National Geographic : 1947 Oct
The Society's New Map of the Caribbean Area GREATLY increased geographic knowl edge acquired by American airmen on wartime flights over the Caribbean area has enabled the National Geographic So ciety to map this important region in far more detail than ever before. The result is the 10-color map, "Countries of the Caribbean," which accompanies this issue of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.* Just 455 years ago this month, Christopher Columbus made his first discoveries here, groping among the islands off the slender waist line of the Western Hemisphere and thinking he was off the coast of Asia. Since that time, many explorers, geogra phers, navigators, buccaneers, treasure hunters, and fishermen-even hurricanes and volcanic eruptions-have altered the geographic pic ture. But it remained for the modern aerial camera to give new distinctness and accuracy to coastlines, river courses, and mountains almost everywhere south of the Rio Grande. The Cartographic Section of the National Geographic Society worked six months to epitomize the four-and-a-half-century accumu lation of facts on this 41-by-25-inch map for The Society's 1,600,000 members. Insets Show U. S. Possessions, Bases Extending from Mexico's Tijuana to the mouths of the Orinoco in Venezuela, the new map area includes a slice of the southern United States as well as all of Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies-a winter vaca tion land of tropical greenery, deep-blue water, and glistening coral sand. Of its 6,954 place names, few would be recognizable to Columbus. One would be San Salvador (Watling Island), in the Bahamas, where the discoverer and his men first landed in the New World, bearing the Admiral's Green Cross banner and the royal standard of Spain. Kneeling upon the shore, they gave thanks to God "and kissed the ground with tears of joy, for the great mercy received." Where Columbus found only a few Indians and cruised along virgin verdant coasts, today are populous republics with millions of people - and not a single possession of Spain. As a master mariner headed for the Orient, he would doubtless be most interested in the Panama Canal, "dividing the land and uniting the world." The Canal Zone inset on this map shows the projected third lock system intended to accommodate larger ships and make the vital artery less vulnerable to attack. This large-scale inset is one of eleven which highlight areas of special interest. In one corner appear the Caribbean possessions of the United States-Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands (two insets), and the Canal Zone. In another are insets of islands on which the United States has military bases-Cuba and the six islands on which the British granted us bases in 1940 in exchange for badly needed destroyers: Trinidad, Jamaica, Exuma, St. Lucia, Antigua, and Bermuda. In the patrol which met the challenge of Axis submarine warfare, every square mile of the "American Mediterranean" was combed by air and sea again and again. Most of the land area is now covered by United States Army Air Forces trimetrogon photographic surveys made in cooperation with the local governments. Results of these and of many new ground and sea surveys are incorporated in The Society's map. Pilots will note much new information con cerning altitudes of mountains. For example, two elevations of 8,202 and 10,301 feet are shown in the Dominican Republic, where ear lier Caribbean maps show 5,543 feet as the highest definite peak. In western Venezuela are peaks of 15,321 and 16,427 feet. Older maps show 13,864 feet as the maximum height of the Cordillera de Merida. A unique mountain is Mexico's amazing Paricutin, the young volcano which has sprung from a cornfield on a 7,500-foot plateau in the State of Michoacan to a height of 9,000 feet above sea level and is still growing.' The map incorporates new census material from Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Ba hama Islands. All four have increased sharply in population: Mexico, 1930-16,552,722; 1940-19,473,741; increase, 17.7 percent. Cuba, 1931-3,962,344; 1943-4,778,583; increase, 20.6 percent. Jamaica, 1921-858, 118; 1943-1,237,063; increase, 44.2 percent. Bahamas, 1931-59,808; 1943-68,846; in crease, 15.1 percent. A new boundary, agreed upon after nearly 50 years of arbitration, divides Costa Rica from Panama. The treaty was concluded on May 1, 1941, and President Roosevelt sent both governments a message lauding the settle * Members may obtain additional copies of the new map, "Countries of the Caribbean, Including Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies" (and of all standard maps published by The Society), by writing to the National Geographic Society, Washington 6, D. C . Prices, in United States and Possessions, 50< each, on paper; $1 on linen; Index, 25¢. Outside United States and Possessions, 75¢ on paper; $1.25 on linen; Index 50¢. All remittances payable in U. S. funds. Postage prepaid. t See "Paricutin, the Cornfield that Grew a Vol cano," by James A. Green, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1944.