why does greenland look so big on a map
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE MERCATOR MAP? As a result, shapes of world maps have typically been diverse, ranging from hearts to cones. But the diversity gradually faded away with one model, invented by Gerardus Mercator, surpassing the others. The familiar 'Mercator' projection gives the right shapes of land masses, but at the cost of distorting their sizes in favour of the wealthy lands to the north. For instance, in the Mercator projection, north America looks at least as big, if not slightly larger, than Africa. And Greenland also looks of comparable size. But in reality Africa is larger than both. In fact, you can fit north America into Africa and still have space for India, Argentina, Tunisia and some left over, notes Mr Wan. Greenland, meanwhile, is 1/14th the size of the continent as can be seen in Gall-Peters equal projection, which provides the correct proportion of land mass to the continents. The map suggests that Scandinavian countries are larger than India, whereas in reality India is three times the size of all Scandinavian countries put together. As well, as this, it seems the fact that our maps typically put north at the top is a mere convention but has been accepted as correct in most of the world.
Looking back, the diversity of maps can reveal a history of the world. For instance, The БBe On Guard! Б map was
created in 1921 when infant USSR was threatened with invasion, famine
and social unrest. To counter this, designers such as Dimitri Moor were employed to create pro-Bolshevik propaganda. Using a map of European Russia and its neighbours, Moor's image of a heroic Bolshevik guard defeating the invading 'Whites' helped define the Soviet Union in the Russian popular imagination. An earlier map, called the Hinese Globe, created in 1623 reveals the ancient Chinese view of the world. Made for the Chinese Emperor, this is the earliest known Chinese terrestrial globe, and a fusion of East and Western cultures. The creators exaggerated the size of China and placed it in the middle of a world that otherwise consisted mainly of small offбshore islands. A century earlier, the 1507 Waldseemuller map named and envisaged America as a separate continent for the first time. Perhaps to emphasise the independent existence of the Americas, the map shows what we now know is the Pacific lapping the western coast of South America, though its existence was only confirmed years late.
In 2005, Google Earth presented a world in which the area of most concern to the used could be at the centre, and which - with mapped content overlaid - can contain whatever you think is important. Almost for the first time, the ability to create an accurate map has been placed in the hands of everyone, and it has transformed the way we view the world. But it comes at a price. There are few, if any, agreed standards about what should be included, and the less populated and 'less important' regions get ignored. Today, billions of searches are made on Google Maps each day, helping people navigate their way around, streets, towns and countries. Google Maps claims that it is on a Бnever-ending quest for the perfect mapБ, but Jerry Brotton, historian of cartography and the author of A History of the World in Twelve Maps, isnБt so sure. He argues that all maps are of their time, their place and serve certain purposes. БNo world map is, or can be, a definitive, transparent depiction of its subject that offers a disembodied eye onto the world,Б he writes. БEach one is a continual negotiation between its makers and users, as their understanding of the world changes.
It s because of the projection method used. Projection means flattening out the curved surface of the earth onto a flat surface. This can t be done without tearing or stretching (try it with an orange skin). The projection methods used for many maps end up keeping the equator the same size and stretching higher latitudes progressively more as you get closer to the poles. This is a bit like slicing the orange skin into sections starting from a point at the top and another at the bottom and then unpeeling it that way, but by stretching the skin instead of cutting it. As Greenland lies close to the north pole, it gets stretched a lot at the top and so looks much bigger than it is. The same goes for Canada and Russia, which both look a lot bigger on a map than they do on a globe. The effect is less noticeable in the southern hemisphere because there s not a lot of land there: the most visible stretching is in Australia and New Zealand, and they are not as far south as the countries I have already mentioned are north. South America is also stretched but because it tapers to a point, this is not as noticeable.
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