Map Porn Part 2: The Most Beautiful Geological Maps on Earth

The Most Beautiful Maps on Earth

Where Art Meets Science

Scientific visualisations often can look just like objects of visual art. A few weeks ago in Part 1, we looked at how topographical surveys are visualised on both our moon and Jupiter’s moon. This time, we are focusing on our own Pale Blue Dot.

Both as art and scientific visualisation these images illustrate two completely different meanings on is purely functional and utilitarian and the other is as a beautiful object.

The World’s First Geological Map

Created by William Smith in 1815, this was the map that changed the world and set in motion a century of scientific exploration. Smith’s efforts are remarkable for the time because Smith was not a gent from the upper class, but came from a respectable farming family. As a result of this snobbery, Smith’s map was largely ignored and subsequently plaigiarised. Smith spent a year or so in a debtor’s prison due to his lack of funds. It was only later on in life that his gorgeous map got the recognition it deserved, and Smith became the grandfather of map-making and geological surveys.

Smith’s map is remarkably accurate when compared to modern geological surveys that make use of all sorts of technology. All Smith had at the time was crude surveying equipment. He traveled around the UK while unemployed looking at strata, and then hand-drew and hand-coloured the incredibly intricate and beautiful map. Smith is credited with kicking off other areas of scientific discovery. His young apprentice John Philips went on to found a movement in geology and paleontology and the table of geological eras used today. Smith’s work also became a foundation work influencing Charles Darwin. His story is immortalised in the great book The Map That Changed The World by Simon Winchester.

 Click to view larger image

The Most Beautiful Maps on Earth

Exploratory Soil Map of Kenya (1980)

Those colours remind me of a beautiful abstract painting. This topographical map has the most aesthetic beauty and would be perfect blown up and framed in a lounge room or perhaps as a screensaver.

 Click to view larger image

The Most Beautiful Maps on Earth

Image Source

Alluvial Map of the Lower Mississippi River (1944)

Created by Harold Fisk in 1944 the map exhaustively covered the complex channels, tributaries and morphology.  More importantly, it’s incredibly beautiful in a baroque, rococco and arabesque kind of way!

 Click to view larger image

Map Porn: The Most Beautiful Maps on Earth

Ed Fairburn: Map of the Lake District

Ed Fairburn’s art is where cartography meets portraiture and creates magic. See more of Ed’s amazing work here.

Map Porn: The Most Beautiful Geological Maps on Earth

Image Source: Courtesy of Ed Fairburn

Map Porn: The Most Beautiful Geological Maps on Earth

Image Source: Courtesy of Ed Fairburn

Find out more about Fairburn’s work here.

Atlantic Ocean Floor: Plate Techtonics Map

With the advent of echo sounding in the mid-20th century, it made mapping the ocean floor possible. This meant that scientists could make maps like this one in the 1960’s.

Map Porn: The Most Beautiful Geological Maps on Earth

Read more

Ed Fairburn: Cartographic Artist With Soul

Infoaesthetics: Stunning Art or Infographic? Both

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. This is a superb follow-up to Map Porn Part 1; both educational and entertaining! Thanks for sharing the Ed Fairburn images and link. I visited his site and was amazed at his incorporation of portraiture and maps.

    Very Best Regards,
    Eric

    1. Thank you Eric much appreciated. Weirdly enough I sometimes don’t get comment notifications on here so sorry it’s taken ages to reply. Better late than never though I suppose.

    1. Hi Tish thank you for the comment, so glad you enjoyed my article. I haven’t been to Kenya have you? These colours are just amazing and i heard that in real life Kenya is quite a wild and colourful place. The innards of the planet is the perfect term for it. Geology is also a much underestimated discipline

      1. Kenya certainly has some of the most active geology in the world. I gather the Rift is moving apart as we ‘speak’. I’ve just posted a photo which makes this all rather hard to believe.

  2. As a geo who spent much of five years messing around Mongolia making maps with the aid of a GPS – I was stunned by how Soviet geos, back in the 80s, without any such equipment, had already done it. Found all the hidden spots, and mapped them accurately.

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