Cartographic Diligence

One of the greatest advantages of living in the digital age is that geopolitical events, regardless of what remote corner of the planet they occur, are posted on the web within minutes if not hours after they happen. Sometimes pivotal events occur in little-known places (to most Americans) such as Abbottabad, Pakistan—the site of the compound where the former head of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was killed in May 2011. Others occur in forgotten places such as the newly self-proclaimed autonomous region of Azawad in northern Mali. The town of Abbottabad has long appeared in our atlas line while the self-proclaimed autonomous region of Azawad was recently introduced on our world map.

National Geographic’s World Classic Map, 2012

 On top of assuring the accuracy of our maps and map products, our other challenge is assuring they portray the world’s most current political realities. On our new political map of Southeast Asia, for example, we took the extra step of portraying every possible bank, shoal, reef, and rock constituting the Spratly Islands—a disputed chain of islands in the South China Sea, possessing rich fishing grounds and potential petroleum deposits, claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

 National Geographic’s Southeast Asia Classic Map, 2012

The next map on our production schedule is the Asia Classic Map. The first edition of this map portrayed only a select number of space flight centers. The newly revised edition, where scale permits, now includes all major centers including North Korea’s Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground. In addition, we have taken the extra step of including cities and towns associated with Iran’s nuclear program as well as other strategic localities in the region. Thus, regardless of where international events take us, cartographic diligence remains one of our key goals.

Juan José Valdés
The Geographer
Director of Editorial and Research
National Geographic Maps

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
Juan José Valdés is The Geographer and National Geographic Maps' Director of Editorial and Research. He guides and assists the Map Policy Committee in setting border representations, disputed territories, and naming conventions for National Geographic. As NG Map's Director of Editorial and Research, he is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and consistency of its maps and map products.