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23 Maps That Will Change The Way You Look At Britain Forever

Map porn, basically.

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1. Though you may think you know exactly where and how big Britain is, it turns out everything may not be as it seems. First let's take a look at Britain's latitude...

Google Maps / Robin Edds / BuzzFeed

As you may be aware, Britain benefits hugely from the Gulf Stream – an oceanic current that moves warmer water north and east from the Gulf of Mexico up towards the UK and the rest of northwest Europe.

Without it Britain's climate would be considerably cooler, and it's this that often gives people a false sense of just how northerly (or not) Britain is situated compared to the rest of the world.

2. For example, let's take a look at where Britain lies relative to our North American cousins.

Google Maps / Robin Edds / BuzzFeed

Using London, Edinburgh, and the northern and southern extremities of the UK (Out Stack in Shetland, and Pednathise Head in the Isles of Scilly respectively) as reference points, it's clear just how far north we're situated.

Even the southernmost point of Britain is further north than the northernmost part of the contiguous United States (the 48 adjoining states, so this does not include Alaska or Hawaii), while London lies further north than almost all major Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto.

Right about now you're probably feeling a newfound love for a certain warm oceanic current, and we don't blame you.

3. And when you compare Britain's location to Asia it's equally surprising.

Google Maps / Robin Edds / BuzzFeed

The UK lies to the north of almost all of China, the entirety of Japan, and most of Mongolia (including the Gobi desert). Scotland may be a little chilly at times, but when you look at what it's on a par with, a few inches of snow and temperatures of around freezing don't really seem all that bad.


4. Here's what happens when you zoom out and look at Britain's position relative to the rest of the northern hemisphere. In summary: Britain is a LOT further north than most people think.

Google Maps / Robin Edds / BuzzFeed

PS. Sorry, Alaska. My monitor wasn't big enough to screengrab everything. We still love you though. Promise. ❤️

5. But what about the southern hemisphere? Where would Britain be relative to other countries if it had the same latitude as it does now, but the other side of the equator? Well, here:

Google Maps / Robin Edds / BuzzFeed

Rather surprisingly, London would sit further south than all of Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and almost all of South America.

6. And if you look at the other reference points, you can see that any part of Britain north of Edinburgh would lie further south than every major landmass in the southern hemisphere.

7. Zooming in on Australia and New Zealand, the proximity of the Shetland line to parts of Antarctica is kind of startling.

Google Maps / Robin Edds / BuzzFeed

Also, smug Australians, THIS is why your weather is so much better.

8. Looking at some major US cities' latitudes compared to ours, it's clear why their summers are so much nicer than ours.

Google Maps / Robin Edds / BuzzFeed

But when you consider how cold it gets in New York, once again you have to be very, very thankful for the Gulf Stream.


9. And here are the relative positions of some of east Asia's largest cities.

Google Maps / Robin Edds / BuzzFeed

Once again, we're a HELL of a lot further north than...well, pretty much everyone.

So, now we've established exactly where Britain is, let's take a look at how big it is. Earlier this year we explained how the Mercator projection (which many maps use) makes countries near the poles look bigger than they actually are, and why this is problem.

11. Using the very clever website it's possible to move countries around so you can see their relative size to other countries, if they were on the same latitude. Here's what happens if you move the US to where the UK is:


Because (as we've learned) Britain is significantly further north than the US, its size on many maps is exaggerated. When you move the US to the UK's latitude, therefore, it grows larger – showing the two countries' true relative sizes.

Following this? Good. And if not, well, look at all the pretty colours!


19. The biggest problem with the Mercator projection is that it makes countries on the equator looks smaller relative to countries nearer the poles (like Britain). Central Africa in particular gets a bit of a bum deal.


On most maps Britain looks similar in size to, or larger than, many countries in this region. Moving some of them up to the same latitude as Britain shows their true relative size.


22. As you move Britain north from the equator, you can see how quickly its apparent size increases once you hit western Europe.

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