Canadian Geographic finds place on the ‘Net

If you’ve ever wondered where the Boreal Shield is located — or you just need to ace GEOG 101 — there’s a place on the Web you simply must visit.

It’s Canadian Atlas Online launched this week by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in both English and French.

This online opus is a treasure trove of maps, flash animation and photo galleries. Users can explore Canada and its geographic regions virtually, moving in a snap from the Arctic, to Taiga Mixedwood Plains, and then to the Atlantic Region. (For the geographically challenged among us, the Boreal Shield stretches from Saskatchewan to Newfoundland and Labrador, and covers 1.8 million square kilometres, or nearly 20 per cent of the entire country, according the online atlas.)

Under each region are other subtopics such as “Industry,” and each page includes quizzes and interactive games as well as a resource centre for teachers. A kid’s area, called CG Kids Atlas, is also available specifically for children up to 14 years old.

Built entirely on a Microsoft platform, the Atlas Web site was created with the dynamic Web programming language,, through Microsoft’s Visual Studio. It has a data back-end of SQL Server 2000 and uses Windows Server 2003 as its operating environment.

Ottawa-based marketing firm Banfield-Seguin Ltd. built the site (BSL).

The site needed to be built in nine months and Visual Studio was the only tool available that do the job in that timeframe, according to Danny Cassidy, digital media strategist at BSL, and project manager of the Web Atlas initiative. He said Visual Studio and allows his firm to easily add and expand information and assets on the Web site, providing it with a far more compelling look and feel than a static HTML-based site.

Gilles Gagnier, new media manager at Canadian Geographic, said the Microsoft platform provided them with the uptime and stability they needed for the Web site.

“We’ve been using Microsoft technology since 1995,” Gagnier said, adding that Canadian Geographic went into the project with a vendor-neutral mindset, but after some research concluded Microsoft was the best platform for their purposes.

Cassidy said the biggest challenge was figuring out how to render all the information contained in the hardcopy of the Atlas onto the Web. Web-mapping specialists, DBx Geomatics Inc. in Gatineau, Que. produced all the maps.

Right now, only about 50 per cent of the Atlas has been put online but when the information is fully loaded, the site will contain about 90GB of data, of which around 40GB will be map data.

The site went live on Tuesday.

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