Friday, May 9, 2008

Old maps


Stumbled across an interesting old map today. It was composed by Orontaeus Finaeus, in 1532. The actual map is on the left. Polar projections of the Finaeus map and modern map are in figures 2 and 3, respectively.

It is clearly a map of Antarctica -- you can see the tip of South America in the lower right hand corner, and lines of latitude and longitude extending out from the south pole. South America is a little too close (it doesn't actually touch Antarctica in reality). However, there's really no disputing was it is. The similarity is eery.

Interestingly, Antarctica wasn't "discovered" until 1819. The first two expeditions in recorded history to actually see Antarctica were led by William Smith and James Bransfield in 1819 and 1820, respectively.

You can confirm the general ignorance of Antarctica with other, later maps, such as the next one, a map by Henricus Hondius, reflecting the Earth as it was seen in 17th century eyes.

The south polar projection at the bottom reflects the belief of the day: no land.

So how did this Orontaeus get his map of Antarctica?

No clue.

Maybe he used old sources?

I found an article on this map on that inimitable fountain of everything evolutionary,, here. They debunk many apparently fantastic claims made by a TV series I've never seen. Although much of their debunking is paradigm-dependent (meaning their "disproof" depends on their own unproven assumptions), many of the claims made by the series do appear to be gross speculation.

There are a few important claims that doesn't touch, though: that the map was genuine, that it was written in 1532, and that it does, in fact, depict Antarctica.

That's enough to blow my mind.

Update I found a very reasonable explanation for this map, right here. The theory is that Finaeus based his map off the northern coast of Australia. This is confirmed because not only does it correspond to the northern coast of Australia pretty well, but one of the islands just above it is actually labeled "Java." Looks like he was speculating about what the rest of Australia might look like, and just happened to draw a map that looked a helluvalot like Antarctica.

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