Tuesday, September 17, 2013
A flat earth and a racing land 1
I started school when I was four. I don't mean pre-school because that didn't exist. I don't mean kindergarten because there was none in Calliope either. None of that wimpy stuff. I mean full on Grade 1. The big league.
At the front of the classroom, there was a map of The World. It was called that, and when I went to school, that was world enough, but of course it was a map of the Earth. It was a Mercator’s Projection, which means that the Earth was flattened like the skin of an orange which had been carefully removed and opened out.
Now, I'll be honest with you. At the age of four, the flat map of the world made a good deal more sense to me than a round one. I couldn't conceive of how the earth could possibly be as round as that. In the early 1950s, we didn't have the benefit of images from space, and rocket ships coming back into the atmosphere from space orbit, with the earth's features getting larger and larger and finally becoming the sort of flat that I comprehended at the age of four.
I was definitely more comfortable with a flat Earth. I could look out the window into the distance and there was no doubt at all in my mind that it was kind of flat – well, as flat as it gets, if you know what I mean. We can allow for hills and valleys and the odd mountain or two.
Even when we went the fifteen miles into Gladstone, and looked out to sea at any point where the clear blue sky met an even deeper blue ocean, it seemed to confirm my views on the flatness of the earth. Ain’t nuthin seen from a distance as flat as the ocean, although I knew from experience that it's surprisingly un-flat when you get into it, not to mention salty. Those bloody waves just keep rolling in and knocking you down if you give them half a chance. But... the land where we stood was below us, and the beautiful sea right up to the horizon line was below as well, and the sky was clearly above us. QED. No more proof required. Earth = flat.
No-one told me about the Mercator's Projection being a flattened out view of a spherical world. As a result, it had one tremendously puzzling feature. On this map of The World, Australia was at the centreline, which is exactly as it should be given that it's always been the centre of the Known World, but – and I know you're going to find this just as amazing as I did – there was an England on the right end of the map and another England on the left-hand side. It was clear as a bell. Right there, plain to see.
No wonder that tiny little Britain had managed to put all those pink bits representing the Commonwealth on the map. Gor Blimey. There were two Britains, and I guessed that would have made the work of conquering so much of the world a lot easier. Pincer movement like.
I admit I didn't know quite how it worked, but it was on the map, and it was a nice map, with beautiful printing, so that must've been how it was. Anyway that was not my problem. Somehow, they'd got it together and between them created a mighty empire.
I must also say that there was a globe on the teacher's table, and we could always spin it around, if she was out of the room or was writing sums on the blackboard to make us miserable later.
I liked the globe very much and it made a sort of sense to me, even if they never could make it straight up and down, but always on that silly 23.5 degree angle. You'd think quality control would have stepped in long before and made them fix it. But, you got kinda used to it, and I have to admit now that straight up-and-down somehow wouldn't feel right.
Children have a wonderful capacity to doublethink, so I didn't try to put the two of these representations together. The flat map of the Earth and the globe existed as separate worlds in my four-year-old world, and that was okay.
As a matter of fact, many adults still have this same ability to doublethink. You only have to look at their views on politics. But, let me not get off the track.
What was the track, do I hear you ask? Ain’t it bleedin obvious?
Possibly not. OK.
It's just that several days ago, I had the thought that I might write a blog piece on a certain subject, and I'd even prepared some maps for it. But the ABC, in its infinite wisdom, has a programme on this very night, called Rise of the Continents, and I'm afraid it might pre-empt my little lecture.
So, just to prove to you that I didn't get the idea from the programme, I'll put this map below, and I want you to look at it. This is about what a runaway landmass did, and how it created two very different societies.
No, in fact, I want you to study it deeply. This is your homework. Questions, as they say, will be asked.
All will be revealed tomorrow. Tomorrow-ish well. Don't be so pushy. I've only got one pair of hands you know.
Umm, I've really only got one hand that works, so lay off. You just stop being cruel to the disabled.