Thanks to digital mapping, we can now expect to see the world from above. Labels, landmarks, and an omniscient view provide context that helps us see where we are. But how would the world look (and feel) from that perspective without the benefit of all that context?
The interactive map below from John Nelson at Esri follows the journey of a young osprey named Julie. Using GPS tracking points, the map pieces together the path Julie followed from Michigan to Venezuela. But it omits the contextual signals we’re used to finding on maps, showing the world as Julie saw it.
Julie's Improbable Flight
Click below to see the interactive map from John Nelson at Esri.
The effect is disorienting and fascinating, all at once. We see glimpses of familiar shapes and colors as forests and shorelines zoom by. As you scroll through the map, resting where Julie rested, the world seems large and isolated. When the map scrolls the 474 miles from Cuba to Venezuela that Julie traversed in one flight, you feel that distance.
The techniques used in the map create a sense of empathy for Julie and other migrating birds like her. We feel the danger and isolation she faced on her journey and the sudden tragedy at its end. Experiencing the world the way Julie did makes us invested in her story and catalyzes a desire to save others from her fate.
By the Numbers
Number of individual location points tracked through Julie’s GPS collar.
Miles covered by Julie in three days of flight from Caesar Creek State Park in Ohio to Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park in Florida.
Hours of nonstop flight from Isla Beata, Cuba, to Maracaibo, Venezuela.