Saturday, October 29, 2016

3/4 of Britain

Woah.  I spent WAY too long working on that British map.  Here's a teaser of what it looks like now (Google Drive has been updated):

As a matter of bad luck, Britain spreads over four different map
plates, each 30-34 hexes wide and 35 hexes high.  This is the south-
west corner of the four maps.  Later, when all of these are done,
I'll put them together; they overlap as needed to form a single
complete map of anywhere.

Counting from the point where I began plotting cities last Wednesday, adding the borders, figuring out the location of the rivers, adjusting elevations, filling in the sea coast and finally coloring the elevation hexes, I count 17 hours of work for just this map.  That doesn't include plotting in the coastlines and lakes, which was work already done before Wednesday.  I have a measure for the amount of work, because I started listening to Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, which is posted in three six-hour parts on youtube.  I finished the above just one hour short of finishing the third part.

Mapmaking takes a long time; yet while I'm doing it, time flies by.  The above map, it should be evident, is a complicated arrangement of tiny states and provinces, a highly indented coastline, hundreds of cities (which also means carefully fitting in all the labeling so that the whole is difficult to read) and rivers that have to be "just so" since this is Britain and people know it very well.  It would be okay with people if I made an error and the Lena River in Siberia jogged the wrong way before reaching the city of Aldan in Yakutsk (face it, most of you have no idea what I'm talking about), but the Thames better damn well pass through Oxford and Reading as realistically as possible.  This meant a lot of fiddling with river bends and turns, the shape of counties and double-checking more than one of the elevations (as I found out in several instances that my original source, fallingrain, had very second-rate data for England).

And yet there is no way to be happy with the map as shown.  Twenty-mile hexes for England are simply too BIG for England.  For instance, there's a big mound of hills between Manchester and Leeds, reaching from Halifax at the top of the map down into Derbyshire county ~ the Peak District ~ that doesn't show up on the map at all because it just 10 to 20 kilometers in diameter.  Because I use the lowest elevation in any hex with a city in it, and because the Peak District is packed on both fringes with cities ~ really big cities in modern times ~ the highland (which rises above 600 meters or 2,000 feet) simply evaporates from the map.  England is such a densely populated place with a complex topography (though the hills are relatively low to mountains in other parts of the world) that a proper hex map ought to be 6-mile hexes at the most to properly convey the look of the land.

I had similar problems with the Low Countries, Switzerland and Denmark.  I suppose at some point I could make a 6-mile hex map of each of these regions but, well, let's be reasonable.  Such a thing is something that would happen only in my dreams.  As it is, I'm not going to finish the 20-mile map of the world.

I do have one small corner of England left to do ~ but it isn't as many hexes as this.  It is probably about 1/5th the work of the above.  And when it is done, I will be glad.  There isn't any other part of the world that's left (with perhaps the exception of New England in the United States) that will require this level of research, this level of second guessing the sources, this level of city-planting or this level of overall diligence in making sure that it's close to right.  Comparatively, the rest of the world is a cinch.  With Europe done (all except for the Faeroes, Spitzbergen and Iceland), I'm looking at working on places where it takes much less effort to map a mere 300,000 square miles.

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