Wednesday 6 March 2013

BCS President’s Report February 2013

A quiet month for BCS activities as February often is. It feels like you’re coming out of winter, but it’s not really spring yet, it’s an in between time that can be bracingly nice or very damp and grey. No prizes for correctly identifying which we are enjoying at the moment. We have run two Restless Earthworkshops, one in Chipping Norton and one in Hackney and their popularity is as high as ever. We have another 3 confirmed for this academic year and several possible venues still to be confirmed.

Coming up in March, we have the Design Group Special Interest Group event on 14th March at the Steer Davies Gleave offices in London. The title is ‘How Maps Inspire Us’ and the SIG have lined up some excellent speakers from disciplines outside traditional cartography who will present on why they find maps inspirational.

Planning for the Annual Symposium in September is well advanced and the draft programme should be out soon. We have papers from a wide range of contributors, including the Heads of the major UK Mapping Agencies. This Symposium will also include the biennial Helen Wallis Memorial Lecture, this year being delivered by Nick Millea of the Bodleian Library.

Two months into the 50th anniversary and I’ve hit the buffers, metaphorically. A quiet month for anniversaries, I’ve had to opt for something that actually had its centenary last year, with a rather disquieting footnote in 2013. It was on 10th February 1913, that the body of Robert Falcon Scott was found, along with Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers, by the relief party sent to search for Scott’s ill fated expedition. The centenary was commemorated with a special map produced by Cheri Hunston MA artist, author and illustrator based in South Devon as part of the International Scott Centenary Expedition. Copies can still be purchased via her website. Cheri kindly gave permission for the image of the map to feature in this Bulletin. There is also a blog thatCheri set up which details all the research and the day to day development of the map.

Staying with the theme of icy wastes, the winter of 1963 was a particularly cold one in the UK, especially in January and February. This was in the days before undersoil heating for football pitches and the FA Cup was particularly badly hit by the weather. The fifth round was originally scheduled for Saturday 16th February, but the delays to the matches in the third and fourth rounds prevented the fifth round ties from being played until much later.

The freezing conditions hit the country just before Christmas 1962 and for the next three months the list of postponements indicate just how bad things were. Only three FA Cup third round ties were played on the scheduled date of January 5th, with the last tie in that round being played on March 11th. The Lincoln v Coventry tie was postponed 15 times and fourteen of the other ties suffered ten or more postponements. happened in January, but a bit too late to make my last bulletin. The latest in a series of what the original article referred to as a “super-duper-epic-digital-mapping fail”. The USS Guardian ran aground on a reef in the Philippine Sea. The Tubbataha Reef is an environmentally sensitive natural park, and the Guardian was navigating through the area without the necessary clearance. When Philippine officials informed the Guardian that it had entered a restricted area, and would have to be boarded and inspected, the ship replied: “Take it to the U.S. Embassy.” And then it hit the reef and got stuck! No one was injured and no fuel oil leaked, but the damage to the reef may be extensive and the Navy has decided to scrap the $277 million ship, cutting it into three parts to remove it from the reef without further damage.

So what's this got to do with cartography?

A few days after the incident, the Navy revealed that the digital maps the Guardian used to navigate misplaced the reef by about eight nautical miles. The Navy has since advised other ships to compare electronic charts to paper ones before following directions. The full article can be found at the link ReadWrite Article.

A rare double, as 2013 is the 540th anniversary of the birth and the 470th anniversary of the death of Nicolaus Copernicus. He was the first to conclusively prove that the Earth was not the fixed centre of the universe, nor did the sun and the stars move around us as Ptolemy had argued more than a millennium earlier.

And finally, what the BBC referred to as “One of the most important space launches of the year” took place on 11th  February. Landsat-8 was launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base. The satellite being deployed by this mission will maintain the longest continuous image record of the Earth's surface as viewed from space. Landsat-1 was launched in 1972 and whilst we may now be getting used to seeing high resolution satellite imagery, the 15m to 100m wavelength of the Landsat missions provides an invaluable tool for a wide variety of research activities including monitoring the health of crops, the status of volcanoes, measuring the growth of cities and the extent of glaciers. If you think you don’t really access much Landsat imagery think again, as one of its best known uses is on Google Earth and Google Maps as background information.

Footnote – nothing at all to do with cartography, but it made me chuckle and I thought I’d share it with you to cheer up a dull February.

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