We already published our gift guide for people who love science, but these wooden maps from Below the Boat โ€“ which depict in three dimensions the underwater features of coastal regions and interior lakes around United States โ€“ are so cool, I had to include them as a late entry.

Up top is a closeup of the chart for the San Juan Islands. Here's the chart for Boston Harbor. Here's San Francisco Bay. There are over 50 to choose from, and they all look pretty awesome:

Starting with a bathymetric chart (the underwater equivalent of a topographic map), the contours are laser-cut into sheets of Baltic birch and glued together to create a powerful visual depth. Select layers are hand-colored blue so it's easy to discern land from water, major byways are etched into the land, then the whole thing's framed in a custom, solid-wood frame and protected seamlessly with a sheet of durable, ultra-transparent Plexiglas.

The result is stunning. It lifts the surface of the water back like a veil, exposing the often-overlooked, under-explored, awe-inspiring world that lies below. To those familiar with the floor of the ocean or the bed of a lake, it's a beautiful reminder of the deep channels, sharp drop-offs, and mountainous landscapes that are otherwise hidden from view. To the uninitiated, it's wonderfully eye-opening; as though the world has suddenly taken on a fourth dimension.

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I think I'm in love.

[Below the Boat via Wired]