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Are you a Maphead?

Ken Jennings, the champion trivia geek and all-time top winner on Jeopardy, is coming out with a book called Maphead, all about maps and geography. Here are a few tidbits to whet your appetite:


  • Right after opening Google Earth, zoom in as close as you can–you’ll arrive at a nondescript apartment building in Lawrence, Kansas. It’s a secret tribute to Google VP Brian McClendon, who grew up in that building.
  • The first surveyed map of France took over a century to finish, and proved that France was much smaller than it had usually been drawn. “You work has cost me a large part of my state!” King Louis XIV raged to his cartographers.
  • The first “Earth sandwich” was completed in May 2006, when one team in Spain laid a half-baguette on the ground at the same time as another team laid another piece of bread at the exact opposite point on the Earth’s surface, in New Zealand.
  • The map pioneers at Rand McNally survived the Chicago fire of 1871 when founder William Rand buried his printing presses in sand at a nearby beach. Just three days later, while the city still smoldered, the Rand McNally presses were back up and running.
  • Four Corners Monument, where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado meet, was actually mis-mapped badly due to 18th-century surveying technology. It lies 1,807 feet to the east of the actual meeting place mandated by Congress.
  • Mercator-projection maps distort area at the polar latitudes so much that Greenland appears fully fourteen times larger than it should actually be.
  • The official 1978 state map of Michigan featured two non-existent towns called “Goblu” and “Beatosu.” The cartographer was a Michigan grad cheering on his beloved Wolverines: “Go Blue! Beat OSU!”

Posted by Nancy, who always wondered why Greenland wasn’t a continent.