Korea in the 50s: the full set

August 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Korea, Maps 

For a map aficionado having complete sets of cartographical data is fantastic, especially when you can have them for free! So, in the spirit of sharing here is what Korea (north and south) looked according to the knowledge of the US Army map service in the 1950s.

The full set can be found at the website of the University of Texas (Austin) in the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, which can be found here online. However, these maps are full sized JPEG which are not always easy to navigate when you are looking for something specific, in my case looking for (former) railways.

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Jeju in 1961: not exactly overcrowded

August 18, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Jeju, Korea, Maps 

With my specific interest in cartography the first thing I always do whenever I am somewhere is asking for a proper map. A proper map is a map which is, in my opinion, not the same as a streetmap or a thematical map with all sorts of funny symbols on them. A proper map is a topographical map. Preferably one with a scale like 1:50.000 or so.

Unfortunately, in large parts of the world you will not be able to get one, or will only be able to get a very old topographical map, quite often one from the US Army or the former Soviet Army.  Because of the fall of the Soviet Union it is now relatively easy to get proper maps of Africa, if you don’t mind the fact that these maps are 30 years old. Previously they were guarded by the Soviets like they were nuclear secrets, but now they are freely available, for instance as scans for sale on DVD’s through Ebay.

The last time I was on Jeju I tried to locate a proper set of maps, topographical maps that is, but I couldn’t find one. Of course there is a tourist map, which is freely available, but I want a map on which I can navigate if necessary. In the English language bookstore in Sin-Jeju I found a somewhat more topographical like map, but still not really what I wanted. Read more

That sinking feeling of Verdun

April 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Maps 

At Dutch schools pupils are always being told that when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 they had an excellent overview of the Polish topography. They had achieved this by sending German “tourists” to Poland, who then wrote down everything they saw. Or so we were told. Maybe this is nowadays not being told any longer, given the fact that women have by far less interest in war than men and these days a teacher is more often than not a woman, but “in my time” this was sort of a standard thing to tell.

Germans like to be thoroughly prepared, that is one thing for sure. They didn’t really prepare too well for Operation BarbarossaW, given the fact that the WehrmachtW had a large number of maps with “highways” on them which in the USSR really were nothing more than mud tracks, but they did try to prepare for the First World War by having the right maps. And this is one of such maps. It is a map produced just prior to 1914, showing the Eastern part of the Western front, mainly the greater Verdun area, which is known for its huge battles later on in the war.

The map is a Generalstabkarte, a general staff map, used for strategic planning of large scale operations. The maps shows the German opinion of the French entrenchments, so they could plan on how to attack.

One interesting detail about this map is that it is, like a lot of maps from that era, glued onto linen. This was done to make it possible for officers in the field to fold and refold the map over and over without destroying it within a day or so. With every bombardment the officers had to fold the maps in second. Just try to do this with a standard paper map: it won’t survive the day… But this map is still around. That however does also explain the white lines in between the map parts: the map was cut into large pieces (in tiles, sort of like I did after digitizing it) and then glued onto the linen. The map had to be folded, so in between the map parts is the fold line, and that line is visible here.

The map is part of the NVBS Railatlas collection. We have several of them and I will try to scan them if I can find the time to do so. Another interesting map is from the same era, but it shows the Eastern front, mainly former East Prussia. For railway enthusiasts these maps are very interesting because they show a lot of railway and tramway lines which have now disappeared, but which were still flourishing in the pre WW1 period.

Here are some screenshots. The map can be seen by clicking this link.

The area to the east of Luxemburg town before 1914.

The area to the east of Luxemburg town before 1914.

The area around Verdun. The white lines are the linnen fold lines.

The area around Verdun. The white lines are the linnen fold lines.