Journey to the Poles of Inaccessibility

The project brief:

Chris Brown, an individual on a one-man mission to travel to 20 worldwide Poles of Inaccessibility, challenged us to get him to each location on his list. As leading providers of spatial data solutions and GIS software for 25 years, our team were confident that they could meet the bespoke requirements.

Chris had identified 20 locations in which he would like to travel to a ‘Pole’. It was up to us to calculate where these poles were and place them as points on a map. We’d also be providing co-ordinates so Chris could have confidence that the exact location he was travelling to qualified as a Pole of Inaccessibility.

The team would need to be flexible and adapt to any alterations made to the project as it was being completed.

What are the Poles of Inaccessibility?

Poles of Inaccessibility are points situated furthest from a boundary. POI is often used to refer to the Poles, but Chris also puts forward an alternative; PIA (as in Points of InAccessibility). All areas, even the smallest, have boundaries so the theory can be applied to any area. It’s been suggested that points located on smaller landmasses should instead be labelled Points of Inaccessibility.*

The solution:

The team combined their extensive knowledge and experience with spatial data to provide the required data. To set Chris on his way, here’s what we did:

  • The boundaries of the requested areas were identified and clipped individually, using ESRI ArcMap. The area was now a polygon in .shp format.
  • Next, using QGIS, the calculation was made and the POI was placed within the polygon.
  • We used a Google Roads basemap imported into QGIS, as a backdrop.
  • A .shp file was exported upon completion.
  • Two FME Workflows were built with separate purposes:
  1. The first generated a latitude and longitude co-ordinate for the POI.
  2. The second calculated the distance from the POI to its nearest boundary.
  • The process was repeated for each of the 20 points.
  • The points were combined on a single map view, with details of each point included in an accompanying .csv file.

The result:

The team checked the outputs and delivered both the map image and the accompanying .csv file. The latter contained details including point location, longitude and latitude, and the distance (in metres) from the point to its nearest boundary.

Chris has already started visiting the locations and he’s been kind enough to share some photos with the team here at Miso.

Chris has also set-up a blog to document his travels to each Pole of Inaccessibility – you can follow his progress here.

All the best for the remaining visits, Chris!

* There is some debate over the use of the term “Poles of Inaccessibility”, and whether “Points of Inaccessibility” would be a better alternative. Garcia-Castellanos & Lombardo calculated the original Poles in 2007, and the term was coined then. Chris has his own views on which term should be used and when – read them here.