43. Geospatial Friday - Reflections and Industry Predictions from a 400 yr old Shark


Over the past fortnight, scientists have discovered the world's oldest vertebrate animal in the form of a 400-year-old Greenland shark. This comes having previously discovered the longest-living animal - a 507 year old Icelandic clam (ocean quahog) named Ming. Assuming that the ages of these creatures are correct, they have obviously lived through a lot of changes and innovation in their respective lifetimes. This week we catch up with them to discuss the Greenland landmass, Mercator projections, and the state of the geospatial industry.




Thanks for taking the time to give a few words on your achievement. How does it feel to possess these 'oldest living' titles?

Not a problem! After all, at our age it’s not like we’re in a rush anywhere!

Obviously clams can't speak but, for me, it's an honour to have my age finally recognised as a result of advanced scientific dating techniques. I have been told that I've taken the title from the bowhead whale which can live for some 211 years! As for Ming, he started off around the time of Christopher Columbus, Shakespeare and Galileo!

I put this longevity down to all of the rich nutrients in the Arctic water.


Indeed. It must be pretty cold up there in Greenland also?

Cold? It sure is! Even though the name Greenland gives a wrong impression about the place! In actual fact the landmass is covered in ice most of the year! However, I think most people now realise this fact thanks to Ming’s contemporary, Mercator.



Mercator? Like Gerardus Mercator? Please explain...

Yep that’s the one. Gerardus Mercator, the Flemish Geographer and Cartographer who lived between 1512 and 1594. He develop a cylindrical map projection which became the standard for nautical navigation. So basically the Mercator projection distorts the actual size of the polar landmass and, along with Antarctica, makes Greenland appear much larger than it actually is. As a result, alot more people take notice of this frozen landmass.

(Image: Wikipedia)



So you really are a big fan of this guy and his work?

Absolutely, a great chap and innovator. Laid the geographic foundation to enable humans to explore and better understand the world...and not just in the nautical sense! The major online mapping services such as OpenStreetMap, Google Maps, Bing Maps, Apple and most likely the forthcoming Uber maps use a variant of the Mercator projection. Despite the above mentioned distortion, the projection seems to be suitable to the world of interactive webmaps and for overlayed geospatial datasets.


So aside from putting Greenland on the map, what do you think about the wider geospatial industry?

In my humble opinion, the geospatial industry is THE one to be involved in. Now that the world isn’t flat anymore locational accuracy is as important as temporal [time] accuracy was in the 1800s.  Furthermore, the strategic value of maps is being re-discovered by leaders and decision-makers around the world.

According to an Oxera report commissioned by Google, the revenues from global Geo services is estimated at a whopping $150 billion to $270 billion per year. Another report by the Boston Consulting Group estimates that in the US the industry generates annual revenues of almost $75 billion and that the technology drives $1.6 trillion in revenues and $1.4 trillion in cost savings.

Of course, being an aquatic species I have little use for paper or digital maps. And anyway, I’ve got my inbuilt shark senses to help me navigate the ocean. Still though, myself and Ming will be curious to see what you map-loving humans do next.