Strictly Spatial #6

14 January 2016

Strictly Spatial #6


Welcome to the start of 2016. The Interpret Team hope you all had a relaxing break and are raring to go in 2016! In this edition of Strictly Spatial we take a step back in time and look at some historic maps, investigate the global distribution of your surname and look at the earth in a novel new way and more!

The David Rumsey Map Collection has a huge collection of all sorts of historic maps, atlases and cartographic visuals. There are a few New Zealand maps, one of which is an 1843 map of New Zealand. What makes this website stand out is that the old maps have been georeferenced and overlaid on modern day imagery. If georeferencing historic maps is your sort of thing, check out the georeferencer application where you can help to georeference maps in the David Ramsey Map Collection.

Forebears is website specialising in genealogy. Search your surname and it will tell how common it is, where it’s most prevalent and has the highest density. The data is displayed on a choropleth map. It even has the ability to show the distribution within (certain) countries. It’s a fun website, go and see how unique (or common) your surname is!

Did you visit some exotic places over the break? The Earthview website has found ‘the most striking and enigmatic landscapes’ on Google Earth. Many of them look like they could be from an alien planet. Have a look and see if you can recognise any locations. If any particular ones take your fancy, you are able to use them as your desktop wallpaper – great for that mini escape from work!

Cartograms are very effective at showing distributions. Many of you have probably seen a global cartogram like the one pictured before. Every time I see one it amazes me how much China and India take control of the map and countries like Russia, Australia and North America become very small. One thing that stands out for me in this map is the amount of colours used! Clearly the author(s) of this map has not heard of the four colour theorem! Either way, check it out and see how different countries look when scaled by their population.

Over the break I imagine many of you would have been asked, what do you do for a job? I find the answer of ‘GIS’ often results in a blank stare and the question, ‘What is GIS?’. How do you reply? Do you sheepishly answer with ‘I make maps’ or ‘GIS is like Google Maps; but better’? I often go with the latter and from the response given, may or may not go into further details. An article by Matt Sheehan explores how we, as GIS Professionals can give a meaning full answer to ‘what is your job’ question.

That’s it for this edition of Strictly Spatial. If you have any cool GIS, Geography or Spatial stories you want to share with us, find us on Twitter and Facebook, or email us at