Polish map of the Tatras named the world’s best map

A 3D map of the Tatra Mountains created by scientists from Krakow universities was named the best map published in 2014 by the Journal of Maps.

The Polish work competed against 70 maps from the whole world published in the Journal of Maps, the only scientific periodical which prints electronic versions of maps presenting research results from different fields of science. A map created by Dr Jerzy Zasadni, Engr. from the AGH University of Science and Technology and Dr Piotr Kłapyta from the Jagiellonian University presents the Tatra Mountains, Poland’s highest mountain range, during the latest glaciation period, about 20 thousand years ago.

“It is more than a map. It is a 3D model of the Tatras that can be presented as a topographical map, in perspective view, and as an animation,” Dr Jerzy Zasadni, Engr., its prime author, told Polska.pl. “Earlier there was no compilation presenting a spatial image of glaciers across the entire mountain range that would show the Tatras from this perspective and be accessible to a layman. I hope that tourists planning to go hiking in the Tatras will reach for this map. After all, the Tatras are our national icon.”

Tatra National Park

The map shows a not so distant past in geological terms of the Tatras, which during glaciation looked completely different than today. Then they were covered with fifty glaciers which have imprinted their features on moraines and forms of glacial erosion. That is why today we can observe and study the footprints of their activity and on this basis we can recreate the way the now extinct glaciers were arranged.

“The Tatras have been very visibly ‘remodelled’ by glaciers and it is one of the most beautiful examples of their activity in our part of Europe,” said Dr. Zasadni, Engr., adding that glaciers retreated from these mountains approximately 10 thousand years ago, after being present there for one hundred thousand years. Hence the mountains had spent more time under ice than without ice and that is why their relief vividly resembles the Alps.

The idea to create a map was born 8-9 years ago. First the scientists had collected the necessary data in the field and then Dr Zasadni, Engr. spent a year constructing a 3D model for which he also used earlier work by other scientists.

“Our purpose was to find a common denominator for every scientific discovery about the glaciation of the Tatras,” says Dr Jerzy Zasadni, Engr.​