The Northeast Corner

Dear Reader,

How much do you trust Google Maps? On a scale from 1 to blind faith, I could quite literally walk off a cliff because of Google Maps. I kid, but I do heavily rely on the service.

One day, I was —rather curiously, I admit— looking for a body of water to visit and I found this little spot in Danehy Park (see below) in Cambridge.

While I am familiar with this area, this park is relatively unknown to me. However, on the map I was happy to see a little pond sitting cozily on the northeast edge. Planning my walk to the pond, I switched my Google Maps view from “Classic” (see above) to “Satellite” (see below). The curious thing about switching to satellite, however, is that the pond virtually disappears!

Perplexed, I tried to zoom in on the satellite image. Immediately, I could not see any reason for the discrepancy between the pond feature on the Classic image and the dry Satellite image. My first thought was that, perhaps, there was once water in the location that dried up over the years. This could make sense as the area on the Satellite image is darker and looks topographically depressed. My second thought was that the area was not water, rather some sort of mud pit. This thought was supported by the fact that the satellite image is gray and looks uneven.

Either way, my interest was piqued, and I decided to visit Danehy Park just to investigate what really lies in the northeast corner.

I arrived at Danehy Park early one morning and was surprised to see that activities on the many lawns were already in full swing. On a soccer field, a group of women were participating in an outdoor exercise class fully equipped with dumbbells. Across the way, joggers young and old were already completing laps on the red polyurethane track. Also, along the many paved paths older adults with dogs were walking leisurely through the morning Boston humidity. Although it was before 8am, I was already getting hot and decided to keep my visit short. I weaved around the park, cutting through the grass rather than staying on the path looking for… what exactly? I saw neither a body of water nor a mud pit. After turning my map in every which way, I finally found what I was looking for.

It turns out that the water/ pit in the northeast corner of the park is not at all what I thought it would be. Approaching the location, I noticed that the land in that corner was indeed lower than its surroundings, however, it was filled with lush green vegetation. How odd! This little spot looked neither like the Classic nor Satellite image. I approached the patch to get a closer look. On the edge of the path, I realized that it was indeed a body of (very sludgy) water. It looked like a swamp filled with algae and dark liquid. The tall grass and other flowerless plants were so dense that it was not immediately clear to me that their roots were submerged in a slimly mixture. I’m not sure how deep this vegetative pit is, but I feel like a body could decompose peacefully there if left unperturbed.

Behold, the northeast corner!
murky pit “water”

The spot is a swamp teeming with plants. This means that the field of blue in the Google Maps Classic image does make sense, if a blue field is supposed to signal some sort of non-land substance. However, it is also a bit deceiving as the blue that represents a vegetative swamp also represents rivers and oceans.

In the end, Dear Reader, if you are looking for water, it is, perhaps, good to remember that not all blue patches on Google Maps are created equal.



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