Sonntag, 21. Dezember 2008

lost corners of our planet

16 degrees, 17 minutes, 56 seconds south and 36 degrees, 23 minutes, 44 seconds east.

The coordinates of one of the last 'unmapped' regions of the world. The forest of Mount Mabu was 'discovered' in 2005 by a team of British scientists. They made the discovery using satellite images from google earth, which for me raises the question of whether the region can really be defined as unmapped. Certainly, it was only very recently that Western scientists first explored the area, classifying new species and raising their fathers' flags along the way, but essentially they just found the X on the treasure map, rather than drawing the map itself.

The rocky landscapes below the Antarctic Ice, the trenches and ridges on the ocean floor, the lost valleys of the Himalayas, the ancient catacombs beneath our modern cities, the new shortcut to the bus stop through the trimmed hedge, there are plenty of maps yet to be drawn of the lost corners of our world, but none of those corners remain truly unmapped.

It was 40 years ago this christmas that astronauts in search of the moon first 'discovered' the earth, capturing the first images of the earth (or at least half of it) in its entirety. Maps are abstract representations, 2D renderings of 3D space. The proliferation of satellite imagery and other forms of remote viewing have provided us with an accurate abstraction of the entire planet, most of it in high resolution. To map new lands we'll have to move to another planet, it's mapping old lands in new ways that offers the most opportunity to the modern day intrepid explorer.

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