Detailed mapping of Panamá began in the 19th century,
receiving a stimulus from the need for topographic surveys
to precede the construction of the Panama Canal. Notable
maps of that century were those of H. Tiedermann
(1851) and Agustin Codazzi (1855). These maps covered
only limited areas, however, and accurate general maps of
the whole country did not appear until early decades of the
A regular program of topographic mapping began in
1946, when a Cartography Section was established for the
Pan-American Highway. The modern topographic survey
organization was founded in 1967 under the title Instituto
Cartográfico "Tommy Guardia" (Tomas Guardia having been
the first director of its antecedent, the Dirección de Cartografía).
In 1969, the name was changed to Instituto
Geográfico Nacional "Tommy Guardia" (IGNTG), and this
institute now has responsibilities for topographic and geodetic
survey, cadastral and hydrographic survey, and various
development projects requiring cartographic work.
Much of the initial basic scale mapping at 1:50,000 (Series
E762) was carried out after 1946 in cooperation with the
Inter-American Geodetic Survey (IAGS) and the American
Army Map Service. A 1:25,000 scale map begun in the late
1950s was discontinued after the production of 46 sheets.
Since 1962, most work has been undertaken independently
by the Institute, which has facilities for aerial survey and
photogrammetry. Air photo cover exists for almost all the
country, while radar imagery of the Province of Darien was
acquired in 1967-72, an area where persistent cloud makes
conventional photography almost impossible to obtain.
The 1:50,000 scale map is in five colors with 20 m contours,
and is drawn on a Transverse Mercator projection with
a UTM grid. The ellipsoid is Clarke 1866. Legends are in
Spanish and English and the sheet format is 10' x 15'. The
general map at 1:250,000 scale is also on a Transverse
Mercator projection and has 200 m contours. A satellite
image edition of this map is being published. A program
of digitizing the 1:50,000 scale series is under way, with 20
sheets digitized by the end of 1997, and there are plans to
digitize the nine-sheet 1:12,500 scale cover of Panama City.
Soviet military topographic mapping of Panama is available at the following scales: 1:1,000,000 (4 sheets, complete coverage, published 1966-1990);
1:500,000 (6 sheets, complete coverage, published 1963-1985); 1:100,000 (32 sheets, partial coverage, published in 1974) and a city (1:10,000) topographic map of Panama
published in 1982. These products are available in print, digital raster and digital vector GIS formats from East View Geospatial.
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