Rivers, mines, and ice: all natural resources that are mapped in unique and wonderful ways and thoroughly analyzed in this episode.
Map of the Rivers Huallaga, Ucayali & Amazon
This is a very wide map due to the shape and length of the river system, leaving the rest of this composition sparsely designed, excluding the graticule, and therefore quite unique. Hernon William Lewis, the main cartographer for this map published in 1851, was in the U.S. Navy and was an explorer, exploring “uncharted territory” of the Amazon. We note that the phrase “uncharted territory” is very specific to where the cartographer is from and here what it means is that it was yet to be explored by the United States.
The mountains here are another example of caterpillar mountain relief styling, a term brought up in a previous episode, and which we now assume is part of the permanent lexicon of the cartographic elite. We also see a nice technique whereby dotted lines allude to the continuance of the tributaries onward upstream even though their entireties are not drawn. Some figure-ground issues could affect the reader as there aren’t a lot of visual cues such as water ripples, trees, or other symbols to cue the land versus the water, though there is a thickness to the upper-bank of the river that helps.
In the literal big-picture, this is a river line that travels from one side of South America to the other, starting from the Amazon Basin in the east and going to Lima, Peru in the west. It’s akin to a map with a single road where all the places along it help you travel on that road but not deviate from it, such as the Itinerary from London to Beauvais, discussed in the Three Tourist Maps episode. Note that to accommodate the span of this river system, the overall map is made from 30 different pieces of paper that are mounted on a cloth.
View of the Panamint Range Mountains, mines, mills and town site
This is a very unique informational/poster layout because we see the mountain range from a front-view and then we also see a top-down map view of the area at the bottom (though this characterization is debated at the end of this section). Panamint was a short-lived town and is now a bonafide ghost town. In fact, it was a town for only a couple of years before the whole place flooded. The texture for the salt marsh patterning is really amazing and ties in with work that cartographers do today since modern vector maps often employ repeating patterns for various landcover types. There is realism shown in the mountains as well as that salt marsh.
This map is from 1875 and may be a lithograph, but hark! there’s the caterpillar hashing again! There’s a level of depth, color and texture variance that is smoother than in copper plate and woodblock prints as can easily be seen in the various sharp line-stops and the detailed smoke/steam emanating from the train. Just as today when we see differences in cartography due to what we can do with newer software, the “software” of that day had changed to lithography, and we see the changes reflected in these stylistic abilities that they were able to achieve here. Lithography generally employed the use of hydrophobic dyes applied to limestone to achieve this greater mastery of the straight-edged line among other advancements.
Panamint, California, was a silver and copper mining town, with the mines indicated with numbers on the top half of the map. As the story goes, silver was discovered by three bandits who were hiding in a cave here and subsequently laid claim to it. Senators Stewart and Jones bought the claim from them and further developed the mines, though it did not yield as much riches as some of the more famous mines of this era. A couple of years later? The town of about 2,000 was washed out in a flood. Does anyone else feel as we do that this story should be turned into a movie?
The Melting of Antarctica
This beautiful, contemporary, infographic-type map from National Geographic is primarily blue and white. Cynthia Brewer, in one of her cartography books, says that people really respond positively to blue (while not liking yellow too much) and this blue is indeed what lends beauty to this map. The ice shelves in their purplish color and wispy tapering evoke the cold of the Antarctic region. The half-sphere projection is like a view of Earth from space, with black to fill in the unused “space” space. Choosing to keep this part of the composition empty of text was a great way to push the striking projection forward visually.
A great example of combining beauty and data: labels, informative text, graphics, inset maps and a regular map all come together to tell the spatial story of the melting of Antarctica. See https://source.opennews.org/articles/melting-antarctica/ for more information on the making of this map from sketch to final map. Think of this map as though it were an art wall! The title is placed on the left-hand side, which may have been entirely intentional due to the extra space there, which in turn, is due to the Antarctic Peninsula nudging the map a bit more in its direction. Cartography is the kind of design where certain spatial features must dictate the composition and placement of marginalia.
Showing what’s under the ice on the same map and not on a secondary map or an inset is a stroke of genius. And they’ve done it in a way that is instantly recognizable as such. Also, the ice label text (e.g., West Antarctica) is not in a contrasting color, it's in a bluish-gray against the white of the ice. That is, it is dark enough to read but not dark enough to interrupt your eye sweeping across the page. The same treatment occurs with the oceanic labeling (e.g., Weddell Sea), which is just a darker blue than the blue of the ocean. These subtle labels are the mark of a seasoned cartographic team. Indeed, one piece of advice we like to give to map makers is, if you don’t want a busy looking map, to decrease the contrast on the labels as a way to push those labels to the background while still delivering plenty of information. Also, what better touch than to mark the South Pole with a flag reminiscent of a golf hole marker and a shadow?
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