March 24 sees the UK film release of Lost City of Z. It chronicles the South American adventures of British explorer, cartographer and archaeologist Lt Colonel Percy Fawcett. I joined a panel discussion in London last week, along with historian Dan Snow and Lost City of Z author David Grann, discussing how Percy would have explored and mapped a new land. Catch up on the podcast here.
A member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), Percy Fawcett first arrived in South American in 1906 to survey and map an area of jungle lying on the Brazil and Bolivian border. The border between the two countries was not fully mapped and it was agreed that an RGS survey and map would be accepted as an impartial representation of the border. Today we would complete this activity using satellite systems and sophisticated surveying technology, which obviously wasn’t available back then. So, how would Percy and his team have gone about making maps?
Guest blog by Andy Ryan, Senior Technical Product Manager
When I go somewhere new, I usually look up a map (OS of course) before I go. I’m not quite sure why I do, but it’s a habit of mine which my children tease me about. In the world of business, when location is involved then you probably do the same, often without realising it. Using a sat nav to route a delivery van, ascertaining if a house you want to buy is on a flood plain, reviewing a site for a new development, or planning some underground pipe replacement all involve ‘maps’. But what if the map was blank or only partially complete, or you had to ask lots of other different people to send you bits of information that you had to stick together and even then you were not quite sure if it was complete?
When you need to work under the ground this is how it can feel. Lots of organisations have information, but it can be hard to share the information quickly and to common standards. This creates delays, unanticipated disruptions, extra costs and danger to those working in these areas. This is a widely recognised problem and the direct costs to the UK of accidental damage to utilities alone has been estimated at £150 million, with associated indirect costs, such as traffic disruption, of ten times this*. If other potential costs or savings are factored in, for example assessing the potential of brownfield sites, identifying infrastructure at risk from subsidence or tree roots, then the benefits of a map that includes what lies below ground increases significantly. The Treasury estimate that greater cross-sector collaboration with infrastructure networks across GB could save the economy £3 billion#.
It’s not every day that we add a whale to our maps, but surveyor Shaun McGrath did recently…
I first became aware of the Colonsay Whale some time after a visit to the Isle of Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides last year, on a particularly fine day trip to carry out some survey work. It’s a long day as the ferry sets off around 9.30 am from Islay where I was working on detached duty and returns around 7.30 pm. I had plenty of time to get the survey work done and it left me a little spare time to explore the island’s fine sandy beaches before the return ferry. I visited Kiloran Bay in the north, as recommended by the occupants of a house I had surveyed earlier that day. They also said that there was an even finer beach further north, but it was only accessible by foot and would have added a couple of hours to my trip – and made me miss the ferry.
Our surveyors are usually local to the areas they survey and this was the case for Andy Caulfield when he was mapping the new Tadcaster Bridge. The bridge partially collapsed in the aftermath of the Boxing Day storms in 2015, impacting local residents and businesses for the next 14 months while repairs were carried out. Many, like Andy, will have seen an 11-mile detour added to their days and are welcoming the reopening of the bridge.
One of the joys of working for OS is that you get asked to give authoritative answers to all sorts of geographic questions. ‘Classic’ questions such as how long is the coastline of Great Britain? often crop up. Which, if you read our recent blog on which English county has the longest coastline, you’ll know isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. Often, seemingly simple questions have no definitive solution. For me that doesn’t matter. The joy comes from thinking through the problem to come up with the best answer possible.
The coastline question reminded me of a problem I tried to tackle myself last year. Listening to a news story on the radio, it described “27 million households across the country”. Over the next 48 hours the story was repeated across a broad selection of media outlets and every time the same statistic came up. After mulling on this for a while I decided I didn’t like this number. It’s too imprecise. So, I decided to delve a little further and try and work out a more accurate number for myself.
With news that Lover (Wiltshire) had created a pop-up Post Office for romantics to get their Valentine’s cards stamped ‘Posted at Lover’, is it now the most romantic place in Britain?
A quick search of our database reveals that the country is blossoming with plenty of places for budding romantics to confess their love on Valentine’s Day. We’ve mapped out some of our favourites in this OS OpenSpace map.
We’re heading to London on Friday to take part in a celebration of all things map, geo and cartographic at the British Library’s evening bash. And we’ve already blogged about the Tower of London being a former home to OS. Today we take a look at the staggering amount of change taking place in London, that our surveying team need to capture on foot and from the air.
Our surveyors and aircraft are constantly tracking the changing look of Britain and ensuring the 450 million geographic features in our database of the country are kept up to date. What do all the changes to London, its roads, its rail, its buildings look like over the last 10 years? Take a look in our video and find out:
Peter Capaldi will be back for his final series as the twelfth Doctor this Easter and media speculation (and betting) on the new Doctor Who reminded us of our OS OpenSpace Tardis map*. We decided to add a new dimension for 2017, marking the location of the birthplaces** of the 12 actors to play the Doctor so far, as well as the 73 Tardis dotted around Britain. Would it reveal a Doctor hotspot and help identify the thirteenth Doctor?
We found that 25% of Doctors hail from Scotland with the remaining 75% being born in England – so is it time for a Welsh Doctor to hit our screens? Or will Scotland continue to attract Doctors due to the huge number of Tardis in the country?
In this two-part article, I want to show organisations how to go about creating a location data strategy. The business operations of many organisations revolve around location. Whether you are thinking about your supply chain, asset location or customer address, location affects everything.
In part one, I looked at how you could express your business objectives in terms of location and what questions you should ask to frame a strategy. In this second part, I move on to describe some of the practical steps you can take to move your strategy forward.
Decide how to join the location data back to your addresses
When I wrote about ‘Why you need an address master data management strategy’, I highlighted how organisations could gain better control of the address data they hold. There are many reasons why you would want to do this; better addresses can streamline operations, reduce errors and waste and even lead to new business opportunities.
For many organisations, their main activity is reliant on location, which is often expressed as an address. A delivery company needs to find an address to deliver goods; a mortgage lender wants to value the property found there; a utility company needs to deliver underground services there; an insurer wants to know the risks surrounding it. An address by itself cannot tell you any of this, but it can be used to unlock other location data.
Organisations who want to gain advantage by using location data should take a structured approach and start by creating a location data strategy. In this two-part article, I’ll explain the steps you need to take to get started.