Labor Day at the shore has me thinking about the timeless appeal of maps. Why do we even still have them despite the existence of Google Earth, Mapquest, Waze and countless GPS programs? Are we truly that lost? Or is the simple, accessible 2-dimensional abstract rendering of a complex, not-so-easily-grasped 3-dimensional reality still a seductive pleasure to hold and absorb. A steadying influence in turbulent times. It can describe a very familiar place or an exotic locale that you’ve never been to and might never get to see. Both extremes and the whole range in between make up the realm of “maps”. Even in a world awash in detailed information about virtually every place, the appeal of a static, frozen-in-time image has not yet been made obsolete. The serene comfort of contemplating a map, including sharing in all the decisions the mapmaker made in rendering it, is a timeless pleasure, much like reading, which is defying modern obsolescence. Pick up a map, stare at it, and be transported to another place. Give your imagination a free rein. Go and return as many times as you please. The original “cheap thrill”! Make a map part of your familiar environment. You’ll be richer for the experience.
I’m very excited to be able to report that my most recent map projects, two different maps of South Carolina, are finally ready to be viewed. Due to a variety of complications, it took much longer than I had hoped to get these completed, but I think they are worth the wait.
The first one, along with 3 previously issued maps, completes my representation of the entire coastline of the state. This map picks up at Winyah Bay, below Pawleys Island, and goes all the way to the North Carolina border. At its center is Myrtle Beach and the whole Grand Strand and it includes Murrells Inlet, North Myrtle Beach and many other seaside towns, as well as Georgetown and Conway. Where the earlier maps revolved about the Sea Isles, this one really focuses on the beach culture that many vacationers are most familiar with. It should resonate with a lot of great memories and good times.
The second one is a very different kind of map and one I really enjoyed researching and executing. It is a companion to a map that came out last year and covers the same area, Charleston to Edisto Island, depicting the time around the late part of the 19th Century. I’ve done such historical maps before and I’ve always found the comparisons to present day to be fascinating and enlightening. The land forms are recognizable, but the changes that happen to a place over a 100+ years are very obvious. Besides the landmarks such as the important forts and great houses, of which I’ve included a number of vignette sketches around the map borders, the overall much more rural aspect of the Lowcountry is striking. Many fewer roads and the importance of the railroad are all quite evident. The shoreline is familiar but much shifting has occurred. And, of course, Charleston itself is a lot smaller city. I find looking at the past and present side-by-side to be both inspiring and humbling.
So, I hope you’ll find checking these out as enjoyable an experience as I’ve had making them.
As I’ve worked through the entire coast of the state and corresponded with many enthusiastic residents who’ve made purchases from the first group of maps that I issued, I’ve really grown in my appreciation of the varied history of the area. While almost anyone with a little knowledge of US history knows something about Charleston and Fort Sumter, this really only begins to scratch the surface. As numerous folk have generously pointed out to me, there’s really a lot to explore throughout the coastal areas, such as Sullivan and Edisto Islands with their forts, plantations and dramatic natural features, and people are still actively connected to this past and want to share what they know. And, despite quite a lot of material on the subject being available, beautiful and comprehensive visual representations of the context, such as what I strive for in my maps, are not nearly as prevalent. Similar to a then-and-now map comparison that I did a number of years ago of an island in New Jersey, when I physically started to compare the same areas roughly 100 years apart, the dramatic differences that have resulted from major events as well as coastal actions, become very apparent. Wind and water, along with man-made activities, contributed strongly to significant shifts of land, rivers, coastlines and structures. I’ve become thoroughly engrossed in the choices involved in “getting it right” as well as wanting to authentically represent these areas of the late 19th Century in a way that will resonate for the people who are still connected to it, as well as for anyone else who may just decide to investigate it. Like my other historic map, it takes longer to pull together, as properly doing justice to the trove of information is not just a matter of checking it with an atlas. Historic documents often conflict with one another and the standards of exactness vary broadly over time. Still, I’m quite pleased with how it’s coming along and I feel like I’ve learned a lot about an area that, although I was aware of, was not really very familiar. It has been anything but tedious and I hope to complete the map in the coming months, but I’ll surely have a tinge of sadness for the end of the exploration. Hopefully others will get a share of these feelings when they see the result. Keep a lookout for the South Carolina Historic Coastal Map.
As a resident of the Jersey Shore and an ardent mapmaker, it is almost inevitable that I’d be interested in its history. So it was especially intriguing for me when, a few years ago, a local acquaintance started talking up the Shark History of the area. Several excellent books were recommended, “12 Days of Terror” and “Close to Shore”, which describe the singular Shark Attack events of the Summer of 1916.
