New Switzerland, Jules Verne's Imaginary Shipwreck Sanctuary
The only way to visit this island is to read the book
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
In 1900, the famous French writer of adventure stories Jules Verne published Seconde Patrie (‘Second Fatherland’) in two parts. Like many works at the end of his life, this adventure story was a revisiting of earlier work, though in this case not Verne's own. Seconde Patrie is a sequel to a well-known book by Johann David Wyss: Der schweizerische Robinson (‘The Swiss Family Robinson’).
Wyss was a Swiss pastor, who wrote this Christian morality story disguised as an adventure novel to teach his four sons about family values, self-reliance and good husbandry. It tells of a shipwrecked Swiss family’s survival on an island in the Indian ocean. The family is not called Robinson, by the way; that’s a reference to the earlier, equally fictional Robinson Crusoë, probably still the most famous shipwreck, fictional or otherwise.
Verne's book revisits the original shipwreck, and the Swiss family’s final years on the original island. Unnamed in the original, the family is called Zermatt in Verne’s book. The Zermatts have been joined by Jenny, a girl stranded by a different shipwreck and rescued by the Zermatt boys, and the English family Wolston. Aided by the engineering skills of Mr Wolston, the islanders set about to further taming their new home, dubbed ‘New Switzerland’.
Further adventures ensue, with plenty of unfriendly natives, sea-travel and shipwrecks. In the end, the island is annexed by Great Britain and the flourishing colony soon has over 2,000 inhabitants. This map (in French, but with some place names in German and English) shows the shape, names some features and indicates the settlements on Nouvelle Suisse.
Situated in the Indian Ocean, the island boast five bays:
A small area at the north side of the island, protected by an encircling mountain range, is named Terre Promise (the Promised Land). There, five settlements are named:
The interior of New Switzerland is dominated by a single mountain top, the Pic Jean Zermatt (Mount John Zermatt). A small inset shows the Promised Land in greater detail:
Strange Maps #133
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.