world geography 101

I know not everyone will find this interesting, but I had to do it today for a course and I thought it was pretty enlightening. I think you should try it…

Without using an atlas or having the benefit of any other types of maps, take a clean sheet of paper and write/draw in the following things:

1. Draw the Equator on your map. Label it.
2. Draw the Prime Meridian on your map. Label it.
3. Freehand sketch the Eurasian landmass on your map, where you think it goes in relation to the lines you just drew. Try your best to accurately depict the coastlines. Label it. (Politically, Europe and Asia are separate continents. But physically they are one.) (I had to re-draw my equator at this point…)
4. Freehand sketch the African landmass on your map in the same manner as above. Label it.
5. Freehand sketch the North American landmass on your map. Label it.
6. Freehand sketch the South American landmass on your map. Label it.
7. Freehand sketch the Australian landmass on your map. Label it.
8. Freehand sketch the Antarctic landmass on your map. Label it.
9. Label the following oceans on your map: Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Indian.
10. Place a dot where you believe New York City is located. Label it.
11. Place a dot where you believe Moscow is located. Label it.
12. Place a dot where you believe Tokyo is located. Label it.
13. Place a compass rose on your map and label North (N), South (S), East (E), and West (S).
14. On your map, use a dashed line to indicate the most direct route if one were flying from New York City to Moscow.
15. Add in any country names, city names, or other features you remember to develop your map to its most accurate rendering.

now check its accuracy and read on:

“So, how did you stack up? Depending on your prior knowledge your map is probably fairly rough around the edges. Did your continents look like blobs? Even if they didn’t I’ll bet you have some similar features on your map as do most who do this excercise: the Florida peninsula in America; the Italian peninsula in Europe; North and South America stacked one on top of the other; a straight line for the flight path of your airplane; North America inordinately large compared to the rest of the continents.
“Peninsulas like Florida and Italy stand out in your mind because they are unique. Well, all places are unique, both physically AND culturally. So Iowa is just as unique as Italy, but it isn’t that high of a profile place – nor is it along the coast. Thus you, the student, needs to learn something unique about these other places to develop your mental map.
“North America and South America don’t have a north-south axis relationship, but our mind tends to stack them up if we don’t have a good mental picture of their relationship. They actually trend more like this: North(west) America and South(east) America.
“I already wrote to you about great circle routes. It is true that if you chose a map that had an “equivalent” shape that you could have used a straight line. But that would have required a great deal of precision on your part. Some of you may have this talent if you know the world particularly well, but it isn’t likely if you were surprised about the path an airplane takes going from the United States to China.
“If North America was very large on your map – even though it is in reality much smaller than either Asia or Africa – it is because you gave undue importance (and size) to an area with which you are more familiar. Places you don’t know particularly well lack definition and detail. Just like if I asked you to draw a map of your neighborhood. It would be pretty detailed because you know it so well.”

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1 Response to “world geography 101”


  1. 1 Mike D January 19, 2009 at 4:19 am

    That’s quite the assignment. I can tell you if I had attepted this on a piece of paper rather than just in my head, it wouldn’t have looked half as graceful as the one you made I’m sure.
    Just a interesting fact that I learned while I studied racialization last semester: Historically (and even very recent history) maps created by North Americans have depicted the United States and Canada (more so the USA) much larger than it really is. In fact, the map you had in your classrooms in elementary and high school was more than likely distorted.


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Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.
-Kahlil Gibran

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