I think of romance, of glamour, of utter elegance, I always picture an
aerial view. I love to look down — on a city, on an ocean, on the world
— perhaps wearing a little black dress, with maybe a Manhattan in my hand.
This to me is the ultimate in sophistication.
I get the same
kind of tingle when I look at a map (without the cocktail, of course).
For some reason, depictions of the world in squiggly lines, tiny print,
and four colors spark my imagination. I can dream that I am moving about
in exotic locales, all without the inconvenience of travel. Even when I
visit a place, it gains more depth and meaning for me when I can connect
it with its two-dimensional representation. Go ahead. Call me a "map nerd."
I can take it.
me and my fetish, there is a tremendous amount of spatial data on the World
Wide Web: multitudes of maps; armfuls of atlases; cartloads of cartography.
Enough to keep a map nerd like myself clicking and dreaming for years.
Maps on the Web
are designed for many uses, and many of them are free. Here are a few.
The U.S. government
has spent our tax dollars mapping and snapping its territories and the
world. Now, it gives these images and data back to us in several different
formats. The U.S. Geological Survey is in charge of many measurements of
the earth on which we live. Its mission is to monitor biological resources,
natural hazards, and ground water to help us humans live well on our planet.
Consequently, the USGS does a great deal of mapping: topographic maps of
earth and sea, natural hazard maps, satellite views, and aerial photos.
This page is the portal into the whole bag of USGS goodies.
can identify places to view with the TIGER Map Server and obtain census
data from the 1990 Census Lookup server. You can search for places, counties,
or MCDs by entering the name and state abbreviation (optional), or 5-digit
ZIP code. Note: ZIP code boundaries do not necessarily match place boundaries.
Click on the "Explorer"
box to generate your own maps using online GIS resources, including information
from the United States NSDI (National Spatial Data Infrastructure) Geospatial
Data Clearinghouse. The NSDI is a collection of over 100 spatial data servers
that have digital geographic data primarily for use in GIS software. These
data collections can be searched through a single interface based on their
descriptions. Enter a place name, define your map theme, then click the
search button to generate a map based on your criteria.
How do we get there
from here? Find out by using these online map makers. Type in one address
to get your basic map. Type in a second to generate turn-by-turn directions
to your destination.
Maps On Us
In return for a
free registration, Maps On Us will draw you a map with whatever level of
detail you choose. Because Maps On Us comes from Switchboard.com, it allows
you to search the Yellow Pages for an address, then plug it in to your
MapBlast, by Vicinity.com,
was one of the first mapmakers on the Web. If you know the address, you
can get a map and directions for over 200 countries, including the Slovak
Republic. Also, search by U.S. airport codes.
This site is good
if you are planning a road trip across the U.S., Canada, or Europe. No
graphical maps for 2000-mile trips, but great turn-by-turn written directions.
This site also offers maps for over 200 countries.
Yahoo! has engaged
Navigation Technologies to power its mapping service. Yahoo! Maps can build
maps based on addresses in several countries, including France, Germany,
and Spain, as well as the U.S. and Canada. It can give directions for the
U.S. and Canada. Caution: Navigation Technologies does not give the most
practical routes from point A to point B. Be sure to double-check your
directions on a paper map.
The free U.S. street
maps are somewhat more detailed than those of Mapquest, MapBlast, and Yahoo!
Maps. Use this site also for a physical or political rendering of the world.
For $150, Maps.com will provide your school with all kinds of maps of the
U.S. and Canada.
Planning a trip
to England? Visit this site from Britain's National Mapping Agency to download
free road maps of Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. Come
here also for British historical and outline maps.
In return for a
free and quick registration, GORP (a.k.a. Great Outdoor Recreation Pages)
allows users to search for trails by National Forest or city name. Sort
trails by name or ease of transit. All trails are described in words: Many
have maps attached to their descriptions.
How Far Is It
Type the names
of any two cities into the search boxes on this Indonesian travel site,
and it will tell you the distance between them (as the crow flies) in miles,
kilometers, and nautical miles (in case you will be swimming).
"War is God's way
of teaching Americans geography," wrote Ambrose Bierce. It is so true.
I have to admit that I myself had only a vague notion of where Afghanistan
was before September 11. Here are some sites to help us all conquer our
The Education Place
from Houghton Mifflin offers this access to outline maps of the world (plus
historical maps of the 13 colonies and the Lewis and Clark expedition,
among others). Students and teachers, get your project maps here!
Library Electronic Map Collection
of Texas at Austin brings us a selection of beautiful current and historic
maps. Get maps of the world's hot spots, e.g., the Middle East, or view
the latest map of the political world. This is an excellent resource!
Atlas of the United States
The U.S. Department
of the Interior offers this map generator for the purpose of providing
"a reliable summary of national-scale geographical information." After
you find a map of the segment of the U.S. that you seek, you may then add
overlays, or "layers," to view environmental and demographic information
for the area.
Fact Book 2001
Trust the CIA to
bring you the latest intelligence in cartography. These maps, originally
designed to brief agents on their assignments, are now available to all.
Go ahead. Grab yourself a current map of the Seychelles or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
and ESRI bring you dynamic maps, atlas plates, and street maps. According
to the site, "Each of the Map Machine's dynamic maps is created on the
fly, according to your specifications. This is possible through a technology
known as geographic information systems, or GIS." Very cool. Still, this
site isn't great for finding directions. Use it for unique renderings to
decorate school reports.
