Challenge: how do you make a 2-dimensional rectangular representation of a 3-dimensional sphere? Well we have a few contenders when it comes to making a 2-D map of the Earth.
Notice that Greenland is as big as Africa? Well, that’s not right! Check it out. The Mercator map depicts them as the same:
But in reality, check out how big Africa actually is!
Yeah, you saw that correctly. Africa is as big as the US, most of Europe, China, and India combined! Meanwhile, Greenland is just slightly bigger than Texas tripled.
- Greenland takes as much space on the map as Africa, when in reality Africa’s area is 14 times greater and Greenland’s is comparable to Algeria’s alone.
- Alaska takes as much area on the map as Brazil, when Brazil’s area is nearly five times that of Alaska.
- Finland appears with a greater north-south extent than India, although India’s is greater.
- Antarctica appears as the biggest continent, being infinitely large, although it is actually the fifth in terms of area.
So how does this major discrepancy happen? The bottom line is when you take a sphere and put it on a 2-D rectangle it results in distortion. I tried to find an animated illustration but failed. So try this on for size: if you were to draw circles on the globe that each covered the same amount of space you’d get this on the Mercator map:
Now ‘distort’ the map instead of the circles and you get what Frenchman Tissot published in the late 1800’s:
Well that helps some but not a lot because land is still distorted. Your best bet to understand the shape of our 3-D Earth is to get a 3-D globe. But in the meantime, on this 2-D media, your best bet is the Winkel Tripel Projection Map.