First, take a deep breath. Better? Good. Then visit the GIS Day website, which lists dozens of events across Canada. Example: There's an open house in Mississauga today where visitors can "share news and uses of GIS in various departments in the Regional Municipality of Halton." Dress code: Narwhale (pictured).
If nothing else, it's worth noting that many, if not most, Canadians use GIS every day via the mapping apps and GPS devices that get us from the bathtub to Friendly Stranger. Plus, we don't have to fold paper maps anymore. I never did get the hang of that.
We should also be thankful for the entertainment GIS-related snafus provide. Last year, for instance, the Apple Maps app led motorists onto the runway at Alaska's Fairbanks International Airport. Instead of guiding them to the terminal, the app reportedly sent drivers toward the tarmac, and in a couple of cases they continued right into the path of planes.
Thankfully, no collisions or injuries were reported, and the entrance to the runway was barricaded. To be fair, the app wasn't completely at fault: The drivers reportedly continued through a gate and past several warning lights, signs and concrete markers.
That's the problem: Map apps are so reliable, useful and accessible that we assume their directions are always accurate. And you know what happens when we ass-u-me.
In 2012, motorists heading for the Australian town of Mildura were instead directed by Apple's mapping software to Murray Sunset National Park, an arid, rugged reserve some 70 kilometres from the intended destination. According to news reports, at least six vehicles got stuck for as long as 24 hours in the park's muddy tracks, which are typically reserved for four-wheel-drive vehicles. One driver, local police noted, was too scared to leave his car after being terrorized by a snake, a goat and a fox. Crocodile Dundee he is not.
Map apps may be dangerously off base at times, but they have a better record than GPS units. Tales of ill-advised GPS short-cuts and embarrassing misdirection abound, including:
- A van driver gets stuck on a Swiss mountain path and ends up being rescued by a team of mountaineers and a helicopter.
- Two American girls rent an SUV and drive it into a lake.
- A search and rescue team is dispatched to rescue 25 travellers who became hopelessly lost in the Utah wilderness and nearly drove their bus off a cliff.
So it seems some lessons are more valuable than learning to fold a paper map: One, immediately disregard digital directions if the front of your car is submerged in water. And two, narwhale outfits are on sale at Walmart until Friday.