“Think of it as a pizza,” said Nicholas Mastrodicasa, the digital mapping project manager in Alaska’s Department of Transportation. “Elevation data is the crust. Imagery is the sauce. Then you’ve got administrative boundaries, hydrography, roads, buildings, vegetation. All have to be correctly registered to the elevation to be accurate.”
Mr. Mastrodicasa works on aviation safety for Alaska, and although aviation may be the most dramatic beneficiary of improved maps, he said it is not the state’s most pressing need.
“No. 1 would be emergency services,” Mr. Mastrodicasa said. “Everything that has to do with safe evacuation.”
Most of Alaska’s villages are accessible only by air or boat. Some are 500 miles from the nearest road. And many are located on the coast where floods and, in extreme instances, tsunamis are a concern. A major tsunami hit the state in 1964.
“You have to get to high ground, but if you don’t know where high ground truly is, you’re probably not going to get to high ground,” Mr. Mastrodicasa said.
Not only will the mapping project create the first accurate baseline maps for Alaska, but moving forward it will also allow the state to track and predict changes to its landscape.
Measuring Denali? That was a bonus. Mapping the Last Frontier—now that’s a challenge.