Thursday, August 27, 2009

Heezen Tharp Map in Google Earth!

Finally something that I have been waiting for for a long time. Back
when I was an undergrad, one of the projects I worked on was to gather
maps and measurements of the barrier islands of the biggie
small islands from the ENTIRE globe! Mind you these were in the days
before Google Earth so we had to use REAL maps. In order to do the
project I spent several weeks camped out at the Library of Congress
Maps Division, *side note: you owe it to yourself to check this place
out some time*. Unlike other libraries at the LoC you don't just
wander through the stacks looking for the material you are after oh no
only the librarians do that so instead you have to present them with
lists of the material you want. At the time the best available global
coverage high resolution maps were 1:20,000 maps from WWII they were
called JOGs for Joint Operation Graphics they also had another
"recently" acquired (thank you end of the Cold War) global map set
from the Russians. The Russian maps were in Cyrillic but since I
wasn't interested in place names just islands these were fine. After
several days of drawing maps from various different map sets, one of
the very helpful librarians pulled me aside to give me a glimpse of
the back room- first to impress upon me the yeoman's task that I had
been asking them to do- you see they were having to pull maps from
opposite corners of their mapping space and they have literally acres
of space down there. The second thing the librarian did was to ask
"You're an Oceanographer right?" One always wonders what is coming
next with a question like that but I said "Well yes I'm studying to be
one". The librarian then asked if I knew who Bruce Heezen and Marie
Tharp were. Know who they are well of course every Oceanography,
Geology, and Geography department in the planet used to have a copy of
their maps of the seafloor on the walls. Turns out the LoC had
recently acquired a vast collection of the maps and the precursor
mylars that went into making those maps. I was quickly showed to an
area in the back room where tables and boxes where piled in a chaotic
fashion, a huge mish mash of maps and books and correspondence all
related to this mammoth work. This experience kicked off a long
standing interest in both the maps and the map makers that continues
to this day. I later went to visit the archives of the Smithsonian
where they had some 60+ boxes of archive material for Heezen, one of
the founding titans in modern geological oceanography.

Years later first when playing with Fledermaus and then again in
Google Earth I had this notion that wouldn't it be great to bring the
old Heezen Tharp map into one of these visualization systems and
compare the maps of today with what Heezen and Tharp produced- they
had in comparison a very limited and scant data set from which to
build their extrapolated map. Well it seems others had the same idea
too as I just found this layer in Google Earth that includes the
Heezen Tharp map. What a great teaching resource! What a marvelous
piece of mapping history.

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