Saturday, 31 October 2009

Charlie and Me

As promised, the 2009 Michael Barrett Award winner and me.

OK, Own Up - Who Really Did Name America?

Well, one thing is for certain, nobody really knows. This BBC article got the dicussion going and if you weren't paying attention you'd think it all made sense. Well, it does but if you read on to the comments beneath it you realise that nothing is ever straight forward.

What about Richard ap Meryk? Ah, as ever there is a whole fan club associated with the naming of America - see here. I knew this was going to get complicated...

Mind you, if I'd known about the Waldseemullar map in July I would certainly have sought it out when we were in Washington. Never mind, it's always good to have something to look forward to for a return visit!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Highest Point on Earth

I don't think I've been paying much attention to this debate recently. It took my Dad to e-mail me the question about the highest point of earth to wake me up to this. Yes, Everest wins the prize for being the highest mountain above sea level but it's not necessarily the furthest point from the centre of the earth. That prize goes to Mount Chimorazo in Ecuador. But it's only down to a geoidal bulge and, as this article points out, it isn't even the highest mountain in the Andes.

At the end of the day, it's not how you measure something, but what you measure it against that matters. The highest point of the earth can vary depending on how you define 'height'. It's like someone asking where the coastline is. Well, it depends if you own the foreshore, want a picnic, are interested in coastal erosion, have fishing rights, want to dump and dredge or whatever - the person and the question are often inextricably linked.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Where Has That Meridian Gone?

Now this is what I call good reporting! Well not 'good' as in accurate, but 'good' as in geodesy hitting the news in a way that most non-geodesists can relate to it.

As you know, Greenwich is a lure for me. Of course I know that its placement is arbitrary; but there is still that historical buzz around the place that will never go away.

I was most interested to read that it was the prevalence of sea charts that swayed the vote towards Greenwich and, as many people know, the Admiralty (set up in 1795) had been producing them for a while.

It's funny to think what would have happened if, say, Turkey (random country here) won the meridian then we in the UK would all be used to being 2 hours behind Turkish time. If most of world's population can cope with not being on the meridian then it can't be that hard eh?

We have a forum at work and somebody put on a lovely geeky post today about BST going back an hour next Sunday. The post was along the lines of "this Sunday, 25 Nov, we move to Central Universal Time which is near enough identical to Greenwich Mean Time". I love geeks that stoop as low as explaining what it means for mere mortals!

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Spent some of yesterday at Defra talking to the MMO (Marine Management Organisation) implementation team. I really like Defra from their communications point of view. Their public downloads on subjects such 'Location Matters' and Inspire are actually a lot more readable than some of the stuff that passes by way.

I should have started this post with an apology for anyone living outside of England. I'm not even being UK-centric this time round. The MMO only covers England. So what to do in the Irish Sea when there is also Wales, Scotland, North Ireland, Ireland and Isle of Man to participate too? No different to any other marine area eh?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Digital Atlanta en Masse

I have been sent this link by two people today so I've got the hint - I'll blog it! Check out Atlanta's giant mapathon. A most interesting concept but some very worrying comments such as "this will create the most accurate map" (depends on your QA and QC surely? - how can they prove that?) and the assumption that mapping is black and white - "it's either there or it's not". So when does the pavement stop and the grass verge start, esp if it's all muddy and the verge has spread? What if someone decides the edge of the road is the kerb edge whereas someone else, perhaps on the other side of the road, marks it as the back of the pavement? How can you know everything has been picked up; or can you only hope it has?

I hate to be a pessimist here but, although this will give very up-to-date information, I doubt if it will be the most accurate, however I don't know what the comparator is. Nudge me someone (US side is good) for the next installment please.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Michael Barrett Award 2009

The Geomatics Professional Group and the Boundaries and Party Walls Panel awarded the 2009 Michael Barrett award to Charlie Beedon on Thursday. We have awarded this award annually since 1994; I've attended the last 3 or 4 years' worth of lectures and can honestly say that those involved in boundaries disputes are the most entertaining surveyors out. I wonder if it's because they have to have infinite diplomacy with those parties they are trying to mediate with but their tales of who, what, where and when are engrossing.

Charlie's lecture, found here, was informative and interesting. It's no surprise that boundary disputes are as much about personalities as the physical features. Charlie deals with national/local disputes which sound a mare. Imagine the diplomacy needed by last year's award winner, Chris Carleton, who advises the UN on international maritime boundary disputes. I actually think it's of equal effort - Charlie's type of dispute is more 'hear and how' whereas Chris' drags on and on in the international courts of law. But, at the end of the day, if your neighbour is disputing your boundary that is the important boundary dispute in the world to you. National and international shenanigans are just a blot on the horizon.

Ps. There are some photos kicking around but I haven't had sight of them yet.

Friday, 2 October 2009

London Wanderings: East and West

Had a lovely week in London last week - lots of wandering in the sun by the Thames exploring paths and routes I'd never travelled before. When strolling the south bank came upon the Golden Hinde which was a bit of a suprise - a bit of 'in the middle of nowhere'. But I do like a bit of rigging every so often.

The lure of 0 deg longitude was too strong and I had to go and visit Greenwich.

I popped into the National Maritime Museum to see the North West Passage exhibition. I've read quite a bit about the search for the NW Passage but this display was a disappointment. I'd hoped for some creativity but it didn't inspire me as to the drama and intrigue of the story.

And then a lovely climb up to the Observatory for one of the best views in London. I was too late to go in and see Harrison's clocks but I stood astride the meridian (the OSGB36 ish one)

and watched the tourists measure their feet against the British Foot.

All the better for watching them topple over as they tried to do it.