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Some of My Favorite Maps

Friday, February 5, 2016

I remember being a kid in the back seat of my parents car on a 10 hour jaunt to Indiana when I first discovered the joys of a Rand McNally Road Atlas. I used to keep track of our progress along the highway, but also trace routes to destinations I’d only heard of, and marvel at the complexity of inner city road systems. I think the experience was good for me as today I have a decent sense of direction. I also learned, years before driving myself, that odd numbered roads in the US typically run north and south, while even numbered roads run east and west. Later in life I learned to ignore all directional conventions when in southern New Jersey.

Most of the maps I use today aren’t as tactile as the old road atlas, but I still find maps educational and in some ways, inspirational, too. Here are a few places I keep bookmarked.


Wikimapia combines the the imagery and cartography of Google and Bing with peer-produced content ala Wikipedia. The older I get the more I’m interested in the history of the places I visit, and Wikimapia is starting point for location-based research. On my last trip I investigated the Canary Wharf district of London and tried to find out why the district is on a piece of land known as the Isle of Dogs, but there are only hypotheses about the etymology of the name. Canary Whaf in Wikimapia


A globe built with SVG and canvas elements provides a visualization of winds, weather systems, and ocean currents. Use the menu in the lower left to see everything from surface winds to ocean waves and jet steams including, at this time of year, the polar night jet.

Source code is available from Cameron Beccario on github.



A real-time flight tracker. Ideal for those situations when you want to know who is flying overhead



A real-time vessel tracker. Ideal for those situations when you want to know who is sailing nearby.



The weather map from the Weather Underground is the first map I check for weather conditions. Not only can you fill the map full of information, the web site itself doesn’t use terrifying headlines and bizarre ads like some other weather sites.

Weather Undergrounds Wundermap