The Mapmaker of Aqua Firma

A hard copy book version of Atlas Obscura sits on my home office desk. It serves as a reminder — inspiration, really — that the world around us is filled with an amazingness that twenty lifetimes could never experience. Like National Geographic, Outside Magazine, Ernest Hemingway, and Jimmy Buffett, Atlas Obscura feeds my wanderlust.

Atlas Obscura featured a photograph I created of The County Theater in Doylestown, Pa., in a story about historic marquees on their website.

That wanderlust dove below the surface today when I stumbled on an Atlas Obscura story about Marie Tharp. In the late 1950s, she combined her geology and oceanography expertise to give the world a more accurate look at the topography underneath the ocean. Tharp’s work and the maps she created were important pieces in the development of modern plate tectonic theory.

Painting of the Mid-Ocean Ridge with rift axis by Heinrich Berann based on the scientific profiles of Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen (1977).

It struck me that so much focus on exploration today is on worlds beyond our terra firma. I’m guilty of it. Just this morning, I watched enthralled as NASA launched a second expedition to Mars.

Godspeed, Perseverance.

The world Tharp mapped is just as exciting and just as undiscovered as the worlds we send spaceships to explore.

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