4 August 2009

Two ways to map Rathlin

There are as many styles of map as there are political views, vested interests, and even hobbies. This map, below, was for the use of a specific group of visitors to Rathlin Island last year.

The letters and numbers are the codes of the WAB squares that cover this Northern Irish island. WAB means Worked All Britain. We are now in the company of amateur radio operators, a whole culture of callsigns, occupied bandwidths, and black boxes. Quoting the Bangor and District Amateur Radio Society website (where I also found the map): “As can be seen from the map, the Island spans three WAB squares, D05, D15 and D14.”

Little did we know, as we walked the earth, we were passing through things called WAB squares. This is a landscape only visible to amateur radio operators and invisible to everybody else. However, the WAB squares are not a totally alternative mapping system. They work within standard grids. Rathlin Island is found in square D of the Irish Grid.

Rummaging around in my studio I found a quick map of Rathlin that I drew a few years ago. You will discern that I was more interested in lighthouses than squares of any sort. They are represented by giant light bulbs.

It is indicative of the dangerous seas around this small island that it needs three lighthouses. But despite them there have been over forty shipwrecks on Rathlin's rocks over the years.