Monday 10 November 2014

BCS President's Bulletin October 2014

My apologies to those who have been avidly checking the website for the past few days waiting for my monthly blog, but that thing called the ‘day job’ has rather got in the way. BCS members will have received the details of the AGM by now, including the voting forms for the BCS Council. As with any election, the higher the turnout the better the result reflects the wish of the electorate so I do hope you have used your chance to have your say. The AGM is being held at the RAF Club in London and will be followed by a talk by BBC Weather Presenter Helen Willetts on ‘The Changing Face of the Weather Map’.

Cartography in the News

The Times of 8th October featured an interesting article about David Taylor who used his route-tracking app to plot out his 187 mile journey between Poole and Southampton, definitely going the long way round!


Cartography on the web

I’m not sure that Greenwich will be very thrilled with the claim but according to a recent article on the BBC website, a Scottish astronomer and scientist is thought to have laid the first meridian line, arguably making St Andrews "the place where time began".

James Gregory laid the line across his lab in 1673, nearly 200 years before the Greenwich meridian was established. As it runs several degrees west of Greenwich that could mean that we are all about 12 minutes out.

Not so much Cartography, or even Geography, but Geology for my next one. The Geological Society of London has named its top 100 geological sites in the UK and Ireland, including 10 "people's favourites". The web page includes some stunning pictures, perhaps it should also have include some maps to show the challenges of how such features are depicted in 2D so as to be representative of their true form.

The German Company GfK has released its Europe Map Edition 2014/2015, and for those of us who though that the map of Europe was pretty unchanging compared to some parts of the world it reflects thousands of changes that have occurred in Europe since last year. The company produces digital maps of administrative and postal regions which form the basis for place-based or “geomarketing” analyses for companies across all industries.

Approximately one thousand digital maps in the GfK Europe Map Edition have been updated to reflect the latest status and offer comprehensive coverage down to Europe's most detailed postal and administrative levels.

GfK have set themselves the challenge to “…update our maps for Europe every year so we can offer an accurate and error-free cartographic basis for geographic analyses."

There have been changes to every European country's postal and administrative levels. In total, this amounts to more than 4,000 changes.

Are you planning to visit Eltham Palace next year? If not why not? They have recently discovered something far more interesting under several layers of wallpaper than I have ever found. Dating back to the 1930s they have found maps that were used by the Courtaulds, the owners at the time, to plan their many overseas travels. English Heritage is now appealing for the £25,000 required for expert conservators to uncover, fully restore and protect these tantalising portals into a bygone age of luxury travel. English Heritage webpage Thanks to ‘regular’ contributor Sue Brett for forwarding this one to me.

There are a few glaring errors in this BBC piece about why we love Ordnance Survey maps, but the interesting thing is that John O'Keefe who has jointly won the 2014 Nobel Prize for medicine for discovering the brain's navigation system. In some of his early key research in 1971, ‘The Hippocampus As A Cognitive Map’, he references an OS map as a way of explaining spatial behaviour and the brain's internal positioning system.

Going down under, Queensland is preserving its past through recently discovered historical paper maps dating back to the 1800s. The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland (RGSQ) are currently going through an archiving and assessment process with plans to digitally capture the maps to make them fully available for the public.

ICA Map Carte

My favourites this month start with one that was submitted for a BCS Award last year, The Milford Track in New Zealand by Roger Smith. Despite the almost incessant claims that print cartography is dead nothing could be farther from the truth. While we are seemingly inextricably linked to our digital mobile devices there’s something eternally useful about a

paper map. The batteries never run out in the middle of nowhere. They suffer to a lesser degree in rain or bright sun. They can be crammed into your backpack…you can even damage them and not break the bank! That doesn’t mean that print cartography cannot develop and the fact that this map is printed on crushed rock means you can do pretty much anything to it and it’ll survive.

Another example of indestructible cartography comes from the much publicised Splashmaps. Started by David Overton in 2012, there are now over 30 different areas of Great Britain available and there is also a personalised service. They are waterproof, tear-proof and can withstand being handled roughly. They can also be written on and are washable so after getting the map in a mess it can be thrown in the washing machine and be brought back to its pristine best.

 My last choice this month is a chart, not a map. Ask, ‘What is the difference between a chart and a map?’ and you will probably get a whole host of different answers. The focus for a nautical chart is on the detail at sea, but his example also gives a clear and uncluttered representation of the land. Hydrographic charts typically use very few colours, usually in the pastel hues and this particular example does a really good job in creating a pleasing visual hierarchy and maintaining a clear delineation of the key details.

And Finally

With my taste for the quirky, I couldn’t help pondering on what this particular piece of marketing is telling us. If this is a package for 'conventional' toilet roll, just what is ‘unconventional', toilet roll? E-mail me your suggestions and the most imaginative answer will get published in next month’s bulletin.
Pete Jones MBE FBCart.S CGeog
10th November 2014

Twitter: @geomapnut

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