Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Great Salt Lake

In his book, How to Lie with Maps, Mark Monmonier discusses "cartographic agendas", and how, in the 1960s, the United States Geological Survey finally started removing racial slurs from place names (such as "Nigger Creek"). Almost as an aside, he mentions this little quirk about USGS topographic maps:
While liberals wring their hands over the mapmaker's do-it-by-the-book intransigence over racial slurs, fiscal conservatives might object with equal vigor to the perfectly executed, largely blue maps of wholly inundated quadrangles in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. A case in point is the Rozel Point SW, Utah, 7.5-minute quadrangle, which derives its name from a land feature on the next row up, one sheet to the right. Except for the titles, grid lines, and marginal notations similar to those on maps of Fresno and Kalamazoo, the 1:24,000 Rozel Point SW sheet is a featureless light-blue rectangle adorned only by a note at the center

Utah: Index to topographic and other Map Coverage, USGS, National Mapping Program

At my library, we are a Federal Document Depository and we have a complete collection of United States 1:24,000 scale topographic maps. As you can see by the index example above, the entire nation is divided into a grid. Each grid rectangle is a named map. Intrigued by Monmonier's story, I had to see for myself. I pulled out the Rozel Point SW sheet and here it is (right). A big blue blank. The only information to be found on this map is the name of the body of water, and its elevation (below).
(Sorry for the poor image... I need a better camera.)

Bureacracy beats commons sense every time...

But, I wonder... does the USGS know something we don't know? Perhaps Rozel Point SW is a place holder for a future map... After global warming...

The graphic to the right, from Commonly Asked Questions About Utah's Great Salt Lake (Utah Geological Survey), illustrates how the water level of the Great Salt Lake has fluctuated over the years.

Perhaps the USGS has topographic maps of the "Rozel Point Salt Flats" ready for the day that the Great Salt Lake dries up...

UPDATE 2/6: "jesssse" reminds me that the earthwork sculpture "Spriral Jetty" is located at the actual Rozel Point (grid coordinate D6). Constructed in 1970, it was built of mud, salt crystals, basalt rocks, earth, and water. The Spriral Jetty has been in the news lately; threatened by a wildcat oil operation on the Great Salt Lake.

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At Wednesday, February 06, 2008 , Blogger jesssse said...

the spiral jetty is at the actual rozel point.

At Wednesday, February 06, 2008 , Blogger Cartophiliac said...

jesssse, thanks for the reminder. I was just reading about this the other day, and did not make the connection as I wrote my post last night.

At Thursday, February 07, 2008 , Blogger Michael5000 said...

Great story; thanks for digging up that quad for us!

Thanks too for the image of Spiral Jetty. Scattered a friend's ashes near there a few years back, so it brings up pretty powerful memories....


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