“A catalog of directions to be followed between notable points.” 1
This is how Portolan charts – or rhumb maps as they are called as well – have been defined by historians of cartography. While this rather barren definition gives no impression of the perils and hazards of medieval seafaring, it adequately captures the essence of the guides that have been used for this kind of endeavors. It also helps to explain what I’m starting today with this blog – albeit not with regard to maritime navigation but concerning the geospatial, database and programming domains.
Easiest to determine are the “notable points” that the Portolan Blog is going to cover following this introductory post. These points of interest include first and foremost data analysis, remote sensing, geographical information systems, database systems, cartography, and data visualization.
The comprising bracket under which all these subjects are to be illuminated – or better: the manner of the “directions” that I will be giving – is programming code, naturally in one of the languages that I’m reasonably acquainted with, namely Python, IDL or at times Java. Where this does not apply, the directions given will at least include some kind of hint, advice or pointer that is to alleviate the reader’s work in one of the noted fields of interest.
Finally, the term “catalog” refers to the systematic and list-like character of the underlying creation. In case of the Portolan Blog I’d like to kindly ask the reader to bear with me if the result at first glance does seem to lack any kind of system or is accompanied by a little too much elaborated blathering on my behalf to be called a simple list. Here I take myself the liberty to deviate from the definition as this is not supposed to be an exercise in compliance to rules but should be fun as well.
Stating this I’m about to end my first post wishing the reader and myself the necessary stamina, blazing creativity and a sufficient amount of time to accomplish this endeavor.
- Michel Mollat du Jourdin and Monique de La Ronciere: Sea Charts of the Early Explorers: 13th to 17th Century, London, Thames and Hudson, 1984 ↩