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Impearls: Cartographic Vortices

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Earthdate 2004-05-19

Cartographic Vortices

Excerpt from Olaus Magnus' Map of Scandinavia 1539

f1

Excerpt: Olaus Magnus' Map of Scandinavia 1539


Earthdate 2004-05-06's issue of the journal Nature has a fascinating news item about the beautiful 1539 Scandinavia map created by Olaus Magnus, a Swedish priest, excerpted above.  Click on this link for the complete map (courtesy James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota).

Magnus's map, as with many antique maps, is illuminated with sea monsters and fabulous beasts, while amongst them, on the sea to the east and south of Iceland, swirl seemingly decorative vortices.  Now we learn that the eddies aren't decorative.  Tom Rossby, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, first noticed the resemblances between the swirls on Magnus's map and thermal images from Earth observation satellites.

As the Nature piece notes: 1

The eddies are created where the Gulf Stream meets cold Arctic waters.  […]  Ancient mariners would have noticed these large-scale eddies, which pull on shipping vessels and have greener waters.

Accurate mariners' information must have made it to Magnus while he was composing the data for the map.


Reference

1 Nature, Vol. 429, Issue No. 6987 (Issue dated 2004-05-06), p. 9.  Requires subscription or pay-per-view.

Figure

f1 Olaus Magnus' Map of Scandinavia 1539, courtesy University of Minnesota, James Ford Bell Library.


UPDATE:  2009-12-23 05:30 UT:  Changed image host for the map to Flickr.  Added caption.


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