Story Maps

Story maps is a modern blog that wants to tell a story within all of its interactive maps. This blog focuses on mapping interesting events and places around the world providing you with interactive maps as well as images to bring you directly into the reality of the map.


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Atlas of the Week

The New Concise World Atlas is an annually updated Atlas created by some of the world’s finest cartographers. This atlas offers clear and full images of the most recent topographic and political maps. This Atlas also offers cartography diving into the depths of the ocean’s seafloor as well as satellite imagery. This Atlas relates to class in terms of it’s current publishing of political and satellite development maps.

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Pursuit of Happiness

The map titled, “A decade of migration” offers many implications to migration in the 90’s and early 2000’s and is a very accurate depiction of what was going on in the world and especially in Europe around this time. While there is not a lot of data on the author of this map, with a small bit of research, it is clear to identify his/her accuracy in the portrayal of migration over this decade of time. In the early and late 90’s there were multiple events that contributed to a large amount of both internal and international migration as people sought after a safer more peaceful lifestyle as well as economic and job opportunities.

In the 1990’s Germany was a strong contributor in the process of migration. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, this enabled Germans living in mainly eastern Germany and the old Soviet Union to move freely inside of Germany. A large part of this migration was internal and Germans fled to a more unified part of Germany as well as western Germany. With the Cold War going on around the early 90’s, this gave many people in Eastern Europe the incentive to migrate to safer zones that were less vulnerable to war and attack. Many of which migrated to Western Europe and North America. On top of internal migration in Germany there was a lot of migration out of Eastern Europe due to a longstanding war in the Balkans. The Balkans War was fought throughout the 90’s between different ethnic groups which were mainly due to military conflicts causing people to feel an urgent sense of fear, giving them incentive to flee Eastern Europe and migrate to parts of western Europe and central Asia. These were two of the main implications for a large part of migration coming out of Eastern Europe during these times. This historical context is directly related to the map in the way that the cartographer chooses to use Eastern Europe as the center piece of the map. The legend shows that the largest Intra-zone migration was in and around Eastern and Western Europe. This shows the cartographers intentions to connect the map reader with the importance of the context around Eastern Europe in the 90’s. It also shows the bias of the cartographer in the way that he finds migration in Eastern Europe to be the most important part of this time. On top of a large portion of migration being from eastern Europe another large portion was in South Asia. Another focus of the map is on South Asia. During this decade South Asian migration both internally and to North America was at it’s highest rates. Many migrated within South Asia or to North America seeking growing economies and strong job opportunities which were both flourishing in both areas during this time. Specifically in Asia, many were struggling in terms of poverty and saw opportunity in South and Southeast Asia.

A large portion of this map is tied to the legend. The spirals not only reflect the amount of people (in millions) based on size but also implies the cartographers view on the world during this time. He uses the spirals to symbolize the world as rapidly changing on a big and small scales all over the world. He uses this symbol to represent the world as continually spiraling and people are forever moving around and changing their lives. In terms of the cartographers choice of color, he chooses colors that strongly reflect a sense of power and emotion. Most all of the arrows of international migration are into countries filled with a sharp green. Green primarily reflects spring and opportunity and a positive new beginning. The coloring also connects to how the map reflects power. The bright green regions are countries that are strongly developed and have a strong economic and political power. This ties into what many migrants in the European and Southern Asia regions were looking for.

In conclusion, this map offers extremely relevant and interesting information about migration in the 90’s and early 2000’s. He emphasizes the amount of conflict in Europe and how that caused migration in the way that he centers Eastern Europe. The cartographer uses a very cartoonish and easy to understand legend that has a strong connection between the map and the reader. His legend offers the thought of the world continually spiraling and ever changing while also bringing a sharp contrast of colors into the map to help understand the power of countries at this time. While maps never change and they represent a snapshot in time, the cartographer reminds the reader of the importance of understanding what is happening in the world around us and how migration may effect different people around the world. Specifically for most of us, it reminds us to appreciate the country we live in as we come to realize our lives are not in danger by war or poverty and migration is unnecessary and is not easy to do for most families around the world.


