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#19 Mapmakers

Think of a Big Round Globe in your pocket! It’s not only bulky, but impossible to carry in your pocket from place to place. This is the reason why we have maps, so that they can be easily folded for travellers to carry them around. Maps can also show a small part of the earth in detail. Small towns and cities can be found on a map, but not on a globe.

Maps are great means of conveying geographic information and make our every day life quite convenient. Maps are drawn as if you were high in the air and looking down on earth. That’s why maps make the earth look flat. So, how do people who draw maps actually draw them? Mapmakers learn about the Earth and measure it in many ways. They also use photographs taken by satellites, or from aeroplanes to make maps. They put the photographs together like a puzzle. Using these photos as a guide, they draw their maps. Symbols and colours are used to identify different landforms, roadways, etc. Most of the symbols are easy to understand. These symbols are usually explained in a corner box of a map.

For example, land is shown in shades of green, and sometimes colour is used to show the height of the land. High mountains are sometimes coloured in brown. Similarly, water is shown in shades of blue, and rivers are normally shown as squiggly blue lines.

Mapmaking is not easy as mapmakers need to learn about the size and shape of the earth, and also need to know how to calculate the distance between two points on the earth’s surface. Around the 17th Century, mapmakers made accurate measurement with the help of a measuring technique called triangulation (A method which determines a particular location using the location of other things). The maps and map making techniques we use today descend from the maps and technique of the ancient Greeks.

Oceanographers also make maps of the rocky ocean floors. In order to make a map of the ocean floor, scientists must measure the depth of the water. Things become easy where water is shallow, but measuring gets very difficult when the water is many kilometres deep, like in the middle of the big oceans. Therefore, the scientists have to use electronic machines to send waves of sound to the ocean floor. Scientists can work out the depth of the water when the sound bounces back like an echo!

Today people mostly use digital maps. Digital maps are a collection of data put together and formatted into a virtual image. These maps  give accurate representations of a particular area. They also allow the calculation of distances from once place to another. Digital mapping such as Google Earth can be found in a variety of computer applications. The main use of these maps is with the Global Positioning System, or GPS satellite network, widely used by people today to travel to unknown places.

map making


The earliest known maps are not of the earth but of the heavens! 
The word map comes from the medieval Latin Mappa mundiMappa meant 'napkin' or cloth and mundi 'the world'. 

Now that we have learnt about how maps are drawn, can you tell us what mapmakers are called?

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Answers (3)
Congratulations to all the people who answered correctly!
  • Mrs. Shama Bose, 40 years
  • Miss Anchal Sharma, 15 years
  • Miss Kriti Gulati, 16 years

TEAM EXPLORE:  Mapmakers are called Cartographers. Cartographers gather geographic information from various sources like aerial photographs (photos taken from high up), survey data, satellite systems etc. to draw maps. Cartography is the art and science of mapmaking, and has been an important part of the human history. The ancient Greeks and Romans were the first ones to create maps. Portuguese cartographer, Diogo Ribeiro, is known to have made the first scientific world map....

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