Joe Yogerst 2017-03-25 05:23:11
FROM USING THE STARS AS A GUIDE TO PLACING SATELLITES AMONG THEM, THE MAPS WE USE TO FIND OUR WAY HAVE CHANGED DRASTICALLY THROUGHOUT HISTORY. They show us where we have been, where we are going and where we are right now. Without them, it would have been much more difficult to explore our planet, carve out new states or countries, or plan the towns and cities we live in. They exist on paper, in digital form and even in our minds. Yet maps may be one of our most underappreciated inventions. Most of us use some kind of map every day, often without even realizing it. It might be the GPS screen in our car, the daily weather chart in our local newspaper or online, or a subway map that guides our way around an unfamiliar city. People also draw mental maps in their minds, whether they be of their neighborhoods, schools, parks, routes to work or other familiar spaces. An Ancient History Humans have been making and using maps for thousands of years to find their way and better understand their surroundings—the same reasons that we use maps today. Mapmaking predates written language and many other cornerstones of human culture. The oldest known map is thought to have been rendered on the walls of the Lascaux cave in southern France about 16,500 years ago; the collection of prehistoric paintings is thought to chart the night sky. More detailed maps of our world are seen during the time of the Babylonians 2,600 years ago, with cities, rivers and cardinal directions represented. Greek and Roman cartographers— without any means to view the Earth from above—created uncannily accurate maps of the ancient Mediterranean world with features that are clearly recognizable today. Like so many other aspects of art and science, mapmaking took a great leap forward during the Renaissance and Age of Discovery. Explorers brought back detailed information on the New World and other lands, which European cartographers transformed into wonderfully detailed maps that are now considered works of art. The invention of the printing press and copper plating allowed maps to be reproduced and distributed rapidly for the first time. The maps of that era have even influenced the modern world. German cartographers Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann decided to name the New World on the far side of the Atlantic Ocean after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci on a famous 1507 map called the Universalis Cosmographia, cementing the title of America. It was during this time that the first maps of what is now known as the Georgia coast were drawn by cartographers from a number of different nations claiming territorial rights over the area. One of the region’s most active early mapmakers was a German named William Gerard De Brahm who immigrated to the British colony of Georgia in 1751. His talents as a military engineer and surveyor were immediately recognized by the colonial government and he was appointed surveyor general. In 1752, he announced plans to publish a new map of Georgia and South Carolina in an advertisement in the South Carolina Gazette, in which he invited landowners “who desire to have their particular plantations inserted therein … to send copies of their respective plats.” The completed manuscript was sent to London, where it was engraved and printed in 1757. The complete title is a mouthful: “A Map of South Carolina and a Part of Georgia. Containing the Whole Sea Coast; all the Islands, Inlets, Rivers, Creeks, Parishes, Townships, Boroughs, Roads and Bridges …” “The map has full margins and is probably the prettiest thing I have ever seen,” says Laura Vardell, who currently has a first edition of the historic chart available for purchase at Carolina Antique Maps & Prints on Church Street in Charleston, South Carolina. “It was beautifully hand-colored at the time and it shows the coastal areas from the Cape Fear River in North Carolina down to St. Marys River in Georgia, then inland to Indian country up the major rivers as far as the settlements extend.” Vardell says the detail is very impressive: swamps, marshes, tidal channels and rivers are all shown. And there’s a lengthy index to land holdings shown on the map, a result of the mapmaker’s appeal to local plantation owners. “But my favorite thing about the map is actually the cartouche,” Vardell says. “It’s large and beautifully engraved piece depicting indigo production in the low country.” Mapping in the Digital Age Paper maps reigned until the late 20th century, when electronic mapping became possible by harnessing the power of computers and satellites. The advent of satellite photography after World War II coincided with the start of the digital age, a rapid expansion of computer know-how and technology. Once again, cartographers saw an opportunity to radically change how maps were made and used. First developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, geographic information systems (GIS) is the generic term for a wide variety of computer systems that capture, store, analyze and display