Posts Tagged ‘atlas


another member of the axis of google-bashers speaks up

With China actively seeking to eliminate Google from its virtual shores, even going to the effort of creating its own version, Iran has turned up the heat on the internet mapping giant this week over its failure to label the Persian Gulf, according to a report from CNN.

National Geographic Bible Lands 1938

1938: National Geographic – The Bible Lands

The Iranians believe that Google is making a political statement by failing to use the Persian Gulf label, which has in recent years been re-titled ‘The Arabian Gulf’ by some believing it is more ‘politically correct’.

The Persian Gulf is coveted by Iranians as a statement of power and ownership over the gulf, and refers back to the nation’s history in the Persian Empire. Proponents of the Arabian Gulf name suggest that as 70% of the Gulf coast is NOT in Iran, that the Arabian Gulf is more appropriate, and that the use of Persia is an anachronism even in Iran, where the population is a mix of Persians, Arabs, Kurds and numerous other ethnic groups.

Iran has raised similar complaints against various institutions for decades. A simple Google search finds correspondence with the Dutch Airline KLM during the mid 1990’s after they referred to the Arabian Gulf in their in-flight magazine. More recently thousands of people protested through Facebook ’causes’ when the US Navy used Arabian Gulf, the Economist magazine was banned when it referred to the waterway as ‘The Gulf’ and reportedly the infamous Louvre gallery in Paris, France found itself in hot water when its guidebooks did the same.

A look at maps going back to the turn of the century in’s National Geographic Classic Collection reveals, interestingly that published print maps have always typically used the Persian Gulf label. One edition from 1991 shows both Arabian Gulf and Persian Gulf labels, but was designed to highlight the various disputes and issues of the region at that time.

Referring to the International Hydrographic Organization, sometimes used by Cartographers as the ‘final word’ on water naming conventions (“The Vision of the IHO is to be the authoritative worldwide hydrographic body which actively engages all coastal and interested States to advance maritime safety and efficiency and which supports the protection and sustainable use of the marine environment” ) last updated its materials in 1953 and clearly refers to the water as The Persian Gulf. But for those who use the Times Atlas of the World there is a distinct lack of controversy as they opt to name it ‘The Gulf’ (what next, “The Ocean” and “The Land Mass”??)

National Geographic Middle East In Turmoil 1991

1991: National Geographic – Middle East States in Turmoil

Google is of course an easy, and high profile target when it comes to this type of dispute. For one, any assault on Google, the world’s third biggest superpower behind Apple and Microsoft, is bound to make headlines or at least come out near the top in a Bing search. And for two, any irate consumer who wants to bash the search engine giant can take their pick of lost cities and mislabeled waterways to rant about.

National Geographic Middle East

Today: National Geographic – The Middle East

What they can be accused of is sidestepping the issue a little. If you type ‘Persian Gulf’ into Google Maps, it will take you to the center of the unlabeled body of water with a nice red pin to mark the spot. If you type in Arabian Gulf, it suggests “Arabian Gulf, Kuwait” which when clicked takes you to the same body of water, very close to the coastline of Kuwait. Type in other waterways of lesser profile – Caspian Sea, English Channel, Baltic Sea, Strait of Gibraltar and every one of them is labeled. So maybe Google lost its nerve on this one. (Google maps in fact fails to label the East Sea, AKA The Sea of Japan, depending on whether you are from Korea or Japan – so it has previous form here).  An anonymous Google representative argued that they simply ‘dont have labels’ for every body of water. It can be really frustrating when you run out of labels. Perhaps they could have borrowed the one from “Ditch #1, Osceola AR.”

From our point of view at, newly published maps follow the convention set by leading cartographic publishers and organizations like the IHO – and will continue to be ‘The Persian Gulf’ until further notice. World Map

Today: – New Century World Map


apple dropping google in cartographic celebrity divorce?

