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Home » Innovation » Maritime Image of the Day: “The Mississippi River’s Hidden History”
Vibrant maps from aerial laser data—known as lidar—show the position and elevations of the Mississippi Delta. This stretch shows historical movement and shape-shifting across three counties in Mississippi.

Maritime Image of the Day: “The Mississippi River’s Hidden History”

PortandTerminal.com, November 7, 2019

Editor’s note: “Image of the Day” is a new feature that we have recently launched. We work in an amazing industry. Let’s celebrate its beauty together by sharing the incredible imagery taken by our colleagues of what we do. Have a photo/video to share? Please send it to info@portandterminal.com along with the name of the photographer who took it (if available) so that we can give them the credit that they are due.

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – In the 1940s, Army Corps of Engineers cartographer Harold Fisk used aerial photos and local maps to create jaw-droppingly beautiful visuals of the Mississippi River such as the one below:

A 1944 map by geologist Harold Fisk charts a 40-mile stretch of the Mississippi River from Friars Point to Gunnison, Mississippi. Fisk used aerial photos and maps to estimate the past and then-present channels.

Inspired Fisk’s maps of the Mississippi River, seven decades later, Daniel Coe, a cartographer for the Washington Geological Survey, wanted to re-create Fisk’s maps with greater accuracy and a new aesthetic.

Using hyper-precise U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data collected using lidar, a system of laser pulses sent from aircraft to measure topography, Coe was able to create an entirely new way of seeing the river and its historical changes.

Is it science, art or both? We think both.

Mississippi’s Tunica Lake, in this image’s central oxbow bend, was once part of the Mississippi River. In the 1940s the Army Corps of Engineers cut the bend to straighten the river and shorten the shipping route.

Check out Daniel Coe’s GIF that morphs Fisk’s original work with his own. Stunning!

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