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It's difficult to imagine an uncharted world. Today, GPS and satellite maps guide us around cities both familiar and new, while scanning and mapping techniques are gradually drawing the last air of mystery away our planet's remaining unexplored territories. At one time, however, cartography was based on little more than anecdotal evidence and a series of educated guesses. But map-making in the 16th and 17th Centuries was an art nonetheless, even if these examples testify to the fact that just because you're missing important facts, total fabrication may not be the best way forward. The First Map of the North Pole (1606) The Septentrionalium Terrarum, completed in 1606 by Gerard Mercator (of projection fame), presents the North Pole as an enormous mountain surrounded on all sides by sea and four giant land masses. Without any information about what lay "up there," Mercator also described particular characteristics for each tectonic plate; according to Atlas Obscura, "the one in the lower right is supposedly home to 'pygmies, whose length is four feet' – likely another reference to the Inventio Fortunata, which described groups of small-statured people living in the polar regions." View more View full description
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