21 December 2012

How the undiscovered Sandy Island was "discovered"

The 1908 map showing Sandy Island, circled (map from the Auckland Museum blog).  
The saga of the phantom island named Sandy Island between New Caledonia and Australia, which showed up on many charts and Google Maps may have been solved by a Shaun Higgins, a librarian at Auckland Museum, New Zealand.  In November 2012, Australian scientists on the RV Southern Surveyor found that the island did not exist.  Higgins, based on a 1908 British admiralty chart, traced the "Sandy Island" to a false sighting of land by the crew of the whaling ship from Velocity in 1876.

14 December 2012

AHA Session: Women and Maps in Early Modernity

Terrae InBLOGnitae readers and SHD members might be interested in this call for papers for 2014's AHA annual meeting in Washington, DC:

Women and Maps in Early Modernity

Abstracts are invited for papers about "Women and Maps in Early Modernity," for a possible Society for the Study of Early Modern Women co-sponsored session at the American Historical Association's annual meeting in Washington, DC, in January 2014.

Papers from a range of disciplines—including, but not limited to, history, art history, literary studies, and historical geography—which address the nexus between early modern women and maps/cartography in any geographical region or culture, during the time period c. 1400-1700 are sought. Paper topics might consider women as:

  • Explorers contributing data from which maps are made
  • map illustrators
  • printers/publishers/sellers of maps
  • navigators/users of maps
  • writers on the topic of cartography

Abstracts (400-500 words) for papers twenty minutes in length should be submitted by January 10, 2013, by e-mail, to Allyson Poska (aposka@umw.edu) and Erika Gaffney (egaffney@ashgate.com).

26 November 2012

Scientific expedition "un-discovers" Sandy Island

Sandy Island on a British map, 1922.
Sandy Island on Google Earth, 2012.
On November 22, 2012, an expedition of Australian scientists from the University of Sydney on the RV Southern Surveyor, studying plate tectonics in the Coral Sea, noticed that some maps showed an isle named Sandy Island between French-governed New Caledonia and Australia while others did not.  The expedition found no island at the location, though European maps dating back to Captain Cook's 1774 expedition showed a "Sandy Island" or "Île de Sable" somewhere near New Caledonia.  (Some maps showed two Sandy Islands.)  The Australian expedition instead found 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) of ocean depth.

18 November 2012

Antarctic expeditions set out to retrace Scott’s 1912 fateful attempt at the pole: teams include graduate students and injured veterans

The ill-fated final expedition of Robert Falcon Scott; from left to right: Wilson, Scott and Oates (standing), and Bowers and Evans (sitting)
The fated British Antarctic expedition of Robert Falcon Scott made it to the South Pole in January 1912 with Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates and Edgar Evans only to discover that Roald Amundsen and his team of Norwegians had beat them to the goal.  On their return, the British team ran out of food and all five perished.  The expedition still serves as an example of British perseverance and derring-do.

The International Scott Centenary Expedition (ISCE) selected 22-year-old Henry Evans, who recently completed his marine biology degree at Plymouth University, to trek to the South Pole in memory of Scott.  Evans raised £7,000 towards his trip by running in half-marathons in a penguin costume.  During the expedition, he will collect snow samples for Plymouth University and the British Antarctic Survey to note any changes in the stable isotopes of water, which could occur due to changing climate patterns.  This expedition leaves in December.

Polar explorer David Hempleman-Adams is leading three wounded British soldiers, Capt. Adam Crookshank, Cpl. Robbie Harmer, and L/Cpl. Nick Webb of the Royal Dragoon Guards, on a charity trek to the South Pole.  The soldiers are from the same regiment as Cpt. Lawrence Oates from Scott’s original expedition, who famously sacrificed himself in a vain attempt to help the team, stating, “I am just going outside and I may be some time.”  The charity expedition’s goal is to raise more than £1 million for Alzheimer’s Research UK and Walking With The Wounded (a rehabilitation service for wounded servicemen).  This expedition leaves in November.

