Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fire and Iceland

I've received about a dozen emails recently alerting me to the "(insert a number) Maps that will Change Your Life, Promote Good Dental Health, and Help You Lose Weight" type of articles.* Most of their titles are overly dramatic but good for getting the clicks. Many of the maps featured are difficult for a jaded cartographer to get excited about. However, this map of Iceland from Wired Science's Most Amazing, Beautiful and Viral Maps of the Year (2013) really stands out.
 The concept is very simple, even though the process was a little convoluted. It is just a series of 20 meter contours classified by color. The yellow to orange to red color scheme is unusual and creates an arresting fiery look. Of course the volcanoes (the fiery places) are the lightest yellow making the color scheme less realistic but if you reversed the colors the image would lose its dramatic effect.

Another sacrifice is that the background land and water are barely distinguished, very dark grey for land and black for water. You have to zoom in a ways on the interactive version to see the distinction. This adds drama by making the coastline look much more jagged than it really is. Here is an example where you see some false bays around Húsavík in the northeast.
Compare that with google maps
It's a nice striking representation, just don't try to use it as a nautical chart.

*friend of the blog Michael5000 has a fun and well done critique of one of these listings here.

No comments: