When I was a kid, I loved looking at maps.
I still do, especially aerial photos, which are basically maps in real life.
Back in the 70’s, satellite photos were rare. It was a big deal to see a handful of them in a National Geographic issue.
Now Google Earth has super high resolution photos of pretty much everywhere.
Now I’m like a kid in a candy store. Google Earth has been out for almost a decade, but it still fascinates me.
Here are some random things I found, in no particular order.
Take this golf course in Vegas, for example.
If you zoom in on one of the greens, you can actually see the individual flag at the hole. This is a resolution of ~ 6 inches.
Here’s another photo I randomly found, somewhere in Minnesota. In this case, the lighting is at just the right angle where you can actually see the individual phone lines!
This is a resolution of literally 1-2 inches.
If this is what’s available to the general public, I can just imagine what the government has access to.
You hear urban legends of militiary satellites being able to read a newspaper headline from orbit.
I almost believe it.
Another thing that fascinates me…is how humans have been EVERYWHERE.
Take northern tip of Quebec, around Ungava Bay. This is about as remote as you can get in continental North America.
Yet each little icon represents a photograph where someone has been…either kayaking, or exploring, or part of a geological survey, etc.
Basically, there are very few unexplored places left on this planet.
Not only have people been there, but they’ve settled there. Long enough to leave a cemetery, for example.
Just think…for whatever reason, someone had taken the trouble to drag heavy tombstones and build a cemetery on this God-forsaken coast. What an effort that must have taken.
If you randomly follow the Arctic Coast, sooner or later, after miles of nothingness, you’ll come across a village of some kind.
Chesterfield Inlet, for example. Originally a Hudson’s Bay post, according to Wikipedia, it has a population 322.
With pre-fabricated houses and an airfield and everything.
Again, I can’t imagine the money and resources it took to ship all this infrastructure up here, in order to build a village for a few hundred people.
Now heading further south. When we think about Nevada, we tend to think about hot and dry desert, but not snow and ice.
Yet Nevada actually does have a glacier.
One: on Wheeler Peak, at about 11,000 feet.
One of the more famous glaciers in Alberta is the Athabasca Glacier. It’s quite large: at least half a mile wide, and several miles along.
You can see it from the highway. It’s commonly (though incorrectly) referred to as “The Columbia Ice fields”.
But if you look at it from above, the Athabasca Glacier forms only a tiny part of the actual Columbia Icefield. Most people don’t realize this.
Here’s the border of Yellowstone National Park. You can literally see the Park boundary from space, where the clear cutting has stopped.
More evidence of clear-cutting is around the Redwood National Park in Northern California, with the tree-line perfectly matching the Google Map version.
The Great Plains fascinate me. They’re all pretty flat…but I found the flattest table-top sections are in Iowa.
It’s very rectilinear, with all the roads running East/West and North/South, and the towns as grey dots forming larger rectangles. This is the only place on the continent where the roads are laid out in squares like this, over such a huge area.
If you zoom in, you can see each grid square more clearly.
Zooming in even further, it turns out one of these square is 1 mile across and contains one or two farms.
Hard to imagine that not that long ago, this was virgin tallgrass prairie where buffalo roamed and Indians hunted. Iowa didn’t’ start to get settled until around 1830.
But now, less than 200 years later, pretty much every squire mile of land has been parceled off.
What was once endless plains, has now been divided into thousands and thousands of farms, with basically NO wilderness left.
Which kinda makes me sad.
Southwestern Ontario isn’t much better. It has its own grid square pattern of farm land, which also used to be forest. The little green stripes are the remaining bit of trees left that each farmer left on the “back forty”.
You do get some forests: small islands of trees surrounded by farmland and towns, called “Conservation Areas”.
Which you have to pay to go into. Just for the privilege of walking in the woods. (Used to drive me nuts when I lived in Hamilton).
The farms in Quebec are different. They’re long and narrow. This comes from the Seigneurial System, which is how they allocated land to settlers back in the 1600’s when this area was known as “New France”.
This is just on the outskirts of Montreal. The three green areas are mountains (extinct volcanoes, actually), which are the only areas left forested.
On the other hand, there are still lots of unspoiled places left. Take Pukaskwa National Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior, for example. There’s about 80 miles of shoreline with no road access.
Apparently this is this is the longest undeveloped freshwater shoreline in the world.
I think that’ pretty cool, for being within 1 days drive of Toronto or Detroit.
Heading into Nebraska, you can really see the how dry it is West of the Mississippi.
Compared to Northern Ontario, which has a bazillion lakes and water is not a problem.
One of the lake-iest regions I’ve found is the Mackenzie River Delta in the Northwest Territories. Imagine crashing your plane here and trying to find your way out.
In the Southwest, they have a “reverse tree line”, where it’s sand and desert, and the trees don’t start until you get up to higher altitude.
Here’s the Mount Lemon area near Tuscon Arizona. The island of green starts as you head up the mountains.
I’ve been there in real life. You start driving through sand and cactus, but when you get to the top at about 8700 feet, there’s a lush pine forest and it feels like British Columbia.
There’s even a ski hill. Mt. Lemon is the most southern ski resort in the U.S. and is only 75 miles from the Mexican border as the crow flies.
Another thing I’m amazed at with Google Earth, is how accurate the 3-D maps are.
Take Mount Washington in New Hampshire, for example.
If you rotate the map, you can put yourself on the top of Tuckerman’s Ravine, overlooking Wildcat Ski Resort across the valley.
This compares quite well to the real-life photo I took while hiking there a few years ago.
Pretty accurate !!!
Anyway, that’s about it for now.
I might have more map excursions later.