Great Barrier Reef maps unearthed from Berkeley Basement

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Professor David Stoddart, April 2013

Last year I spent some time in San Francisco. I was lucky enough to catch up with David Stoddart while I was there, who invited me over to lunch. While I was at his house, he dug out an old folder full of maps he had made during the 1973 Royal Society and Universities of Queensland Expedition of the northern Great Barrier Reef. David is a renowned cartographer: he must have mapped upward of a thousand reefs and islands during his career across all of the major reef provinces. The fifty-four maps he handed me are the product of many hours of pacing around in the heat, squinting at a compass and scribbling down field observations. Quite a few of them had the accompanying notes and traverse plots tucked up with them in the cardboard folder, showing just how much work went into their making.

I made this poster to give people an idea of the detailed and extensive work that was done during this expedition. I forwarded it, along with copies of the maps, to the libraries of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. This collection represents a valuable source of information on these dynamic sedimentary islands over forty years ago; it records shoreline position, vegetation cover and reef form at this time. Many of the islands were mapped at a scale of 1:1000 and above, making them accurate baselines against which change can be assessed toward a better understanding of reef island morphodynamics. What a sterling effort! Well done David and thank you for digging them out of your basement.

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