11 November 2012

Another Saga in the Hunt For Old Prince Madoc by Ron Fritze

The DeSoto Falls in Lumpkin County, Georgia
Photo by Ron Fritze
SHD president Ronald Fritze offers the following blog post about supposed pre-Columbian Welsh sites in the eastern US:

Some of you are aware that I am very interested in the myths, legends, and histories of the theories concerning pre-Columbian contacts between the Old World and the Americas.  One myth that I have particularly focused on is the myth of Prince Madoc and the colony of the medieval Welsh in pre-Columbian North America.  The southeastern United States and the Ohio Valley are particularly rich in sites associated with the supposed Welsh settlers.  I have written essays about visiting some of these sites and written essays about the myths and legends associated with the site.  Here is a link to my latest essay.  The essay also contains links to four additional Madoc related essays.  So if you have an interest in the myth of Prince Madoc, I hope you find them helpful and enjoyable.

The link to his webpage is here: http://www.corndancer.com/fritze/fritze_040059/fritze054.html

05 September 2012

Wreck of Robert Falcon Scott’s Ship Discovered Off the Coast of Greenland

The Terra Nova in December 1910
The British Antarctic Expedition 1910, led by Robert Falcon Scott, failed to be the first expedition to the South Pole, arriving thirty-three days after the Norwegian expedition of Roald Amundsen.  Scott and his expedition perished on the return voyage from the pole.  The ship that took them there, the SS Terra Nova, sailed home and resumed its career as a sealing ship before it was lost in the Arctic transporting supplies in the Second World War.  A US research company, Schmidt Ocean Institute, discovered the ship 1,000 feet below the surface off the coast of Greenland.

Click here for more information on Scott's last ship

24 July 2012

New newsletter!

The latest issue of the SHD newsletter Terrae Cognitae has been published here.  You'll find abstracts for the upcoming meeting in Pasadena, and other member news.  Happy reading!

09 July 2012

A new copy of a 1507 Waldseemüller "America" map

A new version of the small globe gores by Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann from 1507, which gave the name "America" to the South American continent, was recently discovered in Munich.
For more on this see this article from the The Chronicle of Higher Education: "An American Treasure Turns Up at Ludwig Maximilian U. of Munich"

Click here for more on Waldseemüller and his maps

25 June 2012

Tentative schedule for the SHD Annual Meeting–Pasadena, California September 28-30, 2012

SHD Annual Meeting – Pasadena, California
September 28th – 30th, 2012


  • Breakfast on your own at Hilton.
  • Registration: Remaining packets will be taken from the hotel to Friends Hall for distribution.
  • Coffee, teas, and breakfast pastries will be available from 8:30-12:00, Friends Hall
Welcome and Opening Remarks 9:00-9:10 Ron Fritze and Bill Warren

Session I (9:10-10:20): PACIFIC – THE EXPEDITIONS

  • Pflederer, Richard - Magellan, the Pacific Ocean and the Search for the Anti-Meridian
  • Harreld, Donald - Strategies and Identities: Dutch Expeditions through the Strait of Magellan, 1598-1618
Coffee/Tea Break

Session II (10:35-11:45) : PACIFIC – THE CREWS

  • Flannery, Kristie - “Everyone a mutineer”: the crisis of maritime labour in Spanish voyages of discovery and conquest in the Pacific, 1564-1566
  • Delaney, John - Endeavour in Australia: Crewing with Cook
Lunch 12:00-13:00

Session III (13:00-14:10): LATIN AMERICA

  • Brunelle, Gayle - The Assassination of the Sieur de Royville and the Debacle of the Compagnie de l’Amerique Equinoxiale, 1653-1656
  • Mullan, Anthony - The Comisión Corográfia and Colombia’s Quest for Identity

Session IV (14:10-15:20: NORTH AMERICA

  • Buisseret, David - The Influence of Marquette and Jolliet on the Mapping of North America
  • Olcelli, Laura - The Denied Search for the North-West Passage: Alessandro Malaspina at the Service of “the nation that has taken me as one of its own!”

