1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

What is the true size of your country? September 9, 2007

source: Peter Equal Area Wall Map

When I first saw this map, depicting the true sizes of the continents and countries I was astonished about the manipulative nature of the traditional map:

Mercator map

But even more astonishing fact is that that most popular map (named after its designer Mercator) was actually created in 1569 primarily for use by navigators. When the Mercator projection was created, the custom among map-makers was to place the map-maker’s country—in this case, Germany—at the center of the map. The Equator is placed 2/3 of the way down the map rather than halfway down. This arrangement depicts Europe as being larger than South America. In reality, South America is almost twice the size of Europe. Alaska is appears to be three times larger than Mexico, although Mexico actually is larger than Alaska. On a Mercator map, Greenland looks larger than China, even though China actually is four times larger than Greenland. Centuries after centuries people (at least in the Western world) have been convinced that North America is bigger than the South, Russia is really huge and Africa is actually not that impressive.

Another thing that has always been puzzling me is how the gigantic population of China can live on that relative small area – according to the traditional Mercator`s map. The puzzle can be solved by looking at the “true size” Peters map.

The Mercator projection map is still the most popular today. Mercator maps often appear in businesses, in libraries and in classrooms where geography is taught. This popularity is surprising, given the fact that the Mercator projection was first constructed in 1569, primarily for use by navigators.

The Peters projection map was first introduced in Europe in 1974 by Dr. Arno Peters, a German historian and cartographer. Dr. Peters created his projection to aid in developing a realistic perception of the world. His equal-area projection corrects the Northern Hemisphere size bias of the Mercator map. All areas, both land and water, are of relatively proportional size: one square inch anywhere on the map represents 158,000 square miles on the Earth’s surface.

Unfortunately, many Northern Hemisphere residents whose educational experience has been limited to the Mercator projection and similar presentations often are displeased with the “different” appearance of the Peters projection land masses. They feel more comfortable with the familiar Mercator projection—even though the latter’s depiction of the world is unrealistic.

Inaccurate projections such as the Mercator map can send conscious or unconscious messages about the relative importance of countries and their peoples. Conversely, an equal-area map such as the Peters projection provides a far more realistic view of this planet. Moreover, this realistic presentation can send an important message: much of our understanding of the world has been based on the work of map-makers in the age of European domination.

At my former workplace in one Russian Oil Trading company there was a 3×4 m big map of Eurasia with the focus on Russia. Showing Russia THAT big and Europe embarrassing small. Can you imagine how the poor Austrian office visitors felt seeing that pure visual domination? It was definitely not done on purpose, but the effect was just a hammer-like.

Some other fresh views on the wold you can find here.

 LOVE, axinia

Mercator's map


21 Responses to “What is the true size of your country?”

  1. mastmalang Says:

    I am proud to say that Canada constitutes the second largest ladmass in the entire world 🙂

  2. ym Says:

    Biggest isn’t always best.. Slovenia is a lovely country that takes up about 2 pixels on your screenshot.
    Interestingly, Australia when the Australian Antarctic Territory is included becomes the largest landmass by territories on the planet.
    That said, the whole Earth fits easily into the Great Red Spot on Jupiter which puts things in perspective and shows how tiny and insignificant humanity and its silly wars really are.

  3. Nita Says:

    Europe looks so tiny! And the USA smaller than I thought. Russia and China bigger than I thought.

  4. axinia Says:

    To me Russia seems smaller that I thought (or, better to say what I was taught).

  5. maliha11 Says:

    it looks like Russia is the biggest my land mass then Canada and china and Brazil are equals , and the US comes next

  6. kashifalvi Says:

    to me India looks smaller than Pakistan.

  7. GrantTLC Says:

    Does size really matter? Scotland is practically a dot on that map, but I still love it to bits. 🙂

    And have you noticed all the southern tips of whatever landmasses tend to be pointy cone shapes? Weird…

  8. axinia Says:

    Hi, my friend – the size does not matter at all, what matters is the fuss people make out of this and opress others by manipulation…
    On the other hand I know that the size of a country nad so called “historical” glory still has an impact on the colelctive – and personal consciousness of every citizen (there are some studies).

  9. […] see the second problem – too many tags !! This morning I found a nice wee blog, 1000 petals, with a good short post about how misleading map projections can be, and the political implications. Very nice. But its […]

  10. GrantTLC Says:

    I guess I can understand it a little – when the BBC unveiled their new Weather Map, the Uk was slanted at an angle which had the *very* slight effect of enlarging England and shortening Scotland. Outraged Scots were soon making their voices heard – “you can’t do that! Bloody English!”. I laughed at these people at the time but I guess they were just reacting to the very same phenomenon you describe.

    Still doesn’t mean I share their silly, silly views thoough. 😉

  11. jasna Says:

    A bedder projection to get an idea about the continet sizes: Just see this one
    The Projections: American polyconic, rectangular polyconic and van der Grinten’s IV meet on the plate surface. Jasna

  12. Tomas Says:

    In answer to “What is the true size of your country?”, I’m proud to say that my country embraces the whole world.
    What does it amount to?
    The answer depends on the heart, and it differs in the concrete from the indiscernible point in the flesh on two legs up to the whole universe that is inhabited by our Spirit

  13. radha Says:

    I live in the country of Love. Since i found it, immediately settled down in it! cheeeeeers

  14. axinia Says:

    that is the best 🙂
    Hope more and more people can join you there!!!!!!!!!

  15. scietech Says:

    I get irritated whenever I see a normal world map that shows Greenland to be bigger than Australia! This one, though it seems to be distorted, atleast depicts the area correctly.

    Some large countries like Russia, Canada, Australia and to a certain extent, even Brazil have a small population density. On the other hand, 16% of the world’s population (and it is only getting bigger 😦 ) is crammed into 2% of the world’s land area in India 😐 Atleast, the situation is not as bad as that in a country like Bangladesh 😯

  16. Nirav Says:

    Dear all,

    The Earth’s spherical shape poses a challenge for cartographers to draw the map on a flat surface, and produces distortion. Four types of distortion are usually seen – shape, distance, relative size, direction.

    And the process of transferring locations of Earth’s surface to a flat map is known as “Projection”. Example – Conic, Azimuthal, and Cylindrical Projections.

    More info can be found here:


  17. Nirav Says:

    But honestly, when I read the title of this article “What is the true size of your country”, I expected the true size would be based on the no. of pure souls, realized beings of that country.


  18. Naina Staff Says:

    I like shape of India.. and similar looking continents.
    Africa looks amazing in map .and flying over it takes ages.

    why all continent in south hemisphere has triangular shape??
    other then Australia.

    Newzealand looks like baby’s feet from far.


  19. aminila Says:

    And Germany it´s very Nice

  20. Leafs have been my favourite. Everyone is speaking about them. I anticipate winnipeg jets are able to keep it up as I heard their attendance #’s are not doing as well in the future years.

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