The Septentrionalium Terrarum, first known map of the North Pole

Monday, 6 March, 2017

Septentrionalium Terrarum, Arctic map by Gerard Mercator

It sounds like the storyline of a Tolkien novel, the presence of a magnetic mountain at the North Pole. Yet the notion itself wasn’t fantasy. In centuries passed, people believed it to be so.

Or at least so did Gerardus Mercator, a Flemish cartographer and geographer, who in the sixteenth century created the Septentrionalium Terrarum, the first known map of the Arctic.

In this instance, Mercator’s efforts relied more on imagination than facts, and the would-be endeavours of an English monk, who wrote of travelling to the Arctic in the fourteenth century.

By the 1500s, not very many people had ventured up to the Arctic – no explorer would set foot on the Pole itself until 1909. This didn’t stop Mercator, who dug into some dicey sources to suss out what he should include. The most influential, called Inventio Fortunata (translation: “Fortunate Discoveries”) was a 14th-century travelogue written by an unknown source; in Mercator’s words, it traced the travels of “an English minor friar of Oxford” who traveled to Norway and then “pushed on further by magical arts.” This mysterious book gave Mercator the centerpiece of his map: a massive rock located exactly at the pole, which he labels Rupus Nigra et Altissima, or “Black, Very High Cliff.”

Even if you’ve not heard of the Septentrionalium Terrarum, you probably know Mercator’s name. That’s because he devised the Mercator projection, the cylindrical map projection that shows maps of the world as being flat on charts.

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Mini Metros, minimal maps of mass transit systems by Peter Dovak

Thursday, 19 January, 2017

Design by Peter Dovak

Washington, D.C. based graphic designer Peter Dovak seems to spend a bit of time on trains, so it makes sense he’d turn his hand to designing maps for mass transit systems. And Mini Metros is the elegant, minimally styled, result.

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This is the age of the world map

Friday, 3 June, 2016

A guide to working out the age of undated world maps, by xkcd… well, you never know when this stuff might be useful.

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World maps without New Zealand, is that All Black envy maybe?

Monday, 11 January, 2016

Defunct New Zealand pop band Split Enz described New Zealand, or Aotearoa, being the Maori name for the country’s North Island, before it became more widely associated with the whole country, as a “rugged individual, glisten[ing] like a pearl, at the bottom of the world”, in their 1981 single, Six Months In A Leaky Boat.

Too rugged for some possibly, considering the country often seems to be omitted from maps of the world, or at least the maps featured in the World Maps Without New Zealand Tumblr.

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The work of collage artist Tristesse Seeliger

Tuesday, 16 December, 2014

Artwork by Tristesse Seeliger

Vancouver based artist Tristesse Seeliger creates collages using historical maps sourced from the Geological Survey of Canada.

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Mapping out a new understanding of the Roman Empire

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014

From small things big things one day come… the rise, peak, fall, and aftermath of the Roman Empire, as set out in forty maps.

I begin to wonder if more people would enjoy high school history courses if maps were used as a basis for teaching it?

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I’d like to build a globe of the world one matchstick at a time

Friday, 6 June, 2014

Matchstick globe by Andy Yoder

US sculptor Andy Yoder has spent the last two years building a globe of world, about one and a half metres in diameter, using matchsticks of varying colour to represent surface features.

Via Reddit.

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Maps of the Middle East, from the distant past to the present

Tuesday, 13 May, 2014

Forty maps of the Middle East as it was in the past, as it today, and as some states and regions may possibly look in the not too distant future.

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Making maps from memory, is this cartography or abstract art?

Thursday, 16 January, 2014

World maps by memory

In 2012 Zak Ziebell, a San Antonio high school student, asked twenty-nine people wandering about the University of Michigan campus to each sketch a map of the world purely from memory. A layered up composite of all works created forms the above image.

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How might the world look if all its ice melted?

Tuesday, 12 November, 2013

A continent by continent projection of how the world could look if all the ice on the planet were to melt… a process that would take about five thousand years, add some 65 metres to current sea levels, and see temperatures rise an average of twelve degrees Celsius.

While Australia would gain an inland ocean/lake in the Central Australian region, I doubt there would be anyone around to see it.

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