Coffee/Tea Break

Session V (15:40-16:50): TRANSATLANTIC CONTACTS

  • Francaviglia, Richard - Discovery and Faith: Re-examining Claims about Pre-Columbian Muslims in America
  • Herbert, Francis - The Hakluyt Society’s publications and the Americas: maps and membership from the 1840s

Annual SHD Business Meeting 17:00-17:45

Reception 18:30-19:30 (at the Pasadena Hilton, site of the Annual Dinner)

Annual Dinner and Presentation on SHD 2013 in Tampa, FL

Keynote Address
Dr. Peter C. Mancall, University of Southern California Professor, Director of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute, and author of five books including Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson, and Hakluyt's Promise.


  • Coffee, teas, and breakfast pastries will be available from 8:30-12:00, Friends Hall


  • Altic, Mirela - Missionary Cartography of Tarahumara
  • Ortiz, Ann - Epistolar Representation of Fray Junípero Serra in Francisco de Palóu’s Relacion Historica de la Vida y Apostolicas Tareas del Venerable Padre Fray Junipero Serra (1787)
  • Dellinger, Justin (Winner of Essay Competition) - La Balise: A Transimperial Focal Point

Coffee/Tea Break

Session VIII (11:00-12:10): AFRICA

  • Van Duzer, Chet - On Second Thought: Cartographic Corrections to the Shape of Africa on Medieval and Renaissance Maps
  • Hogarth, Donald - Robert Rich Sharp (1881-1958): prospector, engineer, and discoverer of the Shinkolobwe, Katanga, (Congo) radium-uranium ore-body

Closing Remarks by Ron Fritze and Bill Warren

22 June 2012

2012 SHD Essay Prize Winner

The Course of the Mississipi River, 1759

We are pleased to announce that the winner of this year's SHD essay contest is Justin T. Dellinger, Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Arlington, for his paper, "La Balise: A Transimperial Focal Point."  Mr. Dellinger plans to present his paper at this year's Annual Meeting in Pasadena.

Abstract: "La Balise: A Transimperial Focal Point"
From the late seventeenth through the early nineteenth century, the mouth of the Mississippi River became a place of imperial competition.  The British, French, and Spanish all sought to control this outlet, which effectively served as the gateway to the heart of North America.  Initially, Europeans had little understanding of what encompassed the entire Mississippi River Valley, but they did understand the importance of controlling major river systems for political, economic, and military reasons.  Economically, controlling the Mississippi River would mean that any major trade in the larger region would funnel down to its mouth.  As the French established control of this region, what they would call La Louisiane, they constructed a post called la Balise to serve as both an access point and a buffer for inter-imperial contact.  Balise means seamark or beacon in French, so its name is very appropriate since it became such an important focal point.  Although its original significance was political, economic, and military for French policy makers, the Balize later took on a larger meaning for the mouth of the Mississippi River.

This settlement is understudied and more work needs to take place researching this frontier within a frontier.  It never had a large population, it proved difficult to fortify, and it constantly faced obliteration from hurricanes, yet the Balize became a well-known, recognized location.  Seventeenth- through nineteenth-century maps provide an important visual representation of this phenomenon.  As this period progressed, maps illustrated the shift from the use of terms such as “embouchure”, “boca”, and “mouth” to “Balise”, "Baliza”, and “Balize”.  Larger scale maps depicting continental North America, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean also evince how the Balize flanks and complements New Orleans as the distinct names along the Gulf Coast.  Both points illustrate the transimperial understanding of the role of the Balize as toponym for the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Biographical information
Justin T. Dellinger is a second-year doctoral student at the University of Texas at Arlington.  He received his Bachelor’s Degrees in History and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004.  After teaching for a few years, he returned to school and earned his Master’s Degree in History at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2010.  His primary area of study is eighteenth-century Louisiana, employing transatlantic and cartographic approaches in his research.

More on the annual meeting can be found here

23 May 2012

SHD 2012 Pasadena Meeting
List of Speakers
Pasadena/San Marino, California, September 27-30, 2012
(As of 23 May 2012)

Altic, Mirela
Missionary Cartography of Tarahumara

Brunelle, Gayle
The Assassination of the Sieur de Royville and the Debacle of the Compagnie de l’Amerique Equinoxiale, 1653-1656

Buisseret, David
The Influence of Marquette and Jolliet on the Mapping of North America

Delaney, John
Endeavour in Australia: Crewing with Cook

Flannery, Kristie (Graduate Student)
“Everyone a mutineer”: the crisis of maritime labour in Spanish voyages of discovery
and conquest in the Pacific, 1564-1566