It was so engrossing, almost too hard to fathom, that I was inspired to make a “Summer of Blood” Shark Attack Map which depicted all of the locales from the first attack in Beach Haven, LBI north to the last ones in the Matawan Creek. It was fun and enlightening to illustrate the series of attacks which became the eventual backstory for JAWS. Now, the 100th Anniversary of these grizzly attacks has arrived. Nothing like them has happened before or since, so those 12 days in early July remain unique and continue to pique our imaginations.
Imagine the start of an especially hot summer; polio is rampant in the cities; President Wilson relocates the Summer White House near Sea Girt; the world press is gathered at the Jersey Shore; the US is about to enter World War I; German U-boats patrol off the coast. And then sharks start attacking swimmers! This confluence of events and the ensuing frenzy were almost too much to imagine. How could anyone with a pulse not be fascinated by the daily reports? Steven Spielberg certainly thought so. And now, 100 years later, we look back and rekindle that same fascination all over again. There were never any final explanations or resolutions. Why did these attacks happen and could they happen again? Clearly our interest in sharks continues to grow. The ocean is an endless source of mystery and wonder.
Why bother to map the entire Chesapeake Bay, you may ask? The answer is a bit like the old cliché joke, “because it’s there”. This enormous inland body of water, spanning substantial parts of Maryland and Virginia, has so many iconic connections to East Coast lives as well as the United States’ history, that it begs the question. As my interest in Coastal Art Maps specifically focuses on interesting situations where land and water meet, depiction of this great sand-bottomed sea presented nearly limitless opportunities to explore those interests, resulting in a series of 10 maps to achieve a scale that would do it justice. Big cities, historic towns, classic seaports, islands and marshes, bridges and harbors, dots its entire 150 mile length. Naturalists, boaters, hunters and fishermen, historic naval and merchant sailors; they have all plied the Bay. Baltimore and Annapolis, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, the James and York Rivers, Hampton Roads and Cobb Bay. All names that resonate in our subconscious and conjure images of seafarers are their adventures. Is the Chesapeake not endlessly fascinating? Why indeed!
We are proud to announce the release of the second of three collections of the entire Chesapeake Bay and surrounding area, depicting the iconic inland sea which spans some 150 miles north-to-south, in Maryland and Virginia. This group completes the Maryland part and the final group, due out later this year, will encompass the entire Virginia portion. It is a big undertaking but really provides a comprehensive look at the most significant body of water on the east coast of the US. Studying this complex, diverse area has provided me a really challenging and rewarding task and we are really pleased with the results. Viewing each map singly or as a group gives a really clear understanding of the contrasting land-water relationships that make up this immensely popular area of the mid-Atlantic region.
These maps are part of Coastal Art Maps’ growing oeuvre of hand-drawn, water-colored maps that encompass a significant portion of the east coast from Massachusetts to Florida. These unique, detailed art pieces offer a valuable perspective on one of man’s enduring pursuits of knowledge. This ageless love of maps; representing the attempt to master the 3-dimensional world in a 2-dimensional document, continues to fascinate despite the fact that the entire world is at our fingertips through electronic media. These viscerally satisfying, accurate cartographic documents, displaying the endless variety of where the land and water meet, allow us a bird’s-eye view of familiar locales while fostering an understanding of their place in the larger geography of the country and world. These keepsakes offer equal pleasure for both the expert collector and the casual novice, as well as for anyone who enjoys the seashore and its natural wonders. I look forward to sharing this experience with all who join me in the enjoyable task of mapping our surroundings.
As I sit here on the eve of the first day of Spring, watching the snow fall, I’m reflecting on the choice of this year’s maps. As the dregs of winter provide some of my most productive periods of sustained work, two new maps are rounding into finished form. Similar to those of the Florida Keys, these maps reflect suggestions/requests from some of my correspondents and also respond to some visceral “aha” moment in my own head. Still a bit of self-reflection on why Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard resonated for me seems appropriate.
These iconic New England island islands are rife with history, both from the country’s earliest days and more recent. Beautifully sited south of the Massachusetts/Cape Cod coastline, they face out to the Atlantic Ocean and have launched thousands of ships from their well-protected harbors. Long at the center of the lucrative whaling industry, the islands were home to industrious and prosperous sea-farers and their related supporting groups. While whaling has long ago ceased as an activity, the idyllic qualities and prime location of these isles has continued to attract a truly American mix of A-list celebrities and politicians who seamlessly mesh with the regular folks who give these places their pulse. These discreet summer retreats, even for a number of US presidents, provide such enjoyable activities in a maritime setting that is quite removed from day-to-day drudgery yet easily reached by plane and boat.
I guess I want to visit again soon…and mapping is the next best thing!