Sketching in Water by Chris Higgins
Sketching in Water by Chris Higgins

Cartography Salon Judging Criteria

NSS Cartography Salon

Judging Criteria for the Cartographic Salon

The following is an explanation of how the maps are judged. The intent is to provide uniform standards by which the maps can be fairly judged, and to aid cartographers in developing better cave maps.

The judges will divide the maps into categories based on the past experience of the cartographers, the length of the caves, the number of submitted maps, and their individual formats. If warranted by enough or unusual entries, the judges may create special classes such as First-Time Cartographer, Color Usage, Computer Cartography, Complex Representations, Topo Overlays, etc.

The judges first look for certain mandatory features, without which a map will not be considered for an award. Second, the judges will look at quality factors and assign appropriate point values to each factor. The mandatory and quality factors are described below. The individual judges will provide the reason for their point selection in the "Comments" portion of the judging form. Following the first round of judging, where the judges evaluate each work individually, the point totals will be tallied for all the maps by combining the judges' scores. All maps scoring more than a prescribed number of points will receive special recognition. From these, the judges will confer and select the winners. A Cartographic Salon workshop will be held to discuss the maps and provide a forum for learning from which all cave cartographers may benefit. All critique forms will be returned to those cartographers present at the workshop. Those critique forms not picked up will be mailed to the individual cartographers.


Cave Name: All cave maps must have a name. This name should be neither too bold nor too difficult to locate. Abbreviations should not be used in the cave name.
Obvious Entrance or Connection with the Rest of the Cave: All maps must have an obvious entrance or a connection with the rest of the cave. If the map is a quadrangle that connects to other quadrangles, then the places where a cave passage extends off the edge of the quadrangle are considered the obvious connections.
North Arrow: All cave maps must have a north arrow. This arrow should point to true north and, if the cartographer wishes, may include a subordinate magnetic north arrow. A magnetic north arrow by itself is not desired; however, if it is shown, a date must be displayed. The north arrow must be long enough to be useable, and it should not be so ornate that it is useless.
Bar Scale: All cave maps must have a bar scale, and this bar scale must include the linear units. The cave map may include two bar scales, one for meters and one for feet. Ratio scales, such as 1:600, or written scales, such as 1 cm = 5 m, are not desired because, if the map is reduced or enlarged, the scale becomes inaccurate.
Vertical Control: All maps must have some kind of vertical control such as either a profile or symbols. Both methods can be utilized together. If a profile is used, it should include a vertical bar scale and be labeled as to type (e.g., Projected Profile, Expanded Profile, or Idealized Profile). If vertical symbols are used, they should include cave elevations, pit depths, ceiling heights, and water depths. In addition, a zero datum should be labeled near the cave's dominant entrance. Instead of the above methods, the map can utilize contours or a large number of cross-sections that are properly orientated vertically.
Date: All maps must include the date or time period when the cave was surveyed.
Cartographer or Survey Group: All cave maps must include the cartographer or the survey group's name(s).


Balance and Layout: Does the cave map appear well-balanced to the eye? Are some areas of the map blank while other areas are crowded?
Drafting Technical Quality: How technically correct is the drafting? Are the line widths consistent? Do the lines end and blend well? Are the symbols drawn well? Are the symbols correct? Are the outside walls of the cave obvious?
Detail Thoroughness: Is there too little detail? Is there too much detail? Does it extend into every passage? Is it consistent throughout the entire map? Is the detail easy to understand or is it confusing? Is ceiling detail shown? Does the detail match the legend or the list of symbols? Would a caver be able to use the map to navigate through the cave?
Vertical Control: How well is the cave's vertical dimension shown? Is there enough information on ceiling heights, pit depths, cave elevations, and water depths? Horizontal caves are no exceptions! Is the Profile View large enough and well enough centered to be understood? Does the Profile View include the entire cave? How well does the Profile View match the Plan View?
Lettering: Is the lettering even and consistent? Is it too small or too big? Is it all evenly spaced, both horizontally and vertically? Is the lettering easy to read? Are there unneeded (or too many) abbreviations?
Visual Impact: Does the cartography make the cave seem interesting or boring? Overall, does the map look good?


Still other factors can be used to enhance the cave map. Their use or lack of use will be considered by the judges. These factors include, but are not limited to: Site Details, such as geology and surface features; Complex Representations, such as multi-level caves or cave passages; and Innovations, new methods which enhance the understanding of the cave or map. The judges will also consider the following factors:

Cultural Location: This should be included on nearly all cave maps, unless the location is sensitive or restricted. Abbreviations should not be used in the cultural location.
Precise Geographic Location: Some cartographers include this; others do not. If geographic coordinates are used, then they must include all information to make them clear (coordinate system name, units, datum, etc.).
Cross-Sections: These are extremely important and should be included on the cave map. Detail inside the cross-sections should be shown and must match the detail on the plan and profile views. Maps without cross-sections often do not score well in Cartographic Salons. Cross-sections can be drawn next to the cave passage or away from the passage and then flagged with letters or numbers. Cross-section lines should be arrowed to show the direction of view, and should show the horizontal and vertical relationships of adjacent passages. They should be consistent, not be confused with passage lines or detail, and be drawn not too close to or far from the cave passage.
Type of Survey: This should be identified by survey grades, Topofil, Brunton and pace, Suunto and fiberglass tape, etc.
Legend: This is not required, but all non-standard cave symbols should be explained by or formatted into a legend. If there is no legend, then it is good to note what set of cave symbols were used.
Length and Depth of the Cave: The length of caves can be measured by one of two methods: surveyed or horizontal length. The depth of the cave is the difference between the elevations of the highest and lowest station or point in the cave, which may or may not be at an entrance.
Passage endings: Passages should be shown as they end. Passages that became too small, are too high, or are otherwise beyond the abilities or time of the surveyors should be shown as continuing. The words "Too Tight" or "Too Small" may or may not be used at the passage endings.
Personnel: It is always nice to identify those who helped map the cave.
Credit: Credit may be given to the project leaders, people who reduced the data, and cartographers. Thanks can also be given to cave owners or the appropriate government agencies.
Survey Stations: Survey stations should not be shown on the final map unless the map will be used for future geological, biological, or paleontological work.
Speleological Survey Codes: Code numbers can be displayed on the map. The code number should not require special knowledge to be understood.
Text Notes: Unobtrusive notes on geology, biology, history, etc. can be included on the map.
Drawings or photographs: Unobtrusive artistic drawings or photographs of the cave entrance or some feature in or around the cave can be included on the map. These can enhance the map a great deal; however, these drawings and photographs should not dominate or obstruct the map features.
Copyrights: Copyrights are common on many cave maps and should include a date.
Borders: All maps should include a border. Some maps include double borders.