Rabbit Island Quadrangle by artist and cofounder Andrew Ranville.

The official Traverse Island quadrangle represents Rabbit Island at the classic 7.5-minute, 1:24,000 scale which all quadrangles across the United States were mapped at. It was field checked by the agency in 1954 and further revised using aerial photographs in 1975. While it does place the island in the context of Keweenaw Bay it provides little detail of the island itself.

The mapping of the United States by the 7.5-minute topographic maps—the most detailed of the quadrangle series—was an immense and impressive undertaking, championed by an equally impressive man: the second director of the USGS, John Wesley Powell.

Unfortunately, those iconic topographic maps are no longer being produced by the USGS and the program was “completed” in 1992. Now US Topo maps are the future, though they are inferior in terms of both aesthetics and function. The new US Topo/National Map quadrangle of Traverse Island actually cuts the north shore of the island completely off.

My intention was to map the island at a much more detailed scale than the historic quadrangle maps and publish it as an artist’s print, in an edition in collaboration with the USGS themselves. Unfortunately the same budget cuts and congressional pressure which brought about the poor US Topo map series resulted in a curt response. Undeterred, I continued gathering data via circumnavigations, transects, and waymarking over 2012, adding to the data I collected in 2011. Illustrating the map from scratch, I completed the first version in early September. Thus the island can now be seen at 1.5-minute series (1.5 degrees of latitude and longitude) at a scale of 1:4,800. The printed edition—unlike the digital version provided above—contains markedly more details and waymarks.

Map logistics were a challenging issue. In the end one of the most instrumental people in making the map a reality was an actual USGS employee, Doug Thomson. He formerly ran the lithographic printing press at the USGS headquarters in Reston, Virginia, and provided invaluable technical advice and support including Pantone color translations to match the original inks with the spot colors used in the print.

To honor the tradition of the classic topographic maps I had the map created lithographically on paper closely matching the color, weight, and feel of original maps. Jack Eberhard and the staff at Book Concern Printers in Hancock, Michigan were unflappable, working down to the wire to have the map printed in time for the No Island is a Man exhibition.

The final result is an edition of 275 maps at 16.25" x 24" (approx. 41cm x 61cm), five spot color on 70lb NewPage Anthem matte coated stock.

These limited edition prints can be purchased online by donating $40 to support the Rabbit Island residency program.

+ Available here at our online shop

While I view my cartographic research on the island as an extension of my arts practice, I greatly appreciate the practical and scientific value this work presents. I hope it will provide a valuable resource to future researchers and artists, and serve as a lens that further-afield friends and acquaintances can use to experience the island in some small way. The map is not exhaustive, it would be foolish to attempt a map that was. After all, some things are best left to be discovered first hand.


October 8, 2012