Mapper of Mountains
M.P. Bridgland in the Canadian Rockies, 1902-1930
Mapper of Mountains follows the career of Dominion Land Surveyor Morrison Parsons Bridgland, who provided the first detailed maps of many regions of the Canadian Rockies. Between 1902 and 1930, this unheralded alpinist perfected phototopographical techniques to compile a series of mountaintop photographs during summers of field work, and spent his winters collating them to provide the Canadian government, tourists, and mountain climbers with accurate topographical maps. Bridgland was a great climber and co-founder of the Alpine Club of Canada. Mapper of Mountains also tells the story of the Rocky Mountain Repeat Photography Project, which studies the changes sustained in the Rockies, repeating the field work accomplished by Bridgland almost a century ago.
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"So precise are Bridgland's photos that even today scientists and national park experts, as well as environmentalists and foresters, can pore over them to compare them with how the park is today. Anyone familiar with Jasper National Park will find Bridgland's replicated photos and maps fascinating..MacLaren provides a textbook-style, well-documented version of surveying in the early years of the 20th century.." Susan Jones, the St. Albert Gazette, Wednesday, February 22, 2006.
And after reading just a few pages, I was hooked. Mapper is a great book about a quiet and humble man who helped found the Alpine Club of Canada, encouraged a love of the outdoors and climbing in everyone he met, and obviously had a work ethic that was deeply respected by all he came in contact with. Over the course of 28 years, Bridgland spent nearly every summer mapping the mountains of Alberta and British Columbia. During this time he became one of Canada's most accomplished mountaineers, perfected photo topographical techniques and, perhaps most importantly, created the first topographic map, description and guide to Jasper Park....The authors do a wonderful job of explaining just how Bridgland made his photos from the tops of mountains, how he developed them in dark rooms in the middle of the wilderness and how he would then head off to Calgary to spend nearly two full years drawing by hand a meticulous map showing the contours of every mountain scene he'd photographed. Stories of the trials and tribulations of such demanding fieldwork are interspersed throughout this book. Michelle Gurney, Edmonton Journal, April 2, 2006
"Phototopographical surveying as it was practiced in the early 20th century involved taking a series of photographs of the same natural features from established points in order to get an accurate picture of the surrounding landscape. Bridgland's work in the Rockies required establishing fixed points on mountaintops, many of which were unnamed and previously unclimbed. Bridgland had dozens of first ascents to his name by the time he left surveying. The work was demanding, dangerous (at least two of his assistants died) and, in the winter months, dull. After undertaking survey work, Bridgland spent months drawing and marking maps by hand. Phototopographical surveying has long been replaced by aerial photosurveying, which will soon be replaced by satellite surveying. The field no longer has room for heroic figures like Bridgland. But the mapping of Alberta will never end as long as we need to know, precisely, where we are. Alex Rettie, Alberta Views, May 2006
"Bridgland's crowning achievement was to publish the first guide with accurate maps to Jasper National Park. During his career, Bridgland completed 55 first ascents and named many of the lakes and mountains of the region. His story is worth telling....And the text is gorgeously illustrated with countless photographs, including a large selection of Bridgland's black and whites..Today's global warming makes Bridgland's work very important indeed." Ian LeTourneau, Legacy, Summer, 2006
"Bridgland...joined the ranks of the world's mountaineering elite for the vital mountain skills he developed, skills essential to his work. In the course of his mapping work, Bridgland made a remarkable 57 first ascents in the Canadian Rockies between 1902 and 1931. With Wheeler, he co-founded the Alpine Club of Canada in 1906 at the age of 27..Mapper of Mountains chronicles Bridgland's work, life and passion, and it puts his work into the greater context of surveying and mapmaking in the Canadian West." Rob Alexander, Rocky Mountain Outlook, May 4, 2006
"Every decade or so a book comes along that so perfectly fills such an obvious hole in our country's historical record that it makes it difficult to imagine how we managed to live without it until now. Mapper of Mountains is such a book. By carefully illuminating the largely unsung life of surveyor and mapmaker Morrison Parsons Bridgland, this finely crafted biography encompasses a broad sweep of important Canadian history..Mirroring Bridgland's life, this book is an adventure to read. It is about explorers, surveyors and mapmakers..Mapper of Mountains is a well-written, beautifully designed and elegantly illustrated book that will bring delight to anyone interested in the roots of the West, the mapping of the Rockies, and the history of mountaineering in Canada. Ian MacLaren has done this country and our mountains a great service. In this reviewer's estimation, Mapper of Mountains deserves immediate recognition as a classic in the literature of the mountain West." Bob Sanford, The Canadian Alpine Journal, vol. 89, 2006
"Bridgland played a major role in the Canadian mountaineering community in the early years of the 20th century and, until now, has been overlooked. He was, as well, one of the most important surveyors of the mountains of western Canada for 30 years. This book will be of interest to all those who have a passion for Canadian mountain history. With extensive footnotes, bibliography, and index, it is also an excellent resource for serious historians." Chic Scott, ARCTIC, September 2006
