A while ago, I was chatting with a friend who originally came from Sri Lanka. A part of the discussion focused on how modern mapping tools have created the wrong perceptions about different countries and landmasses. This blog is just sharing the story of that discussion.
The first part of the story has to do with the perception of the sizes of different land masses. The best example to illustrate this issue relates to the island of Greenland.
Greenland is a big island, but projection issues has created the concept in people’s minds that it is really massive – bigger than what it really is. Even if you know that the (Mercator) projection distorted it, you don’t really know how big it is relative to other land masses. To illustrate, I compare it with the islands of Australia and Madagascar. My first image was created by grabbing the three landmasses from Google Maps at the exact same zoom level. Notice how Australia fits right into Greenland. And Madagascar almost disappears inside Greenland. Yet we know that
• Australia is about 7,692,024 km²
• Greenland is about 2,166,086 km²
• Madagascar is about 587,041 km²
In the next graphic I used a more appropriate projection to show the land masses in correct perspective. Note how Greenland’s shape is completely different but the proportions are correct. Greenland is only about four times bigger than Madagascar. (I did not include Australia – it is way too big!)
The truth is, we always have to double check the ‘facts’. We can easily be deceived, sometimes by people who purposefully try to deceive us, but sometimes by the unintended distortions of reality.