According to several sources close to Apple, the new IOS6 operating system for iPhone will no longer include Google Maps, and will instead feature an Apple developed mapping service believed to be faster, cleaner and more reliable. It will also proudly boast awe inspiring 3d rendering developed by C3, a spin-off of the Swedish auto and aerospace manufacturer SAAB, which was purchased by Apple in July 2011. C3 specialized in developing 3d rendering from color aerial photography.

Rumors about this change have been circulating ever since the purchase of Placebase, a mapping software developer, was revealed in 2009. Initial evidence of a split was seen earlier this year when iPhoto for the iPad was found to be using Open Street Map instead of Google Maps as in previous versions and the outcome became an inevitability when Apple failed to renew its contract with Google that was due to expire at the end of 2012.

9to5Mac Mockup of 3D rendering comparisons

Whilst nothing has been officially announced it is expected that maps will once again be making the headlines at the forthcoming iOS6 launch. Who knows, maybe they can make some fundamental improvements like including the names of rivers in the new maps and find some of the more recently ‘lost cities’.


Review: The Barefoot Atlas for iPad.

Since we occasionally like to feature ‘extreme mapping’ in this blog, and recently looked at one of the hugest atlases EVER, to strike balance we just reviewed the Barefoot Atlas. It is  relatively microscopic and as pleasing an example of atlas content for the iPad as you are likely to see (for now).

Ebooks hold great potential for literary authors with so many distribution platforms to take advantage of. However in the Atlas market there is a distinct lack of product that really utilizes devices such as the iPad effectively. The Barefoot Atlas has been touted as one example that does. Immediately apparent to the user is the beauty of the graphics. The opening screen includes a globe and illustrations which give it an ethnic, hand made quality. The delivery of the atlas appears far from hand-made (if that were, in the field of technology, a bad thing). This book is designed to take advantage of the new retina display technology on the latest iPads and I can only say that it looked beautiful on our antique, over the hill, has-been iPad2 so be prepared to have your eyeballs singed on the new model.

The Barefoot Atlas by Touch Press

The world and its many attractions: Barefoot Atlas

The visuals are slick, based on a 3-D globe familiar to users of Google Earth. The controls are simple – in fact at first glance the content looks sparse. Initially one can see that the globe is littered with small objects. Navigation is smooth and of course uses the touch screen and accelerometer to its fullest, in that one can increase gravity instantly by giving the earth a good hard spin. Each region has its own incidental music which appears appropriate but not stereotypical. The ‘objects’ include landmarks, historical features, monuments, cities and more. Each can be clicked for a small description with optional voice narrative.

To separate out the ‘information’ sections, the book uses audio and visual effects. The background music changes to a more subtle, atmospheric sound and the screen is divided using a shaded, transparent background. A photograph of each feature is also included. Users can also explore by region and by country. Again, each region, continent and country has its own detail page with a selection of facts and figures including terrain, climate, natural resources, environmental outlook, wildlife, transport and population. Each has a short description and optional voice narration.

For individual countries, a datasheet is included to show local time, distance from your current location, current temperature and weather. Flag, outline map, land area, currency and ‘eco-indicators’ like average CO2 emissions are also provided. There is definitely more than a hint of the eco message surrounding this book.

With much debate around right now about the value of the ‘whistles and bells’ that ibooks, ebooks and apps provide over and above the standard text, the Barefoot Atlas is certainly evidence for the ‘pro’ camp. The beautiful illustration and attention to detail that the background music and voice overs (from BBC presenter Nick Crane) provide only serve to compliment the appropriate level of content that is delivered.

Barefoot Atlas by Touch Press

Gorgeous Illustrations, Detailed Content

Verdict: Cool for younger children to play, great for older ones to use as a reference tool.

What are you looking for in an atlas these days? Are E-books the way forward? Do you see them as taking the traditional atlas to the next level or as a gamifying distraction to educational content? What are your favorite Geography-related ebooks/apps?  

We would love to hear your comments.


I’d like a return ticket from Bowel mind to Godparent Bikers please.

Nodol Ebut Pam.

London Underground Map

To answer that age-old question – “has anybody ever done a London Tube map with anagrams of all the station names? Well YES, and here it is.



what next for the middle east?

