The nonexistent island

sandyisland1

Sandy Island was an island off the northeast coast of Australia that is believed to have disappeared entirely after having been discovered in the late 18th century and documented up until the 20th century. James Cook was the first to document its existence in 1774, and French maps corroborated the island in maps during the 19th century. However, recent expeditions have discovered that Sandy Island simply does not exist, and it wasn’t until November 2012 that the National Geographic Society officially removed Sandy Island from all maps. Even Google Maps, which is supposed to get its data from satellite imagery, featured Sandy Island until that date.

So what happened? The island appears to be relatively large, so it’s hard to imagine that it just disappeared over the last few hundred years. However, the idea is not too farfetched – the island could have simply been a low island of sand and nothing else, as its name evoques. The island’s supposed location, seen below, indeed raises the possibility that the island was at one time simply a raised bed of sand which eroded away over the centuries.

sandyisland-google

Sandy Island’s supposed location was in the heart of the Coral Sea, where there is an underwater range of mountains and coral reefs, so it is entirely plausible that a larger mountain breached the water’s surface for a period of time and was later washed away. However, when researching this topic I came upon a long list of once-documented islands that were found to be nonexistent, and not all of them can be attributed to erosion.

A glaring example of a wrongly-documented island is the island of Frisland, supposedly south of Iceland and west of Ireland. It is not entirely ridiculous for explorers to have thought and island existed in the area, as there is a bit of raised seabed in the area that could have served as an island at one point. But, something catastrophic would have had to have happened in order to sink an island of that size, so I’m going to go ahead and say that this island never existed. Frisland was mostly only featured on maps for about 100 years – from about 1560 to 1660 – but a few maps kept it on as late as the 18th century. Early maps, like the one below, gave it place names, and it was even given currency by the Maggiolo family of Genoa.

It’s possible that Frisland was actually the southern part of Greenland and that explorers mistakenly presumed it to be its own island, but there is no definite consensus on the topic. However, it seems that there have been many instances of nonexistent islands – accidental or otherwise – and thanks to satellite imagery, this sort of problem probably won’t be happening again anytime soon.

All info and images via Wikipedia, digitaltrends, and the Auckland Museum blog.

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Wind Map shows the power of the wind as it’s happening

Unfortunately, I found this website just a day too late. As some may know, there was some really intense wind in Texas yesterday. It looks like that wind is now moving steadily towards the northeast. Anyway, the site shows the power of the wind almost as quickly as it’s happening, and that is just too cool. It even has a gallery so you can look at the power of the wind during various important events, like Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and others. Since lots of you are still experiencing some intense wind, check it out! The snapshot above is how the wind is today, on February 26th. From the site:

Surface wind data comes from the National Digital Forecast Database. These are near-term forecasts, revised once per hour. So what you’re seeing is a living portrait. (See the NDFD site for precise details; our timestamp shows time of download.) And for those of you chasing top wind speed, note that maximum speed may occur over lakes or just offshore.

Check it out: Wind Map

Ancient continent, dubbed Mauritia, discovered under Indian Ocean

60 million years ago, there existed a microcontinent between Madagascar and India that was buried by lava due to continental drift and magma plumes. Scientists are learning that hot magma has more of a role in the break-up of continents than previously understood. About 170 million years ago, the continent known as “Eastern Gondwana” was bombarded on the underside by hot rock which caused it to soften and break up into Antarctica, Australia, India, Madagascar, and India. Mauritia was likely part of that break-up, and it broke up further and was eventually buried by the molten rock that pushed India into Asia.

Scientists have verified that Mauritia was indeed a continent due to the zircons found on the beaches of the various islands of the Seychelles, where Mauritia is though to be buried beneath. Zircons are tiny rock fragments that are extremely resistant to erosion, and thus they can remain relatively unchanged for millions of years. Most rocks on the beaches of the Seychelles islands are no older than 9 million years old, but the zircons found on the beach tested to be much older, revealing that the land was above water millions of years prior. From sci-news:

The sand grains contain semi-precious zircons aged between 660 and 1,970 million years. This is explained by the fact that the zircons were carried by the lava as it pushed through subjacent continental crust of this age. This dating method was supplemented by a recalculation of plate tectonics, which explains exactly how and where the fragments ended up in the Indian Ocean.

