Maps: Underground Railway Systems

Known as The Subway in America, The Tube in London, most other countries call their underground rail transit systems The Metro. Unless you have spent your life there, and even if you have, such maps can often be very confusing, usually bearing little relation to the geography above ground. Here are some examples I found this morning.






New York City.




Maps: Native Americans

Continuing my interest in maps, I found these three, which compare the locations of native North American tribes before settlers arrived with where they are living today.
(The maps can be enlarged by clicking on them)

A map designed by Native North Americans themsleves, depicting their history.

A more modern map, showing a European view of tribal locations in America and Canada at the time of the arrival of foreign settlers.

This map shows the current dispersal of Native Americans in modern-day USA.

More Maps

It seems quite a few of you share my fascination with maps. Here are some more I found this morning.

Ancient Egypt, with the sites still popular with tourists today.
(This one can be enlarged, with two clicks)

Britain in 600 AD, showing the areas conquered by foreign invaders, and those still inhabited by the original people.

A map of the world shown as flat. Even today, some people continue to believe the Earth is flat.

A very old map of London, from 1572. Look how small it was!

And for my American readers, a 1767 map of New York City, before Independence.

An Alphabet Of Things I Don’t Like: N

Navigation Aids.

In the UK, they are known as Satnavs, short for ‘Satellite Navigation’. There are many types, including the removable ones like the one above. These have to be taken away with you when you stop, or someone will soon be smashing the car window to steal it.

Some more expensive cars offer ones built into the car dashboard, often part of the car’s ‘Entertainment System’. Some add-ons include warning of speed cameras, traffic delays due to roadworks, and international maps for driving in Europe. All very nice, when it works.

They require constant updating to stay accurate, and the removable ones have to be connected to a computer to allow this.

My experience with them has not been good. Using one I bought for Julie, it constantly told us to ‘Turn Right’ when we were on a long bridge crossing a river. I have also been instructed to ‘Take the next exit’ where there was no exit. One issue seems to be that they need to receive a strong signal at all times. In some country districts and remote areas, this is just not possible.

Then there is the safety aspect. Almost all involve taking your eyes off the road briefly, to check on your progress. Yes, they talk to you and tell you where to go, but the desire to look at them is overwhelming.

These days, Google Maps on any smartphone offers the option of a free Satvav. Once again, signal strength is crucial, so I wouldn’t want to rely on it. It also uses up your phone battery very quickly as it has to update every few seconds.

I use a map. A big book of maps of Great Britain, buying an up to date one every couple of years. I look at it before I leave, and picture the journey in my head. For example. ‘A47 to A11, then all the way to junction 23’. Put the map away, and just do that, with nobody telling me to deviate. If I encounter any problems, I pull off the road into a lay-by or service area, and check the map again.

I have been driving for fifty-one years, and maps have never let me down once.

More about Maps

You all know by now that I love maps, and especially like to see real comparisons of size that have little or nothing to do with the familiar Mercator’s Projection, the flat map of the world.

I found this short video online, which is very illuminating.
Maybe for maps fans only though. 🙂

Geography: Our place in this world

I recently published a post about History. I was lamenting what I perceived to be a lack of interest in, and knowledge of, a subject I consider to have great relevance and importance. The response was very satisfying, and the debate in the comments was a heartening example of what ‘good blogging’ is all about. Talking about the exam syllabus, and good and bad teachers, got me thinking about Geography.

As a child, I always loved to look at Atlases, maps, and my metal globe. I also had an encyclopedia that listed all the countries in the back, with pictures of their flags, the names of the capital cities, size of populations, their main industries and exports too. I would look up a certain country, find it on a map or on the globe, and imagine life there across an ocean, or on the other side of the world. Once I started to study the subject at school, I soon discovered that it was as much about geology, natural formations, mighty rivers and ice-caps, as it was about the countries that claimed their national borders. I also found out that most of my fellow school students had little or no knowledge or interest in the outside world, and dropped the subject as soon as they were allowed to.

