These past few weeks, in those times when I should have been working on my novel (when should I not be working on my novel? Not now), I have been working on the map you see below. This is actually grouped together from four files, in order to give a sense of dimension - which explains some of the roughness of its edges and the repeat in labelling. I don't label my maps that extensively, since real maps serve to tell me what the places are ... so I ask your forgiveness. Go ahead and compare the map with one from the real world if you like.
This is a section of the Arctic coastline, from the White Sea on the west to nearly the Yenisey River delta on the east. The narrow island in the middle is Novaya Zemlya, dividing the Barents Sea on the west from the Kara Sea on the east. The Barents is ice free for much of the year, affected by the northern extension of the Gulf current; though much of what's shown on this map does freeze over, particularly as one moves towards the eastern shores. The Kara Sea has traditionally been frozen over from mid-October to the following early July (lately, it has been open four months of the year, given as one of the signs of global warming). The Kara is highly populated by whales during those short summers, as there is an explosion of krill that follows the opening of the cold waters. Whalers must get to the inlet between the land and Novaya Zemlya by the beginning of July and plunder the waters before they're frozen over.
A few notes: grey hexes are uninhabitable tundra, mostly freestone and summer lichens. Sea-green hexes are bog and muskeg. Purple hexes are undifferentiated highlands, equally uninhabitable due to severe cold. Forest green hexes indicate habitable lands, mostly supported by fishing. Hexes have a 20 mile diameter.
This is a part of the world for which it is difficult to get good maps. They are available on line, but not in the scale of this map, which like all my maps was plotted by latitude and longitude ... letting me get an excellent view of the map as it develops beneath my fingers.
For me, this is the real fascination in making these maps: the opportunity to go somewhere I've never been, in high detail. After a few weeks of roaming over the mountains, up and down the river valleys and over the vast wildernesses, I feel on some level as though I had taken a vacation.
It wouldn't be a very comfortable place. My world's inhabitants of this area don't amount to more than about 20,000 humanoids, most of them gnolls (Yak'Margug) and goblins (Biyetia). I call the island in the middle 'Jotunheim' in reference to the land of the frost giants - I felt this was a perfect land for them. I estimate their population at over 500 ... scattered into the eight settlements shown. My players at present have no idea this place even exists - but then, how many are remotely aware this part of the world exists?