And they’ve eluded one of the most rigorous map-making institutions in the world to do so…
Swiss cartographers have a longstanding reputation for topographical rigor. But map-making is a meticulous job, and even they need some coping mechanism to break the monotony of the cartographer’s daily routine.
A recently published story on Eye on Design brings to light an unspoken tradition among Swiss cartographers to hide small doodles inside Switzerland’s official maps. These illicit drawings are cleverly hidden among the contour lines that depict Switzerland’s remote mountainous regions. Being located far from populated areas, they often escape scrutiny for decades.
The hidden doodles below include that of a naked woman, not discovered until more than half a century later, in 2012; the trace of a spider over the ice field on the Eiger mountain, which had nearly faded when a proofreader spotted it a decade later; the illustration of a fish, concealed in a marshy lake on a French nature preserve along the Swiss border and not discovered until 1989; and a marmot, discovered most recently after hiding in plain sight in the Swiss Alps for five long years.
To our great regret, the marmot won’t survive the next edition of the maps. Once these illustrations are found, they are removed when the official maps are updated. Over half of the known illustrations have disappeared this way.
“Creativity has no place on these maps,” explained a spokesperson for Swisstopo, Switzerland’s national mapping agency.
The Swiss aren’t the only ones who have fooled around with their maps. British cartographers have also been caught sneaking names amongst the random wiggly lines which make up the cliffs along the southern coast of the Isle of Wight.