Search the world
atlas or view larger-scale regional maps. Infoplease also offers additional
geographical information for the U.S. and the world.
How does the Earth
look from the moon — right now? In topographic view? With its current cloud
cover? Find out at John Walker's Earth and Moon Viewer. See our planet
showing the day and night regions at this moment, or view the Earth from
the sun, the moon, the night side of the Earth, above any location on the
planet specified by latitude, longitude, and altitude, from a satellite
in Earth orbit, or above various cities around the globe.
Paul Carlyle wrote
this Earth Viewer, a new Java applet that shows the Earth illuminated by
the sun for any day of the year, as well as in daily and seasonal animations.
The Earth can be viewed as it appears from space, or as a flat map. Images
are generated from actual satellite photos of the day-lit and nighttime
We know what our
world looks like now, but what did it look like then?
The Library of
Congress holds more than 4.5 million items, of which Map Collections represents
only a small fraction. Search by keyword, or browse by place name, subject,
creator, or title. Check out George Washington's map of his own farm!
pretty! Search or browse this digital collection of nearly 6,500 old maps.
They really knew how to decorate those things in the old days. The Rumsey
collection focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North and South America
cartographic history materials, although it also offers a few historic
maps of the world, Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Old Maps offers
access to Britain's most extensive digital historical map archive. Search
by place name, gazetteer, address, or coordinates to find maps of England,
mostly from the 19th century.
If perchance I
walk or bike somewhere, I want to know if I'm going to get out of breath
doing it. Elevation makes such a difference in the amount of effort involved!
I can plan for slopes with a topographic map.
Search by place
name, latitude and longitude, or UTM coordinates. Move around the map by
clicking on the edges. Get your map for free, printed out in small, medium,
or large. Or, order a custom laminated copy for $15.
It's great to get
these free topographic maps and even navigational charts of U.S. locations.
You can save and customize your maps here, too.
Can you actually
tell how dangerous it is to live in a place? Sure, with these maps of hazards,
both natural and man-made.
Seismic Hazard Mapping Project: Interactive Maps
Who in the contiguous
U.S. over the next 50 years will most likely have their dishes knocked
out of the cupboard by an earthquake? Find out by zooming in on this contour
map of national earthquake hazards.
Significant Event Imagery (OSEI)
Want a bird's eye
view of current natural disasters? Just click into NOAA's Operational Significant
Event Imagery (OSEI) page. Fires in Mexico, snow in Iowa, or "black water"
off the Florida Keys: If it happened today, you can see it here from above.
Almost as if you were God.
NASA tracks fires,
dust, smoke, severe storms, volcanoes, floods, and algal blooms worldwide
with its satellites and makes the images available here.
Landslide Overview Map of the United States
Are you in danger
of waking up to a sliding hillside in your bedroom? Find out from this
map, offered by the USGS.
The Royal Astronomical
Society and Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologia dell'Inquinamento Luminoso
(ISTIL: Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute) of Thiene, Italy,
brings you these images of the world lit up at night. View the world as
a whole, or get close-ups of North America, Europe, West Asia, and Oceania,
is environmental change, Earthshots from USGS (who else?) keeps track of
it. See with your own eyes how drought has shrunk Lake Chad in West Africa.
Experience the damage that the Khmer Rouge did to Cambodia by forcing its
people to build irrigation ditches in a strict grid. Finally, view Mt.
St. Helens from space in shots taken from 1973 to 1996.
Talk about a good
view! You don't need a house on a cliff to enjoy these ultimate views of
University offers this easy-to-use front end for looking at USGS aerial
shots of the U.S. Search by address or place name.
value to these close-up satellite shots from USGS by linking them to topographic
maps and home-buying information. Type in your U.S. address and see what
your house looks like from space. The database can also be searched by
type of place, e.g., rivers or airports; geographic coordinates, i.e.,
latitude and longitude; or decimal coordinates, featuring latitude and
longitude with a floating decimal point.
Click on "RESAC
United States" to choose Landsat images of the Lower 48. Or, explore the
rest of the world in beautiful satellite imagery.
Our planet is gorgeous!
Visit the Blue Marble section of the Earth Observatory [http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/BlueMarble/]
to view its loveliness from space. From this point of view, it is hard
to imagine why humans go to war. Check out the Visible Earth project here
to view the globe with various data overlays related to atmosphere, ocean,
land, energy, and life.
Paul Carlise wrote
this Java-based Moon Calendar for elementary school students. It shows
the phases of the Moon for each day of a selected month, from 3999 B.C.
to 3999 A.D. Set the map in motion and watch the moon cycle through its
Telescope's Interactive Sky Chart
Just enter the
name of your town and time zone and the Java-based Interactive Sky Chart
will paint you a picture of your sky at night. Constellations are included.
From here, you may maximize the chart or have it formatted for printing.
The site leaves a cookie on your computer so it can remember your location
the next time you visit.
Just Scratched the Surface
I didn't scratch the surface at all. There are just too many map
resources online to be able to dig too deep! I couldn't possibly cover
them all. But this is a fair sampling, a good starting place.