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An experiment with GPS tracks and waypoints

Several years ago after returning from a trip, one of my grandchildren asked where I had been. He said that he could look at the photos on my web site, but had no idea where these photos were taken. I thought a bit and decided to help by adding a map that indicated where I had visited. Then on one trip, a friend showed me a small GPS unit and I thought, hmmmm, this is the way to solve the "where were you" problem. I'll take a portable GPS with me and try to record the tracks of flights, driving, bicycling, ferry trips and motorcycling and then plot these on maps. Garmin provides a nice CD with maps that change this challenging task into something simple. Now my grandchildren know where I visit and are learning some geography. (For an example, I made a map of the Gingee region of Tamil Nadu with GPS strapped to the handles of a motorcycle. I rode up and down roads, letting the gps do the work and stopping at key points to record a waypoint. (see Valathi project map)).

Since I started including the maps and GPS tracks on some of my photo essay web pages, several people have requested specific GPS information. Since these tracks and waypoints seem to be of increasing interest, I have decided to make them available here, with a challenge to young learner - that of discovering how to plot the tracks and overlay the plot on the appropriate map segment. My goal is to increase awareness of our world from a geographic perspective and challenge folks to take my information and make something of it that is better than what I present.

GPS (Global Positioning System) is a very clever way to measure ones location based on signals from several satellites. I say clever because there are some tricks used to establish the times associated with signal transmissions from different satellites. Here is an image of one of the GPS satellites.

GPS Block IIF Spacecraft

Here is an example of plotting GPS tracks on a map - charting our flight from Charleston SC (USA) to Chicago to Tokyo to Singapore to Chennai to Bahrain to Muscat to Frankfurt to Washington to Charleston.

Here is a collection of GPS tracks (Garmin GPS III+) acquired during our trips to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. They are presented as an exercise for the curious. Download the ascii text files and see if you can plot our airline, automobile, and walking adventures. If you succeed, then can you overlay our tracks on a map?

I shall add links to maps and hints for plotting as I get smarter. This is where Google will help. Here are a few useful links for software tools:

GPS Waypoints and Track Files

The files below are exported text files from Garmin's MapSource. The first segment lists waypoints, then routes, then tracks. The format for the tracks are track point | longitude | latitude | distance | bearing.

Around the World

Mexico United States
Middle East Asia