National Geographic : 1943 Feb
Africa First of 1943 Global Warfare Maps BY WILLIAM H. NICHOLAS FIRST of The Society's 1943 series of wartime maps is the New Map of Africa, which goes to The Society's 1,250,000 member-families with this Febru ary issue of their NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.* On this detailed chart, 29' by 312 inches, may be located headline places-some new as the need for airports, others half forgotten in the mellow pages of history: Carthage, Dakar, Oran, Algiers, Bizerte, Bengasi, Tobruch, Casablanca, and many more. Shown also is the entire Mediterranean Sea of age-old wars, and all its islands, strategic air and sea bases for 1943 fighting. An ex ample is Sicily, where history has been made for 3,000 years, which now is a springboard for Axis planes and transports to and from North Africa (pages 260, 263 to 273, and 276). War Speeds Road Building Up-to-month news this map brings members is the network of highways and railroads, here first delineated, over which troops, munitions, and supplies fan out from debarkation ports to widening zones of Allied occupation. Before World War I few good roads existed in most of Africa. When peace came, motor routes swiftly spanned enormous areas, north to south, and thrust farther inland as Euro pean industry reached out for more and more tropical products. Now The Society's new map reveals thou sands of miles of new all-weather highways born of World War II. Amazing is the 1,700-mile road from Dou ala, in the coastal curve of the French Camer oons, to stately Khartoum, in Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Before France fell, this route was a rough trail through arid desert and humid jungle. Free French workers widened and improved this heart-of-continent highway until heavy trucks sped over it with supplies for Egypt and the valiant British Eighth Army. Bound up with the war north of the Sahara is the road along the Mediterranean which stretches through 2,500 miles of fertile fields, deserts, and history, all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to age-old Alexandria, Egypt. The map features a table giving air-line dis tances between principal cities and bases. This detailed compilation affords a clear understanding of the vast areas involved in military operations. Your Society's cartogra phers computed 1,035 great-circle distances for this comprehensive table. Africa's shape, like that of an oversized question mark, suggests the problem the giant continent has interposed in the affairs of men. Only bulbous Asia surpasses Africa in size. Its latitude reaches as far north as Washington, D. C., and about as far south as Buenos Aires. It thrusts out so far westerly at Dakar that the oceanic span is only 1,620 miles to Natal, Brazil. Skiing is possible on the high slopes of Mount Kenya near the Equator, and winters are as severe in southern Africa as in parts of northern Africa. Primarily, however, Africa is a tropical con tinent. Bulk of its vast area, the map shows, is an enormous tableland, surrounded by a narrow lower shelf on the edge of its encircling seas. This geographic fact is one major reason why Africa so long remained the "dark con tinent." Practically all its rivers tumble down from its vast plateau over waterfalls to its narrow continental shelf. Therefore, ships could not sail up Africa's rivers into the heart of the continent as they can in eastern South America. Africa Has Few Harbors Study of the map reveals another reason why inner Africa was not easily penetrated until the airplane came. Its regular coastline affords few harbors. If some hardy hiker started to walk around Africa's shores, his pedometer would show no more mileage than if he covered the choppy coastlines of the British Isles and Norway combined. Yet Africa is three times the area of Europe. Look at the map again for the third reason the continent long was isolated. Men could sail all the way around the Cape of Good Hope to get to India, even to Mozambique and Madagascar on Africa's east coast, more easily than they could traverse the broad belt of desert that stretches across the continent's fattest latitude. Europe is benefited by winds blowing off the warmer Gulf Stream and condensing into bountiful rainfall over the cooler interior. In Africa winds from the Mediterranean make the coastal strip of North Africa the *Members wishing additional copies of the new Map of Africa may obtain them by writing the National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C. Prices, in United States and Possessions, 500 on paper (unfolded); $1 on linen; Index, 250. Outside of United States and Possessions, 75'( on paper; $1.25 on linen; Index, 50 . All remittances payable in U. S . funds. Postage prepaid.