11 Map Overlays That Teach Real Geography

Conceived in 1569 as an aid to maritime navigation, Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator’s “Mercator projection” has skewed our perceptions of the world in which we live for centuries. While the linear scale is equal, it distorts the size and shape of large objects, stretching the poles to the point that the projection is practically unusable beyond 70 degrees north or south.

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By using rhumb lines, or lines of constant compass bearing that are good for direction, the Mercator projection became the standard mental and projection map for most seafaring Westerners, inflating the size–and potentially egos–of colonial powers over time. While it has long been shown that the Mercator projection distorts rather than projects geographical truths, it still appears from time to time in classrooms, textbooks, and a Mercator variation is still used by Google Maps, Bing Maps, Mapquest and Yahoo Maps in online street mapping. Thankfully, the Mercator myths have been dispelled by the folks at Business Insider with these incredible map overlays.

Lake Kaindy: Kazakhstan’s Submerged Forest

In Lake Kaindy, trees poke from the water’s surface like misplaced toothpicks, presenting an intriguing portrait for visitors and tourists. This incredible sunken forest was created in 1911 as a byproduct of the 7.7 magnitude Kebin earthquake. The earthquake, which destroyed more than 700 buildings, triggered a massive limestone landslide that formed a natural dam. Over time, rainfall and water flowed into the area, covering the trees that grew there.

Aerial View of the Lake

Source: Panoramio

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Pakistan’s Incredible Cocooned Trees

In 2010, ten years’ worth of rainfall poured onto Pakistani cities and villages in less than a week, completely ravaging the affected areas. While this flood was like others in many unfortunate ways–people were displaced, homes were ruined, rivers surged—one surprising consequence was entirely unique to the area. Once the rain stopped, people began noticing cocooned trees covered by sticky webs.

Flood Victims in Pakistan

Source: Bise World

Severe Flooding Causes Cocooned Trees

Source: Daily Mail

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The Mysterious Cat’s Eye Nebula

Cats Eye Nebula

Source: NASA

Nestled three thousand light years away in the cosmos is the Cat’s Eye Nebula, or NGC 6543. The nebula was first discovered by William Herschel in 1786, and given its strange structure and properties remains one of the most curious nebulae known to humankind.

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