Sunday Maptinee: Grid Corrections

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Driving in parts of rural American can be a lot of fun. The landscape can be varied, from fields to rolling hills to small towns and flat, open spaces. Sometimes it seems like there is nothing to stop the road from heading straight in any direction, and yet sometimes random bends in the road appear.

These bends in the road are part of the problem cartographers have been having for hundreds of years; mainly, that you can’t put a rectilinear grid onto a spherical surface without some serious adjustments. Given the great expanse of the United States, roads aren’t able to keep on a physically straight line because of the curvature of the Earth. Even if it might seem like the road we’re on is going straight, minor adjustments need to be made in order to keep roads heading in the right direction.

These minor turns in the road are known as grid corrections. Grid corrections deviate from their otherwise straight lines in order to keep up with the Earth’s spherical shape. Some grid corrections are intersections, and others are curves in the road. There a grid correction approximately every 24 miles, to account for parcels of land in six square mile chunks, a system devised by Thomas Jefferson. This Jeffersonian grid was invented to distribute land equally among residents and townships, but due to the curvature of the Earth some of these grids had to be adjusted.

A Dutch artist travelled to locations around Oklahoma and Canada to take pictures of these unique grid corrections as part of an artist’s residency at Wichita’s Ulrich Museum of Art. The grid corrections were a project designed to showcase the unique quirks of the American roadway system and the geographical rules behind the bends and curves we drive on every day.

In this short one-minute video, Gerco de Ruijter highlights grid corrections from his travels through the United States:

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