Thursday 3 January 2013

BCS President’s Report November 2012

Dear Members and Fellows,

This is my first monthly bulletin to you as your new President. Peter Jolly started the monthly report and I certainly valued it as a way of keeping in touch with what was going on within the Society and so I intend to continue in this tradition with a few little tweaks of my own.

For those of you who may be relatively new to the Society, or whom I have yet to meet at one of our many functions, I thought you might like to know a little more about me. I have worked for the Ministry of Defence for over 30 years and when I started my career in 1979 I said that when I became fed up with working with maps I would then know that it was time to move on. Well, I am still here and not in the least fed up! Maps have always fascinated me and I can remember at primary school when the class was told they could choose their favourite book for "quiet time" I always reached for an atlas. I have been involved with BCS since 1999 and I have spent the last 4 years as Chair of the Programme Committee. I come to the role of President with a sound grounding in both the Society and its Activities.

Our schools' initiative, "Restless Earth", which began in 2011 following on from a discussion of how best to take mapping out to schools, supports the current geography curriculum and is a very popular workshop for GCSE students. In November we delivered 2 workshops in 3 days, in Altrincham and Fleet and there are a further 6 planned for the remainder of the Academic Year.
I am pleased to announce that one of my final achievements as Programme Chair was to secure sponsorship from the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation which was established as a result of a visit to London in 1983 by the late Ryoichi Sasakawa. The purpose of his visit was to meet a number of senior British figures to discuss the international situation and, in particular, UK - Japanese relations. 
It was agreed that it would be in the interest of both countries if more could be done to enhance mutual appreciation and understanding of each other's culture, society and achievements. We are delighted to have the Foundation as our prime sponsor for Restless Earth and look forward to working with them in the future.

A recent noteworthy item in the press has been the controversy over Sandy Island. Shown on Google Maps and nautical maps (sic) – I am sure you could hear the hydrographers shouting at the radio report "They're charts, not maps!" – it has been discovered, or rather not discovered, that it doesn't actually exist! Initially it was thought that perhaps it was simply a digitisation error, but it has since been identified on a 1908 chart in an Auckland museum. It has been reported that the island was the result of an error recorded in 1876 by the crew of the Velocity, a whaling ship, who reported a series of "heavy breakers" and some "sandy islets". This highlights the fact that you cannot always believe what you see on a map or a chart!

Sandy Island
This cartographic controversy also emphasises the point that I have made at several events, that cartography is as important now as it has ever been, if not more so in this era of Geographic Information Systems where software packages, designed by IT specialists, freely available on the internet, "make" your map for you with not a cartographic consideration or principle in sight, which can result in very poor quality products that betray the true essence of a good map. The Society needs to ensure that we reinforce the message that good design and presentation will significantly enhance a cartographic product and that bad design can often cast doubt on a perfectly accurate product that simply does not inspire confidence. Of course, the reverse is equally true, but that is another story!

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity in my first President's Bulletin to thank Peter Jolly for his Presidency over the past 2 years. During that time our membership has continued to grow, which is no mean feat in this current climate. He has handed over a flourishing Society and I look forward to all the events planned for our 50th Anniversary in 2013. In advance, I encourage you all to attend as many events as you can as it promises to be a memorable year for The British Cartographic Society.

Best wishes,

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