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2013 — A Cartographic Recap

It’s that time of year—a time to reflect on how our world has changed over the past 365 days. There are many ways to gauge such changes, but none more tangible than comparing National Geographic maps published in 2012 to those published this year. Changes have been many: from the renaming of the west African…

Two Young Explorers Create First Map of the Future Patagonia National Park

For Young Explorers Marty Schnure and Ross Donihue, the past nine months have been a journey of energy, frustration, sweat, cold, wind, laughs, scree, sore feet, an icy tent, warm sleeping bags, a lot of lamb stew, hard work, failure, perseverance, and success.

Interactive Map Color-Codes Race of Every Single American

It sounds somewhat implausible, but a University of Virginia academic has designed an interactive map that color-codes the geographic distribution of every single American, drawing on the last census. The Racial Dot Map uses 308,745,538 blue, green, red, and other colored dots to represent the race of every American in the place that person lives.…

GEOGRAPHY AWARENESS WEEK – NOVEMBER 11-17, 2012: Being a National Geographic Cartographer

Geography Awareness Week is celebrated in the United States every third week of November. This year’s theme—Declare Your Interdependence—is intended to explore the idea that we are all connected through the decisions we make on a daily basis, including what foods we eat and which products we buy.   As part of this year’s celebration,…

Gilbert Thompson, Lying Bob, and the Ballad of Croppy the Mule

When National Geographic founder Gilbert Thompson enlisted in the Union Army, a clerical error identified him as a painter instead of a printer. The typo proved to be serendipitous, leading to his work as an engineer, then a cartographer, and then on to a lifetime of adventures as he explored and surveyed the western United States.

Where scale permits

As is frequently the case, National Geographic mapmakers―for that matter, mapmakers worldwide―often face the problem of having to fit too much cartographic information into too little cartographic space. Scale, which defines the mathematical relationship between linear measurement on a map to that on the Earth’s surface, ultimately determines how much information can be portrayed on…

“A country once know as ……”

  Over the past several days the media has been reporting on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Myanmar. Some have prefaced their reports using the following verbiage: “Myanmar, a country once know as Burma ……” In 1989 the largest nation on the Southeast Asian mainland changed its name from Burma to Myanmar―a…

Mapping Our Nation’s Ascendancy

This year marks the beginning of the Civil War’s Sesquicentennial. Just six months after commemorations began, sales of National Geographic’s Battles of the Civil War map have increased exponentially. It appears this key period of our nation’s history remains in the hearts and minds of many of our citizens. I was well reminded of this…

“Sometimes, all you need is a map”

It’s 5:45 a.m. on a chilly October morning. The office is dead calm and my cup of coffee has just kicked in. Thirty emails await my response and two handfuls of map projects need to be reviewed. Half of them, of course, are time sensitive. Where to begin? The project requiring the most urgent attention…

THE MAP OF MY DREAMS

In light of today’s Washington Post article , I wanted to share some thoughts on our new Cuba map . My career as a cartographer, and now as The Geographer, at the National Geographic Society, spans more than 30 years. In that time I have worked, in one manner or another, on most if not all…

“Giorraíonn Beirt Bóthar —Two shorten the road”

  Southwestern County Donegal (Dún Na nGall), National Geographic’s map of Ireland (Éire)   Depending on the type of map (whether physical or political), National Geographic maps use conventional (English) spellings, native spellings, or a combination of both (where scale permits). For example, when a commonly recognized form of a well-known place-name, such as Bombay,…

A Map Designers’ Journey Through Hallowed Ground

    Having grown up in Virginia, working as the designer for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground map has brought back many fond memories. At one time or another, I have visited most of the towns, fished or canoed the creeks, and strolled through many of the parks shown on this map. For most native…

CUBA ON MY MIND: An Editorial Tour of the Island

Cuba Map: Editorial revisions on a section of the Final Correction copy. Twenty correction copies with over 800 revisions were made to the map before it was cleared to go on press.   When I tell people that my profession is that of a map editor at National Geographic, I oftentimes get “What does that…

CUBA ON MY MIND: Creating a New Classic Map

Base map of Cuba as first exported from GIS prior to styling in Adobe Illustrator. Ever since first becoming a cartographer at the National Geographic Society it has been the creation of new maps that has so appealed to me. To take a mountain of lines, place-names, and other geographic data and meld it all…

CUBA ON MY MIND: Armchair Traveling

A georeferenced image of a NOAA Bathymetric chart overlaid on a GIS shapefile of area coastlines.     As a National Geographic GIS Cartographer, people frequently inquire whether I get to travel to gather the data we use on our maps. I suppose National Geographic still evokes those romantic images of cartographers out in the…