The Dictionary Project, Volume X: The North Pole

The Dictionary Project is a post-a-day exploration of The Century Dictionary and Cylopedia, a twelve-volume set printed in New York in 1901. The Project runs from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, and matches volume numbers to calendar months. Volume X is The Atlas, and today is Day 30.

I sort of regret that the Atlas isn’t Volume XII of this set, because if it were, this map would certainly have been my choice for December 24th. Because I am willing to dig that deep for a lame joke. (Really. Just ask my husband.)

1897 Map of the North Pole

Strange to think back to a time before the poles were completely explored, circumnavigated and mapped, isn’t it? And yet, there’s a huge swath of white in the middle of this map, marked “Unexplored Region”. The South Pole must have been similarly mysterious at the time; there is no mention made of it on the Map of the World at the beginning of this book, and Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition is more that a decade in the future.

I had intended to include an image from Google Earth here, but the silly thing won’t let me tip the planet right over so we can look at the top of its head, and it turns out you can’t embed Google Earth images, just Google Maps, so *sigh*. Fiiiine.

There had been plenty of exploration of this area, judging by the number of red “explorers’ routes” lines, but the northernmost reaches of Greenland are still a mystery — hardly surprising, given the estimated depth of the ice in the interior of the island, and the likelihood of it concealing much on the coast–but land has been reported in places, and the mapmakers note this.

Interestingly, the full coastline of northern Russia and Siberia seem to be fully mapped here. And you just can’t note the dotted/jagged line marked “Limit of Icepack”–and think that Global Warming isn’t a thing.

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