Joaquim Alves Gaspar served in the Portuguese Navy in his youth, but rather than pursue a military career, he turned to teaching at the Portuguese Naval Academy. After his retirement there, he has fulfilled a lifelong ambition: to devote his time to the study of old maps and nautical charts.
Made possible by an EU grant, he is now heading MEDEA-CHART, a five years research programme at the University of Lisbon. “Five years of studying maps! I can’t think of anything more exciting”, Joaquim told our travellers, who were inspired by his passion.
But why studying old nautical charts?
They were extensively used by seafarers during the Middle Ages and Early Modern period. They look impressive but certainly not accurate in the modern sense – people still believed that the earth was flat back then! Their origin –how they were developed/imagined, remains largely an enigma, though. Hence Joaquim’s quest.
Joaquim and the MEDEA-CHART team use the latest digital technology to lift this mystery and they might open up fascinating new research areas for historians and cartographers.
If you’re into maps and their mysteries, check out MEDEA-CHART’s website, which also provides links to many other map-related sites.