30 Mar 2009

So Where Exactly Is Holland Anyway?

And so the weekend saw another defeat for the Scottish International side - football that is, not curling, our other national sport. This time to the Dutch masters at least, so no disgrace there, although it was a shame they relied so heavily on some of the most shocking refereeing decisions seen anywhere, ever.

But I digress - this isn't a football blog after all. The geographic slant is that as always this threw up confusion amongst some as to the difference between Holland and The Netherlands. Aren't they one and the same? Is Holland the capital of The Netherlands? Are people from Holland called The Netherlands? That sort of thing.

It doesn't help that the names appear almost interchangeable, when in reality it may be a bit like confusing Scotland with the UK - something only likely to ever cause severe consternation amongst many a proud, nay Nationalistic Scot.

Or so I thought - whilst despite knowing better, I still get caught out and refer to Holland, but organisations that should know better seem to be just as guilty - Setanta covered the Holland v Scotland game, and even the BBC referred to Holland in strict geographical error. It doesn't stop there though - I was sure I saw a Dutch player refer to Holland during an interview. Even the URL of The Official Website Of The Netherlands Tourist Board is www.holland.com! So if they can't get it right, what hope is there for the rest of us?

So for what its worth, to clear it up once and for all, and to save future embarrassment I went on my So Where Exactly Is Holland Anyway? refresher course...

It turns out - as I'm sure I secretly knew all along - Holland refers to two of twelve regions that make up The Netherlands - North Holland and South Holland. Why they're collectively known as Holland and not The Hollands is not clear, but perhaps just as well.

It turns out that there is also a Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is a separate entity again. In essence it’s the Dutch equivalent to the Commonwealth, but now only amounts to the Netherlands themselves, plus the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba (two small groups of islands in the Caribbean, off the north coast of Venezuela).

Although, as everyone knows, the Kingdom of the Netherlands should never be confused with the historical Kingdom of Holland, a brief Napoleon-esque blip that existed between 1806 and 1810.

So there we have it. I'm assuming that Iceland won't be so complicated, either in geographic terms, or on the football field.

23 Mar 2009

Google Maps Street View

Already available in the US, this week saw the launch of Google Maps Street View here in the UK. The innovative online mapping service is now available for more than 20 cities in the UK, and provides users with a virtual driver's eye view in addition to existing map and aerial views.

At first it takes a bit of getting used to, but quickly becomes very intuitive - little arrows to click on to 'drive' forwards and backwards, and simple controls to look left and right, up and down and also to zoom in and out.

It certainly caught our eye here, having been awaiting its arrival for the last few months as Google's Cam Cars were being spotted snapping away the length and breadth of the country.

As cartographers, we're bound to have a professional interest in all things map and atlas, but we were torn as to whether the benefits would outweigh the negatives of such a service in relation to our own business.

Sales of published mapping are already suffering. The availability of online mapping services from Multimap and StreetMap were perhaps the first salvo in this digital onslaught, which inevitably led to portable digital devices appearing as SatNavs in more and more of our vehicles. These services have evolved significantly in recent years, with high profile innovations from late-to-the-party Google, such as Google Earth, the Birds Eye View, and now the new Street View.

Although published mapping might be suffering, there is perhaps an irony in that many of these innovations help us with our efforts to keep our own mapping and data as up-to-date as possible. Where before we relied solely on published directories, a telephone and a pen and paper, the internet revolutionised the research and information gathering process. Literally, a world of information became available at the click of a mouse, the scroll of a wheel, or the blink of a virtual eye.

Whilst far from covering the whole of the UK, the Street View could potentially be another huge step for those of us on the less glamorous side of cartography. The ability to check the spelling of a street name, or the name of a business or school by peering through our screens into the real world beyond is a powerful tool indeed.

It does come with the usual caveats and warnings of course - most notably the fact that such data is only as up-to-date as the photos themselves. But perhaps one day Google will provide us with a live feed of every nook and cranny we could ever need to look at.

And so back to whether or not this new Street View will affect us too adversely. I suspect no more adversely than is already the case, at least. For most people, it will simply be a novelty, much as Google Earth was - they'll look at their own town, their own street, their own house even, and be amazed that such a thing is possible, or perhaps wonder why it wasn't possible years ago. Then they'll go and Tweet about it, and in a week will have forgotten about both, having moved on to the next Web 2.0 distraction.

