As a cartographer, I knew about map distortion and how the commonly used ‘World Map’ employs a Mercator projection that distorts the continent of Africa. I also knew that Africa is ‘big’, but even so, this graphic came as a surprise. It’s a great example of an ‘image being worth a thousand words’.

The size of africaThe mercator map that we are all familiar with was designed for sea travel and allowed sailors to draw straight lines from port to port. This enabled them to sail according to these lines guided by using a constant compass bearing. The side effect of this is that the land masses are distorted.

Any map projection will always introduce distortion. However, there is the controversial Gall-Peters map, which was intended to be an ‘area accurate map’.  No world projection is good at preserving distances everywhere; Peters’s and all other cylindric projections are especially bad in that regard because east-west distances inevitably balloon toward the poles. For more on Gall-Peters, check out the Wikipedia article.



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