A WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
“The further west you go, the nearer you get to the Far East”.
A Victor Borge joke. Not only ironic but, if you think carefully about it, a challenge to our accepted perceptions of cartography.
Consider, for example, if you bought a map of the world in China; where would China be? On the extreme right (East) as we portray it or in the middle as we portray ourselves?
By that measure, if it were centred it would show China’s geographic relationship with other countries with the Pacific Ocean and the Americas to the right of it (East) and Europe and Africa to the West.
“OK” I hear you say, “but the East is set because the sun rises in the East”. But it doesn’t. The sun doesn’t rise at all; rather, the Earth spins in an anti-clockwise direction (or clockwise, depending on whether you view it from above the North or the South Pole).
Now let’s complicate matters further
Question: Which way is North?
Answer: At the top of the globe, obviously.
Answer: Because that’s where the North Star is and because it’s where a compass points.
Indeed. But the first argument is entirely circular. Navigators christened Polaris the North or Pole Star because they were seeking a northerly direction. And a compass, of course, also points South.
And here is the point. North is at the top depending solely on where you stand to look at it.
Viewed from space the Earth can appear in any plane, depending on whether you are “stood up” or “upside-down”, and if you were “upside-down” Antarctica would be at the top. And in space there no “up” or “down”.
Put another way, if world exploration and related cartography had developed in Polynesia, say, what would maps of the world look like now?