Or maybe that's just wishful thinking…

Follow the link to take the Street View for a spin for yourself...

Google Maps

18 Mar 2009

New Times Atlas of the World Mini edition and Desktop edition

The Times Atlas of the World Mini edition and the Times Atlas of the World Desktop edition have recently been updated and published. These atlases in convenient, pocket and easy-to-use formats retain the authority, style and detail of the larger Times atlases.

Mini edition
The £6.99 Times Atlas of the World Mini edition is a pocket-sized Times Atlas packed with the essentials. Fully revised and improved to take account of all recent changes from around the world to bring all the maps and geographical information completely up to date.

As with all the atlases in the Times range it offers great authority, outstanding quality and attention to detail.

The introductory section covers major world geographical themes – from climate and environment to population and urbanization – giving a global snapshot of our contemporary world. A comprehensive guide to the world’s states and territories including flags, capital cities and key facts, make this the ideal reference atlas for home, school or office.

Desktop edition
The £17.99 Times Atlas of the World Desktop edition is a complete world reference atlas in a convenient and easy to use format, retaining the authority, style and detail of the larger Times atlases. An excellent world atlas for every day look-up at home or work - broad coverage at a great price.

This new edition of the Times Desktop Atlas of the World has been fully revised to bring all the maps and geographical information completely up-to-date.

The introductory section covers major world geographical themes – from earthquakes and volcanoes to population growth, communications and climate change – giving a global snapshot of our contemporary world.

Detailed maps in the distinctive and respected Times style provide balanced, systematic coverage of all parts of the world. Each continent is introduced by a political map showing individual countries, followed by regional maps showing towns and cities, roads, railways, international boundaries and topography.

The extensive index to over 25 000 place names illustrates the scope of this world atlas which is ideal for home and business use.

12 Mar 2009

Map of the Month Mar 09 - World Powers 1957

The most striking feature of this map is its unusual viewpoint (or projection). Devised in 1948 by John Bartholomew of the famous cartographic dynasty, the Atlantis Projection abandons the common atlas convention of depicting maps that show the Arctic at the top and the Antarctic at the bottom, with the Atlantic in between. Here the projection is tilted and centred at 30°W 45°N to allow a focus on the world’s oceans, in particular the Atlantic.

The use of the Atlantis Projection in this instance is particularly effective in conveying the combative nature of relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, the two superpowers which emerged to dominate the new world order following the Second World War. Like giant beasts poised to grapple, the major landmasses of the capitalist West and the communist East face each other across the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans: this was an accurate reflection of the state of international politics at this time.

With the defeat of Fascism in 1945, any sense of unity and common purpose between the Soviet Union and the other Allied powers swiftly evaporated. This was soon replaced by a growing mutual distrust and outright hostility that was underpinned by the polarising effects of their respective political ideologies. Both power blocs possessed nuclear arsenals but were reluctant to confront each other in either nuclear or conventional warfare. The uneasy armed truce that emerged became known as the Cold War.

In spite of these geopolitical tensions, the United Nations Organization had been founded in 1947 as a vehicle for maintaining international peace and security and developing international economic and social cooperation. Ten years later, the UN had over eighty member nations, although their division into hostile armed camps did little to further the aims of the organization.

Both the USA and the Soviets sought to build economic, military and diplomatic alliances to support their particular strategic ambitions. In 1949, the USA established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), formally allying itself to Western Europe in order to contain the spread of Communism there. Elsewhere in the world, in 1954–55, two similar alliances were formed to counter communist expansion – the South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) in the Philippines and Indo-China, and the Baghdad Pact in the Middle East. The USSR and Communist China retaliated by providing military and economic support to anti-colonial or nationalist struggles in Africa, Asia and Latin America, while in 1955, the Soviets established the Warsaw Pact, their own military alliance among the communist countries of Eastern Europe.

Within a few short years of this particular map being drawn, significant colour changes would be required for a number of countries: Alaska would become a full member state of the USA (1959); Fidel Castro would establish a Marxist government on America’s doorstep in Cuba (1959), and the process by which many African nations would shake off the last remnants of European colonialism would begin in earnest.

This map was originally from The Times Atlas of the World, Mid-Century Edition 1958, cartography by John Bartholomew, M.C. LL.D. This text is from The Times Universal Atlas of the World, Historical Mapping section.

