[Tweeters] A Crime of Cartography
contopus at telus.net
Mon Nov 28 00:51:33 PST 2016
Jeff (and Tweeters),
Thanks for your comments about the Fraser River and about its huge
contribution of water and sediment to the Salish Sea. I'm glad to see that
you understand its importance, and were miffed at the cavalier treatment of
its watershed on the map at the Marine Science Center. As a lifelong British
Columbian who lives less than 10 miles from the Fraser, I am reminded every
day of the importance of this great river in terms of providing fresh water
to the sea, a transportation corridor to people, and a home for salmon and
However, you may have underestimated the size of the Fraser's watershed. If
you use the figures provided by Wikipedia, the Fraser watershed covers
84,942 square miles, versus 71,362 for the state of Washington- a
difference of 13, 580 square miles. However, the area of Washington was
quoted for many years as 68, 192 square miles. I don't know how it suddenly
grew to 71,362; perhaps someone decided to include the marine waters of
Puget Sound, Hood Canal, and Juan de Fuca Strait, which doesn't seem quite
cricket. In addition, I have seen figures elsewhere for the Fraser
watershed's area as 90,000 to 91,000 square miles. I don't think the
Wikipedia figure is accurate. If the upper figure of 91,000 is correct, and
the land (plus freshwater) area of Washington is really 68,192, then the
difference is actually 22,808 square miles.
I am surprised to find such discrepancies in area measurements. Surely the
truth should be easy to determine with modern equipment. Perhaps someone who
is a geography expert can set us straight on where these measurements came
It's also worth noting that British Columbia includes a large chunk of the
Columbia watershed (about 13%-- 33,710 square miles out of the total
watershed area of 258,000), and provides a much greater percentage than 13%
of the water. A sizable piece of the upper Skagit watershed is also in BC.
In fact, a good percentage of the water used for irrigation, drinking and
power generation in Washington and Oregon actually originates in B.C.
Just trying to give some credit here where credit is due!
Good luck and good birding,
Wayne C. Weber
contopus at telus.net
From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu
[mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Jeff Gibson
Sent: November-27-16 6:13 PM
Subject: [Tweeters] A Crime of Cartography
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
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'.
along the Salish Sea
Port Townsend Wa.
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