Works Cited:

Stratfor. “The Refugee Crisis: What Europe Can Learn From the Past.” Stratfor, Stratfor, 5 Oct. 2015,


“Balkans War: a Brief Guide.” BBC News, BBC, 18 Mar. 2016,


“Looking for a Home.” The Economist, The Economist Newspaper, 29 Aug. 2015,

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Lunar Wall Mosaic 1962

by Alex Beran and Abra Granger

The USAF Lunar Wall Mosaic was created in 1962 and was intended for astronauts to land on the moon. This map allowed the United States to win the space race against the Soviet Union. The ability to win the space race revealed which country had better resources and technology. Astronauts needed to know the exact slope and composition of the surface in order to land on the moon. If a country can map the moon, then it is likely that they can map any other place as well. The power to map the moon is a form of psychological warfare. The moon is way further away from the U.S. than the Soviet Union is. If the U.S. can map and get to the moon, then they can most definitely accurately map the Soviet Union too. Another theme of power is that a country can exert their dominance by “owning” and “naming” territories on the moon.

Lunar mapping began in the 1600s, reached its peak during the space race, and dwindled after the U.S. landed on the moon. Cartographers began mapping this moon using Earth-like techniques which they ditched due to the lack of air and water erosion on the moon. Cartographers, in fact, used airbrushing techniques instead to make the map look less like the earth. To impose a sense of power, a country can express ownership by naming territories on the moon.

In class, we discussed how political power is concomitant with the map’s existence. With questions encompassing what it means to have the technology to map the moon in relation to the concept of a “Space race”, we guided the class through the political power and scientific advances that were employed to carry out the making of the lunar map. Proceeding the warm-up questions, we invited the class to participate in a debate on whether the Lunar Wall Mosaic was more scientific, or more political. This debate furthered the depth of conversation about the overall ideology and context of the map. On the one hand, the map could not have been created if not for the U.S. Air Force’s military agendas. On the other hand, the longevity of the scientific advancements outlive the political agendas of the time. However, we can conclude that both political and scientific influences play major roles in the creation of this map.

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The Nuclear Club

The Nuclear Club is a radical map that focuses on mapping the possession of nuclear weapons in the world. It was produced in 1981 as part of the Pluto Project that started by a radical British publishing houses known as the Pluto Press, which aimed to promote radical social changes. The Nuclear Club is a radical map because while condemning the war and destructive powers, it also attacks traditional ideas of maps by abandoning all the features of conventional maps and focusing on expose cartographers’ value of the society, politics, and war to the surface.

This map reveals cartographers’ intention of emphasizing the role of central Europe in the Cold War and criticizing the use of nuclear power. The bold and vibrant colors and the bomb icons highlight the tension of the Cold War. Moreover, The Europe centered projection and the magnified area of Europe reflect that the conflict between the superpowers and the nuclear weapons were threatening European countries.

By constructing The Nuclear Club and other maps in the Pluto Project, the group showed their attention on protesting against states’ enormous power during the climax of the Cold War and after it as well as so-called objective, scientific and realistic maps.


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Atlases of the Week: National Geographic Kids Beginner’s World Atlas

Not all atlases are for serious professional and academic studies. Atlases like the Kids Beginner’s World Atlas can provide up to date information while being amusing, interesting and easy to understand. This atlas is designed for children ages 5 to 8, who have just started to explore the world. It uses vivid pictures, various icons, bold colors, and succinct expression to explain the humanity and nature to the kids. As a teaching material for early education, this world atlas can help to establish a stable foundation for further education.

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Team Map Presentation – “The World Distribution of Spirochetal Disease”


The World Distribution of Spirochetal Diseases map was produced during the 1960s by the American Geographic Society. This map was part of a series of maps that were created in order to sort and map out the Third World. During the publishing of this map, the United States was involved in the Cold War, hence the complete blockage of Americas biggest rival, the USSR. While there is clearly an influence of the Cold War on this map, America’s political agenda is also expressed. Around this time President Harry S. Truman launched the Point Four program, whose main goal was to implement scientific and industrial advancements into third world countries.

Although this is a scientific map, it does show how American’s influenced the identities of these third world countries. This map displays third world countries such as Africa and Thailand as disease filled which legitimizes a fear within the American people who view this map. It makes America look like a place of health and no disease while these third world countries are the complete opposite. There are sub-maps and sub-legends along the borders of the map that allow for more information to be displayed on the geography and environment, making the cartographic projections more detailed.

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Atlas of the Cold War

This historical atlas introduces 50 maps about Cold War, including popular events like Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Blockade with easily understood synopsis for each. The more interesting contents the author also presents are the themes such as cultural issues for the readers to understand the complexities of Cold War.

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 All Over The Map tells stories about past, present, and the future cartography. It is run by Betsy Mason, Greg Miller and a group of science journalists who love maps. They write the blogs with wired but interesting maps like secret Cold War military mapsmaps for self-driving cars, or maps of other worlds.