information about locations and convert that data into electronic maps, which can be displayed on a screen or printed. GIS enables mapmakers to overlay or superimpose a wide range of items, conditions or variables on a basic map—weather patterns, animal migrations, election results, et cetera. The race to space did a lot more than put astronauts on the moon. It also revolutionized mapping. Even before the first human space flights, automated cameras were snapping photos of the Earth from rockets and satellites blasted into orbit. It didn’t take cartographers long to figure out that those amazing images of our planet from outer space could be used to make better maps. Launched in 1972, the U.S. government’s Landsat program to collect and disseminate satellite images changed the way that people both viewed and mapped Earth. The latest Landsat satellite rocketed into space early in 2013 and the program will continue into the foreseeable future. Around the same time that Landsat was literally taking off, the U.S. Department of Defense was developing its own space network— 24 satellites placed in orbit around the earth to facilitate the military’s satellite navigation. Called the Global Positioning System (GPS), the first of these satellites was launched in 1978. During the 1980s, the U.S. government made GPS available for civilian applications, and today’s most widespread use of mapping was born. For mapmaking companies such as Rand McNally, which has been in business for more than 150 years, the transition into digital forms was a natural evolution. Rand McNally Media Relations Manager Alexis Sadoti says the company made the leap more than 20 years ago. “Today, Rand McNally offers online maps, directions, and a variety of e-books and applications that can be downloaded, such as our Road Atlas application. The company also offers consumer electronic devices for navigation.” Yet, printed charts still have a place in the modern world. “Our published Road Atlas and paper maps have remained strong because these products are still used frequently for trip planning purposes,” Sadoti explains. “ ... Also, there are still parts of the country lacking cellular connectivity for those using mapping on their cell phones or tablets. We are finding that people use a combination of electronic and printed materials, each having their own benefits.” Venturing Off the Normal Course Maps don’t just show the Earth as we know it. There’s a whole different world of nontraditional maps that depict other themes, both real and imagined. Astronomical maps chart the moon, the planets or the night sky. Fantasy maps display imaginary places like Oz, Middle-earth or Neverland, and often accompany works of written fiction. Pictorial maps show a bird’seye view of a city, region, nation or other location. These maps were very popular in the 19th century and were sometimes drawn by an artist perched in the basket of a tethered hot-air balloon. Cartograms, also known as “diagrammtic maps,” combine statistical information with georaphic locations. They were originally drawn by hand, often by skilled artists. Nowadays they are more likely produced by GIS equipped with cartogram software. However they are created, and whatever form they take, maps are an essential part of our daily lives. Whether it’s a mental picture of local streets for everyday navigation, GPS that gives directions in a new environment, or carefully illustrated topography that brings an imaginary land to life, maps provide guidance and shape how we experience the world. GEOCACHING Invented in 2000 when GPS was further “demilitarized” for more accurate civilian use, the outdoor activity of geocaching is a high-tech scavenger hunt in which participants use GPS on their cell phones or other electronic devices to locate hidden containers. Often housed in waterproof plastic containers or old ammo boxes, geocaches harbor logbooks where the finder can enter his or her geocaching codename as well as the date and time of the discovery. Some also contain small toys, trinkets or other items that can be kept as mementos of the hunt or traded with other geocachers. The state of Georgia has a very active geocaching community and scores of hidden geocaches scattered between the Appalachian Mountains and the islands, including on St. Simons. Georgia State Parks offer a number of themed geocaching programs, including a Parks GeoTour that covers more than 40 parks and a History Trail GeoTour that embraces 14 historical sites. Several of these geocaching sites are within about an hour’s drive of Sea Island, including Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation Historic Site, Fort King George Historic Site and Crooked River State Park. One of the best ways to launch your geocaching career is setting up a free account at geocaching.com. The world’s oldest and largest website dedicated to the sport includes tutorials on how to get started, how to hide a cache and the coordinates of almost 3 million caches around the world.
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