apm-wa's diary

Recent diary entries

BBC News Video on Impact of Mapping

Posted by apm-wa on 24 June 2018 in English (English)

Just came across this in my news feed. Don't know if he uses OSM data, but in any event the video is compelling.

The Southern Cross of the Russian Empire, and A Neat Trick with Mapillary GPX FIles

Posted by apm-wa on 23 June 2018 in English (English)

You learn something new every day. Monday I traveled to Serhetabat, on the border with Afghanistan, and collected Mapillary imagery en route that is now being uploaded (please be patient, the Internet is slow here). Mapillary also collects accurate GPX files along with the images, and I have learned that if I copy them from the SD card onto my computer, pull them all into EasyGPS, and save them merged as a single file, I have an accurate GPS trace of my entire route. I may be a slow learner, but I'm at least still learning!

On a hilltop in Serhetabat one finds one of four crosses erected by the Russian Empire in 1913 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The four crosses marked the four farthest flung points of the compass, and this was the south compass point. The other three have been taken down but this cross survives.

Southern Cross of the Russian Empire, from Mapillary

Location: 35.277, 62.342

A Gazetteer of Ashgabat Street Names

Posted by apm-wa on 15 June 2018 in English (English)

I have posted a Gazetteer of Ashgabat Street Names which represents hours and hours of digging through Russian- and Turkmen-language materials in search of information on where these street names came from. In the course of this research over the past three years I have learned a great deal about Ashgabat's and Turkmenistan's history, and hope others will take time to browse the material collected so far.

Location: 37.928, 58.391

A Good Day: Watermelon from Nohur, Where Alexander the Great Left Some Troops, and Street Names in Durun

Posted by apm-wa on 10 June 2018 in English (English)

Ann and I drove up to Nohur, an ancient Turkmen village she had not yet seen. Alexander the Great came through here a couple of thousand years ago and left some of his legion behind. They settled in Nohur and their descendants are still here, some still with green eyes inherited from their Greek forebears. The village is famous for its watermelons so we bought one. While there I recorded the names of two of the three cemeteries not yet mapped and have now added them to OSM. I have to wonder how many of Alexander's soldiers are buried in them!

When the Mapillary images are uploaded (currently in progress) you can see some of the headstones, which are decorated with ram's horns. Nobody seems to remember exactly why, but it is apparently a custom left behind by the Greeks.

On the return to Ashgabat, we stopped to explore Durun, a typical former Soviet state farm village. It is small so we recorded every street name in the village represented on a street sign (not all streets had signs), plus some POIs. My embassy has published six American books in Turkmen translation so we gave books away to the villagers as we drove around collecting cartographic information. Word spread and at times we were mobbed by children wanting their own copy of "Harold and the Purple Crayon" in Turkmen. All in all it was a very enjoyable Sunday.

Tomorrow we'll start eating the watermelon.

Location: 38.471, 57.040

Stub Articles Started on the Five Provinces of Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 9 June 2018 in English (English)

I've created stubs of articles on the five provinces of Turkmenistan:

I've added photos to some of them. Please take a look and let me know what's missing. These are works in progress.

200,000 Mapillary Uploads, and Vandalism in Awaza

Posted by apm-wa on 9 June 2018 in English (English)

As of the last upload of images from a trip across the Karakum Desert to the city of Dashoguz, and visits to sites in and around Dashoguz, I have contributed a bit more than 200,000 Mapillary images, the vast bulk of them in Turkmenistan and the vast majority taken in areas where nobody else had captured ground-level imagery to that point. I hope some of you will take the opportunity to visit Turkmenistan virtually via Mapillary, since Turkmenistan issues only about 11,000 tourist visas per year and is one of the least visited countries on the planet There are some marvelous sights, however! I'm trying to capture as many as I can.

Somebody vandalized streets I had drawn in Awaza, the resort zone on the Caspian Sea shore. He (yes, it was a male of the species) disconnected streets and moved them around, then added nonexistent streets. I don't understand why someone is motivated to vandalize a map database. It is all repaired now, but repairing the damage cost me time I could have spent doing something else.

Wiki Articles on Major Cities in Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 4 June 2018 in English (English)

I have at least started OSM wiki articles on the major cities of Turkmenistan, as follows:

*Ashgabat *Balkanabat *Dashoguz *Mary (Turkmenistan) *Turkmenabat *Turkmenbashy

The intent is to institutionalize all I have learned about mapping in Turkmenistan so far, before my tour of duty ends sometime this calendar year. If other mappers have suggestions for information to add to these articles, I am all ears.

