Lewis Carroll's Map of Nothing

A perfect and absolute blank

This map is an illustration in ‘The Hunting of the Snark (An Agony in 8 Fits)’, a nonsensical and somewhat grim poem by Lewis Carroll, who is better known for ‘Alice in Wonderland’. All the illustrations in ‘Snark’, first published in 1876, are by Henry Holiday, whom I therefore suppose to also be the author of this map.


The map is an Ocean Chart owned by the Bellman, one of the main characters in the book. It helps the Bellman and his fellow adventurers, who are hunting for a legendary beast called the Snark, to cross the ocean and arrive at a strange land. The absurdity of the map is that it only shows ocean, literally illustrating nothing, and therefore cannot be a very helpful navigating tool. Here’s an extract from ‘Snark’ relating to said map:

He had bought a large map representing the sea, Without the least vestige of land: And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators, Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?” So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply “They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes! But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank: (So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best— A perfect and absolute blank!”

Strange Maps #93

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face."

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less