Despite the fact that this is not an incredibly rare occurrence, I think it’s incredibly interesting that scientists are able to uncover a mystery about our geography by testing beach sand. The ancient geographical layout of our planet is a topic that has been extensively researched, so much that we are able to paint a picture of our planet’s continents even 500 million years ago. It’s crazy to me that we are still discovering that there were once other continents – albeit small – but ones that we would not have been able to discover by the traditional method of observing modern continents and noticing how they drifted to find their placement millions of years ago. There were many continents that existed for eons and that were buried by the ocean to never be heard of again. I hope that we find more and more instances of continents that were covered with water, especially if we find some rather large ones!

Image and info via Sci-news

Abu Dhabi’s website has a great street designer, too

Last week I wrote a post about StreetMix, an interactive website that lets you design street layouts. Today I discovered that the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s website has a similar interactive street designer, with a plethora of different options to change widths, heights, and even speeds of vehicles. It even has the ability to animate the street from a bird’s eye view so that you can really get a good picture of how it would work.

The designer has a ton of options to start with. The image at the top of this page is an example of the simplest street, the Town Access Lane. But it can get much more complicated. The image below is one of the most complicated streets you can make, the “City  Boulevard”:

 

The interface of the website takes some getting used to, but once you figure out how to edit each lane, you can change nearly everything about the street. This includes creating a bike lane that is elevated 10 feet above the others, and bringing a sidewalk 10 feet into the ground. There are no limits, as you can type in any value you want,  so you can really make some pretty wacky creations.

You can even save your street and open it up again later. Abu Dhabi and the UAE in general are well known for their innovative city planning and high-rise development. It’s not at all surprising that they have a great interactive street designer, too. Check it out here.

Montreal and Mannheim to begin testing wirelessly-charged electric buses

Bombardier, the world’s largest manufacturer of railway systems, will begin testing wirelessly-charged buses this winter in Montreal. The test rides won’t be available to riders just yet – but Mannheim, Germany will give commuters the first chance to ride wirelessly-charged buses, as they will have a limited run of the buses in the city for 12 months starting in spring 2014.

I personally find the idea to be pretty clever. From CBC of Canada:

[Bombardier’s] Primove technology is designed to allow buses to be charged by underground induction stations when they stop to let passengers hop on and off.

So rather than relying on charging stations as many electric vehicles do, these buses will be charged wirelessly as if they were running on rails. The idea is similar to trollies and railcars that have electric lines overhead, but the buses will only charge when they are stopped and the charging platforms will be entirely underground.

While such a system would require an underground building process, I think that it would be worth it – these buses will be quiet and clean, and I think it’s pretty ingenious that they will integrate something as time-consuming as battery charging into the day-to-day operations of the buses themselves. The project in Mannheim will cost 3.3 million euro ($4.4 million), and will be completely funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport.

Images via Bombardier and all info from CBC and Bombardier.

Philadelphia’s SEPTA is the last public transit system in the US to ditch the token

Philadelphia’s SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) still has passengers use tokens in order to ride the rails. However, the transit system announced last year that contactless cards and smart phones will begin make their way in as tokens and magnetic strip cards are phased out over the next three years. While there are many transit systems who currently use magnetic strip cards, SEPTA is the last to utilize tokens.

The switch from token to contactless cards (think Amsterdam’s Chipkaart or credit cards that you “tap” rather than swipe) is a huge leap, and will make SEPTA go from being one of the most outdated systems to one of the most advanced in terms of fare. The idea has been in the works for a few years, and SEPTA officially announced the switch last November when they awarded a contract to the company designing the new fare method.

The new system will be smart – users will have a SEPTA card that they can load up and manage their account online. Magnetic strip cards of the past do not really have a long shelf life, as rail riders typically print out the card for their single ride and toss it after the ride is over. This way, people will have a single hard plastic card that they can use over and over. In addition to the contactless card technology that will come into place, those who don’t want to spend the $5 on the plastic card can simply use their smartphone to pay for their ride. This will be particularly advantageous to tourists.

2015 is the target year for the system to really come into place – the “New Payment Technologies” is still in its design phase. Now that one of America’s most outdated transit systems is entering the 21st century, perhaps others will follow suit.

Info from NextCity and Wikipedia.

StreetMix lets you create the perfect urban road

Here’s a cool website for those interested in urban planning and transportation. It allows users to design a street exactly to their specifications by adding sidewalks, bike lanes, parking lanes, car lanes, bus lanes, as well as medians and trees. This is a nice way to visualize the capabilities of streets and how they can best serve the public good.

