Alaska Highway Changes
1948 to 2008

by Chad Seigel
April 2008

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Methods used in map creation 3. Summary 4. References


The Alaska Highway was built during World War II in 1942 as a response to the Japanese invasion of the islands of Adak and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands chain. Shortly after the war ended the original highway was upgraded by civilian contractors. Today, and many upgrades and re-alignments later, the highway is a major transportation corridor used to bring goods and services into Canada's northwest and into Alaska. The highway starts at mile "0" in Dawson Creek, BC and ends 2288 kilometers later in Delta Junction, Alaska.

This project takes original 1948 aerial photos and uses them to construct an airphoto map of the highway with an overlay of the highway as it is today. This map covers an area along the highway through Stone Mountain Provincial Park at Mile 390. What follows is a description of the methods used to process the photos and create the map.

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Methods Used in Map Creation

Images for this map were acquired from the Public Works and Government Services office in Fort Nelson. The photos are black and white 1:40,000 scale, taken on July 14, 1948. The two photos were scanned as .tif at 8 bit greyscale with no compression in order to import them into IDRISI.

Photos were georeferenced with RESAMPLE against a 2001 Landsat image in band 2 that was previously georeferenced by the Global Land Cover Facility at the University of Maryland.

These georeferenced photos were then joined together using MOSAIC, and WINDOWed to crop out the section along the highway corridor.

Next a shape file (.shp) was acquired from the BC Forest Service containing roads for the area. After examining the road shape file in detail, it was inaccurate, as all roads were not on the file. I decided to use PowerPoint to draw in roads and produce the final map which would more accurately represent the area. The scale bar and north arrow were copied from the IDRISI resampled images as the scale bar would be more accurate.

The final map shows the roads as they are today, overlain on the 1948 air photos. Two insets were added to show details of army camps as seen in 1948. Inset A shows the camp near MacDonald Creek on the west edge of the map, and inset B shows the camp at the end of Summit Lake on the east edge of the map. This map will be useful for artefact hunting in the area, as the location of buildings at the two camps is shown in detail and old sections of the highway show up clearly. Areas from 1948 can be focused on while in the field, and areas of new development can be left out of the search area.

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Original 1948 air photos scanned as 8 bit greyscale, from Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2008

Colour composite of Landsat image used for photo georeferencing.

Georeferenced photos created using RESAMPLE.

Cropped mosaic of georeferenced photos

Final map of Alaska Highway (1948 photos with new road locations overlain and insets of 1948 camps)

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With a time span of sixty years this map will be a useful tool in hunting for artefacts along this section of highway. When the army turned the highway over to the federal government most of the equipment used in highway construction was either buried or abandoned. Although many items have already been found by the local museum there are likely more to be found.

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Aber, J.S. 2008. Earth Science 551 Computer Mapping Systems, Course Handouts. Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas.

Ministry of Forests and Range, Province of British Columbia, 2008.

Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2008 Fort Nelson, BC.

University of Maryland, Global Land Cover Facility, 2008.

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This web presentation prepared for
Earth Science 551 ES 551 : Computer Mapping Systems
by Chad Seigel (April 2008)