Saturday 27 April 2013

BCS Presidents Report April 2013

If you weren't one of the 200-plus who attended, you missed a fascinating evening at the RGS with Michael Palin. He talked for an hour and I could quite happily have listened for a lot longer as he was so entertaining and the photos which accompanied the presentation were stunning. Clearly Michael is great fan of maps and uses them all the time during his travels. 
For those of you unable to make it, the first half of his presentation was about his passion for maps, the second half, anecdotes illustrated by photographs taken on his journeys. We were extremely lucky to get him to speak to us and thanks must go again to Mary Spence for arranging everything. Mary produced the maps for the book which accompanied Michael’s recent TV series ‘Brazil’. Michael stayed after his talk for the drinks reception and a fair few people managed to meet him, although for others I’m afraid it was a fleeting glimpse as he had to get away, as he was off to Oman the next day. This was certainly one of the highlights of the 50th anniversary celebrations and my new claim to fame is that I have shared a stage with Michael Palin.

Aldermaston march 1963On to this month’s anniversaries and fifty years ago on 6th April the UK Government signed the Polaris Sales Agreement with the US which led to the commencement of the construction of the nuclear submarine base at Faslane on Gare Loch. For many years the full details of this facility were not shown on Ordnance Survey maps, nor were many ‘protected places’ which were thought to be too sensitive to show on publicly available mapping. 
© Google 2013
This practice stopped with the advent of widely available aerial photography and Google now shows the base in "Glorious Technicolor" detail. It was an example of cartographic censorship, a lot of which still goes on today around the world. Yet it still seems a little strange that sites that were very well known or clearly visible, such as the Radomes at Fylingdales were not shown on OS maps. Just under two weeks later, on 15t April, 70,000 marchers arrived in London from Aldermaston to demonstrate against nuclear weapons.

Each year, a telecom market research firm called TeleGeography releases a map of the underwater cables that connect the Global Internet. It was described on the original internet site that I found this on as ‘flat out gorgeous’. The lines trace the paths that the world’s data takes every day, as packets of information zip between the continents. They don’t precisely track the cables’ actual underwater routes, but they do accurately show the land-based points for this massive underwater series of tubes.
At first glance, the lines appear to mirror long-proven global trade routes, with major hubs in the global capitals of New York, Amsterdam and Mumbai. The growth today, however, is in historically under-served regions such as Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Interestingly not all the hubs are located in the big cities as you would expect. The cables converging on Brazil, land not in Sao Paolo or Rio de Janeiro but Fortaleza, simply because it’s an easier link to the Northern Hemisphere. Another popular destination is Djibouti.
The firm collects the data for the map each year from the private companies that operate the cables. This year’s edition includes 244 cable networks that are either already in service or scheduled for activation by 2014.
The map is available free of charge online in large and interactive formats—and you can also buy a print copy to frame and hang on your wall. But be warned: it is as pricey as a work of art at $250 a copy!

[Tube Challenge Logo]

Can you help? The BCS would like to make an attempt on a world record in our anniversary year. We have searched for a map related one and the best fit is what has become known as the ‘Tube Challenge’ – visiting all 270 London Underground Stations in the shortest possible time. As it is also the 150th Anniversary of the London Underground this seems to be a particularly appropriate one. The current record (at time of going to press) is 16 hours, 29 minutes and 13 seconds, which is thought by the aficionados to be just about the best time possible, but I am sure that the combined resources of the BCS can have a good go at beating it!

As some of the challenge requires running between stations – those at the end of lines predominantly – we need some fit BCS members to actually take on the record attempt, backed up by Mission Control, somewhere in the central London area – again offers to host gratefully received. As some tube stations are closed at weekends it needs to be undertaken on a week day and to include Olympia it needs to be on a day when a service is running from Earl’s Court. Whatever you can bring to the attempt – an encyclopaedic knowledge of bus routes between tube stations? – please get in touch if you would like to be involved.

Maplines is the magazine of the BCS and you may have noticed recently that it hasn’t been published quite on time. We are urgently in need of volunteers to join the editorial team and if you have any publication layout experience that would be particularly useful. If we can get 2 or 3 additional people it will greatly ease the burden and shouldn’t make it too onerous a task. The Society relies on volunteers and it would be great if more members could become involved, so if you’ve always wanted to help but haven’t seen an opportunity, please do get in touch via the website or e-mail me at

Pete Jones MBE, CGeog, FRGS
25th April 2013

“You want me to sign how many books?!”

And finally;
The  6th Annual International Spatial Socio-Cultural Knowledge Workshop, which will be held again at the UK Defence Academy in Shrivenham, on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th June 2013. The BCS has been offered at stand at this workshop and we are currently looking for volunteers to man the stand over the two days – names please to

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