Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nice map

I believe good planning helps you have more fun when you travel. Certainly, I've tried to emphasize that notion here and in my modest 100 Pound DXpeditions. Planning relies on data and one excellent source of data can be a good map of the area you plan to visit. Google Earth is a fun tool but it has limited utility when trying to do very detailed planning. To see what I mean, start Google Earth and enter the string "16.7673N 62.2153W", the coordinates of the place our Montserrat group will visit next year. Sure enough, world on your screen will spin and zoom, eventually leading you to a fuzzy image of the terrain on the island. I'm not complaining; I'm just pointing out the strengths, weaknesses, and relative merits of this tool.
For a different presentation of the data you could use topographical map of the area. I have been buying my maps from and have been pleased so far. I recently ordered the Montserrat Topographical Map from their web site and it is a nicely sized (72x78cm), single sheet map. The survey must have been prior to the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano as it still shows streets, schools, and businesses in Plymouth, the island's former capital now buried under ash and debris. To me, this makes the map even more interesting, though, as the portions of the map I need to be accurate (the places I can actually go) are accurate, and the rest of the map serves as a history book, telling me about things that used to be.Paper maps also have the advantage that they (a) travel well, (b) are easier to use as a visual aid with a group, (c) have more "dots per inch" so typically contain more detail, and (d) you can use a pencil to add a little something, all while being disconnected from the internet or even far from a computer. I am a software developer by trade and use my computers extensively, but I also recognize a good thing even when it is not on the computer. {grin} Sandy and I obtained similar maps for our St. John trip and we spent quite a bit of time looking them over, not just for antenna strategies, but also as a way to educate ourselves about our surroundings, the names of local landmarks, and even a bit of history about the place.
I've always loved maps so this is just a great excuse to get new ones and look at them. That said, they are also a great source of information about the faraway place you'll be visiting. I strongly recommend that you get your hands on a nice topographical map before that next big trip.


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