Petrogypsies by Rory Harper

Petrogypsies coverGeoscience factor: Petroleum

Bonus science: Symbiosis

Rating: 7

Before there were cowboys and aliens, there was Rory Harper’s vision of roughnecks and aliens. Petrogypsies is the story of the machinery and machinations of how the early oil industry could have been. Our hero, Henry Lee McFarland, is a naive farmboy who joins a troupe of oil-divining gypsies as they travel the South searching for the next big oil strike. Along the way, McFarland learns about drilling, calculus, aliens, and even love.

I got a kick out of this book, not least because of the Texas-inspired personalities and landscapes. While other readers might groan, I can appreciate outrageous but well-written tales that feature strapping young lads and other campy stereotypes. À chacun son goût.

I recommend Petrogypsies for a fun, summer-time read.

That’s swale!

I am cataloging a map of Mars with the following topographic features: ridge crests, berms, swales, scarp crests, and crater forms. I looked up the definitions and found swell-and-swale topography in the AGI Glossary.

swell-and-swale topography  A low-relief, undulating landscape characteristic of the ground moraine of a continental glacier, exhibiting gentle slopes and well-rounded hills interspersed with shallow depressions.

Hyp, hyp, hypsometric! Hyp, hyp, hypsographic!

The Greek root hypso refers to height or elevation, information that is useful to convey in a map. According to Maps for America, topographic maps are both hypsographic and hypsometric.

Map, hypsographic– Map showing relief with elevations referred to the national geodetic vertical datum of 1929.

Map, hypsometric– Map showing relief by any convention, such as contours, hachures, shading, or tinting.

Thompson, Morris M. Maps for America: Cartographic Products of the U.S.
Geological Survey and Others
. Reston, Va: U.S. Geological Survey, 1987.

Art of a map

“It is in accordance with practical experience, however, which the author has personally observed over many decades, that in cartographical affairs, as in all graphic work, the greatest clarity, the greatest power of expression, balance and simplicity are concurrent with beauty. To create beauty, a purely technical, practical arrangement of things is not sufficient. Beauty is, to a large extent, irrational. Artistic talent, aesthetic sensitivity, sense of proportion, harmony, form and color, and graphical interplay are indispensable to the creation of a beautiful map and thus to a clear, expressive map.”

Imhof, Eduard. Cartographic Relief Presentation. Redlands, Calif: ESRI
Press, 2007. p. 359

Bagrow’s reasons

“But what makes early terrestrial maps so interesting? Why should they be collected, studied and preserved? We suggest three main reasons:

maps provide materials for historical research, particularly in the history of civilisation and science;

maps are works of art; and

maps embody a degree of intellectual effort and attainment that makes them worthy of collection.

Old maps, collated with other materials, help us to elucidate the course of human history.”

Bagrow, Leo, and R. A. Skelton. History of Cartography. Chicago, Ill:
Precedent Pub, 1985. p. 20.

Rock drawings, rock drawings

When I read the term “rock drawings,” I wasn’t sure what it meant exactly, even though I felt it should be obvious. Was a “rock drawing” a drawing of a rock or a drawing on a rock? Yes, I answered! Did I find that answer helpful? No! So, I went on a quest to find out how the term applies for cataloging maps.

OCLC told me that in terms of relief, a rock drawing is a relief rock drawing. Mm-hmm.

  • Rock drawings. Item is a relief rock drawing.

The OED confirmed my question.

  • rock drawing n. (a) pictorial representation of a rock; (b) a picture drawn on a rock.

In the first map cataloging resources that I looked in, “rock drawings” was either ignored or cited with OCLC’s definition. Some of OCLC’s other options for representations of relief could be used to represent rocks, so how did “rock drawings” stand out in cartographic technique from shading, tinting, hachures, pictorial symbols, or land forms?

Then I found references to swisstopo and Imhof, with some examples of rock drawing relief.

“The maps of the Federal Office of Topography swisstopo – the Swiss national mapping agency – are renowned for their combination of shaded relief, contour lines, scree rendering and rock drawing, which creates the so-called Swiss style of topographic mapping…. Swiss style maps generate a strong three-dimensional relief impression by combing shaded relief with rock drawing and scree patterns that together simulate the effect of an illuminated terrain surface.” — B. Jenny, Rock drawing for topographic maps.

Map of Canton of Glarus

So, obviously or not, the answer is that for maps, “rock drawings” refers to the drawings of rocks.

Heart of a map

“Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, ‘When I grow up I will go there.’ The North Pole was one of these laces, I remember. Well, I haven’t been there yet, and shall not try now. The glamour’s off. Other places were scattered about the hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and . . . well, we won’t talk about that. But there was one yet — the biggest, the most blank, so to speak — that I had a hankering after.

“True, by this time it was not a blank space any more. It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names. It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery — a white patch for a boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. 1899.

Primitive and civilized maps

“In contemplating maps, whether already made or about to be made, the imagination is a vital activity. And it leads to practical action. A map-musing Marlow must eventually do something to fill in those blank spaces.  Thus maps breed more maps. For no map is ever quite complete, and instead of trying to be the map to end all other maps, an honest one that is performing its certain service well deliberately leaves need for further maps to use…

The idea of such a thing as a map is at once one of the most primitive and the most civilized of human feats. It is both a yen and a conception, like such other old  but ever new ideas as music and dance, myth and fiction, image and depiction, thought and symbol.”

Greenhood, David. Mapping. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964. p. x.

Maps emanate too : divine and earthly maps

From a cataloguer’s viewpoint:

“Consider a work to have emanated from a corporate body if it is issued by that body or has been caused to be issued by that body or if it originated with that body.”– AACR2, Rule 21.1B2 footnote

From the OED:

“Emanation: a.  The process of flowing forth, issuing, or proceeding from anything as a source. lit. and fig. Often applied to the origination of created beings from God; chiefly with reference to the theories that regard either the universe as a whole, or the spiritual part of it, as deriving its existence from the essence of God, and not from an act of creation out of nothing. Also, in Theology, used to denote the ‘generation’ of the Son, and the ‘procession’ of the Holy Ghost, as distinguished from the origination of merely created beings.”

Geologically speaking:

“1830    C. Lyell Princ. Geol. (1875) II.  ii. xxx. 146  Fissures..from which mephitic vapours emanated.”