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Making of the Maps (& GIS Files)

I am a GIS person, so it seemed natural to develop a digital version of the proposed route for personal reference purposes, a communication device, and last but not least pretty graphics.

The process followed 3 main steps:

  1. Research and Development of route on paper
  2. Research for digital data
  3. Processing of digital data and GIS file creation
  1. Research and Development of route on paper
    1. Bought paper maps and travel books
    2. Perused books and web journals to develop a route based on things I was interested in seeing
    3. Outlined on paper maps a proposed route from Texas, USA to Usuhia, Argentina ( this later got cut down to South America only)
  2. Research for data Searched the internet for GIS data for South America – specifically road network data
    1. Discovered that there isn’t much out there
    2. What is out there is old
    3. Didn’t search in Spanish but not sure that it would have made much of a difference as GIS is a term that is used internationally as is shapefile (shp). The country names perhaps could have been searched in Spanish as could have the contents.
    4. Found five sources
      1. The ESRI Map Data that comes with ArcView – the data included with the program was adequate, but wanted to see if there were any more complete datasets
      2. www.goleaddog.com/Latin_America_GIS_Maps.htm - probably the most up-to-date, but expensive
      3. www.geocomm.com/catalog/index.html - sort of free, but couldn’t see what I was ordering
      4. www.agiweb.org/pubs/globalgis/ - The American Geological Institute has a version of the Digital Chart of the World (DCW) which was created, I believe by National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) before it became the NGA. Could not tell the date of the data and could not confirm whether the DCW was being currently maintained. Also, this version cost money.
      5. www.maproom.psu.edu/dcw/ - Found a free version of the DCW which resides on the Pennsylvania State University servers. There are many layers to choose from, although some layers are not available for all countries. The ESRI exchange files (e00) files resulting from the online selection process are put into a zip for your downloading convenience.
    5. I choose the DCW from Penn State because it was both free and convenient (listed below are the files potentially available for each country)
      1. Political/Ocean (network)
      2. Populated Places (point)
      3. Populated Places (polygon)
      4. Railroads (line)
      5. Roads (line)
      6. Utilities (line)
      7. Drainage (network)
      8. Drainage (point)
      9. Drainage Supplemental (point)
      10. Hypsography (network)
      11. Hypsography (point)
      12. Hypsography Supplemental (line)
      13. Hypsography Supplemental (point)
      14. Land Cover (polygon)
      15. Land Cover (point)
      16. Ocean Features (point)
      17. Ocean Features (line)
      18. Physiography (line)
      19. Aeronautical (point)
      20. Cultural Landmarks (polygon)
      21. Cultural Landmarks (point)
      22. Cultural Landmarks (line)
      23. Transportation Structure (line)
      24. Transportation Structure (point)
      25. Vegetation (polygon)
    6. Downloaded gazetteer information for each country of interest from but never really used this info – I hope to use it later though
  3. Processing of data and GIS file creation
    1. Extracted the e00 files for Roads, Railroads, Transportation Structures, and Populated Places from the downloaded zip files using WinZip (it's not free, you know)
    2. In ArcView 9.1 (The program I use all day, every day)
      1. Unpacked the files from the e00 exchange format to an ESRI coverage file
      2. Set up a project file to start creating a GIS file for my route
      3. Used ESRI data for background information such as international and regional political boundaries, water files, and cities. The ESRI data that comes with the program did not have as detailed of road files so used the DCW data
      4. Included the DCW data in the project file
    3. Copied and pasted line segments from the DCW road data to my route.shp file (Selecting the line segments by referencing the route traced on paper maps and by proximity to populated places)
    4. Once the actual route shapefile was complete I was able to create and format a map layout
      1. Added the Shaded Relief of the World (ESRI data)
      2. Added the GTOPO30 (30 Arc Seconds) – USGS elevation grid (ESRI data)
      3. Played around with cartography
      4. Printed jpg of route for web
    5. Created separate files and jpgs for each country and the overview map so that they are easy to update while on the road with GPS points of actual route and GPS points of photos taken

I also have begun to experiment with GIS files and Google Earth and have created a kmz file of the route (It’s on my Maps page) but have run into some difficulties based on line segment directionality and file order, but that will be another entry.

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