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21 Years of Adventure with Hema Map Patrol

Operating since 1983, Hema Maps is a proudly Australian digital mapping and publishing company producing maps, atlases, guides and digital navigation. Taking the first two letters from founders Henry and Margaret Boegheim’s first names, Hema was born with the spirit of adventure and by taking the road less travelled.

Hema Maps Camping

Since 1989, when Hema Maps completed its first Simpson Desert expedition, the company has expanded purposefully to the point where today, Hema has Australia’s largest private offroad mapping and point of interest database. Together with its overseas map coverage, this core data is reproduced in a variety of forms including folded and wall maps, on and offroad atlases, touring and how-to guides and Hema Maps’s industry-leading digital suite including apps and dedicated GPS navigation systems.

Initially, much of the base information included in Hema Maps’ 4WD maps was derived from topographic maps produced by the federal and state governments. However, many of these topographic maps were out of date and no longer accurate and Hema didn’t want to produce maps of Australia’s vast centre until it could be sure of the status of the tracks shown on its maps.

From this lack of accurate mapping came the idea to fit out an expedition vehicle to drive all the outback tracks and record their accurate geographic location. Coincidentally, GPS devices had come down in size to the point where they could easily be mounted on a vehicle’s dashboard and connected to mapping software and a laptop computer.

Hema Map Patrol

For a small company, this endeavour was no easy task. Hema had to undertake a major program to train staff in four-wheel driving, vehicle recovery, navigation and first aid. The vehicle chosen for this fieldwork was the Land Rover Discovery, and this vehicle carried out a first pass of all the roads and tracks contained in Hema’s Great Desert Tracks maps. The work done by the Hema Maps team continued to evolve over the years, until a trip across the Simpson Desert in 2002 marked the official beginning of the Hema Map Patrol.

Hema Maps quickly realised this fieldwork project was necessary, as many tracks shown on the topographic maps turned out to be overgrown, washed out, impassable or simply no longer there. Some tracks were dead ends, particularly in areas subject to oil exploration, and numerous new tracks were discovered and mapped which are now part of Hema Maps’ vast database.

Over the years, the demanding nature of the work meant larger and stronger vehicles were required to complete the mapping — starting with the Nissan Patrol, which gave birth to the name Map Patrol, and from 2014, the Toyota LandCruiser. The LandCruiser provides the engine capacity, load capability and chassis strength for Hema Maps’ preferred solution.

79 LandCruiser Hema Maps

The recording and communication equipment these vehicles were fitted with became increasingly sophisticated, ensuring that the data collected met the ever more detailed requirements of the cartographic team.

Since 1996, Hema Maps has GPS mapped over 700,000km of tracks and 600,000km of unsealed roads throughout Australia, with the job of collecting accurate map data falling to Hema’s Map Patrol field teams and a recently added group of specially equipped Hema Alpha Users. Using the most up-to-date ARC-GIS technology enables constant exploring, updating and mapping of a wide range of offroad destinations to ensure all mapping data collected is of the highest quality and accuracy.

The Map Patrol has visited the USA and in 2016 Hema sent across a fully kitted out 200 Series LandCruiser which undertook an ambitious program to drive the Continental Divide, heading north from the Gulf of Mexico in Texas to the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Instead of being sent back to Australia after the expedition, this celebrity vehicle gained the attention of Greg Miller from Larry Miller Motors and it is not exhibited in his LandCruiser Heritage Museum in Salt Lake City.

Hema Maps in USA

Prior to this, Hema commenced some trail mapping in the western states of the USA, using a Short Wheelbase LandCruiser, in conjunction with partners Overland Journal. The focus was on the eleven western states, which include large mountain ranges such as the Rockies, Sierra Nevada and Cascades, plus salt lakes, canyons, deserts, rugged coastlines and magnificent national parks. Hema also mapped the significant trails called Oregon, Santa Fe, California and Mormon. Hema has had enquiries for Map Patrols to undertake work in South Africa and has looked at South American countries as ideal Overlanding regions.

The future of the Map Patrol is solid as Hema views it as integral to the brand and the commitment to provide the most up-to-date and accurate touring data. For this reason, Hema will continue to use the Map Patrol in the foreseeable future, supplemented by the Alpha User Program.

It is because of all this work that The Great Desert Tracks series has given explorers the confidence to discover outback Australia, and in the process assured Hema Maps that digital technology was the future for both producing and using navigation products.

Happy 21st Anniversary, Hema Map Patrol!

Next steps

At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.

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