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Review: OS Tales: One Man’s Part in the Re-Triangulation of Great Britain

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One Man’s Part in the Re-Triangulation of Great Britain is a collection of tales of Barrie Corlson’s experiences of working for the Ordnance Survey. The tales were originally published in the journal of the institute of Civil Engineering Surveyors over several years, but are bought together here in one illuminating and humorous collection.

After the end of the Second World War there were large numbers of people for whom the idea of sitting behind a desk was torture. The author, Barrie Corlson, was one of these and upon leaving the Royal Navy after the end of the war, heard that the Ordnance Survey was looking for adventurous chaps. Off Corlson went and some adventures did he have!

One Man’s Part includes the authors run ins and experiences with assault craft, gypsies, battery acid, tank shells, tobogganing down mountains, multiple car accidents, getting locked in church towers, exploding biscuits tins, atomic research stations and lugging their equipment up and down mountains to sit in fog and rain. It also details their experiences with the local wildlife and population including red stags, midges, ornithologists, monks, tourists and even more midges.

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A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design

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Carl Steinitz pioneered the use of geographic information technology during the late 1960s. He worked with Howard Fisher, Alan Schmidt and a number of graduate students at the Harvard Laboratory for Computer Graphics and Spatial Analysis including a young landscape architect called Jack Dangermond, The series of grey tone SYMAP outputs generated during the Delmarva project that was carried out by the group from the City and Regional Planning and the Landscape Architecture departments has been reproduced countless times during the last forty years.

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Geodesign: Case Studies in Regional and Urban Planning

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Reviewed by Chris Holcroft

Dubbed as a foundational text, Geodesign introduces the concept of “designing with geography instead of around it”. In other words designing and managing our urban and regional landscapes by integrating science, social and aesthetic aspects using geospatial technology.

The foreword by Jack Dangermond leaves the reader in no doubt that Geodesign combines the origins and ongoing business of Esri: that of addressing man’s relationship with the environment and the application of software to achieve a better future with a more balanced approach to environmental conservation by being able to design around nature.

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Sandy: Anatomy of a Superstorm

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Last month saw the effect of a hurricane Sandy changing its path and destroying livelihoods, the environment and infrastructure on the East Coast of USA. This review covers an attempt to provide answers and details to why this storm actually happened through geographic explanation and eye witness accounts.

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Operation Iceberg: Life and Death of a ‘Berg

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Studying one of the biggest icebergs in the world in this week’s episode posed many challenges for the team as they found themselves in peril whilst on board the iceberg itself. The aim of this episode was to study what happens to icebergs out at sea and identify the forces that cause their destruction along its journey across the waters. Their adventure sent them following the ‘Petermann’ iceberg which has had an incredible journey travelling from the northwest corner of Greenland after being separated from its mother glacier two years ago. Since this departure, the strong ocean currents have caused this iceberg to travel 1km south and is now situated off the coast of Baffin Island, Canada.

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On The Map: Why the World Looks the Way it Does

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Simon Garfield’s latest book has a wide ranging narrative, meandering from Ptolemy to Skyrim via the Mappa Mundi and Vinland. While some books involving cartography can become dry rather quickly, Garfield has successfully managed to ensure that the text is dotted with enough witty points and tangents to make sure the reader stays engaged.

As you would expect from a book about maps, On The Map includes brief sections on topics such as the Ordnance Survey, Ptolemy, the creation of the London A-Z (and why Trafalgar Square was missing), the library at Alexandria and the impact of GPS navigation.

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Operation Iceberg: Birth of a ‘Berg

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International scientists and adventurers are taking to the coldest environments of the planet to discover and explore the phenomenon of glaciers in a BBC documentary over the next few weeks.

The first instalment of this exploration of icebergs took the team to the polar region of Greenland in which they camped out in harsh conditions at the glacier of Store. Store has the ignoble claim to fame of being the parent of the iceberg that sank the Titanic.  This reference to one of the worst naval disasters in history certainly highlighted the extent of the impact of glaciers, not only on the environment, but also their potential social implications.

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Converting Great Britain’s basic-scale mapping to a digital form, 1962-95

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Over four decades Ordnance Survey moved its basic scale mapping from tentative work on large mainframe computers to networked desktop PCs. Robin Waters reviews this personal account by Peter Wesley, who held several posts including director of sales and marketing.

Today we take digital maps and the software which delivers them to our full colour screens completely for granted. Since Google Earth/Maps came on line in 2005 we just assume that aerial/satellite images and intelligent vector maps capable of showing points of interest, route-finding, and a myriad of map styles are available at the click of a button. Some of this data comes from national mapping agencies and this account describes, in great detail, how Great Britain created the first national digital topographic databank.

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Mapping South Africa, a historical survey of South African Maps and Charts

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By A Duminy. 2011. Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd. Auckland Park 2092. South Africa. 136 pages. Numerous colour maps. ISBN 978-1-43140-221-2. Price. South Africa R236 = approx. £22 but variable figures apply.

When this book came my way the initial reaction was that it was well produced and should be both informative and interesting to read. How wrong can first impressions be?! One should only be influenced by the substance of a book, not its cover.

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If Maps Could Speak

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By Richard Kirwan
Published by Londubh Books, Dublin e4.99/£12.99

This is an extremely well written and vivid account by the author of his life from childhood to leadership of Ireland's mapping agency, Ordnance Survey Ireland; all set against a backdrop of Ireland's history and culture.

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