Thursday, October 03, 2013

The battle to map Antarctica is on

The Earth's southernmost continent, Antarctica, is one of the most poorly mapped locations on the globe. If you want to view really good maps of the continent you will need to find a properly surveyed paper map (for example from the British Antarctic Survey).

The focus of this blog however is on online interactive maps. Unfortunately Google's Map Maker community and OpenStreetMap's global team of volunteers don't seem to have held many mapping parties in Antarctica as yet.

Therefore the focus for online interactive mapping in Antarctica seems to be on providing imagery of the continent rather than detailed maps. However that suits my purpose. I'm not planning on a major exhibition to the south pole, so some pretty pictures to look at will do for me. Luckily these do exist.

Open Antarctica is a project to document the area around the Palmer Station United States base on the Antarctic Peninsula. To this end the project has managed to plot some beautiful aerial imagery from NASA' Operation Ice Bridge.

The result is a map of some gorgeous aerial imagery of Palmer Station, Litchfield Island, Amsler Island and Shortcut Island. I'd say that was 1-0 to OpenStreetMap.

However Google Maps does have its Street View trekker, which is able to travel where its Street View cars are too scared to tread. Last year Google dispatched the Street View trekker to visit Captain Scott's hut on Cape Evans and Shackleton's Hut on Cape Royds in Antarctica.

Google Maps also has some great Street View shots of penguins basking in the weak sun of Half Moon Island.

You can therefore visit the Google World Wonders Project and take a virtual tour of these Antarctic locations with Google's interactive panoramic imagery.

I'd say that's 1-1, as we head into overtime ...

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