Have you ever looked at a map in the back of a history book or at a globe and wondered about its accuracy? Have you ever been told by someone that the maps and globes used in schools and sold in stores makes the continent of Africa look much smaller than it really is, while making places like Australia, Greenland, and Antarctica appear much larger than they really are? Well, your suspicions are right if you felt that the maps and globes you learned geography on are grossly inaccurate.
Most of us learned geography on a two-dimensional map in school called the Mercator projection map. The Mercator projection map is highly distorted because it’s based on replicating the three-dimensional globe in only two dimensions. In the back of those same history or geography books, you may remember seeing the globe laid out like an orange peel in order to represent the map more accurately. Well, I challenge you to go to your kitchen right now and peel an orange without breaking the peel and try pressing it flat on the table. Before you try flatting it, draw the map on it, or pictures of your family members on each loop of the peel, then get back with me on how distorted the drawings become. Try using something see-through to flatten the orange peel.
There have been theories to suggest that the idea of these distorted maps was to make the birthplace of civilization, Africa, appear smaller, to minimize its relevance and grandiose, while making “western” colonized lands appear bigger, maximizing their relevance. It could also simply be a lack of ingenuity and basic know-how of the mostly European designers. However, there are more accurate maps and globes that should be in your child’s classroom.
In actual geographic area comparison, Africa comes in as a giant at 30.4 million Sq. km. Second in line is Russia at 17.1 million Sq. km. The U.S. ranks 5th at 9.5 million Sq. km. Greenland ranks 12th at 2.2 million Sq. km. The Mercator projection map, the most widely used in textbooks and classrooms, are said to be the most inaccurate. However, there are several other projection maps out there. Many map design experts believe the AuthaGraph World Map to be most accurate, so do I. There will probably be ongoing debates on map accuracy for a while to come, and some of these debates are likely to be agenda-driven. Watch this short video to further or maybe lessen your suspicion.