Mapping Belgium’s Collieries

Filed Under History & Geography on January 15, 2011 | 1 Comment

A side effect of being sick is having a lot of time to kill while avoiding expending energy. Considering I’ve been ill now for three and half months, that’s a LOT of time to kill. On the days that the infection is particularly bad my brain just goes to mush so I melt the day away with some old TV shows (have watched all of the original Star Trek and all of Star Trek The Next Generation already), but on the days that my head is clearer I find Google Earth to be an amazingly interesting way to loose a few hours. It never ceases to surprise me how much of a nation’s history is etched into the very land itself. A canal may have been re-routed decades ago, but it’s old alignment still affects the boundaries of properties and fields all along it’s length. The same goes for that railroad that’s been gone for over a century, or that coal mine that closed in the late 1800s. You can look at the street plans of cities like Antwerp and Brussels, and still see the alignments of the old city walls even though they’ve been gone for hundreds of years. The many wars that have been fought in a country like Belgium also leave their mark, from massive WWII bunkers to beautifully shaped WWI fortresses to Napolionic fortifications to even older castles and towers, to simple things like defensive ditches and banks, and even tank traps. They’re all there to be seen on Goole Earth by anyone with the interest and the patience to seek them out.

Anyhow, the point is, maps fascinate me, and I can stare at then for hours, and satellite photos with map data overlaid on them doubly-so. If you don’t have Google Earth installed on your computer and/or iPhone or iPad yet, you should stop reading now and go download it from

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