ceased to exist. In a recent article online entitled “Is Cartography Dead?”, the author speculated, "if “cartographer” is soon to be listed alongside “cooper” and “cartwright” in the tally of occupations of yesteryear?” Happily the author goes on to conclude that the answer to his question is “no”, full details at

GeoDATA 2013 
The Society recently participated in the GeoDATA seminars in Birmingham and Sheffield and gave presentations on why cartography is still important, hopefully I helped to reinforce the message that cartography is still thriving. The talks went down well at both venues and encouraged a lot of questions at the stand afterwards. Both days were very busy and I signed up a number of new members at the events, four in Birmingham and five in Sheffield, so I'd like to say "Welcome!" to those receiving their first President’s monthly. The free to attend GeoDATA events continue during 2013 and BCS will have a presence at most, if not all, culminating in London in November. If you can help to man the stand in Edinburgh on 7th November or in Belfast on 21st November then please let me know.
And Finally 
The BCS 50th Anniversary Book is almost ready to go to press. We are offering this at a pre-publication price of £12.50 plus £2.50 P&P and have extended the deadline to 30th June. After this the book will be £15.00. See the website for full details.

Pete Jones MBE, CGeog, FRGS

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