Updates to Dashoguz and the Road North from Ashgabat

Posted by apm-wa on 2 June 2018 in English (English)

I drove, or more precisely was driven, from Ashgabat to Dashoguz across the Karakum Desert on May 29, collecting Mapillary imagery (presently being uploaded, please be patient) and location data for POIs using Pocket Earth and MAPS.ME. We collected the numbers of the gas stations and the names of villages (i.e., navigation waypoints) en route plus locations of clinics and the district hospital in Ruhubelent. Met a Dutch tourist at the cafe near the Darwaza fire crater who was navigating with MAPS.ME and said it was extremely useful for getting around both Iran and Turkmenistan.

Once in Dashoguz we spent some time collecting more street names, some POIs, and correcting a few anomalies. If tourism ever is allowed to flourish in Turkmenistan, this will be a major route from points in Uzbekistan to Ashgabat.

You may notice in the ground-level imagery taken May 29 that the sky is white and visibility is limited to about a mile. This is because the area was subjected to a salt storm caused by winds kicking up salt from the desiccated seabed of the evaporating Aral Sea. This ecological disaster confronted us travelers in a particularly stark manner.

Location: 41.175, 58.543

Updates to New Turkmenbashy International Seaport and New Turkmenbashy Wiki Page

Posted by apm-wa on 27 May 2018 in English (English)

During another trip to Turkmenbashy to attend the 9th Annual Gas Conference, I took a few hours to collect more GPS traces and Mapillary ground imagery in and around Turkmenbashy, including the seaport dedicated on May 2. The updates to the seaport are uploaded now--additional roads, placement of important terminals (including the passenger and ro-ro terminals), and tweaks to the approach roads.

We also geolocated the Kazakhstan and Russian consulates in Turkmenbashy, which means we now have all diplomatic and consular missions in Turkmenistan on the map, complete with addresses and telephone numbers. We located and collected contact information for the three downtown hotels (Charlak, Hazar, and Turkmenbashy), i.e., those not located in the Awaza tourist zone.

I also started a wiki page on the city of Turkmenbashy, as a companion to the pages on Turkmenistan, and cities of Ashgabat and Mary. All of these are far from finished, so please be patient as I collate information and upload it. If you have suggestions or criticism or thoughts on these pages, please sing out!

Location: 40.005, 53.032

New Wiki Page on Mary, Additions to Wiki Pages on Turkmenistan and Ashgabat, Plus Ylham Park Busts

Posted by apm-wa on 20 May 2018 in English (English)

I'm continuing to add accumulated institutional knowledge and references to source materials on Turkmenistan and so far two of its cities in the wiki, Ashgabat and Mary. If anyone has thoughts on what more needs to be added, I will welcome suggestions. Time permitting I will add the other provincial capitals (Balkanabat, Dashoguz, Annau, Turkmenabat) in the coming weeks.

The upload of Mapillary imagery from Balkan welayat continues--down to about 1,800 images out of the 31,000 collected. Most are boring shots of the M37 highway or other major roads, good for mapping but otherwise not terribly interesting. I'll look through them for shots of camels on the highway and other items of interest.

I also shot Mapillary images of the busts of Turkmen literary and musical notables in Ylham Park. You may see the busts here and here. These are all now mapped in OSM for use by tourists and others.

Location: 37.947, 58.378

Russian Orthodox Churches in Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 18 May 2018 in English (English)

I have geolocated and mapped all Russian Orthodox Churches cited on the website Some were already mapped, but not all. This has involved in a few cases driving to the cities in question, asking locals where the church is located, and driving to it to mark it. In other cases it has involved querying locals as to the location and having them point it out in Digital Globe imagery for me. That last one we found was the Church of the Apostle Thomas in Tejen, which someone had mistagged as a mosque. Many thanks to all who helped!

This week I traveled to Mary and collected a few thousand Mapillary images along the M37, which are in the process of being uploaded. I identified some more POIs plus have updated some obsolete street names. There are three major hotels in Mary (Mary, Margush, and Yrsgal), and all three are now well marked in OSM for the convenience of travelers. There is also a new supermarket, Belent, and it is marked now as well. That's not to mention the out-of-the-way Gas Station 19 on a rural road that we stumbled across!

Location: 37.383, 60.513

New Wiki Page on Ashgabat

Posted by apm-wa on 13 May 2018 in English (English)

I've started a new wiki page on the city of Ashgabat. Suggestions on what more to include are solicited and welcome.

