Sunday 6 April 2014

BCS President’s Monthly Bulletin March 2014

Cartography and world politics obviously do mix as the potential redrawing of the maps of the Ukraine and Crimea have been much in the news and the Society has already received a couple of enquiries concerning this. The first was from the BBC World Service Programme "Newsday" who wanted to interview a cartographer about the difficulties surrounding how to label the Crimea on maps at the moment. The second was from a Ukraine TV News Service asking the same question. Not wishing to become embroiled in a political debate we declined to comment, but others have not been so cautious. In the US, Rand McNally looks to the State Department for guidance, according to a spokeswoman, so it will not be adding Crimea to Russia's territory. National Geographic, however, is planning to include the territory as part of Russia, their spokesman quoted as saying "We map de facto, in other words we map the world as it is, not as people would like it to be," Not surprisingly, The Russian Geographical Society plans to cooperate with cartographers and the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography to draw new maps of Russia including the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as two new parts of the Russian Federation.

The ‘Mashable’ website has an interesting review of how cartographers have responded to the challenge of how to show the region at

Cartography on the Web

Londonmapper is a project whose website is still very much under construction, but there are some fascinating cartographic interpretations of data about our nation’s capital city. Some of these were presented to the ‘geomob’ meetup in March by Benjamin Hennig. As the image shows, the final portrayal can look odd and vaguely disturbing, but does make its point very well. Cartograms have been around for a few years now and I think we are getting used to the way in which they distort our traditional view to emphasize certain factors and bring out patterns that otherwise may have been overlooked. With a wide range of topics covering Poverty & Wealth, Population, Identity, Housing, Education, Work, Health, Environment & Travel and Social Harm, this will be an excellent resource for a wide range of interested parties.

The geomob meetups have included some really interesting topics recently but I unfortunately haven’t managed to attend one yet. Started in 2008, #geomob is a regular event for location-based service developers. They meet every two months and provide a forum to discuss geo innovation, whether for fun or profit, by hosting talks from start-ups, academics, hobbyists, and large corporates. After the talks they retire to a nearby pub to discuss – it all sounds very civilised! The next event is on Tuesday 13th May at 1830 in the Pearson Lecture Theatre at UCL. Exact details, including a map, can be found on the Lanyrd page for the evening, where they ask people to sign up so that they can estimate the audience size. The agenda for the evening will feature 10-15 minute talks from:

  • Andrew Brown of ‘Toursome’
  • Manuel Timita and Katya Koval of illustreets’
  • Mark Simpkins of ‘Heresay’
  • Oliver Roick of UCL’s Citizen Extreme Science Research Group
  • Chris Sheldrick of ‘what3words’
  • James Siddle will speak about his visualisation of Boris Bike network use

BCS Symposium

This year’s 50th Annual Symposium will be held at the Marwell Hotel and Conference Centre near Winchester from 24th to 26th June with the BCS President’s Golden Ball Golf Tournament on 27th June at East Horton Golf Course. The Tournament is open to all levels of golf competency and is a marvelous culmination to Symposium.
Marwell HotelThe Symposium Programme has been finalised and the booking form is now available online. For the first time this will be a joint event with the International Map Industry Association (IMIA) and we are anticipating that the number of attendees will be similar to our excellent year in 2013, so book early to avoid disappointment. The early bird discount rate closes on 30th April. The range of speakers covers all aspects of the cartographic community and is complemented by an excellent selection of workshops. The event starts on Tuesday 24th with something brand new for us, the BCS "Mapathon", sponsored by the ICA Commission on Map Design. Participants will be provided with data and can either work as individuals or as teams to create a map in a day. The judges will then evaluate the entries and award prizes for the winners. The maps produced for the Mapathon will be too late for this year’s BCS Awards, but you still have time to get other entries in as the closing date is only a month away now on 30th April. There are four major categories:

  • The Stanfords Award for Printed Mapping
    This award is open to any mapping in the printed form, whether it be a poster, folded sheet map, atlas or page from a book.
  • The Avenza Award for Electronic Mapping
    This award is open to any mapping available in electronic format, whether it is interactive internet mapping, internal company use GIS mapping or maybe a PowerPoint presentation.
  • The John C Bartholomew Award for Small Scale Mapping
    This award is presented for originality and excellence in the field of thematic (non-topographic, 1:100 000 and smaller) cartography with emphasis on effective communication of the intended theme or themes.
  • The OS OpenData Award
    Ordnance Survey have provided the British Cartographic Society with an award to encourage excellence in cartographic design and the innovative and exciting use of OS OpenData.
The BCS Award
The prestigious BCS Award will be presented to the entry judged to be the best from the four Awards above. Full details and entry forms can be found at BCS Awards.

ICA Commission on Map Design

If you are not sure whether to submit an entry or entries for the Awards you might get help or inspiration from the MapCarte website as covered in my two previous bulletins. The commentary certainly gives some very good pointers as to why the maps have been selected, whilst pointing out that what makes a good map can be very much down to personal interpretation. Criteria can be developed against which a map can be "judged" but if we are too proscriptive then we risk ignoring the innovative and challenging simply because they don’t conform to what we might expect to see.

My favourite this month is MapCarte 78/365: Atlantic Ocean Floor by Heinrich Berann, 1968. As the image shows the mid-Atlantic ridge looks like some colossal scaly reptile stretching the length of the ocean. But what I think is really staggering is the way the continental shelf abruptly ends and we descend into the abyssal plain. The scale is hugely exaggerated but this in no way detracts from the beauty of the map and a very effective method of portraying the sea floor.

Returning to an earlier theme, there was a recent cartoon map which showed Russia as a bear, with Vladimir Putin's face, hungrily eating Crimea. Countries as animals is nothing new as we can see in this example from 1648, showing Holland as a lion, an animal long heraldically associated with the Low Countries.


The daily selection on MapCarte can be found at

Mystery Maps

Peter Jolly, Immediate Past President of BCS has been working in The Bodleian Library and has unearthed an interesting box or two of material. They consist of glass negatives deposited by The Repmat Library Branch of the MOD at Tolworth in 1998. These glass negatives were most likely produced in the 1930s and are approximately 8.5" x 6.5".

There are about 40 glass negatives in each box. A comprehensive card index came with the boxes although one box containing 43 "Y" Maps, 5 town shapes of UK towns and 38 towns in Germany, is not included in the card index. The "Y" maps were to be used for targeting, one negative has the words "2 targets on the main street" written on it. But for whom were these "Y" maps produced? Why "Y" maps? The general consensus from the Historical Military Mapping Group's Bomber Command Study Tour (more of which next month) is that they might be a bit early for H2S radar which was introduced into Bomber Command in 1943.

And finally…

Congratulations to Clare and Mark Seldon on the arrival of Leo. Clare is our webmaster and is taking some well-earned maternity leave, although I am sure that as she is not at work she has plenty of time on her hands!

Absolutely nothing at all to do with maps, but it made me laugh.

Pete Jones MBE, FBCartS, CGeog
6th April 2014

Twitter: @geomapnut

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