Massive maps may never be bettered

20:17, Sep 23 2012
Roger Smith from award-winning map-makers Geographx with a map of the Marlborough Sounds.
MEGA MAP: Roger Smith from award-winning map-makers Geographx with a map of the Marlborough Sounds.

Award-winning Wellington mapsmith Geographx has a single page from the biggest book in the world taking up almost an entire room at its Kelburn offices.

The custom-mapping company created by Roger Smith acted as chief cartographer producing Earth Platinum, an atlas confirmed the biggest book by the Guinness Book of World Records. The 150kg, 5sqm book was a feat that involved organising dozens of map makers on six continents.

It was made by a Sydney publisher and only 31 copies were printed.

"Earth Platinum was the biggest project yet for Geographx. Given that the book set a Guinness World Record, it's unlikely we will ever be involved in a bigger one, at least not a bigger book," Smith said.

The award-winning company produces printed and digital maps for a variety of uses including wall maps, atlases, aerial maps and 3D visualisation.

This year it won the New Zealand Cartographic Society's annual Map Award for its 3D panoramic map of Tongariro National Park. The company also won the award last year.


It produces maps for the Conservation Department, maps about the Cook Strait for ferry passengers, the Wellington iSite visitors' centre, NZ Wilderness Magazine, the Te Araroa Trail and Spanish pilgrim trail Camino de Santiago.

Geographx has an exclusive licence to distribute SkylineGlobe software in New Zealand which maps the terrain of the world. "This is a dynamic, interactive virtual globe, similar to Google Earth but with powerful analystical functionality and inter-operable with most geographic information system platforms," Smith said.

The company has spent months developing map datasets for the New Zealand portion of the mapping software, with extremely high-resolution detailing of the terrain and landcover texture.

The company employs four full-time cartographers and often has interns from European universities - the subject is no longer taught as a specialty in New Zealand.

Smith founded Geographx when he wanted to take a new professional direction after working as an analyst at the New Zealand Tourism Board.

The business occupies the heritage listed Dominion Observatory building near the top of the Cable Car.

"It is really good for making maps because it was the original office for the New Zealand time-keeping service, so it's a bit like the New Zealand version of the observatory in Greenwich.

"It's got this association with maps and celestial navigation," Smith said.

Mapsmiths needed to keep accurate time in order to figure out longitude.

He described cartography as the business of communicating geospatial information through pictures.

"It has a lot in common with graphic design, but it is a lot more disciplined and there is a lot of science involved.

"Making maps is a lot of fun actually, I really enjoy it," Smith said.

The Dominion Post