MAPS - Michael Sherer

I grew up with maps. Road maps, triple A touring maps, boy scout maps. Later on, topo maps. They all fascinated me. It’s as if they held a secret and if I studied them enough I would discover that secret.

The function of a map is no real secret. They guide you from one place to another. By studying the legend, the other things are revealed. The size of cities and towns are shown by the type of symbols used. County roads, state roads, highways, their various surfaces and where they go are all shown. Topographic maps give elevation. The relief of the land. How steep is the trail that you are planning on taking? How deep the canyon that you are looking into? And how far up from the bottom to the next ridge? This secret is, that while the contour lines show distance and elevation; following the trail on the ground is a different story.

I have over the years acquired many different maps. Road maps from the fifties, world maps and atlases. I have topo maps of National Parks and of different states. The newest style of map is Google Earth. It is a gigantic series of photos taken by a land satellite. Then wrapped around a computer generated globe.

I do enjoy using that map system. The detail is expansive. The items that are generally shown on flat maps can with a click, be zoomed in on and seen. Rivers, lakes, even cars on the roads are shown. I do have fun with those maps. I even learn things about the world and myself,

I must admit, that one of the things that drew me to Google Maps was the mapping of earthquakes. An option of the USGS earthquake site, is the use of Google Earth in the siteing of earthquakes. It shows where the quake happened and the magnitude.

It was this pursuing of those maps that led me to a very specific place. It was a secret to me only. An earthquake showed up in the far southwest Pacific. A thousand miles and more from Australia, near an island called Vanatu. How tropical? How South Seas is that? What visions come to you? Well, I pulled it up on Maps and found an island that is not much bigger than twenty-five miles across. I was struck by the population on the island. Houses all over the place. Boats in the lagoon, condos over looking the South Pacific. Well, I thought, it is the South Pacific. Quite reasonable, palm trees, grass skirts. It fit my comfort zone.

Another quake caught my eye. It was in Kyrgyzstan (figure that out my English speaking companions). It is a mountainous area on the North-west slope of the Hindu Kush. Tall mountains, steep gorges with narrow fast running rivers. The flood plains are criss-crossed with irrigation canals. Swathes of farm land are shown on the satellite maps in varying shades of green. Among the tall rugged mountains on a plateau three thousand feet above the sea is a civilization. Google Jalal-Abad Kyrgyzstan, and you will see a city. A city connected to others. More people than just goat herds in the hills. My previous world view. What do they all do for a living? The same can be asked of those on Vanatu?

So that is my secret. Knowledge allows me to understand; I am not alone!