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GIS Day 2022: Exploring Humanitarian GIS

Happy GIS Day from the Library of Congress! Today the Library celebrates GIS Day with a virtual event exploring the role of GIS in addressing humanitarian disasters. Today’s event aims to highlight the role that geospatial data and GIS technologies can play in creating positive change in the face of global humanitarian challenges. Geography enthusiasts, […]

Mapping Disko Bay

This is a guest post by Diane Schug-O’Neill, Digital Conversion Coordinator, in the Geography and Map Division.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Greenland. 1976. Geography and Map Division.

In 1925, Silas Sandgreen was commissioned by the Library of Congress to create a map of Disko Bugt (also seen as Disko Bay), Greenland. Disko Bay is a large bay located on the western coast of Greenland, along the southeastern side of Baffin Bay.

The southern coastline of the bay has multiple waterways flowing into the bay and many small islands. To the north lies the largest island, Disko Island, on the western coast of Greenland. Qeqertarsuaq (meaning “the big island” in Kalaallisut and previously named Godhavn) is the port town on the southern end of the island.

Disko Bay is the largest open bay in western Greenland, measuring 150 kilometers x 100 kilometers. It has an average depth of 400 meters and an average water temperature of 3.5° Celsius (full temperature range is roughly -1.75° C to 12° C); this is rising with the general warming of Earth.

Silas Sandgreen. Map of the Crown Prince Islands, Disko Bay, Greenland. 1926. Geography and Map Division.

Lt. R.E. Byrd, U.S. Navy with Rubber Life Boat. 1925. Prints and Photographs Division.

George W. Rice, Photographer. Godhaven, Disco Island. 1881–83. Prints and Photographs Division.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chas. Beseler Company. A Northernmost Man and his Wife, Mec-oo-sha and Ah-ma, Standing next to Sledge, Two Inuits who Served as Helpers to Frederick Cook during his Expedition to the North Pole. 1907. Prints and Photographs.

While the Inuit presence in Disko Bay dates back to between 2400 and 900 BC; the bay has been an important location to Europeans since the days Erik the Red placed a settlement there in 985. These settlers relied on the resources of the bay such as ivory from walrus tusks, seal pelts, and whales, whose body parts were used for many purposes. These resources sustained the settlements with trade goods for many years.

A variety of officials were involved in the commissioning of the Map of the Crown Prince Islands, Disco [sic] Bay, Greenland: the offices of the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Commander R. E. Byrd, an American Aviator, Mr. Philip Rosendahl, the  Administrator of North Greenland, and Dr. M. P. Porsild, the Chief of the Danish Arctic Station at Disko. The capital for North Greenland was Godhavn, also the location for the Arctic Station.

While many Europeans requested this map, none provided any assistance in its creation. Silas Sandgreen relied wholly upon his own observations from his home in the Crown Point Islands, utilizing sledge and kayak to visit remote islands. He mapped 83 islands and 10 reefs in a more traditional map.

William Pierce, Photographer. Inuit Man Holding Oars in a Kayak at Shore. 1864. Prints and Photographs.

 

 

This commissioned effort was created with sealskin and driftwood. Individual islands were whittled from Siberian driftwood. The wood was then sewn onto the sealskin. Next, the sealskin was painted. Yellow on the islands represents grassy and swampy land; blue indicates lakes; black shows the extent of country covered with black lichens. Tidal areas are left uncolored. Reefs are demarked by pencil. The map encompasses an area of approximately 70 square miles at a scale of 1 in to 1,760 feet and is a wonderful representation of indigenous mapping in Greenland.

 

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Virtual Orientation to the Geography and Map Division

Please join us for the third session in a new series of virtual orientations from the Geography and Map Division! Date: Tuesday, October 11th, 2022 Time: 3:00-4:00 pm (Eastern) Location: Zoom Register for this session here! Reference librarians Carissa Pastuch and Amelia Raines will present an introduction to the collections of the Geography and Map Division at […]

Mapping the Northern Pacific Railroad

In mid-19th Century America, an expanding nation had a major transportation need: rail lines that could stretch from coast to coast. Western explorations and survey crews began to sketch out potential railroad routes in the decades before the American Civil War. Lloyd’s American railroad map of the US, seen below, shows three proposed rail routes: […]

Antietam: “The Most Terrible Battle of the Age”

This is a guest post by Manuscript Division reference librarian Lara Szypszak. On September 17, 1862, Union and Confederate forces met just outside the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland. The battle, known by Union forces as the Battle of Antietam (after the nearby creek) and by the Confederates as the Battle of Sharpsburg (after the nearest […]

Indeterminately Independent: The Volatile Autonomy of the Spanish Region of Catalonia

This is a guest post by Sonia Kahn, detailed Reference Librarian in the Geography and Map Division. To those of us here at home and across the American diaspora, September 11th has come to be a solemn day of mourning and remembrance. However in the region of Catalonia, in the northeast of Spain, September 11th commemorates […]