Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Making maps and since when is Moose Factory not on an island

There was a great article in the New York Times about the ways in which ordinary people are getting involved in making maps of their communities.
On line maps are very important and useful. They can be up to date and can let you choose between road maps and satellite views. Some now incorporate Bird's Eye views that can make me believe I am flying around in a low altitude aircraft. Traditionally they have been made by businesses who have people who go and check things out or rely on previously published materials.
Now, more and more people are getting involved in gathering the data needed to make maps.
The New York times article mentions how a couple of hundred volunteers set out in Atlanta last month to get information missing from current maps.There is hope for a worldwide collaboration to produce accurate and current maps of everywhere.
For some people involved in producing maps, it is important that what they produce will be available to anyone instead of being owned by a corporation and used for commercial purposes or kept hidden from the public.
 OpenStreetMap is a user generated street map of the world. It has a lot of fascinating stuff such as traces of people's travels from their GPS's and diaries written by the kinds of fussy, careful people so vital to the generation of accurate maps.
I look at online maps from the point of view of someone in a small place that is out of the way. Right from the start I have noticed that online maps of where I live tend to have interesting errors.
For example, according to Google Maps, there is a place called Killarney in the part of Moosonee that used to be Canadian Forces Station Moosonee and that everybody here calls "the base". There is a place called Killarney and a Provincial Park but those are on Georgian Bay in Southern Ontario.
Also on the Google map: various Moosonee roads are labeled "Local Services Board of Mooson". There is no such body; Moosonee is a town now and was a Development Area before and was always spelled "Moosonee".. There is a Local Services Board in Moose Factory so perhaps that accounts for the confusion.
Still, the Google map is pretty good and the satellite photos let you see your own house in Moosonee.
If you choose to search with Microsoft's search engine, Bing, you did a different picture of this area.  You will see that Moosonee is clearly on the mainland and on the north shore of the Moose River. Moose Factory is moved off its island in the middle of the river and shows up on the south shore. That's on the map version, if you check out the aerial shots it is in the right place although you cannot zoom in as far as you can with Google.
Being a coward and a respecter of copyrights, I have not reproduced the map errors in images but provided links to them. I hope that at some point in the future, somebody will correct the errors. And yes, as you probably guessed, I already sent in corrections, years ago.

As someone alive to importance of visuals, I decided I would include an aerial shot of Moosonee. Here are some more aerial shots taken from a helicopter including a few of "the base"; perhaps somebody can find Killarney on one of them. In the interests of being fussy and accurate I should and will mention that they were taken on October 1st, 2005 from the right rear seat of a helicopter being used to transport people out to look for gravel up the Moose River.

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