With the current happenings throughout the middle east region, cartographers everywhere are watching with interest, trying to work out how they could fit ‘Peoples Republic of Bahrain‘ onto a country less than one third the size of Rhode Island.

Middle East Political - Middle East Political Map

Following  successful coups in Tunisia and Egypt, notable demonstrations have taken place in Yemen, Iran, Bahrain, Libya and Algeria as the people increasingly sense that they can make a difference. In spite of the almost shining example which led to the resignation of Hosni Mabarak, other regimes have chosen to meet the resistance with violence.

The ripple effect is being felt first and foremost in oil prices. Already the cost at the pump is rising steeply, as oil prices surge past $100 per barrel. Tourism has been severely affected, with carriers to the region seeing falling passenger numbers, and hotel occupancy rates in normally popular destinations significantly down (except for those filled with journalists of course). Meanwhile much of the focus of the US government, already heavily immersed in a domestic financial crisis of its own, has been diverted to these events, offering verbal support for ‘non-violent’ routes to democracy whilst ensuring that regimes who have protected US interests for long periods are not alienated in the event that they should prevail.

Analysts trying to anticipate possible shock waves are trying to predict where trouble might flare next, and the possible outcomes. Many of the world’s banks, who have significant interests in the Middle East, have had their own researchers provide reports on possible outcomes using available data.

Key features in the analysis include –

  • Average age of the population
  • Religious/Ethnic profiles
  • The age of the regime
  • Unemployment levels
Middle East data table - Nomura Financial Group

Middle East Data Table - Nomura Financial Group

This helps to give a snapshot of where significant change could occur. Unsurprisingly, Libya leads the group, with high unemployment and more than 40 years of dictatorship. As the world’s 12th largest oil producer, instability here is of serious concern to western nations including the United States. Bahrain boasts a Sunni Royal Family overseeing a mostly Shiite population, and this inherent tension was severely exacerbated after police opened fire on a previously peaceful protest, while Yemen is almost the perfect storm when it comes to potential trouble – corruption, poverty, unemployment, water shortages and an activist Shiite population could see violence levels rise further.

Deutsche Bank offers a full report on 10 potential hotspots reproduced here by Kathy Lien in her Forex Blog.


Map World launches ‘Final’ version

With a Presidential visit in full swing in the US, the Chinese leader Hu Jintao will have no problem finding his way around now that China’s answer to Google Maps is fully operational.

During the final quarter of 2010 the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping added more than 2 million items of geodata covering thousands of miles of roads and points of interest in the China region. There is also now an English translation for the 11 million place names the service includes.

Mapworld - China's Google

The site, which is free to access, has been visited by 30 million users from over 200 countries according to official figures. The service is the basis for a push by the Chinese government to control online mapping services in the region. All companies providing such services will be required to purchase an operating license, with the deadline recently extended to July 1st of this year. Around half of the 200 domestic and overseas companies who have applied for licenses have received them so far.

Meanwhile with global businesses increasingly woven into the fabric of Chinese industry and Mapworld’s specifically detailed content for this region, it is bound to become more relevant as a business tool, and go some way to achieving its overall goal. This is,  according to Song Chaozhi, Deputy Director of the bureau  “to build Mapworld into an international brand”.

Try Mapworld here.


Lost in Music? Get Map of Metal.

If you cant tell your ‘Blackened Crust’ from your ‘Grindcore’ or you get mixed up between your ‘Death ‘n Roll’ and ‘Sludge Metal’ then you are probably lost in the world of Metal Music. This super map will help you find your way around the greasy, torn biker denims of rock music with examples to boot.

Even if you are just into a bit of cartography, and I know there are one or two here who fit this description, I think you will appreciate a nice visual presentation of this music genre. And why not listen to “Crush the blooded horns of the Goat” by Horde, while you browse? (Word of advice, don’t view it with your monitor upside down).

Map of Metal

Do you know your Funeral Doom from your Brutal Death?

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