National Geographic : 2001 Sep
Forum May 2001 Marco Polo's epicjourney to China, spiced with tales of crossing raging rivers and dodging bandits, thrilled our readers. "Marco Polo was defi nitely an incredible man-a man who took chances and had adventure in his blood," one admirerwrote. But why would Marco risk his life on a dangerous trekfrom Venice to China?"That's partof the attraction,"wrote another. Marco Polo It is surprising that Marco Polo observed that Persian boatbuild ers built their ships with sewn planks and failed to inquire into it. It was common belief among Arab and Persian sailors in those days that the ocean floor was a giant magnet. This belief dictated against the use of metal for shipbuilding. "Sewn-up" ships were extremely reliable, covering the distance between Africa's east coast and China's trading centers in just a few months. Marco might have shortened his journey by a few years had he been more inquisi tive. But then his Description of the World might not have been as fascinating. BRUNO M. FRANCOIS Hyattsville, Maryland Realizing there had been cartog raphers earlier than the 1450s, I was interested to see the world as it was perceived to have existed then. I recognized nothing on the map on page 5 until I MEMBERSHIP Please call 1-800-NGS-LINE (1-800-647-5463). Special device for the hearing-impaired (TDD) 1-800 -548-9797. Online: nationalgeographic.com/ngm ® Coverprinted on recycled-contentpaper turned it upside down. Was the South Pole the historical point of reference for cartographers? If so, when did the reference become the North Pole? JACKIE REID Burlington, Ontario When FraMauro designed this map, cartographersbased their orientationon the purpose of the map, their own cultural background,or even the shape of the vellum they were using. FraMauro may have been influenced by Islamic world maps, many of which were ori ented to the south. I read the article on Marco Polo with interest because it was partly about my country-Iran. I was disappointed by the author's comment regarding his safety since the relationship between Iran and the United States "had been sour for years." After 22 years Americans have not distinguished between the conservatives and regular Irani ans. Iranian people are hospita ble and very kind. They do not hate the United States or any other country. In the 13 years I have lived in the States, I have noticed that Americans just see a minority on TV screaming "Death to America" and believe NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * SEPTEMBER 2001 NATIONAL 01 GEOGRAPHIC NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY "Forthe increaseand diffusion of geographicknowledge." The National Geographic Society is chartered in Washington, D.C ., as a nonprofit scientific and educational organization. Since 1888 the Society has supported more than 7,000 explorations and research projects, adding to knowledge of earth, sea, and sky. JOHN M. FAHEY, JR., Presidentand CEO Executive Vice Presidents TERRENCE B. ADAMSON TERRY D. 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Membership and Marketing Services: Mary P. Donohoe NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VENTURES C. RICHARD ALLEN, Presidentand CEO Television: Timothy T. Kelly, President. National Geographic Channel: David Haslingden, President, International; Laureen Ong, President, U.S .; Andrew C. Wilk, Exec. Vice President, Programming. natlonalgeographic.com: Mitchell Praver, President. Maps: William L. Stoehr, President; Allen Carroll, Chief Cartographer. Enterprises: Linda Berkeley, President; Lynn Cutter, Travel: John Dumbacher, Licensing. Finance: Frances A. Marshall Copyright© 2001 National GeographicSociety. All rights reserved. NATIONAL GEOGRcVICr andYellow Border:RegisteredTrademarks® Marcas Registradas. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC assumes noresponsibilityfor unsolicited materials.