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Almost All Maps Are Wrong – Amazing Program Shows True Size Of Places

We have been fortunate enough to travel extensively, but early on in our travels, we discovered something was off. When traveling in the far north, we quickly noticed that we seemed to cover much greater distances according to our maps than we did in the south. It turns out there is a simple explanation for this: our maps were wrong!

Every flat map of the earth is incorrect due to something called projections. Today, we will look at why this is an amazing tool that allows you to see how projections impact the map.

Various tools allow us to discover the accurate size of continents and countries, and one tool is Thetruesizeof.com. Today, we’re exploring the reasons behind map distortions, uncovering why they are problematic, and introducing you to a new program with more accurate depictions of places on Earth.

Why every world map is wrong - Kayla Wolf

What is Thetruesize.com?

Thetruesize.com is a neat online tool that aims to rectify our misconceptions about the size of countries and continents. James Talmage and Damon Maneice created the site. The program allows users to compare the sizes of different geographic areas using an interactive map. By selecting a country or region and dragging it around the map, you can compare its size to other places around the world. This simple, powerful tool reveals the striking discrepancies between our mental maps and reality.

true size of screenshot
This is a screenshot of Thetruesizeof.com showing the US compared to Greenland on the map. At their website you can move around the different countries to see how the projection impacts their shape.

Pro Tip: Do you know how to read a map for survival? Find out How to Navigate With a Compass in the Wilderness.

Why are Map Projections Distorted? 

Before we explore some surprising map distortions, it’s crucial to understand why publishers distort maps in the first place. The Earth is not flat; it’s an oblate spheroid. It has a smaller radius at the poles than at the equator. When we try to represent a spherical object on a flat surface, like a sheet of paper or a computer screen, distortions are inevitable.

Map projections are mathematical techniques people use to flatten the three-dimensional Earth onto a two-dimensional map. Various map projections are available, each with specific purposes. They minimize distortions in different ways. However, no projection can eliminate distortions of true size, shape, distance, and direction simultaneously. Maps frequently exaggerate the size of certain regions while shrinking others.

World map and globe
The true size of some countries may surprise you.

Why is the Distortion of Maps Problematic?

In the past distorted maps could and did get people lost. Today however, with modern navigational aids, this is not much of an issue.

Map distortion might seem like a minor issue today, but its been said that projections can still cause problems. Misleading maps can give people false impressions about the size and importance of different places. This can contribute to biases and misunderstandings about the world and influence how we view geopolitical boundaries and cultural regions. Distorted maps may also inadvertently promote territorial disputes or misrepresent cultural and national identities.

Inaccurate maps can make it challenging for students to develop a correct understanding of geography. This can hinder their ability to grasp the true scope of global issues, or even understand population density. Travelers may also underestimate the distances between destinations. This can lead to misconceptions about the feasibility of travel and the true size of the world.

Reading confusing map
Most of the maps you’ve grown up learning from are incorrect.

5 Surprising Map Distortion Examples

Let’s check out some surprising map projection examples to highlight how significant these distortions are. 

South America is Eight Times Bigger Than Greenland

On many maps, Greenland appears to be massive, often rivaling the size of South America. However, South America is approximately eight times larger than Greenland. The Mercator projection, which you’ll commonly find in world maps, significantly exaggerates the sizes of landmasses as they move toward the poles. This makes northern and southern regions appear much larger. 

Canada and Russia Only Occupy 5% of the Earth’s Surface

Canada and Russia have immense land areas. If their size aligns with how they appear on a map, they would occupy 25% of the Earth’s surface. However, when cartographers accurately represent them on a map, they cover a relatively small portion of the world. When you compare their true sizes, they each occupy roughly 5% of the world’s land area. This discrepancy is due to the vast expanse of the northern latitudes stretching out in map projections.

the true size of Africa
The true size of Africa is enormous

The US Has More Land Area Than Canada

In many maps, the United States and Canada appear comparable in size. Canada often looks larger. The reality is different, however. Canada has less land area than the United States, lagging by 20,882 miles. If you add water area, Canada is slightly bigger than the United States. This distortion is a result of the Mercator projection.

Pro Tip: Planning a Canadian road trip? Make sure you know these Tips for Boondocking in Alaska & Canada before you go.

Antarctica is One of the Smallest Continents 

Maps typically depict Antarctica as a vast continent that rivals the size of South America or even Africa. In reality, Antarctica is one of the smallest continents, barely surpassing the area of Europe. At about 5.5 million square miles, this frigid continent is only 1.7 million square miles larger than Europe and only 2.5 million square miles larger than Australia. Asia has a true size of 17.2 million square miles and Africa has 11.6 million square miles. Antarctica’s colossal size on maps is a result of the polar distortion in most map projections.

Antarctica vs south america
Antarctica is actually a very small continent compared to is apparent size

The US, India, China, Europe, and Japan Combined Can all Fit into Africa

Maps can often underestimate Africa, particularly with the Mercator projection. However, Africa is enormous. To put its size into perspective, you can fit the United States, India, China, Europe, and Japan within Africa’s boundaries. Unfortunately, the size distortion on maps often leads to misconceptions about the scale and importance of African countries.

Explore the True Size of Our World with this Amazing Program

The world of maps is not as straightforward as it may seem. Map projections are necessary to represent our spherical Earth on flat surfaces. However, they often introduce significant distortions. Thetruesize.com is a valuable tool that sheds light on these distortions and helps us appreciate the scale of our world.

By using this program, we can foster a more accurate and informed understanding of geography, which is essential in such an interconnected world. So, the next time you look at a world map, remember that their depictions may not be accurate. However, with Thetruesize.com, you can discover the true size of places and gain a more accurate perspective of our beautiful and diverse planet.

Were you surprised by any of those facts? Let us know in the comments below!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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