Original Size 36″ x 24″ Hover for zoom

I have never been to St. Vincent Island, but it’s sandwiched between a lot of other places I love and close enough to home that whenever I open up Google Maps I can usually see it sitting there, just on the periphery. The stark ridges crossing the island from end to end are fairly eye-catching, and I’ve wasted more time than I care to admit zooming in and around the island, combing over patterns, and forgetting about whatever I was actually trying to look up. I’ve made a couple half-hearted attempts to map it out in the past, but could never get the feel right. The ridges never quite popped enough.

When I finally sat down to make a real attempt, I learned the island had a pretty fascinating human history to go along with its natural appeal, and the goal of the map quickly went from “how do I share the cool look of this island” to “how do I share this cool island?”. Zebras once roamed free here. Need I say more?

I put a lot of that cool history right onto the map in the form of flavor text, but there’s enough of it to maybe warrant a separate StoryMap or post.

A lot of work spent on this project never really made it into the map, as I spent a ton of time in the beginning just experimenting with different ways to highlight the island’s ridges. Prior iterations used a Blender render and a sort of abstracted, oil paint style — which I do think had a lot of potential — but wasn’t right for this project. In the end I settled for a more traditional multi-directional hillshade, buried under multiple layers of blurred DEMs and slope rasters. I included transects, hoping to highlight the topography even further, but overall I’m not sure I succeeded in what I was trying to do. Despite the interesting pattern, the island is still largely flat with only 8.4 meters of variance (most of that being on the western tip) which makes it a challenge to create relief for. But that can be said for most of coastal Florida, and I’m looking forward to working on that problem more in future maps. A shoutout goes to Carl Churchill and his blog post on enhancing lowland terrains, which provided a lot of food for thought on tackling the problem of low relief areas in this project.

The light pink and green color scheme is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, and I’m very happy with the Prisma font I settled on for the larger text, created by Rudolf Koch. The idea was to accentuate the theme of long lines. I also spent a lot of time researching place names, and referenced as many historical maps of the area as I could find to help fill it with detail. Names like Sambur Slough appear to have been phased out of more modern maps, though nothing new has replaced them. Other features, like Oyster Creek, had several different names depending on who you asked or where you looked. The Pickalene Shore had three or four different spellings from valid sources, so I went with the one I saw most often.

The entire chain of barrier islands found at the mouth of the Apalachicola River (St Vincent, Little St George, St George, and Dog Island) all have a pretty fascinating history. Perhaps I will do the other three in a similar style for a complete series.

© 2020 Aaron Koelker