Sunday, October 13, 2013

Old Maps

Antique maps are fascinating. The technology of ancient cartography seems so limited in these days of satellite photography, but armed with compasses, astrolabes, and their own two eyes, the sailors of old managed to draw maps that were surprisingly accurate.  Each successive navigator refined the previous map, filling in the unexplored gaps and blank seas where "Here Be Dragons". Landlubbers focused on maps of terra firma, while sailors marked dangerous currents, submerged rocks, and welcome harbors. One of my favorite maps is this portable diagram of ocean currents and islands used by Polynesian voyagers. This stick chart, or mattang, was a guide to ocean swells between the tiny islands dotted throughout the Pacific, enabling these people to travel incredibly long distances in their fragile crafts.

One of my favorite Jane Austen movie characters is Margaret Dashwood, the younger sister of Elinor and Marianne. The author does not give young Margaret much depth, but the film gives her an independent, adventurous spirit and a love of maps. The maps are all places she has yet to see and conquer, and her ability to memorize geographical information is the foundation of her future success. I love the scene where Edward Ferrars uses her obsession with geographical accuracy to lure her out of her hiding place under the table. I could imagine being that girl. FYI, I was a geography teacher.

Here we see Dolly and Minerva on a walking tour.  Being bound by the world of publications, they wander across a map, which is simple, but much less interesting than "real" travel.

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