The maps we’ve grown up with in our homes and in our classrooms, on the media and on the internet often dictate our perspective on the world. We might imagine Greenland being just as big as the entire continent of Africa (it isn’t!) or Brazil the size of Alaska… but the reality of our world is very different. When we stand on the coastlines of our countries, near our cities or far from our homes, we might imagine what’s on the other side.
If you stood on the East Coast of the United States, what could you be looking at? In America we can forget that most of the continent of Europe is actually located north of the East Coast. Eric Odenheimer, Weiyi Cai, and Laris Karklis have created maps that show what countries are located on the same latitudes around the world. This latitude doesn’t mean a straight line from east to west, and even if it did, the coastlines of different countries are often pulling some ridiculous shapes.
Cartographer Andy Woodruff takes this mapping exercise a step further by looking at what’s directly across the ocean based on facing perpendicular to the coast. Countries on the water can have coastlines that twist and turn, often facing all different directions. Depending on where you are, you could be facing entirely different landmasses across the water than you would just a few miles away.
Great circles come into play when trying to figure out what lies directly across the ocean. Rather than drawing a straight line from one point to another, cartographers draw an arc from one point to another across lines of latitude. The end result is a curved line pointing to two different points that look straight across from one another. Make sense? Now you know how cartographers feel.
More: Beyond the Sea, Andy Woodruff