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Greenland: Unveiling the Majestic Giants of the Map

Why is Greenland so large on maps?

Greenland, the world’s largest island, often appears disproportionately large on many maps. This visual distortion can be puzzling to travelers and cartography enthusiasts alike. In this article, we explore the reasons for Greenland’s apparent size on maps, and look at the cartographic techniques and historical factors that contribute to this perception.

1. Mercator projection and distortion

One of the main reasons why Greenland appears significantly larger on maps is the use of the Mercator projection. The Mercator projection, developed by Gerardus Mercator in the 16th century, is a cylindrical map projection commonly used for navigation and world maps. It preserves accurate angles and shapes, but introduces significant distortions in the sizes of land masses at higher latitudes.

Due to the properties of the Mercator projection, areas closer to the poles, such as Greenland, are visually exaggerated. Because Greenland is near the Arctic Circle, it appears much larger on maps using this projection. The distortion increases as you move away from the equator, making Greenland appear larger than it actually is relative to other land masses, such as Africa or South America.

2. Historical Significance

The size of Greenland on maps can also be attributed to historical reasons. During the Age of Exploration, Greenland was an area of great interest to European nations. Explorers and cartographers of the time often depicted Greenland prominently on their maps to emphasize its strategic and economic importance.

In addition, Greenland’s association with the Kingdom of Denmark influenced its representation on maps. As the ruling nation, Denmark may have influenced the depiction of Greenland’s size to assert its territorial claims and emphasize the island’s geopolitical importance.

3. Perceptions of Arctic dominance

The prominent representation of Greenland on maps may also be influenced by the geopolitical perception of Arctic dominance. The Arctic region, where Greenland is located, has received increasing attention in recent decades due to its strategic value and potential natural resources.

By visually enlarging Greenland on maps, the prominence and importance of the Arctic region is emphasized. This representation serves as a reminder of the geopolitical interests and potential conflicts surrounding the Arctic, drawing attention to the region and its growing importance in global affairs.

4. Cultural and Tourism Impact

The visual prominence of Greenland on maps has had a significant impact on its cultural and tourism sectors. The perception of Greenland’s size, coupled with its pristine natural beauty and unique cultural heritage, has attracted adventurers, explorers and tourists seeking awe-inspiring experiences.

Many travelers are fascinated by the idea of visiting the world’s largest island, drawn by the allure of its vast landscapes, towering glaciers and abundant wildlife. The perception of Greenland’s size and its remote location contribute to its mystique and appeal, making it a sought-after destination for those seeking unforgettable travel experiences.

5. Alternative map projections

While the Mercator projection is commonly used in many maps, there are alternative map projections that aim to minimize distortions and present a more accurate representation of the size of landmasses. For example, the Peters projection and the Robinson projection attempt to address the problem of size distortion seen in the Mercator projection.
These alternative projections provide a more equitable representation of land masses and reduce the exaggerated size of Greenland. However, these projections may introduce other distortions in shape or angle. The choice of map projection ultimately depends on the purpose of the map and the specific needs of the user.

In summary, the apparent large size of Greenland on maps can be attributed to the use of the Mercator projection, historical factors, geopolitical interests, and the desire to show the importance of the Arctic region. While the visual distortion may be misleading, it has contributed to Greenland’s cultural appeal and status as a desirable travel destination. Understanding the cartographic techniques and historical context behind Greenland’s representation on maps can provide valuable insights for travelers and enthusiasts alike.


Why is Greenland so big on the map?

Greenland appears disproportionately large on many maps due to a phenomenon called the Mercator projection. The Mercator projection is a cylindrical map projection that distorts the size of landmasses as they get farther away from the equator. Since Greenland is located near the North Pole, it gets significantly distorted and appears much larger than it actually is.

What is the actual size of Greenland?

The actual size of Greenland is approximately 2,166,086 square kilometers (836,330 square miles). This makes it the world’s largest non-continental island. However, it is important to note that while Greenland is large, it is still considerably smaller than it appears on most maps due to the distortion caused by the Mercator projection.

Are there any other maps that accurately represent Greenland’s size?

Yes, there are alternative map projections that aim to provide a more accurate representation of landmass sizes. For example, the Peters projection and the Robinson projection are two alternative maps that attempt to minimize distortion and present a more realistic view of the world’s landmasses, including Greenland. These maps give a better sense of the relative sizes of different countries and regions.

Why was the Mercator projection chosen despite the distortion it causes?

The Mercator projection was developed by Gerardus Mercator in the 16th century and became widely used for navigation purposes. It was particularly useful for sailors because it preserved angles and provided a straight line on the map that corresponded to a constant compass bearing, making it easier to navigate across long distances. However, the downside of this projection is the significant distortion in size, especially for landmasses located farther from the equator like Greenland.

Does Greenland’s size have any geopolitical implications?

The perceived size of Greenland on maps has occasionally led to misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding its geopolitical significance. Some people mistakenly believe that Greenland is larger or more influential than it actually is. However, it’s important to understand that size on a map does not necessarily correlate with political power or influence. While Greenland is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, it has a relatively small population and limited global influence compared to larger countries.