Archive for Natural Earth

Natural Earth Vector is here!

Posted in Data, Neogeography with tags on December 3, 2009 by hansvandermaarel

Those of you who follow the cartographic news will undoubtedly have heard of this already, but Natural Earth Vector has finally been released. This is a royalty-free vector dataset for the entire world at scales 1:10M, 1:50M and 1:110M. Existing datasets tend to be way too detailed for these scale levels (VMAP0, for example, is meant for scale 1:1M… OpenStreetmap is aimed at even smaller scales).

Many volunteers (including yours truly) have put in a lot of time and effort to create this dataset. Many thanks to everybody who contributed.

If you want to take a look at the data, please visit

NACIS 2009 – Practical Cartography Day

Posted in Mac, Maps with tags , , , , on October 8, 2009 by hansvandermaarel

This year’s Practical Cartography Day at the NACIS conference in Sacramento, California, was quite interesting. The three presentations that I personally thought were the most useful were, in no particular order:

  • Tom Patterson and Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso who were speaking of the upcoming Natural Earth Vector dataset. I like this one a lot because I was one of the volunteers who worked on it, but also because in the past I’ve had to deal with the issues of combining datasets with differing accuracies and levels of generalisation.
  • Jill Saligoe-Simmel of Mapdiva was speaking about Ortelius, desktop mapping software specifically for Mac and designed by cartographers. I’m not sure whether I’ll be making much use of it myself, seeing how much energy I’ve invested in learning Illustrator and MAPublisher, but some of its features are just pure genius. The Linear Select feature, to insert a bridge on a road, is a prime example of that.
  • David Heyman of Axis Maps did a presentation on their online map tool Indiemapper, which even takes away the need to have software installed on a local machine. Very interesting work and I can’t wait to give that a try myself.

As usual there is a poster session with a number of very cool map designs, great to browse through and talk to the cartographers.

Natural Earth Vector

Posted in Data, FME with tags , , on July 16, 2009 by hansvandermaarel

Ever since Tom Patterson started offering Natural Earth, a public domain raster dataset of the entire Earth, I’ve been a big fan of it. In fact, the base layer for the Oolaalaa globes is based on Natural Earth I (with added bathymetry and increased contrast).

After releasing 3 raster datasets this way, Tom has recently teamed up with Nathaniel V. Kelso to create a vector product that also will be released into the public domain: Natural Earth Vector. Nathaniel has invited me to participate in this as well, and to be honest I think it’s a wonderful project. So far I’ve been involved in extracting road data from OpenStreetmap and identifying rivers in Europe.

Processing the OpenStreetmap data, using FME, reinforced my slight aversion of XML/GML based data. When downloading the data, you have the option of getting the .osm data, which is in an XML format, or shapefiles. FME does support the .osm format, but processing the files takes a terrible amount of time. Processing the shapefiles for Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and South America, just filtering out the major highways, takes about 11 minutes. I don’t dare to do that with the .osm data, but I fear it may take days. It’s nice that XML is so open and free, but for large amounts of data it’s simply unsuitable.

Anyway, to get back to Natural Earth Vector, it will be officially unveiled at the NACIS conference in Sacramento this october and I for one am looking very much forward to that.

New header

Posted in Maps with tags , , , on March 25, 2008 by hansvandermaarel

Spent some time trying to get this custom image header thing working, because I really wanted to show something map-related on it. Finally settled on this.

The little strip of map at the bottom comes from the globe that I’ve produced for Oolaalaa. Background data used on that one is Tom Patterson’s Natural Earth, in a high-contrast version. Oolaalaa globe

There’s some more information on the production process available in my portfolio. I’m also hoping I can write an article for an English-language geo-magazine about it somewhere in the not-too-distant future. A Dutch article has already been written and was published last year in Geo-Info.

Just found this video of the globe chair in action… 🙂