Issue: November 2013
BYPOINTS: Mapmaker, Mapmaker...

Dear Mr. Google: I have a complaint. As a boater on the Chesapeake Bay, I would like it very much if your maps included the names of bodies of water. To that you may say, they do include bodies of water, and, strictly speaking, you’d be right. And to that I would say, what I actually mean is “please include bodies of water in a less ridiculous and random bass-ackwards stupid way.”

I’ll give you some examples: On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, there’s a very large river, directly across the Bay from Gibson Island. We call this the Chester River. You call it nothing. On the Google map, at every magnification, it is just a blue space. The same goes for all the creeks and rivers off the Chester—though you have gone to the trouble of labeling two comparatively inconsequential water features, Cliffs Bight and Comegys Bight. The latter is a lovely place to drop the hook on a summer evening, but . . . really, that’s all we get for the entire Chester River? Not Langford, Grays Inn or Reed creeks, not the Corsica River? Just two bights? Actually it’s just one bight and a nibble. (That’s a nautical joke; never mind.)

The situation is much the same across the Bay and a bit north, on what we like to call the Patapsco River—another mysterious blue space on your maps. A few random bays and creeks are named: Stoney and Nabbs creeks, Old Road Bay, Curtis Bay. But that’s about it, no Patapsco label anywhere, at any magnification. No Bodkin or Bear creeks, no Middle Branch, not even the Inner Harbor. Down in Virginia, you label Mobjack Bay but none of its splendid rivers—the Severn, Ware, North and East—to say nothing of Browns Bay and Davis and Pepper creeks.

Why don’t I use nautical charts and chart programs, you ask? I do use them, wise guy, but of course they have the opposite problem—plenty of detail on water features, but literally sketchy information on land. Are the two worlds so distinctly separate that water specialists must ignore the land, and land specialists must ignore the water? I ask you, sir, can’t we all just get along?

I rest my case. Except for this one last thing: Did you know that if one does a Google search for the lat-long coordinates 38° 59' 58.00", –76° 10' 03.00" but forgets to include the minus sign on the 76, Google takes you to western China, instead of the mouth of Queenstown Creek off the Chester? I swear. I’m not making that up. It assumes you meant plus 76 (that is, 76 degrees east) and it takes you to a point about 30 miles south of Kashgar, not far from the Kyrgyzstan border. I’m sure you know where I mean, being Mr. Google—down past Ai’ermudongxiang, but not all the way to Yengisar. If you see the turn for Qiaolepanxiang, you’ve gone too far. . . . Anyway, I thought you should know this too, though there’s probably not much you can do about it.

But for heaven’s sake, please get somebody working on the labeling thing. For some of us, bodies of water are much more important than bodies of asphalt.


Tim Sayles, Editor