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Maps

The Coast of Lake Michigan Looks Extra Oceanic in This New 'Linear Map'

Daniel Huffman unfurls the Great Lake’s massive shoreline to map how people relate to it.

Daniel Huffman/Something About Maps

When I visit Lake Michigan, I feel staggering incredulity: How is this not an ocean? Driving between cities around its 1,400 miles of shoreline—say, from Chicago to Grand Rapids—emphasizes the lake’s vast scroll, since the only way to go is around. A new map captures that experience.

Madison-based cartographer Daniel Huffman—a longtime favorite at CityLab—has unfurled the coastline of Lake Michigan to make a “linear map”.

Among other tricky issues, this type of mapping required tons of math to achieve accuracy in terms of scale and relative distance. The effect is striking.

“A drive around the lake becomes a reasonably straight line,” Huffman writes. “Not only that, but the map is actually continuous—the roads running off the bottom of the map are the same as those coming in at the top.”

Linear Lake Michigan is also provocative from a psycho-geographical standpoint. It’s really a map of how people arrange themselves along the lake, and how people relate to it as a more of a lengthy shore than a discrete water body.

“I wanted to show space referenced against a natural feature, rather than figuring locations based on the cardinal directions of north/south/etc.,” Huffman writes. “I think it’s a very human perspective[.]”

The map is below; prepare for a fascinating and seemingly endless scroll. (The brown splotches mark population density.) For more on Huffman’s process and inspiration, read Huffman’s post on the project at Something About Maps.

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