The World Map You Learned Is Not Real: This Is

The world map you learned is not real: this is the one you need to know

In 1974, the German historian Aldo Peters published a new cartographic projection, which contradicts that of Gerardus Mercator, the most widespread.

Peters map layout.

What if the idea that all the inhabitants of the planet have about the distribution of countries is false? doWe may have lived deceived and in reality the size of the continents is not what we think?

This is what the supporters of the Peters map defend, which they see it more realistic than the Mercator projection, the model we are used to seeing when we witness a silent world map.

The terrestrial map of Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) was created with two objectives by this geographer, mathematician and cartographer of Flemish origin: to make a representation of the planet as realistic as possible and make it easier for sailors to navigate.

To carry out his task, he made a cylindrical projection -as if the terrestrial map were a parchment that could be stretched- of a surface, the terrestrial one, which it’s not even a perfect sphere, with the difficulties that this entails.

So that his map of the Earth could serve as an orientation in the sea, Mercator varied the dimensions of the planet so that it would fit into 15º by 15º grids. By adapting the surface of the Earth to a flat drawing, the dimensions are stretched horizontally; so to match this effect, your rendering also stretches the map vertically.

These distortions create imbalances in the representation of the real dimensions of the planet. For example, Greenland and Africa have similar dimensions on maps, while the second has a surface almost 15 times greater than the first (2.1 million square kilometers by 30.3 million square kilometers).

These inaccuracies can also be seen with South America and Europe: the surface of the old continent it is half as large on the map as the lower half of America, while in reality South America has seven million square kilometers more surface area than Europe. In addition, Ecuador does not appear in the center of the map as it should and two thirds are dedicated to the representation of the northern hemisphere while only one is allocated to the southern hemisphere.

Vision of Arno Peters

“It is the Third World countries, the ex-colonial states, the nations of peoples of color that are harmed by the Mercator map. This map is an expression of the time of Europeanization of the world“, stated the German historian Arno Peters in relation to the creation of Mercator.

World map designed by Mercator.

World map designed by Mercator.

With the premise of changing the vision of the world about these nations to which it refers, Peters published his new map model in 1974, although it was later renamed the Gall-Peters projection, to acknowledge the much earlier contribution of geographer James Gall.. It increases the vertical scale of regions near the equator to compensate for horizontal stretching of temperate regions.

Thus, creates deformations in Africa and South America, while respecting the proportions, and the map is useless for navigation. This map was accepted by the United Nations Organization and by numerous NGOs, more because of the discourse that accompanies it than because of its usefulness.

Variations between both terrestrial maps

The main differences is the shrinking of the countries in the northern hemisphere and the growth of those in the southern hemisphere. On Mercator’s map, South America, Oceania, Africa, and the Asian islands appear smaller than on Peters’s.

At the same time, Peters represents Northern Europe, Alaska and Russia in a much smaller size and Gerard Merchant

However, this world map it is not considered the definitive and there are criticisms of Peters’ theses, as explained in this informative blog post Naukas. Representing the world with pencil and paper should not be an easy task.