The different options for street design

You can even specify street size. For example, a 40-foot-wide street can only fit two car lanes, a median, and sidewalks on either side. There’s simply no room for a bike lane on both sides, as seen below:

However, if that street is widened to 60 feet, you can add a bike lane on either side, and some nice shrubbery between the road and the pedestrians, as seen here:

Or, if the city needs a larger street to accomodate more vehicular traffic, you can remove the bike lanes and shrubbery and add an extra lane for cars in that same 60 foot width:

The possibilities of road design are pretty endless, and StreetMix is an awesome site to play around with. You aren’t even restricted to 40-foot, 60-foot, and 80-foot roads. there is a setting called “Adaptive,” where you can make the road as wide as you want. Here’s one I made with two car lanes, bus lanes, parked cars to keep cyclists safe, then a bike lane on either side, some shrubbery, and then pedestrians. The idea is not incredibly practical, as it requires a street that is almost 120 feet wide, but the idea is pretty nifty.

I’m definitely going to be using this site a lot! It seems like it would be a nice tool for urban planners as well.

Check it out: StreetMix

Professor Orlando Furgeson’s 1893 argument for a “square and stationary earth”

I find it interesting that the belief that the world is anything besides round persisted well into the 19th century. The map above was drawn by Professor Orlando Furgeson and published in 1893 – he claims that scripture backs up the “square and stationary earth” and refutes the idea of a moving, spheroid earth. He cites many passages from the Bible on the map itself, including “it is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth” as proof that points to a non-globular planet.

If the word of the Bible is not proof enough, he also claims that a planet moving 65,000 miles per hour around the sun would surely fling its inhabits out into the darkest reaches of space.

Even though the theory is not substantiated, I still think it’s interesting that Furgeson decided to go with a sort of wavy-flat earth rather than a completely flat one. I can’t fathom how his map would account for seasons, day length, or the lack of a horizon in the southern hemisphere. And how does gravity come into play? Wouldn’t the slope cause all the world’s water to pool in the southern hemisphere?

The bottom right corner states that if one were to send 25 cents to the professor, he or she would receive a book explaining the square and stationary earth. There doesn’t seem to be any existing copies of the book, so his theory is lost to the ages. It certainly would have been an interesting read!

Image from Wikipedia.

Map sculptures of cities

Awesome! I love how he doesn’t just do modern city layouts, but also cities from various eras of history. Really cool how he uses materials relevant to the city too, like pages from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in his Las Vegas piece. Great post!

URBALIZE

Matthew Picton is a british-born artist living in Oregon and his worked is influenced by the beauty of lines and formes which are shaping cities.

“Cities are often described as living organisms; viewed as subject rather than object. Matthew Picton engages with this tradition of humanizing the city by deconstructing the clean, uncompromising aesthetic of the cartographic city plan and imbuing it with the unique history and culture of each place.”


© Matthew Picton
sanfrancisco
San Francisco

From the natural topography to the built environments. For example his series called “City Sculptures” are trying to take a deeper look into the organism of the city which is created by social, political, economic and topographic factors.

© Matthew Picton
dresden
Dresden 1940 

One of his recent works “Paper Sculptures” are made of paper.  But those are not “only” a random paper it is in connection with the history of the city. Those are…

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Heart-shaped geography

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I thought I would celebrate by showcasing some of the love found naturally on our lovely planet. There are a handful of heart-shaped lakes and islands out there, many of which have become popular tourist destinations for newlyweds or other love-minded individuals. The image above is Galešnjak, an uninhabited and privately-owned island off the coast of Croatia. While there are currently only plants and trees on the island, there is evidence of past human habitation of the island in the form of burial mounds and pieces of ancient buildings. Its coordinates are 43°58’42” N, 15°23’01” E.

Next is Hridaya Saras in India. This heart-shaped lake is a popular destination for hikers on Chembra Peak. The wikipedia article on Chembra Peak states that the lake is believed to have never dried up, which is just adorable. Coordinates for the lake are 11°32’50” N, 76°04’58” E.

Tavarua Island in Fiji is a popular destination mainly because waves in the area are great for surfing. The island even hosts professional surfing competitions. The area is also a popular resort, with restaurants, spas, and tennis courts. The island itself is only 29 acres, and its coordinates are 17°51’28” S, 177°12’08” E.

Last on the list is Mo’orea Island, which just barely made it due to it not being quite as perfectly heart-shaped as the others. Mo’orea is an island just off the coast of French Polynesia in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean, but it has an airport and a single road around its perimeter. The island has about 16,000 inhabitants, and its geography is very mountainous and beautiful. Wikipedia states that it serves as a popular honeymoon destination and that its image is seen in many American wedding magazines. Mo’orea’s coordinates are 17°32’03” S, 149°49’58” W.

Happy vday!

All images from Google Earth and all info from Wikipedia.