When you’re from a country in Europe, it’s quite difficult to really grasp how big countries like Australia, Brazil or the US are (like, really really big). Well, this also goes the other way around! When you’re from a country that’s as big as Brazil, where you can drive for 12 hours and never leave the state you’re in, it’s strange to cross multiple country borders in one trip, let alone in a few hours). This really becomes clear when you compare the true size of your home country to the countries in Europe.
The true size of countries
We’re not telling you anything new if we’re saying that Europe is not extremely big. But how big (or small) is it exactly? Compare your country of residence with (a country in) Europe, using The True Size website. Go for it!
So, have you compared the size of your home country to other countries? If you have, you might’ve noticed that the countries you drag over the map change size when you move them up or down. This is because the map that we generally use is not correct. What!? Yep, the map you might have on your bedroom wall is technically not a correct representation of our little blue planet. And we’ll explain you why.
The Mercator Projection
The map we’re talking about is the Mercator Projection, the map that’s used by Google and for pretty much everything else (if you have a map at home it’s most likely a Mercator Projection). Gerardus Mercator, a Flemish cartographer, created this map in 1569 and it was used by navigators on ships. This specific map made it very easy for ships to sail in the same compass direction all the time, without having to change its course during the trip.
Basically what he did was make a representation of our globe on a flat surface. However, this visualisation is very distorted: countries that are further away from the equator look larger than they actually are. They had to be stretched out to keep everything in the right place.
Greenland and Russia
Whenever you look at a map, 2 of the biggest land masses you’ll see are Greenland and Russia. But, based on the explanation we gave you above, they aren’t nearly as big as they are shown on the map. For example, on the map Greenland has approximately the size of the continent of Africa. But in reality it’s only the size of the 2 African countries of Egypt and Sudan together!
The same goes for Russia. On the map it looks like a massive piece of land, which it is, but it’s much smaller than you think. It looks like it could fit the continent of Africa at least twice, but in reality it’s only as big as Northern Africa and part of the Middle East. It’s basically half the size! Crazy, right?
And now visualised
This concept is quite difficult to explain, so in case you are more of a visual thinker, check out this video for a visual explanation of the Mercator Projection and the true size of countries.
Which countries surprised you the most?