Please add your comment if you know of any other striking or unusual world projection.

9 Mar 2009

New Collins/Nicholson Waterways Guides

Did you know? That half the country’s population live within five miles of a canal or river; 11 million people regularly visit the inland waterways every year and more than 32,000 registered boats are on the inland waterways!

Last week Collins Geo published the latest editions of their popular Waterways Guides - the Collins/Nicholson Guide to the Waterways.

In print for 40 years, the Collins/Nicholson guides to the waterways have always been a vital part of journeys along Britain’s canals and rivers. They are designed for anyone and everyone with an interest in Britain’s inland waterways – from experienced boaters to those planning their first boat trip, as well as walkers, cyclists and visitors.

The Colour Ordnance Survey® maps have added information showing:
• Locks, bridges, tunnels, aqueducts, winding holes and towpaths.
• Waterpoints, sanitary stations, pump out facilities and refuse disposal.
• Boatyards, pubs, restaurants and local shops.
• Mile markers and milestones (distance in miles and number of locks to strategic points along the waterways).

Text includes:
• The history and background to each canal.
• Local services and places of interest, pubs and restaurants and NEW for this edition: postcodes added for each place.
• Opportunities for walking and cycling.
• NEW for this edition: notes on wildlife to be found along the waterways.

Comprehensive navigational notes include:
• Maximum dimensions and low bridges.
• Mileages, advice and potential hazards.
• Navigation authorities and contact details.

New to these editions are a key to map pages, postcodes and waterway wildlife. Page redesign makes the guides even easier to use.

“The maps are so clear, and the book is packed with nuggets of information about the history and routes of the canals it covers. Whether you cruise, walk, cycle or just sit in an armchair and dream, this book is worth having. …” Bob Evens Amazon review, Sep 08 for Guide No 3.

Waterways Guides, COLLINS/NICHOLSON Guide to the Waterways, A5 spiral bound £14.99:
(1): Grand Union, Oxford and The South East.
Buy from Amazon
(2): Severn, Avon and Birmingham. Buy from Amazon
(3): Birmingham and the Heart of England. Buy from Amazon
(4): Four Counties and the Welsh Canals.
Buy from Amazon
(5): North West and the Pennines. Buy from Amazon
(6): Nottingham, York and the North East. Buy from Amazon
(7): River Thames and the Southern Waterways. Buy from Amazon

Map of Great Britain (£7.99). Buy from Amazon

5 Mar 2009

New Collins Big Ben Map of London

Today sees the launch of the latest edition of the Collins Big Ben Map of London.

The Big Ben Map of London leads the way for the new Collins tourist range of maps and atlases for central London. We recognised the need for a more tourist-focused product, presented in a handy format and targeted mainly at those travelling on foot or by public transport. The Big Ben Map is the answer – a clear, colourful product that emphasises features of most interest to visitors to the city – key landmarks, museums, galleries, hotels, shops, theatres and cinemas. Full of useful information and at a scale of 5 inches to 1 mile, the map is clear and easy to read both for the pedestrian finding their way around the streets of the city or the visitor trying to navigate their way around using public transport.

Using the renowned Collins database of London the Big Ben Map is fully updated for new streets and other changes. Much of the information is collected as part of the on-going Collins revision process but creating this new map also involved compiling new information not found so far on other products in our range. So in addition to showing all the features you would come to expect from a Collins map of London, it also shows bus routes and colour coded Underground stations to identify tube lines for easy journey planning. It shows park caf├ęs, shopping streets, squares and gardens that are accessible to the public and the entrances to major public buildings. It also dares to show more selective information such as popular eating areas, selected pubs and recommended viewpoints.

As well as packing in plenty of new information we also somehow managed to find space for a map key in five languages - English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese. So the map is an ideal purchase for both the day tripper to London or the holiday visitor from abroad. On the back of the map is a colourful index listing all the main features found on the main map as well as an enlarged inset for extra detail in the West End. This extra detail includes information on the main historic commemorative plaques, including the English Heritage Blue Plaque scheme – all information designed to bring a visit to this part of the city to life.

"This is a brilliant map, it shows everything that the tourist could want. Although I have visited London dozens of times, this map gets used every time. Thoroughly recommend." Amazon review of the previous edition by J Hitchcock, 20 Jun 08.

Jenny Slater, London Cartographic Editor