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Technology eases data collection for mapping lakes

Tim Thurston of Pittston,USA had begun his lake mapping business in 2001. Maine Lake Charts is a sideline business for Tim Thurston, of Pittston, who has a regular job as navigational aids supervisor for the state Department of Conservation.

Presently he is working on China Lake in Maine. He measures the water’s depth at some of the 1,200 target points that will enable him to produce a detailed and accurate map depicting how the bottom of the lake is shaped. The technology that makes it possible is a combination of GPS and depth recorder. It pinpoints his position at target points 400 feet apart and records the depth at each one. Thurston begins each project by obtaining an aerial photo of the lake, which he uses to detail the shoreline. He also checks the image for any shallows that might be visible.

The primary market for his maps consists of fishermen and recreational boaters. Fishermen tend to steer toward waters with significant changes in bottom structure on the theory that fish are often found there; maps spelling out the contours of the lake bottom can signal the most productive fishing spots.

Maine Lake Charts has published 42 maps covering the entire state, from Mousam Lake in Shapleigh to Aroostook County´s Portage Lake. Sixteen of the maps have new depth data and lake contour lines that Thurston has created. The colorful maps come in two versions: a foldable version on waterproof paper and an 11-by-17 inch laminated chart that can be mounted on the wall or used as place mats. In addition to China Lake, he is currently compiling new data on Long Pond in Belgrade. Thompson Lake in Oxford is on his future list.