Language of Geography: 40 Engaging Facts About Maps

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1Bougainville

Bougainville

A new country with the name of 'Bougainville' will appear on our world maps in 2027. A 2019 referendum was held in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea and 98.31% of the voters voted for independence.


2. French Guiana is legally part of France, and not a separate country, in a similar way to Hawaii being legally part of the USA. Technically all maps of France should probably have a window with French Guiana in the corner, the way Hawaii usually appears on maps of the USA.


3. There is a fictional island in the South Atlantic, off the west coast of Africa called 'Null Island.' Although it doesn't exist in reality, it serves as an error trap for map systems. Map enthusiasts have given the island its own history, geography, and even a flag.


4. The township of Northwest Angle in Minnesota was a geographic oddity caused by surveying errors, and is affectionately known as the Angle. It was created when map maker, John Mitchell miscalculated the source of the Mississippi being the ‘Lake of The Woods.’ The Northwest Angle's only land link is its western border with Manitoba. It's technically part of Minnesota, but with Lake of the Woods to the south, it shares no land connection with the United States. Its residents have to pass through the Canadian border twice to get to mainland US.


5. Mapmakers used to plant fictitious streets on their maps so that if a person copied their map, they could point out the replication of the fake street to prove copyright infringement.


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6Agloe, New York

Agloe, New York

Agloe, New York is a fictional town that became an actual landmark after mapmakers made up the community as a phantom settlement, an example of a "copyright trap" and were put onto the map to catch plagiarism as it appears only on their map and not on any others.


7. Canada, Russia, and Greenland aren't nearly as big as most of us think. Most of us have learned world geography from a Mercator map, which distorts the true size of certain countries because it depicts a 3D sphere as a 2D rectangle.


8. The world's shortest mountain, Mt. Tenpo, is 20 m tall. It's only a mountain because it was described as one on a topographical map put out by the Geographical Survey Institute of Japan. You can even get a certificate for summitting the mountain at a nearby cafe.


9. The naming of the North & South America continent in honor of Amerigo Vespucci was the result of a mistake by a German cartographer while making a map of the world in 1507 who thought Vespucci rather than Columbus was the explorer who discovered America after reading a document called Mundus Novus.


10. To pep up the look of a bland 70s Chicago office building, a design firm 2013 added a 400-foot-tall map of the city. The modernistic 35-story map is all gray and black except for the representation of the host building (300 S Wacker Drive) which is shown in red and lights up at night.


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11Detailed Soviet Maps of DC

Detailed Soviet Maps of DC

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union compiled an ultra meticulous map of Washington DC that is far more detailed than typical city maps we are all familiar with including details like the precise width of roads, the load-bearing capacity of bridges, and location of the water reservoir and pumping stations.


12. In 1901, a Jesuit professor found Martin Waldseemüller's map of the world which was made in 1507. What makes this map important is the word, "America" printed on the southern continent of the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. Government considers it the "birth certificate of America."


13. For decades, cartographers have made secret illustrations on Switzerland's official topographical maps such as a spider, a naked woman, and a marmot, eluding the Swiss Federal Office of Topography for years before removal. The naked woman reclined for nearly 60 yrs in the municipality of Egg.


14. A fitness tracking app unknowingly revealed locations of secret US army bases. When the app released a map with over 3 million data points, it showed popular running routes. Data shared by soldiers on the app was detailed enough to reveal sensitive information of users on active military service.


15. Frisland was an "imaginary" island off the coast of Greenland that, despite being nonexistent, appeared on virtually all of the maps of the North Atlantic from the 1560s through the 1660s.


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16The World Islands - Dubai

The World Islands - Dubai

There is an artificial archipelago of various small islands constructed in the rough shape of a world map, 4km (2.5mi) off the coast of Dubai. Named "The World," The islands are developed commercially and used as luxury resorts with hotels and beach clubs for corporate events and parties.


17. The origins of the Ordnance Survey maps lie in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, as maps of the Highlands were made to track down Jacobite dissenters and subjugate the clans.


18. The map used by the Flat Earth Society is a projection of the globe centered at the North Pole, called the 'Azimuthal equidistant projection.'


19. The Copper Scroll is an ancient treasure map which was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It relates 64 positions where gold and silver have been hidden. Though searches are ongoing, as of yet, no treasure has been found.


20. Hy-Brasil is a phantom island said to lie in the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland. Irish myths described it as cloaked in mist except for one day every seven years when it becomes visible. It is listed on several early maps, but still cannot be reached.


21Book of Roger

Book of Roger

The Book of Roger is a world atlas which was written by Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi in 1154 for the Norman King Roger II of Sicily. It took him 15 years to make and was the most accurate world map for the next 300 years. The circumference of earth calculated in the book was off by less than 10%.


22. French King Louis XIV commissioned the creations of "Plans-reliefs," which were 3D maps of towns, landscapes, and fortresses for planning military actions, starting in 1688. Hundreds were produced up until 1870 and many examples survive to this day in several museums in Paris.


23. The village of Winneconne, Wisconsin seceded from the state in 1967 when it accidentally went missing from the official state map. They tried to form a sovereign state or be annexed by another state before the governor met with them just one day after their proclamation.


24. The Mountains of Kong was a non-existent mountain range which was charted on the maps of Africa in the 19th century. It was believed to range from west to east Africa and connecting there with the also hypothetical Mountains of the Moon, just south of the Sahara.


25. The county of McDonald in Missouri tried to secede because they were left out of a tourist map in 1961. They created their 51st state in conjunction with at least 2 bordering counties and even had a mock war with local counties. The battle ended when a man got burned from an old musket blast.

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