Five for Friday: New Map Updates!

Keeping our library of cartography fresh, accurate, and current is a priority for us at National Geographic. And our maps for educators and students are no exception. The downloadable black-and-white 1-page maps of continents, countries, and states have been a staple of the National Geographic website for over ten years. Formerly known as Xpeditions maps, this cartographic series has been popular with educators who use them for geography learning activities across a range of subjects, ages, and grades. In early 2011, we launched a new website for educators at including a new tool for customizing these maps, now called MapMaker 1-Page Maps. But as soon as the new site launched, it was already time for a cartographic update! Geography changes around the world everyday–and particularly the boundaries and place-names found on political maps. Here are the top five changes to look for in the MapMaker 1-Page online map library.


1. South Sudan

In a January 2011 referendum, the people of the autonomous region of
Southern Sudan voted for their independence from Sudan, creating the
Republic of South Sudan on July 9, 2011–the world’s 195th country. On
July 14, 2011 South Sudan joined the United Nations as a member state.
Sudan had long been the largest country in Africa, but with the change
the resulting area is now surpassed in size by Algeria. Along with the
addition of the new South Sudan map, changes were also made to the maps
of all bordering countries along with the continental and world maps
that included South Sudan in their area of overage. The updated maps
include neighboring Chad, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Central African
Republic, and Democratic Republic of the Congo as well as the Africa,
Asia, and World maps.


2. Iceland

In addition to political features, maps in the MapMaker 1-Page online
library also include some updates to important physical features and
points of interest. In 2010, the glacially covered volcano
Eyjafjallajökull erupted for nearly two months, with the resulting ash
clouds disrupting air travel across Europe. The stratovolcano is still
active and is now represented with a volcano symbol on the 1-page map of
Iceland along with some of the island’s other volcanic peaks.


3. British Columbia–Canada

In mid-2010 a large archipelago in the Canadian province of British
Columbia was renamed Haida Gwaii from its former name, Queen Charlotte
Islands. The change was part of an agreement between the government of
British Columbia and the Haida Nation–a group indigenous to the Pacific
Northwest region of North America.


4. The Caribbean Netherlands, Netherlands 

part of the Caribbean island group known as the Netherlands Antilles
(Bonaire, Curaçao, Sint Eustatius, Saba, and Sint Maarten), this
autonomous country within the European country of the Netherlands was
politically dissolved on October 10, 2010. Curaçao and Sint Maarten
became separate constituent countries within the Netherlands while
Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba became special municipalities of the
Netherlands. When this type of administrative change happens,
cartographers and editors at National Geographic take special care to
make sure the fonts used to label such features on our maps reflect
their political status: countries being designated by one type style,
while territories and other political units are defined by others.


5. Israel

The surface elevation of lakes and inland seas change over time due
to shifting physical and environmental conditions, improved measuring
techniques and tools, and the continued efforts of national surveying
agencies. An updated measurement of the surface elevation of the hyper
saline lake known as the Dead Sea required a change in the measurement
of Earth’s lowest surface point, from -1,381 ft (-421 m) to -1,385 ft
(-422 m).

Sean O’Connor

Project Manager, Educational Mapping

National Geographic Education

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