Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Maps and aerial photography

Thumbnail of an aerial photo of RAF Fylingdales Here is an aerial photo of RAF Fylingdales, a spy base in North Yorkshire not far from Whitby. Despite it being a spy base the aerial photo is quite detailed and doesn’t appear to have been censored by the authorities.
But what is interesting is what happens when you have the mouse over the image. On Multimap aerial photos, the equivalent map is shown underneath – quite a cool feature as it helps you recognise what certain building are. But when you hover over this photo, the spy base is missing from the map. The only clue that something is there is the footpath that ends abruptly at what would be the perimeter fence of the compound.
This, actually, isn’t all that uncommon as several other RAF bases are missing from Ordnance Survey maps (although Menwith Hill is on there). But considering the ubiquity of information out it (including a BBC photo tour from inside the base) you’d think that masking its location on maps was a pretty futile attempt at maintaining national security.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Neil,
    Someone just sent me the link to this one. Would like to clarify for you that RAF Fylingdales is actually not a spy base and never has been.
    RAF Fylingdales is what is called a BMEWS base (which stands for Ballistic Missile Early Warning System). It is also a satellite tracking station which is used for many purposes, including spotting near Earth Orbit misses – and has been doing so since its creation in the 1960’s….
    Added to this, it’s not a secret at all, in fact there was a plan a few years ago to save the old golfball radars as listed buildings.
    What you will also find is that it was made policy back in the late 1990’s to stop making big blanks on maps where military bases were. Its actually just an old habit cartographers (who get most of their information from the Ordanance Survery) still haven’t got out of. Given the fact that you can’t really miss a huge cheesegrater type object sticking out of the North Yorks Moors en route to Whitby, it was deemed a bit silly trying to cover it up on a map (especially when it’s a really good way of working out your bearings when your on the Moors!).
    Sorry, no futile attempt at national security, just an oversight from the old days, although im sure that the weather forcasting team up there is quite flattered by your description of them…..

  2. i find all this stuff fascinating.
    nice of them to give you an official type response.
    i wonder if someone really did send a link or if we are constantly being watched.
    it’s amazing to think about the sort of stuff that reportedly goes on at places like Menwith.

  3. With all this information I feel BMEWSed.

  4. IT DOESN’T MATTER, IF THIS IS AN AERIAL PHOTO OF RAF FLYINGDALES, A SPY BASE IN NORTH YORKSHIRE NOT FAR FROM WHITBY NEIL.