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2.2.3 Mapping the invisible

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Figure 35. (Top row of image) Google Earth street view of the ocean bed of Lizard Island – Parts of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia have been mapped by Google with divers and hand-held cameras, showing numerous marine life. Currently, only a few ocean beds have been mapped by Google Earth. Image credit: Google Earth (screenshot captured on 03/05/22) (Google, 2022).
(Bottom row of images) Two screenshots from the 70hrs of videos captured by Sund Vejle Fjord Project show the dead sea bed due to water pollution in Vejle fjord. Image credit: Sund Vejle Fjord (n.d.).


     The second example I wish to highlight is a historical map that changed how people depicted the underwater realm. This map was created by Marie Tharp, a geologist and oceanographer. She created topographical maps of the ocean bed[1] incorporating bathymetric information that changed how people imagine two-thirds of the world. In 1957, Tharp and her research partner, Bruce Heezen, began publishing maps that showed the main features of the bottom of the ocean consisting of mountains, valleys and trenches, contrary to the popular scientific assumption that the seabed was featureless (see Figure 36 of her maps below) (Gang, Cahan and Kramer, 2016; Atlas Obscura, 2020). Her iconic hand-drawn maps of the ocean floor showed that land and sea are not as easily demarcated and separated as people initially assumed. The maps indicated that land and sea are a changing continuum, not a border. The importance of these maps was their success in sparking a new way of envisioning the ocean, not as lifeless and unknown but as a familiar territory to one on land. This form of mapping led to the modern mapping of topobathy, which combines land-based topography and bathymetry (water depths) into one surface (see Figure 37).

    For Vejle, the topobathy data I gathered was re-appropriated in the mappings used in the research for analysis, as shown in Figure 37. However, only 5m intervals of contour lines are publicly available in Denmark for bathymetric data, limiting the accuracy of the main case study site of Vejle.


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Figure 36. Marie Tharp and Bruce C. Hezeen’s hand-drawn (physiographic diagram) map of the North Atlantic Ocean floor helped support the tectonic plate theory and ultimately challenged the way we see the seafloor as a continuum. As shown in the left-hand image, the centre of the Atlantic Ocean shows the rift valley due to the tectonic plates. The right-hand image indicates that the Canary Islands (in yellow) is essentially a tip of a mountain that is above the waterline, indicating visually that the land and sea are interconnected. Image credit: Marie Tharp (1957) (reproduced).

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Figure 37. (Top image) Topographic and bathymetric data of Vejle fjord. The different colour gradation represents different heights above and below the current average sea level. This type of topobathy map is useful when engaging with a site that concerns the boundary between land and sea.
GIS data from: GEUS Dataverse (Tougaard, 2006).
(Bottom Left image) Map of Denmark showing the continuation of height-to-depth relationship from land to the sea via topobathy. The highest latitude is shown in black on land to the deepest sea beds in light beige. The red areas highlight the coastal cities and towns.
(Bottom Right image) Map of Denmark showing the elevation up to 10m on land (in dark beige), which shows the most low-lying areas of the Danish coast. The depth of the sea is a degradation from the colour beige to dark blue.
Both maps show the relationship between the low-lying areas near the coast (i.e. coastal cities/towns), marking their vulnerability to rising sea levels and storm surges. The map is a good example of visually portraying the coast as not a line but a transitioning zone.
Image credit for both maps: "Det Lille Blå Atlas" by Wiberg et al. (2022).
(Extracted from Kumu Multiscalar map – National scale node).


     One of the principal aims of the maps developed in this project is to highlight our reliance on territorial thinking as well as the insights that might be gained by adopting the perspective of the water. In turn, this means that we can also start to depict our “dry” lands as wet territory crossing arbitrary man-made municipal borders. For instance, all of America’s (48 contiguous states) waterways were mapped and created by computer programmer Nelson Mina (see Figure 38) (Gordon, 2013; Mina, n.d.). He managed to show how blue America is, much like the veins in the land, contrary to the usual satellite imagery showing green forests and brown deserts. Mina’s visual representational technique has been adopted for this research using GIS data, as shown in Figure 38, showing how “wet” Denmark truly is.



Figure 38. (Top image) “The veins of a nation: All of America’s rivers mapped” by Nelson Mina. Image credit: Nelson Mina (Gordon, 2013; Mina, n.d.).
(Bottom image) My attempt at mapping all of Denmark’s “on-land” water bodies (streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, etc.). Water bodies are shown in red like blood vessels of a human body. GIS source: Miljøstyrelsen (n.d.).
(Extracted from Kumu Multiscalar map – National scale node).



     Valuable lessons can be learnt from the examples of mapping techniques of the water bodies, which invoke the viewer's imagination to think differently about the water. These techniques are also employed for the various mapping analysis presented throughout this research as part of the multiscalar contextual analysis (refer to Part IV of this research).

[92] Oceans cover over 70% of the surface of the earth (and will cover more in the future due to SLR) (Smith et al., 2008). But, Humans know more about the surface of the moon than the deep waters of the ocean. While there are advanced sonar technology, less than 10% of the ocean has been mapped in high resolution compared to 100% mapping of the surfaces of Mars and the Moon in high resolution (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2021).

[93] I have often encountered practitioners who want to work with the sea who say, “we just do not know enough about what is under the water.”

[94] Tharp’s maps were foundational to the development of plat tectonic theory (i.e. continental drift). She accurately identified that mountains and valleys in the Atlantic ocean where the two continents of Africa and South America could have been separated (Gang, Cahan and Kramer, 2016; Atlas Obscura, 2020). She had limited data and had for certain parts of the sea, she had to use her artistic license to fill in the gaps (Kovats, 2014).

Regarding mapping the world under the surface of the water[92], progress has been much delayed (Gang, Cahan and Kramer, 2016). Moreover, as shown in mapping examples in Figure 34, depictions of the marine realm are presented as lifeless and mysterious blue planes viewed from above (i.e. bird’s-eye-view), not from the perspective of the marine realm (i.e. fish’s-eye-view as shown in Figure 35). There is a need to better represent the liquid realm underneath, especially in the LUDP disciplines[93], if we want to design better the interchange between land and sea, human and nonhumans. There are inherent difficulties in representing and speculating potentials for the marine realm with a different set of rules, boundaries and orientations than the linear and fixed structures we are used to on land.

    Fortunately, some attempts to map this perceived invisible realm do exist. For instance, Google has recognised the importance of mapping the ocean and is leading in trying to map the ocean beds similar to its Google street view function  (see Figure 35). This map offers an interactive way of navigating through the oceanic world,  allowing the user the control to explore this liquid space. While Google Earth data for underwater is not available for the case study context of the Vejle fjord, this form of navigable photographic depiction of the marine realm is important to highlight the sea bed conditions that form the basis of a site for Urban Seascaping. For instance, the Sund Vejle Fjord project has recorded an underwater video of the sea bed in Vejle Fjord, as shown in Figure 35. The video presented a powerful medium to communicate the dire conditions of the majority of the Vejle fjord (i.e. dark and dead), indicating the extent of the challenge in the task of reviving marine life in these conditions. Depiction of the 3D spatial conditions of the sea bed in the form of moving images gives another sense of understanding from the typical 2D visualisations and section drawings. Therefore, the screenshots from the Vejle Fjord sea bed videos are incorporated into the mapping analysis as part of the research (refer to Part IV).  


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