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Map of Korean Airlines Flight 007

“An act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations, ” President Reagan called it. This shootdown of Flight 007, a Korean Airlines Boeing 747 ariliner in 1983, resulted in the human losses of 269 from over sixteen countries, including a Representative from George in the United States House of Representatives.

The year 1983 is the turning point of the USSR’s breakdown. After this, the public sided with the US and against the USSR. It is essential for us to know why this shootdown is so important at that time. By discussing the previous history, the aftermath, the map itself, and the timing of the map’s release, we will look deeper into the Cold War chronologically.

Prior to this incident, there were already trends estimating that USSR was losing the Cold War. Only several months later, President Reagan announced a missile system plan to protect US land-based missiles. This caused a panic among USSR leaders, so to counter the fear, SSIR set up a new intelligence effort called RYAN to gather information about US. This time was highly sensitive for SSIR in both international relationships and military preparations. In the perspective of the Soviet Union,  the intrusive airliner is the target to be rightly destroyed when it was questioned as an airplane to perform intelligence mission.

After the shootdown, instead of presenting the objective fact to the public, like how did an experienced Korean pilot deviate from the route and run into the prohibited airspace without warning, the United States seized the opportunity to condemn and isolate USSR by emphasizing the human losses.  First, the U.S. released a substantial amount of highly classified intelligence information for a propaganda advantage. Then, the U.S. had one press conference to deliver the details of the shootdown, some of which were challenged by the Soviet Union. On September 6, 1983, the U.S. ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick presented the event using the map and audio tapes of the Soviet Union’s pilots. That was when the people confirmed the shootdown of Korean airplane 007 for the first time.

We can look at the map to understand the process of this shootdown. However, what we see here is distorted. The most prominent distortion is the magnification of the territory of the USSR, which is five times the landmass of the US while all the irrelevant nations are ignored. In this sense, the map is trying to amplify the threat posed by the USSR to the peace of the whole world, while the US is just the victim and witness in this event, just like the other countries. Besides that, because the relative landmass of the US and USSR is changed disproportionally to fit in a single paper, we cannot tell for sure that the angle between the planned flightpath and actual flightpath is precise. A great chance is that the creator made those two routes much closer than they were so that people looking at this map would say that the Soviet Union overreacted to the simple mistake of a pilot. Also, to show that the pilot barely trespassed the territory, the actual route indicated by the black solid lines is drew to touch only a small portion of the islands (Sakhalin and Petropavlovsk Kamchatskiy) that belonged to the Soviet Union. Likewise, the symbol of the shootdown is also a clever choice. Rather than just a dot, the creator chose a sign of explosion to emphasize the destruction of the airplane, which signaled a warning for the possible war. Through all those little “tricks”, the USSR was portrayed as a merciless devil slaughtering anybody that might offend itself.

Not until 1997 did the United Nations released the map of this accident to the public. The release of the map after several years from 1983 also proves that the maps serve certain interests of United States Government. As the map shows, it is a simplified CIA map produced by a CIA employee and funded by United States Government. By postponing the release, the US might be able to direct the public opinion as it wanted since there was no evidence to prove against. After all, if the map came out right after the accident, the public would probably understand this is not a premeditated slaughter but an accident out of negligence, interfering with the objectives of the US to stir up an anti-Soviet drama.

Talking through the history and the presentation of this map, we can say that the maps are always biased to certain extent. They manipulate the thinking of the audience to serve the interests of the map creators, just like what you can see in this accident, the U.S. has used the map along with other strategies like propaganda to turn the world against the Soviet Union.



[1]Fischer, B. (2007, March 19).  A cold War Conundrum.

[2]Wood, Denis, and John Fels. The Power of maps. London: Routledge, 1993.[3] Craig A. Morgan, e Downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, 11 Yale J. Int’l L. (1985). Available at:

[3] Wikipedia contributors. (2018, March 24). Korean Air Lines Flight 007. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:30, March 25,2018, from

[4]“FS2004 – Target Is Destroyed (Korean Air Lines Flight 007).” Edited by Allec Joshua Ibay, YouTube, YouTube, 30 Sept. 2016,

[5]CoolBen, Admin. “The Downing of KAL Flight 007.” Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training,

[6]Gordon, Michael R. “Ex-Soviet Pilot Still Insists KAL 007 Was Spying.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Dec. 1996,



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