Location: 37.934, 58.393

The Hand-Cut Pass Through Solid Rock in Turkmenbashy, Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 12 May 2018 in English (English)

Do a virtual drive via these Mapillary images I took last week of the pass cut by hand by Japanese prisoners of war after World War II. The pass was carved out of solid rock using hand tools.

There is a small memorial to Japanese POWs at the top of the hill.

So far about 5,000 of the over 30,000 images I collected on this trip have been uploaded. I copied them from my smartphone to my desktop computer and am using the desktop interface with to upload them. Due to the slow internet speeds of the Turkmen internet, it will be a while before all images are uploaded.

Location: 40.041, 52.972

The Turkmenistan page in OSM's Wiki

Posted by apm-wa on 11 May 2018 in English (English)

I am working on the Turkmenistan page in the OSM Wiki, seeking to add information I've acquired during my tour of duty here in Ashgabat. If you have suggestions for information that should go on this page for purposes of preserving institutional memory, please sing out! If I don't possess the information I'll try to find it during the time left on my tour of duty.

Location: Nomadic village, Ahal Region, Turkmenistan

Updates to Balkan Velayat in Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 5 May 2018 in English (English)

Just spent three days exploring parts of Balkan velayat, including the Yangy Kala Canyon, plus attending the dedication of Turkmenbashy city's new international seaport. I am presently uploading several thousand Mapillary images, which will take several days at our local internet speeds, so check back in a week or two for updated ground-level imagery. I also collected names of some villages in Balkan velayat on the road between Balkanabat and Archman, and will be adding them as time permits. Lots of fresh data--now just need to find time to enter it all!

Location: Balkan Region, Turkmenistan

Updates to Lebap Welayat in Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 16 April 2018 in English (English)

Among the things on my to-do list are checking to ensure that changes to names of places in Lebap welayat adopted in November 2017 have been taken care of. The whole list is in this article in the Russian language. As time permits, I'll check and edit as necessary. Among other things, the city of Atamyrat and surrounding district have had their old names (Kerki and Kerki etraby) restored. I changed the city name some time back but still have some work ahead.

Location: Turkmenabat, Lebap Region, 746100, Turkmenistan

House numbers in Taze Zaman development of Ashgabat

Posted by apm-wa on 14 April 2018 in English (English)

Today I collected house numbers in the Phase 4 development of Taze Zaman, a planned community in the northwest quadrant of Ashgabat. To my surprise, street signs in the new phase in a couple of cases show alternate spellings for the names of the streets. In the old phase, Ebedilik and Abadanlyk are the names of the streets; in the new phase, they are spelled Ebediýlyk and Abadançylyk. Since OSM recommends naming streets as their signs read, the streets are split between the alternate spellings.

At any rate, all houses are now numbered, using the addr:interpolation tag on lines drawn between address points at the end of each city block. The houses are cookie-cutter, so the interpolations should be pretty accurate.

Location: Taze Zaman, Bagtyýarlyk etraby, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Ene Kuliyeva

Posted by apm-wa on 11 April 2018 in English (English)

While exploring the Köşi neighborhood in Ashgabat (itself a former village before being annexed in the 20th century), Ann and I stumbled across a school with a bust of a woman in the school yard. This is unusual in Turkmenistan--a memorial to a woman--so we stopped to photograph it, and the teachers came out to see who the strangers were. We asked whom the bust commemorated. Ene Kuliyeva was an advocate for educating girls in the early 20th century, and was assassinated in Moscow in 1925. The school is named in her honor. I photographed the pages in a three-ring binder the teachers showed us, and am having the text translated from Turkmen into English. We forget too easily the martyrs who made the world a better place and suffered for their labors; I don't want her to be forgotten.

!(Ene Kuliyeva bust)(

Location: Kosi, Bagtyýarlyk etraby, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Updating Turkmenabat

Posted by apm-wa on 7 April 2018 in English (English)

A couple of weeks ago I drove from Ashgabat to Turkmenabat then mushed on to the Dayahatyn caravansaray outside Seydi. You can see some Mapillary imagery of the caravansaray, which was in use between the 11th and 16th century on the Silk Road, here

Along the way, I collected over 25,000 ground level images using Mapillary, and over time am uploading them. The new roads built in and around Turkmenabat required a few hours of editing to update but the map of that city and environs is now in much better shape than before.

Location: P35, Lebap Region, Turkmenistan

Statues in Ylham Park

Posted by apm-wa on 18 March 2018 in English (English)

I finally got around to adding statues in Ylham Park between Gorogly and Azady streets. The Mapillary imagery is available for those interested in seeing what the statues look like.


Location: Köpetdag etraby, Ashgabat, Ahal Region, Turkmenistan