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Mapping the Reserve, Day 4

Conditions have not been great for conducting a survey, heat smoke, and now the local peoples are carrying out some sort of construction project. But it’s been a great time to get some practice in, sighting horizontal distances! There’s some math involved, but it’s actually very simple and requires only one formula. Using an astrolabe …

Mapping the Reserve, Day 3

That’s right! One of the reasons why maps looked so wild in the medieval era, is that science was sort of on pause. The gaps in knowledge were often filled with reports from sailors or whatever the cartographer could imagine a place would look like. Even toward the end of the century, when measurement tools …

The Math

I know. I’m supposed to be making a new astrolabe. And I will! I may not need it just yet, if I can grab some bamboo poles… but we’ll get back to that next time. I was running calculations though, and wondered… what was running calculations like in the 15th century? This was the end …

Mapping the Reserve, Day 2

Day 2 became days 3, 4, 5… I’ve learned a lot about this tiny patch of green over the past few weeks! There seems to be a weird Bermuda Triangle situation going on with part of the trail. All of my compasses go wacky, and I have to start over. Furthermore, since I can’t pin …

Mapping the Reserve, Day 1

Heading out on the first clear day, I thought it would be wise to take the whole area first, staking out the boundary lines. I started on one edge, and picked out a defined marker, as the forest seemed to stretch on wildly beyond that point. I used a method of measuring by gait, where …

Mapping Tools, Part 3: The Astrolabe

My next two tools have to do with measurement! When you do official land measurement, it’s important to use pre-measured chains or ropes that you can lay down evenly. For informal mapping though, it’s easy enough to either use a pre-measured length of rope OR… The power of feet! I actually measured my gait by walking …

Mapping Tools, Part 2: The Compass

On my mapping adventure, the compass is the real star of the surveying show! With a compass you can: – Find horizontal angles (super important) – Calculate which direction you’re facing – With an extra-fancy compass, you can also measure vertical angles accurately, so you can find elevations (the height of a feature) or even …

Mapping Tools, Part 1: The Notebook

I wanted to start this series with the single-most important tool for surveying an area and making a map. My first thought was the compass, but on second thought, the most important tool of all is… well, the most “boring:” The notebook. Especially important in the early days of mapping, the log book contained all …

What Do I Need? – Mapping Adventures

Beginning my quest to map a local nature reserve with pre-1500s mapping tools (learn more here), the first hurdle is figuring out exactly what I need. The first step is to figure out how areas were mapped in the 15th century. Really, you just pick a starting point, measure the angle and distance to another …