Most mere mortals will never scale the Barley Flats peak (elevation 5,630 ft.) in the nearby San Gabriels, let alone the mighty Chomolangma (a.k.a. Everest, elevation 29,035 ft.), sovereign of the planet’s highest mountain system: the Himalayas.
But with a sense of adventure and the right equipment, students and public alike now can experience something akin to a soaring bird’s eye view of the Himalayan ranges, peaks and glaciers, courtesy of Cal State Northridge geography professor emeritus William Bowen.
“Only in dreams could even the most skilled Sherpa circle Mount Everest or Cho Oyu [in the air],” Bowen told the Asian Sentinel upon the recent release of his Himalaya Atlas of Aerial Panoramas. The more than 700 computer-generated panoramas in the atlas’ digital collection capture every square foot of the range between Arunachal Pradesh to the east and Uttar Pradesh to the west, encompassing Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, portions of Tibet and the Indian lowlands.
“Seeing the Earth from a high place allows us to grasp quickly the essential geography of vast regions that eludes those who are earthbound,” said Bowen, who taught geography at CSUN for 34 years. His students inspired him to begin creating digital photo maps; he wanted them to be able to visualize material he covered in class.
The wondrous Himalaya Atlas was created with satellite digital elevation models (DEM), used to outline the peaks, slopes and lakes of the Himalayan topography. Bowen then “cloaked” the models with Landsat (NASA Earth-observing satellites) data on snow, rock, vegetation and other land cover. With that information, he was able to devise a three-dimensional mathematical model as a perch for his virtual 35 mm camera. Many thousands of virtual snapshots later, his digital Himalayas materialized in all their glory.
Created as part of the California Geographical Survey, Bowen’s project is supported by CSUN’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and its Geography Department. The atlas is available without restriction to the CSUN campus for classroom use, for individual students and for teachers everywhere. Serious users may wish to download and color balance the images, then view them on a large monitor. Regional maps may be used to help with orientation and details.
To view Bowen’s Himalaya archive and for information on copyright issues and commercial projects: http://188.8.131.52/himalaya_atlas1/index.html. To visit his Electronic Map Library and its many local and historical collections: http://184.108.40.206/ca_panorama_atlas/index.html.