Picture This

Mapping the history of the Pacific Northwest—and other visual offerings.

A GOOD CARTOGRAPHER is at once a scientist, artist, poet, and editor. Each map, even a contemporary hydrographic chart, has its own story to tell, directions it wishes others to follow, and claims to make. Early voyages often produced only logs that later were transcribed imaginatively into graphic form. Some chart-texts were embellished with elaborate cartouches to finesse the unknown or to camouflage landfalls in order to protect state secrets. At other times, sea captains generously exchanged navigational information with their counterparts sailing under other flags. Historical Atlas of the Pacific Northwest

by Derek Hayes (Sasquatch Books, $35) Derek Hayes' superb new atlas traces the mapping of our corner of the North Pacific from the 16th century, when the best information available often was legend and speculation, to the end of the 19th, by which time the Pacific littoral and most of the terrain overland had been scientifically surveyed. The result is a remarkable compilation of more than 300 carefully selected charts and maps from archives throughout the world. All are rare documents, seldom seen individually and never in the same place at the same time. Hayes' cartographic narrative starts with the earliest searches for the great prizes of discovery, for instance, the Straits of Annian (hearsay, reported by Marco Polo), the golden city of Quivira (a Spanish fantasy), the New Albion (Francis Drake), or, more generally, a northwest passage between Europe and Asia (Cook, Bering, Galiano, and Vancouver) and, in one celebrated literary example of imaginative geography, the Land of Brobdingnab (Jonathan Swift). National rivalries placed high values on charts that supported their respective claims (or as in the case of the US-Canadian boundary, "rights") to the coastal fur trade and to strategic real estate. The powers of Europe were usually the courts of final jurisdiction in deciding these questions. Once the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the region's inland waters from Olympia to the Queen Charlotte Islands were reduced to cartographic certainty, map makers turned to defining national boundaries, identifying the resources the territory harbored, and the problems of securing wealth. Mapping the territory progressed with the Fraser River and Klondike gold rushes and the advent of the transcontinental railroads with their mandates for railheads at the tidewater. Hayes annotates each map to place it in the context of its political milieu and, often, in that of the state of the navigational arts. Lacking longitudinal confirmation, one mid-17th century map maker delightfully placed the Pacific Ocean a few miles west of the Carolina outer banks. Even latitude, a more dependable calculation, was troublesome for the early venturers. What Northwest landfalls can be attributed to Francis Drake, for instance? Did he stumble on the Strait of Juan de Fuca (frequently called the Fuca Strait)? For that matter, did the legendary Fuca himself actually sight an inland sea to the east of the Pacific coastline? These questions are among the many that Hayes' study entertains. Both scholars and general readers will find this book the most useful reference work on the history of Pacific navigation to appear in many years. It deserves a place alongside Henry Wagner's monumental Cartography of the Northwest Coast of North America to the Year 1800 (University of California, 1937), which Hayes, in effect, has supplemented with an important extra century of boundary mapping and immigration. He also appends an index of the archives in which each of his documents is held. His "Notes to the Text" provide further citations, and he has added a lengthy bibliography. A magnifying glass is useful in scrutinizing some of the charts, all of which have been scaled down to fit the Atlas' quarto-sized format. There could be a time not too far off when the original documents will be accessible through the Internet, and then the Atlas will serve as a fine guide to the collections in which they reside. —H.H. Cuba (National Geographic, $50)— Cuba features photographs by David Alan Harvey and essays by Elizabeth Newhouse, both of whom have worked for National Geographic for 20 years. With insightful essays and vivid color photographs, this book focuses on one of Latin America's most vibrant cultures. In his introduction, photographer Harvey states, "No one goes to Cuba without making a lifetime friendship. No one goes to Cuba without feeling afraid. No one goes to Cuba without sensing something special, without feeling the music." Some of his more striking images: women in red hot pants against Havana's gray stucco-and-concrete buildings; teenagers lying on a perfect white beach; people sitting in the dark outside their homes, their faces lit by the lights of an oncoming car. Each image moves like a street ballet. —S.I. Women (Random House, $75)—As famous as the stars she captures in photographs, Annie Leibovitz focuses on the fairer sex in her latest book, with over 150 gorgeous and moving portraits of women both famous and ordinary. Some memorable images include Jerry Hall in a lush velvet parlor, her fur coat open so she can nurse her baby; Martha Stewart looking downcast and tired (for once); and a rapturous Sigourney Weaver wearing a fishnet body stocking. The book's layout is not without humor: A two-page spread of young debutantes in tea-length dresses and white gloves is followed by a photo of former Texas governor Ann Richards at a rifle range; a portrait of Barbara Bush precedes a crotch-shot of a high-school kick line; a photo of a staunch New Jersey policewoman follows a shot of a slinky Heidi Fleiss in a black sports car. Skip the scattered introductory essay by Susan Sontag; the photos speak for themselves.—S.I. Sumo (Chronicle Books, $29.95)—For all the fat jokes they invite, sumo wrestlers make surprisingly graceful subjects for photographer Makoto Kubota, who captures the wrestlers in all their massive glory. Some striking images include a two-page, black-and-white photo of a wrestler with one arm raised meditatively, as if he's doing tai chi; two men locked in an embrace, grimacing; another wrestler hunched forward, his body like an oncoming truck; and, finally, a look of exhaustion from one, his face and chest washed with sweat. Kubota's introductory essay explains sumo's place in Japanese society as equal parts religious ritual and popular entertainment. He also details the wrestlers' rigorous training regimen, including a specific meat-and-vegetable diet, thus busting the common misconception of sumo wrestlers as 600-pound gluttons: The ideal sumo body, Kubota says, should be strong, flexible, and have a firm taiko-bara, or "drum-stomach," to keep opponents at a distance.—S.I.

 
comments powered by Disqus