"The reader cannot help but admire that throughout his life Bridgland could marry his physical passion for mountaineering and his creative passion for photography, both of which nourished his intellectual desire to inquire into the natural world. He mapped the mountains in ways and to degrees that continue to engross, exhilarate, and enlighten us today." George J. M. Zarzycki, Geomatica, Vol. 60, No.3, 2006
"Ian MacLaren does a fine job examining Bridgland's life and work in clear, elegant prose (and notes containing a wealth of information). His treatment of the subject is thorough and revealing..Mapper of Mountains is a handsome book, richly illustrated, and creatively designed." William A. Waiser, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2006
"Bridgland became one of the most prolific scientific photographers of the North American West in the tradition of Carleton Watkins and William Henry Jackson. He spent his career photographing and then mapping the Canadian Rockies, providing some of the first official images and maps of newly created national parks....In the end, Mapper of Mountains is a celebration of Bridgland's career and a romantic tale of the difficulties of phototopography. It follows a progressive narrative steeped in a positivistic production of knowledge. MacLaren paints Bridgland as both a scientific surveyor and a careful photographic artist....MacLaren has done much to bring to our attention the important place Bridgland played in the history of surveying." H-NET Book Review, Ryan J. Carey, Department of History and Social Sciences, Simon's Rock College of Bard, January 2007. (Full review at: http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=h-histgeog&month=0701& week=d&msg=zjPBFGA44Ui5u4MeRk/GTg&user=&pw=)
"Morrison Parsons Bridgland (1878-1948) was one of the most important and productive cartographic surveyors of western Canada.[H]is quarter-century career in the Canadian Rockies conferred upon him a stature comparable to that of David Thompson,.Bridgland's legacy is multifaceted and impressive, and his photographs constitute a priceless archive that helps modern scholars chart climactic and environmental change in western Canada over the past century." Barton H. Barbour, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol 97, No.4, Fall 2006.
"Bridgland trained numerous other surveyors and alpinists. He played a founding and persistent role in the Alpine Club, and made 55 first ascents. He was admired for his work ethic and physical stamina. The book is enlivened with anecdotes; for example, the importance of keeping feet dry, porcupines, and helicopter flights. Appendices provide chronological listings of Bridgland's ascents and surveys. There is a discussion of sources, a substantial bibliography, and a good index. The book should stimulate further research into the history of surveying and mapping and the characters who undertook such work. It confirms the potential for using repeat photography for studies of landscape change. According to the author, the book is intended for the general reader, and it will doubtless appeal to such readers, especially those interested in the history of the Canadian Rockies. However, given the rigorous research, extensive footnoting, and provision of technical details it deserves recognition, by geographers and others, as a scholarly work." John Marsh, Trent University, 2006 Canadian Geographer, Issue 4
"This book, well written, artistically presented, and superbly illustrated, explains the history of photographic mapping in the Canadian Rockies. Complicated technical processes are clearly explained. Serious readers will appreciate the detailed information in the copious footnotes. Contending with bears and snowstorms, and living frugally, M. P. became one of the foremost phototopographical surveyors anywhere in the world, taking more photographs of higher quality than anyone before him. Photographic plates long thought to be lost were unearthed by deep historical sleuthing and are now available for everyone to see on the web, http://bridgland.sunsite.ualberta.ca/index. The climax of this book is a series of photographs comparing Bridglands 1915 photographs with those taken over 80 years later. They demonstrate how glaciers have receded and forests expanded over that long time frame. Not only is this biography at its finest, the book is a perfect present for those interested in geography, mountains, climate change, or photography. Read it in preparation for a visit to Jasper (especially), or Banff." C. Stuart Houston, The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Vol. 119, Iss. 4, 2005
"Far more than a simple biography, this fascinating book intertwines as major themes the dual roles of art and science in Bridgland's meticulous application of cutting-edge phototopographic surveying techniques to mountainous terrain; Bridgland's active contribution to the rise of the Alpine Club of Canada as a social phenomenon; and the value of Bridgland's work as a baseline for the remarkable Rocky Mountain Repeat Photography Project begun in Jasper National Park in 1997, with invaluable ecological and cultural ramifications deriving from comparisons of photographic images of identical locations taken almost a century apart. MacLaren's discussion of selected aspects of this comparison is illuminating and well illustrated. Indeed, MacLaren is at his best in laying out all of these important themes in tantalizing detail, not only for popular readers but also for scholars who might wish to pursue their richly suggestive historical connections. Bridgland's remarkable career epitomized the phototopographic era in Canada land surveying, from 1902 to 1931." Suzanne Zeller, University of Toronto Quarterly, Winter 2008
"While using photogrammetric techniques to create topographical maps, Bridgman bagged first ascents of numerous prominent peaks and did much to advance alpinism as a sport in Canada. The reading is lighter this time around [than in Culturing Wilderness in Jasper National Park] with pages peppered with black and white photographs taken by Bridgland and by the Rocky Mountain Repeat Photography Project, which revisited the 735 images Bridgland made during his survey of Jasper to observe environmental changes." Tyrone Burke, Canadian Geographic, April 2011
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