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GPS Systems - GPS Notes

Posted in Product Reviews on November 1, 2001
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Skip Baker is a longtime contributor to 4WDSU as well as a longtime trail acquaintance. He asked me one day for a list of books he could study so that he might better use topographic maps and his new GPS. And then it struck me. I didn't know of any such books. I acquired my interest in navigation in the marine environment. When I started off-roading, my interest in navigation followed. If you have learned to read a marine chart, it is not hard to read a topo map. So what to do? I asked around for help. With great thanks to the topo-techies at DeLorme Mapping and Maptech, I have come up with a reading list for those who wish to immerse themselves in matters topographic. This one is for Skip...

I have separated my selections into two groups. The first selection consists of textbooks on map creation and use. Admittedly, some of the material in these books is arcane. The second selection is a group of books that I think bring some insight, history, and fun to maps and navigation. Some might think all of this is overkill, and I won't disagree. However, for those who have a real interest in maps and land navigation but don't think they are getting all they can from their current map reading skills, this is your column.

The Tomes
Map Use - Reading, Analysis, Interpretation by Phillip C. Muehrcke, Juliana O. Muehrcke, and A. Jon Kimerling, and Elements of Cartography by Arthur H. Robinson, Joel L. Morrison, Phillip C. Muehrcke, A. Jon Kimerling, and Stephen C. Guptill are both college-level textbooks. As you might guess, they have much of the same information in them because they share two common authors.

I found Elements of Cartography to be the easier to read of the two texts. Some of the technical stuff was easier for me to understand than the same material in Map Use. Elements is an older text, last updated in 1995. Also, at least to my understanding, it incorrectly describes UTM nomenclature. The book describes UTM coordinates as having first an alphanumeric zone reference, then a two-letter 100,000-meter square identifier, then the 100,000-meter offset reference. The use of a two-letter square identifier refers to the Military Grid Reference System, not the Universal Transverse Mercator grid system.

Map Use is, I think, the better book from which to learn about maps and mapping and to use as a reference book later. If you were a boater, I would liken it to Chapman's Piloting and Bowditch's American Practical Navigator. The book is newer and therefore is current on GPS plotting systems, vector versus raster maps, electronic sources of topographic maps, and more. Reading it can be tough sledding, but you will learn a lot from it.

The Light Reading
The following titles will absolutely certify me as a wonk. I'm not apologetic, though. I like this stuff.

My favorite is Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. A 16-word title - you have to love it. Actually, this is a fun book that offers a mix of history, science, clock-making, and navigation theory in an interesting story. It's about a clock-maker and the hunt (and eventually a contest) to discover a way to find longitude at sea. If you like this book, you will never use UTM again. I have enjoyed the book so much, I've read it twice. If you plan to read any book mentioned here, read this one first.

Things Maps Don't Tell Us by Armin K. Lobeck has a subtitle of An Adventure into Map Interpretation. Adventure may be too strong a term, but the book is interesting. This short book is set up sort of like a game. The author first sets up a map interpretation problem in both words and maps. He later sets out an interpretive answer. Some of the problems are interesting. My biggest issue with the book is that the problems are about large geographic issues. I would have enjoyed a few examples of 7-1/2-minute quad questions.

Maps & Civilization, Cartography in Culture and Society by Norman J. W. Thrower. Look, any book about maps that uses cartography in the title is going to be a hard read. Actually, I enjoyed it, but then again, I like history. The book discusses the history of map-making and usage throughout history. If you really liked Longitude, I recommend Maps & Civilization.

So, there you have it. This is a winter's reading list that will knock you out like Rip van Winkle. I strongly recommend Longitude just for fun. If you are serious about map-making and interpretation, get Map Use - Reading, Analysis, Interpretation and read just the parts that interest you. Save the book as a reference. While all these books are available from their publishers, they are also available from Amazon.com, which, in some cases, has used copies for sale.

Next time, I'll share some tips on map use with your GPS to make map plotting a little easier.

Sources
Elements of Cartography by Arthur H. Robinson, Joel L. Morrison, Phillip C. Muehrcke,A. Jon Kimerling, & Stephen C. Guptill, Sixth Edition, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York ISBN: 0-471-55579-7 (Hardcover).

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel, Walker & Co. ISBN: 0-802-71312-2 (Hardcover) or Penguin USA ISBN: 0140258795 (Paperback). Also available in large print.

Maps & Civilization, Cartography in Culture and Society by Norman J. W. ThrowerSecond Edition. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0-226-79973-5 (Paperback).

Map Use - Reading, Analysis, Interpretation by Phillip C. Muehrcke, Juliana O. Muehrcke & A. Jon Kimerling, Revised Fourth Edition, JP Publications, Madison,Wisconsin 53744-4173 ISBN: 0-9602978-5-5 (Paperback).

Things Maps Don't Tell Us by Armin K. Lobeck. 1993 Edition. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 0-226-48877-2 (Paperback).

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