[Tweeters] A Crime of Cartography

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sun Nov 27 18:12:39 PST 2016

It was a classic example of November weather yesterday here in Port Townsend - cold drenching rain, and dark grey skies. Good weather to go to an aquarium, so I bopped down to the Marine Science Center here to check out the tanks. That way I could remain warm and dry while watching marine life.

In one corner of the place hangs a map of the Salish Sea, and surrounding watershed - including all the rivers running into the Sea. Like most popular maps of the Sea, it commits what I consider a crime of cartography.

Imagine that you have a wealthy and generous Great Aunt - a big ol' earth mother type. She regularly brings you Salmon, and Sturgeon, and all sort of other goodies, but you don't let her into your house - just her head after she passes you her gifts through the doggie door. That's not nice. That's not right.

Yes, folks, that's what the cartographers have done to the big ol' Fraser River on most of their watershed maps - they've cut her off at the neck, leaving her body sprawling alone across much of British Columbia. I guess I can understand some reasons why they'd do that.

To save ink would be one reason, and to make a neater map package might be another, because the Fraser is a huge chunk of sprawling watershed. The Fraser watershed is actually 13,000 square miles larger than the entire state of Washington. If you look at a watershed map of the great river, it actually dwarfs the Salish Sea itself.

Another gift from the Fraser is lots of sediment - the river has formed the largest alluvial delta on the West coast, providing all sort of mudflats for our migratory shorebird friends. The Fraser also dumps 44% of the freshwater flowing into the Sea, which I would imagine to be important to the general ecological health of the place, somehow.

While salmon runs on the Fraser have declined, it still produces. While water generally runs downhill on this planet (off the watershed) the Sea swims uphill in the form of fish - all the energy from spawning salmon provides nutrients all up the watershed. The bear poops his fish dinner under a berry bush along a stream, encouraging more berries, thrushes, etc. It's a pretty big picture.

Maybe someday a cartographer with some class will add the body of Fraser to a Salish Sea watershed map. Just sayin'.

Jeff Gibson

along the Salish Sea

Port Townsend Wa.
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