National Geographic : 1959 Dec
Portrait of Earth's Largest Continent Many changes-and international trouble spots-dot the new Map of Asia, fourteenth in The Society's growing Atlas Series SIA, biggest of the continents, holds nearly a third of the earth's land sur face, more than half its people, and a giant's share of its problems. You scan these problems in the day's head lines as Communists create an international incident in Laos, as Red China tightens its grip on Tibet or makes threatening gestures toward Formosa. Cease-fire lines mark dams against Communism in Korea and Viet Nam, both split between two worlds. On the more constructive side, a gigantic dam at Bhakra, in northern India, nears com pletion. New highways in Cambodia and Thailand, built with American aid, push through the jungle. An oil field is discovered in Sinkiang. New cities sprout in Siberia. Asia Has 58 Percent of Earth's People To show such changes, and to help National Geographic Society members follow the un folding headlines, a new Atlas Map, Asia and Adjacent Areas, is distributed with this issue of their magazine as Plate 44 in the Atlas Folio.* Thus Asia becomes the first con tinent to be charted in the Atlas Series. Eighty percent of the world's 2,900,000,000 people live in the lands shown on the new map, which includes all of Europe and Indonesia. The population of only the Asian part of this land mass totals 1,675,579,000 and is increas ing by 30 million a year-a major complica tion in the problems Asian nations face. Transferring any part of the curved earth to a flat map results inevitably in geographi cal "stretching." In the case of so vast an area as the Eurasian continent, the problem becomes enormous. Many Asia maps have scale variations that err as much as 25 per cent. But The Society's plate accomplishes the reproduction with a minimum of distortion of land shapes and political units. You can, for example, plot the Russian travels of Vice President Richard M. Nixon-described on the preceding pages-with a distance accuracy of almost 100 percent. The map will also help readers follow other stories in this issue Yankee's island-hopping cruise (page 767), and the round-the-world trip of Editor Mel ville Bell Grosvenor (page 832). The exactness of the Asia chart is made possible by a "two-point equidistant" method of map projection pioneered by The Society. It reproduces the area by laying out all spots in their true relation to two key centers, or focal points-one near Tokyo, the other near Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. The usual equidistant map has only one such center. More than 500 complicated computations in spherical trigonometry were required to plot the projection on paper. The map demonstrates strikingly-and in almost exact scale-that Europe is only a small appendage on one corner of giant Asia. It shows in full panorama how three of the world's largest and most populous nations Russia, China, and India-dominate the con tinent. And it depicts the political boundaries of half a dozen nations that have come into being within the past decade-Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaya, North and South Viet Nam, and the United Arab Republic. Skate Charts Underwater Polar Ridge The map also charts new data on ocean depths in the Arctic, including the location of the underwater Lomonosov Ridge-depicted as a narrow strip of light blue meandering beside the North Pole. Charting of this mas sive range, which divides the Arctic Ocean into two huge basins, owes much of its accu racy to soundings by the U. S. Navy's nuclear submarine Skate. The depth shown for the ocean at the North Pole-2,235 fathoms also came from the Skate's own records.t Peaks of the Lomonosov Ridge reach up to within a few thousand feet of the surface; some may even have been above water in his toric times. First outlined by Russian ex plorations in 1948, the ridge was named for M. V. Lomonosov, 18th-century Russian scientist who devoted much of his lifetime to Arctic research. * Fourteen Atlas Maps have now been issued and are available, folded flat, in a packet for $5.50. To bind their maps, 225,000 members have ordered the convenient Atlas Folio at $4.85. A combination of Atlas Folio and 14 maps may be ordered for $9.95 from the National Geographic Society, Department 36, Washington 6, D. C . t See "Up Through the Ice of the North Pole," by Comdr. James F. Calvert, USN, NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC, July, 1959.