Earth Sciences Digital Map Library

Smartphone compass/clinometer apps. Warning from Nigel Woodcock

I keep being told that the complete answer to collecting field orientation data is a smartphone app such as FieldMove Clino. This does a lot of good things, BUT you should be aware of possibl errors. This is a regular topic of discussion on the Geotectonics discussion  group at You can sign up there to see the FieldMove Clino thread beginning on 27/8/14, but the gist of the widely held concerns is in the post below from Richard Jones at Geospatial research at Durham. I'm sure that we will get reliable app/smartphone combination within a few years, but be careful in the meantime.

"We have carried out quite a lot of systematic testing of the suitability of iPhones as compass-clinos for measuring geological planes - and we have experienced very mixed results.

The good news is that ...

  1. we have managed to get good, repeatable results that are approximately as precise as a set of analogue compass-clinos (Silva liquid filled housings, double spirit-level, no electronics). 
  2. once we're up and running, using an iPhone is much quicker than any analogue compass-clino we've used; so ideal for taking large numbers of measurements from a single sampling site (e.g. fracture transects).
  3. we've now taken many, many thousand measurements with iPhones that we believe are within acceptable precision.

The bad news is that ...

  1. if we're not very rigorous in setting-up and calibrating the devices, we usually get randomly bad results.
  2. even if we are very careful, the iPhones sometimes don't self-calibrate properly - so we always cross-check the iPhone against an analogue compass-clino before and after a measurement session.
  3. there's no obvious way of examining the device itself to see whether it's likely to be functioning correctly - you must have another device with which to compare it.

So personally, I'm extremely sceptical of the general validity of any orientation data that have been collected with smartphones - unless the user has documented their calibration procedure carefully, and that the calibration has not relied wholly of the device's own calibration [... or until someone has documented why this isn't necessary].
Based on this, I'd also recommend that any orientation data that are published (or form the basis for interpretations that are published) include a statement on the equipment and method used."

Smart phone & tablet apps

iGeology gives you an interactive geological map of the UK for use on phones and tablets. Download iGeology from Google Play

Rocklogger Android app for measuring rock orientation, strike & dip, and magnetic field - free. Also available is paid version with stereonet plotter

eGeo Compass 'The ultimate Android geology compass for geologists' says the web site

ArcGIS for iPhone, Android, and Windows phone 7



Google Earth for Mobile - free of charge for Android tablets or phones or iPhones

Google translate  - available both for Android and iPhone

Images – anywhere around the world

  • Google Earth — free to download; Google Earth Pro has a f greater number of features and is installed on all the department machines
  • Dapple: Dapple is a global data explorer sponsered by Geosoft and derived from the Nasa World Wind project (Warning: needs a lot of space and memory. Not installed on department machines)
  • Intute satellite images Intute hosts more than 2,000 satellite images covering many world regions; images include phenomena such as wildfires, coastal waters, mountain ranges, rivers, landmarks, cities, and much more
  • Visible Earth A tour of the World Wide Web for earth scientists
  • USGS Landsat Project

General online resources

These are links from where you can select specific country information.These resources will often just give you an overview of the country with some topographic, and sometimes geological information but in ageneral way

  • Generalized geological maps for many countries. Some are more detailed than others. Definitely worth a look. Although available via the ‘About’ gateway, many online maps originate from geological surveys of specific countries. Lots of other links as well, some not especially ‘scholarly’
  • Houghton Mifflin - the publisher of books: Geology and Essentials of Geology – not up to date but the virtual field trip section has information about different parts of the world which could be useful
  • A search engine to try: Excite Maps (Search field: Place name + "map")
  • Topographic maps from around the world – an interesting set of topographic maps that have been digitised for a variety of places around the world. It’s worth checking, although you’re guaranteed not to find just the map you want! Just click on the folder of the country whose maps are of interest to you
  • Information Sheets are available from the University Library Map Room
  • Intute: general searches in the Earth Sciences section can bring up sets of interesting results for relevant websites -Please note The Intute website has been closed as of July 2011 which means the pages are no longer updated, the site itself will remain availabe until 2014.
  • Intute’s World Guide - A series of guides for over 270 countries and territories. These include articles, features, demographics, geography data, interactive world maps, satellite photos, scrollable city images and links to resources about each country within the Intute database -Please note The Intute website has been closed as of July 2011 which means the pages are no longer updated, the site itself will remain availabe until 2014.

General Geological  Resources online


  • OneGeology OneGeology is an international initiative of the geological surveys of the world access the viewing portal from here - Remeber to click on the View Layers option to add and remove your chosen layers.
  • OpenGeoScience from the BGS, a brand new site launched in December 2009. There is 6 sections to explore:

Region-specific information

1. USA

  • Microsoft® TerraServer is the world's largest searchable image database with zoomable 1-meter resolution USGS digital orthophotos of the U.S.
  • Topozone – Claims to have every USGS topographic map, orthophotomap, and aerial photograph in the entire United States. Fun to play with – and some very good deals on Map Packs (maps, aerial photos etc)
  • National Geological Map database – USGS resource for geological maps and related data
  • National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program – some potentially useful information about geological mapping projects in general and the ‘how tos’ of mapping. Some useful links on this page
  • Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Data Center United States Geological Survey (USGS) site
  • National Aerial Photography Program (NAPP) – more from USGS
  • U.S. Geological Survey Aerial Photography
  • Electronic Map Library contains a series of maps created by Dr William Bowen, of the Department of Geography at California State University, Northridge. The online collection contains maps which are stored in GIF and JPEG formats and also in PDF, EPS, and TIFF formats. The online maps focus mainly on areas of the United States and include the Digital Atlas of the United States
  • United States Geological Survey publications in the Library. Many of these will have relevant maps for your chosen mapping area. A large amount of USGS material is available on-line at the USGS Publication Warehouse. Search the online catalogue Newton for the Geological Survey

