Beautiful information: London bubbles, plant altitudes and the ocean floor

Three very different and very beautiful pieces of data visualisation crossed my path today. One a map of London, another a visual representation of plants at different altitudes and the the last a map of the ocean floor’s topography…

County of London Plan – Patrick Abercrombie, 1943

County of London Plan – Patrick Abercrombie, 1943

County of London Plan – Patrick Abercrombie, 1943 (detail)

This was mentioned during Andrew Male‘s talk about yellow lines at the Boring Conference, 2012 and it visualises the “city of villages” concept of London marvellously.

Humboldt’s Distribution of Plants in Equinoctial America, According to Elevation Above the Level of the Sea

Humboldt’s Distribution of Plants in Equinoctial America, According to Elevation Above the Level of the Sea, 1839

Humboldt’s Distribution of Plants in Equinoctial America, According to Elevation Above the Level of the Sea (detail)

This came courtesy of the Geographicus Wikimedia Commons map donation post on The Public Domain Review which Duncan Geere linked to on Twitter.

As per the description: “This is a fascinating 1839 map of the distribution of plants according to elevation in the Americas. Includes the heights of various mountains around the world and reference to both terrestrial and subterranean plants. A fascinating and beautiful chart. Drawn and engraved by George Aikman.”

Ocean floor topography

A Topographical Representation Of the Ocean Floor- NOAA

And I don’t remember what sequence of clicks led me to this, I just found it in a long forgotten tab and fell in love with it all over again in all its foreign-yet-familiar glory. I don’t know the exact date but the references to the Magellan spacecraft would put it in the early to mid-nineties.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains what’s going on in the image pretty well:

“The surface of the ocean bulges outward and inward mimicking the topography of the ocean floor. The bumps, too small to be seen, can be measured by a radar altimeter aboard a satellite. Over the past year, data collected by the European Space Agency ERS-1 altimeter along with recently declassified data from the US Navy Geosat altimeter have provided detailed measurements of sea surface height over the oceans. These data provide the first view of the ocean floor structures in many remote areas of the Earth. For scientific applications, the Geosat and ERS-1 altimeter data are comparable in value to the radar altimeter data recently collected by the Magellan spacecraft during its systematic mapping of Venus.”

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