Sunday, September 18, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Map Projection Identification Contest Prize – The book “Mapping Curiosities,” by the Royal Geographical Society, 2009, Pomegranate Europe, Warwick, UK.  The book’s cover shows “Map of the World showing the extent of the British Empire in 1886.”  Map by Sir John Charles Ready Colomb (English, 1838-1890) from “Imperial Federation: Naval and Military” (London, 1886).

As most of you know, we ran a Map Projection Identification Contest last week - see  Despite several joke-y contest entries (for instance – “It’s the John Boehner hairpiece projection!”), we have a winner.  This was also despite the little snafu with the map projection image itself - the genius blogger that I am posted the image and left the name of the projection as the name of the image, for all the world to see if they only right-clicked on the image.  I was afraid I would be deluged with bogus correct answers, based on the tell-tale and rather ridiculously large clue I left on the contest page itself.  This was mercifully brought to my attention within a few hours of posting by a very honest geography doctoral student, who sent me an e-mail saying “psst…you should quickly change the name of the image because clicking on it gives it away!!!!” and of course made me feel like a foolish idiot in the process – which I’m sure was not his intention, but was very effective at doing so nonetheless!  And also mercifully, apparently no one looked very closely at the post until after I had changed the name of the image.
In any event - and why should this post be any different than my usual overly-wordy texts? – we have a winner! 

Here’s the FIRST, FASTEST, CORRECT response to the Map Projection Contest question:

From Jenn Brisbane, GISc analyst at the NYC DoITT (Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications):

“It's the Craig Retroazimuthal map projection - also known as the Mecca projection - because it was created to help Muslims figure out which direction to pray in. This map projection preserves directionality! (the following is from Wikipedia):
‘The Craig retroazimuthal map projection was created by James Ireland Craig in 1909.  It is a cylindrical projection preserving the direction from any place to another, predetermined place while avoiding some of the bizarre distortion of the Hammer retroazimuthal projection.  It is sometimes known as the Mecca projection because Craig, who'd worked in Egypt as a cartographer, created it to help Muslims find their qibla.’”

I then followed up with Jenn, told her she had won the prize, and asked how she managed to figure it out.  Here’s what she said:

“Well, after google image searching ‘map projections’ till my eyes glazed over, I googled ‘weird map projections’ and ‘unusual map projections’ and came across a powerpoint presentation for some class.  One of the slides showed the Hinks' Retroazimuthal Projection which looked somewhat similar to the image on your blog.  I googled more about that projection and found a paper by Walter Tobler about retro-azimuthal maps where he mentions the Craig projection (which I google imaged searched and found it matched your image) and the Hammer projection - an equally silly-looking projection!  The Tobler paper is titled ‘Qibla, and Related, Map Projections.’
‘The Qibla problem - determination of the direction to Mecca - has given rise to retro-azimuthal map projections, an interesting, albeit unusual and little known, class of map projections. Principal contributors to this subject were Craig and Hammer, both writing in 1910.’
Is there really a prize?? Exciting! 
Alright now, who answered ‘The John Boehner's hairpiece projection’?  Was that Andrew??  I think that answer deserves a prize as well!!”

I received a couple of other correct responses, but too late! The early bird, etc., etc. 
Honorary Mentions: 
“I believe it to be a Craig retroazimuthal projection.  The analytic function is similar to the inflow equation for a helicopter rotor. My near-east friends reminded me that it can be centered (as the equations are for the center of a helicopter hub) at any important place, such as Mecca.” from U-know-who (this is from my brother Wayne, the ace helicopter designer for NASA, also the originator of the John Boehner’s hairpiece projection entry. Also, I think he is counting on none of us knowing doodley squat about helicopter rotor design inflow equations, and therefore feels free to make any possibly spurious analogies he wants to!  Not that he would ever do that, of course!)

And from Andrew (“Salty Language”) Maroko, Geography/GISc Professor extraordinaire:

A few other worthies made good guesses, some close, but no cigar.  And of course, a big shout out to Keith Miyake, who pointed out my drastic oversight in having the mystery map projection image actually entitled with the correct response.  (although apparently most people didn’t notice it, or if they did, were too polite or blasé to tell me I made a mistake). 

The contest prize was the book “Mapping Curiosities,” by the Royal Geographical Society in the UK, and the book contains reproductions of many well-known cartographic examples from the RGS collections (such as Mercator’s 16th century world map, and Claudius Ptolemy’s 2nd century world map) as well as a number of more obscure maps (such as the route map of the 1953 expedition from Kathmandu to Mount Everest, and an aviation map of France for World War I night flying)..See for narrative on my recent visit to the Royal Geographical Society headquarters in London. 
The book’s Introduction states “When the Royal Geographical Society was founded in 1830, one of its aims was expressly stated to be the formation of a ‘complete collection of maps and charts from the earliest periods of rude geographical delineations to the most improved of the present time.’….. In the 1840’s, through its association with the era of African discovery, events in Africa began to stimulate further public interest in mapping, and it is recorded that the Map Room was ‘daily visited by intelligent strangers as well as by members generally.’  It was at this time that manuscript maps by African explorers like Livingstone also began to come to the Map Room.  During the remainder of the nineteenth century, extensive efforts were made to complete the existing holdings of maps and to extend the scope of the collection with commitments made by the India Office, Army Map Service, US Army, and other institutions to provide copies of all their mapping output.…By early to mid twentieth century, annual receipts numbers some 9,000-10,000 sheets of maps and approximately 30 atlases every year, supplied by a wide range of international governmental departments, academics, and individuals with a passion for maps and mapping.  Today, the Society holds the world’s largest private map collection, including over 1 million sheets of maps and charts, 3,000 atlases, 40 globes (as gores or mounted on stands) and 1,000 gazetteers.  Rare antiquarian maps, atlases, and gazetteers continue to be presented to the Society….with the earliest printed items dating back to the fifteenth century.  In addition, the collection includes manuscript materials from the mid-sixteenth century onwards, aerial photography, and contemporary satellite images, making this one of the world’s most comprehensive resources relating to maps and mapping for a wide variety of users.”   See for more maps and info.  

The Craig Retro-Azimuthal Projection, from the original post about the contest.

Also see the Map of the Week 9-19-2011 post for further details about Mecca-centric map projections.

1 comment:

  1. I just want to say that I had no idea about the projection but I instantly identified Keith's contribution by your description. That's what I get for being raised by shrinks :)