2. UK/Ireland

  • The OS
  • Landmap: provides spatial data and learning resources for the UK - Provides orthorectified satellite image mosaics of Landsat, SPOT and ERS radar data and a high resolution Digital Elevation Model for the British Isles. This data is available in formats that are readily accessible to users of Geographic Information Systems, Image Processing and Desktop publishing software
  • Digimap: Cambridge University Library subscribes to this service which delivers Ordnance Survey Map Data to users within UK Tertiary Education via the Internet. You need to have a Raven authentication account to register free of charge for access to Digimap. For more information about Digimap see the University Library Map Room web pages. Please follow this link for information on Raven
    Important: Registration takes at least 3 days so plan in advance
  • Map and Data Place : EDINA provides key geographic data, especially for the UK, such as digital maps and digital boundaries
  • Geology of Britain (British Geological Survey)
  • GeoIndex: This site provides a map-based index to datasets that have been collected or have obtained from other sources. The Britain Beneath our Feet website provides more generalised maps based on data collected.
  • England’s Geology: A description of England's geology county by county. The descriptions are simple and aim to give a sense of local geological history
  • British Geological Survey publications in the Library. Many of these will have relevant maps for your chosen mapping area. Search the online catalogue Newton for the Geological Survey
  • You can find the Ordnance Survey of Ireland (OSI) here and the OSI map viewer their GeoPortal is here and here is the map viewer
  • The Geological Survey of Ireland can be found here and their on-line mapping tools are here
  • Ireland – the Library has a number of geological maps. For topographic maps you will need to go to the University Library Map Room

3. Canada/North America

4. Africa

  • Africa: general resources available
  • Madmappers - "GIS data accessible to all" - a good resource for 1:50K maps of South Africa
  • Alexandria Digital Library for Africa
  • Digital map of Africa This website (Open File Report 97-470A, version 2.0, 2002) was compiled by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It is a digital map including geology, oil and gas field locations, and geologic provinces of Africa, as part of a worldwide series of maps in CD-ROM. Maps are in PDF format and can be downloaded with Acrobat Reader. The site contains also links to references and contact information
  • South Africa: Geological Scenery of the Cape Peninsula & Surveys and Mapping, South Africa
  • Many African countries have Geological Survey publications, some bulletins, reports or memoirs. We have a lot of these publications, especially the older ones in the Library. Search the online catalogue Newton for the Geological Survey for a specific country

5. Europe – a selection

  The Geological Survey of Denmark & Greenland -



  • National Land Survey of Iceland main site full of topographic mappy goodness
  • Here to download 1:50,000 maps
  • Here for a general atlas
  • Here for the general map viewer - you can add and remove/adjust layers
  • Iceland Geosurvey



  • ISPRA (Istituto superiore per la protezione e la ricerca ambientale): 1:50 000 Geological maps. Problem 1) Site doesn't (currently) work in English so you have to use the Italian version. Problem 2) The maps are available for viewing ONLY via a Flash viewer. Please let us know if the link doesn't work.



  • Some map guidance can be had from the LNEG site - there is some English language translations of the site but not all the pages are
  • And a full Geoportal is availbale from here, including a map viewer







  • the geoportal of the Swiss Confederation - for geological maps look under Nature & Environment section
  • Swisstopo Federal Office of Topography
  • For Europe your best bet is to use the Earth Sciences Map Library to check for maps although we do not have everything and may need to order maps in. Also try the general online resources section
  • Many European countries have Geological Survey publications, some bulletins, reports or memoirs. We have a lot of these publications, especially the older ones in the Library. Search the online catalogue Newton for the Geological Survey for a specific country

6. Australia/New Zealand

7. South America

  • Try the general online resources links for South American information, also the USGS often has publications relating to this area
  • Many South American countries have Geological Survey publications, some as bulletins, or reports or memoirs. We have a lot of these publications, especially the older ones in the Library. Search the online catalogue Newton for the Geological Survey for a specific country


  • Geological Survey of Brazil in English or CRPM (Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais) in Portugese
  • For topographical maps look in IBGE Instituto Brasiliero Geografia e Estatística

8. Asia

Gateways: print & online

  • GeoRef - GeoScienceworld/GeoRef
  • Intute: Intute: Science, Engineering and Technology is a free online service providing you with access to the very best Web resources for education and research, evaluated and selected by a network of subject specialists
  • Web of Science — you need to have a Raven authentication account for access to Web of Science. Please follow this link for information on Raven
  • Newton – the Library catalogue: Newton is the online catalogue – for search tips on effective use of Newton see either the online map tutorial or the guide to Newton – available on the library tutorials and guides page or in printed form in the library.

Institutions/Geological Surveys

  • A useful page from Berkeley for Geological surveys and institutions of the relevant country. A strong US focus but a good starting point
  • BGS geoportal - Good way to find out all the details of academic and commercial organizations for you to get in touch with in the country of your mapping project – try and do a text search on the country/region you’re interested in

Buying maps

Part II Mapping Projects: The Librarian will purchase topographic maps that you need but in some instances (especially if mapping abroad) it will be cheaper for you to buy the maps whilst there. Always make sure that you will be able to do this beforedeciding on this course of action. The Librarian needs plenty ofadvance notice for ordering foreign maps via the normal agents. TheLibrary will buy these maps back from you providing that you havepre-arranged this with the Library staff AND the maps are in goodcondition.

Last updated on 03-Mar-15 12:16