Later on, I had some first-hand examples of this lack of knowledge. Some of it shocked me, especially when it concerned our own country, Britain. I met people who thought they had to travel south to reach Scotland. Others who thought Ireland was next to Wales, and not separated by any water. Even one man I met as a teenager who assured me that if I went to Australia, the people would be walking upside down. I presume now that this was him teasing me, but I didn’t think so then. Although this was at a time when many people had not travelled far from home, we did have a huge amount of men living nearby who had served in WW2, and had travelled extensively. That included my own father, who had been to India, Burma, South Africa, and Egypt. Their tales of distant lands inspired me to discover more, and to get better maps, and adult encyclopedias.

Much later, I was playing a game of Trivial Pursuit at work, during some down-time. My own crew-mate at the time was asked to name a country that bordered Pakistan. After some thought, he answered, “Spain”. I was smiling, and thought he was being silly, as he didn’t know a correct answer. But after some discussion, he told me that he really didn’t think Spain was that far from Pakistan. And this from a man who had been to Spain, and also worked in Australia for a year at one time. Years after that, I was on holiday in Turkey, with my wife and two of her children. One of the girls (14 at the time) asked me if we were anywhere near Ibiza. I remarked that she should have known how far we were (over 2,500 miles) from that island, and she replied “It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to know where somewhere is, to go there”.

That got me thinking. Was it just me? Does it matter if someone knows that Scotland is north of London, when their Satnav will tell them what road to take? Why should anyone care that Abuja is now the capital of Nigeria, if they have no intention of ever going there, or being remotely interested in that country? And if you think that Pakistan is close to Spain, unless you suddenly decide to drive from one to the other, it is perhaps of little consequence. In our lives, we are unlikely to ever find ourselves blindfolded, abducted, and left alone in some remote place, needing to discover how to get home, or where we might be. For everyday use, the majority of people can ask their phone or tablet anything they need to know about a travel destination, or holiday resort. If a family is going to holiday in a beach resort in Cuba, does it matter a jot if they know that they are only 90 miles south of the mainland of America?

I wonder if anyone still looks at maps, or has a globe? Is the electronic equivalent enough now? Does that interest in the world now only come in chunks the size of a phone screen, that you can scroll down? My own opinion is that History and Geography are inseparable, both linked to politics, and the world we live in today. Lines drawn on maps by colonial powers, the proximity of warring nations, the lust for natural resources, living space, and fertile land and water. Geography impacts on our daily lives more importantly every year, just as those resources diminish with use. It would be a shame if it became yet another ‘forgotten’ subject, dominated by the map-makers at Google.

What do you think?

The Earth Is Flat

Many years ago, everyone believed that the Earth was flat. if you sailed too far in a ship, you would fall off the edge. This was an accepted fact, and nobody disputed it. On old maps, unfortunate sailors were shown falling off, into the unknown void. You may not be aware, but there are many people who still believe that to this day. Here is their website.

Does that sound crazy? We have all seen photos taken from above the Earth. We know is is a sphere, and photos of all the planets in our solar system confirm this, don’t they? But there are some intelligent and spirited members in that society, and they believe that the Earth is indeed flat, and the ‘circular theory’ is a famous lie. Is there a chance that they are right, and we have all been duped? That’s up to you of course, but I like the idea that people like that exist. People who question, try to think for themselves, and don’t just accept everything they are told as fact.

Whenever you look at a map of the world, the chances are you are viewing a ‘Mercator’s Projection’. That flat look at all the continents, the familiar shape of countries that some of us can identify just by their outline. The placing of large and small islands, just the way we learned it at school. But this map was based on empires, and subtly altered over the centuries, since first published by Mercator in 1596. The British Isles are far too large, for instance. Canada is not big enough, and Africa is actually much longer and thinner that we generally assume it to be.

This map from 1974 gives a more realistic view of the world, and is substantially different to our usual perception.

We all know about space travel too. We have seen the footage of the astronauts, and the photos taken on the moon. We have seen the pictures from space telescopes, Mars, Jupiter, fantastic planets. But do we really know that they are true? Do we actually know any more than the sailors who thought they might fall off of the edge of the world? Let’s all think more, just like those members of The Flat Earth Society