A dino hiding in the world map: the Afro-Latinosaurus rex
A strange return to the age of the dinosaurs
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.
Is there a name for the obscure, but strangely alluring hobby of spotting animal shapes in geographic features (*)? Previously discussed examples on this blog of the as yet unnamed pastime are the Animals on the Underground (#119) and the Ontario Elephant (#340). Here is one that I would like to call the Afro-Latinosaurus Rex.
It is no coincidence that the continents of Africa and South America resemble two interlocking pieces of a puzzle (Brazil's northeastern hump and Africa's Gulf of Guinea are a particularly good fit). Some 170 million years ago, before continental drift pushed them apart, South America and Africa were united in an ancient supercontinent called Gondwanaland.
This sequence of maps reverses the drift that continues to widen the Atlantic Ocean, and returns to the age of the dinosaurs in another way. By overlapping South America and Africa, it creates a siamese continent, but also, if turned 90 degrees to the left, a convincing approximation of a dino's head.
The narrow southern strip of South America shared by Chile and Argentina is the beast's lower jaw, Africa's southern part its upper jaw. The big, blunt bulk of West Africa is the animal's neck. Lake Victoria, the greatest of African lakes, doubles as the menacing eye of the Afro-Latinosaurus…
Many thanks to Daryl K. Putman, Timothy Vowles, James Bisset, Mark and a few others for sending in this map, found here.
Strange Maps #420
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
*: a somewhat similar activity, a discipline of divination, is called nephomancy: the ability to interpret shapes of clouds.
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