Francaviglia, Richard
Discovery and Faith:  Re-examining Claims about Pre-Columbian Muslims in America

Harreld, Donald
Strategies and Identities: Dutch Expeditions through the Strait of Magellan, 1598-1618

Herbert, Francis
The Hakluyt Society’s publications and the Americas: maps and membership from the 1840s

Hogarth, Donald
Robert Rich Sharp (1881-1958): prospector, engineer and discoverer of the Shinkolobwe, Katanga, (Congo) radium-uranium ore-body

Mullan, Anthony
The Comisión Corográfia and Colombia’s Quest for Identity

Olcelli, Laura (Graduate Student)
The Denied Search for the North-West Passage: Alessandro Malaspina at the Service of “the nation that has taken me as one of its own!”

Ortiz, Ann
Epistolar Representation of Fray Junípero Serra in Francisco de Palóu’s Relacion Historica de la Vida y Apostolicas Tareas del Venerable Padre Fray Junipero Serra (1787)

Pflederer, Richard
Magellan, the Pacific Ocean and the Search for the Anti-Meridian

Van Duzer, Chet
On Second Thought: Cartographic Corrections to the Shape of Africa on Medieval and Renaissance Maps

Preliminary meeting details can be found here

18 May 2012

Sixteenth-century map by explorer and artist John White yields a new clue in the Roanoke mystery

Detail from La Virginea Pars by John White
Researchers from the First Colony Foundation and the British Museum believe that enhanced imagery from John White's (c. 1540-c. 1593) map La Virginea Pars, from the 1580s, may offer clues to what happened to the colonists from the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke.  Looking under a patch on the map with ultraviolet light, they found a symbol for a fort, indicating a place the beleaguered English colonists may have moved.

03 May 2012

SHD Annual Meeting 2012 - Huntington Library/Pasadena, California, 27-30 September 2012

Preliminary Information:

Meetings will take place at the Huntington Library

The conference hotel is the Pasadena Hilton

27 September, opening reception will likely be held at the Pasadena Women’s City Club which is a five block walk from the hotel. It is expected to take place from 6:30-7:30 and consist of wines, soft drinks, and light munchies.

28 September, first day of meetings. Hired bus will take people to the Huntington. Conference banquet will be held at the Pasadena Hilton, with reception 6:30-7:30, then meal and keynote address to follow.

29 September, second day of meetings. After the end of the conference, members can tour the grounds and collection of the Huntington. SHD member Bill Warren is hoping to organize a tour of the Huntington Conservation Lab.

30 September, post-conference excursion. Tentatively the organizers would like to take members on a bus trip to the Getty Museum of Art and the Page Museum at the LeBrea Tarpits. Both these stops should make for a full day.

Click here for the Call for Papers

Louis De Vorsey (1929-2012)

It is with great sadness again that we must announce the passing of Louis De Vorsey (1929-2012) this past Sunday, April 29.  De Vosey was a great scholar, past Vice President and President of SHD, and a good friend to the organization.  De Vorsey is survived by numerous family members and friends and will be greatly missed.

Click here for more on Louis De Vorsey from SHD.
Click here for his obituary.

23 April 2012

Virginia Garrett (1920-2012)

It is with great sadness that we must announce that Virginia Garrett (1920-2012), a great benefactor to cartographic causes, including SHD (she was a Fellow in 2003), the Texas Map Society, and the cartographic library at the University of Texas at Arlington, died this past Saturday, April 21, 2012, in Fort Worth, Texas.  Garrett was 91 years old, a loving family member, a distinguished map collector, and a philanthropist.

Click here for more on Virginia Garrett from SHD.
Click here for her obituary from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

07 April 2012

Toponyms on Portolan Charts, 1300-1600

SHD member Tony Campbell, at his great site http://www.maphistory.info, has compiled a massive and comprehensive list of the toponyms on portolan charts of between 1300 and 1600.  This great source, with an introduction and various interpretive documents, will aid those researching the exploration and cartography of the first great European Age of Discovery.

For more information, see The Introduction and Abandonment of Toponyms on Portolan Charts, 1300 to 1600.