Geography Facts That Will Have You Questioning Your Place On Earth
Our planet is a truly incredible place in both the geographical elements formed by nature and those that we came up with ourselves. If you ever think you have a solid knowledge of our world, all you have to do is look at a map and do a little research to learn that you only know the tip of the iceberg and other things you considered fact are completely wrong altogether. Here are some geography facts about Earth that will make you want to break out that dusty globe and see for yourself.
Mount Everest Isn’t The Tallest Mountain In The World
Mount Everest is arguably the most well-known mountain in the world, with people risking their lives every year to conquer it. Yet, it’s a common misconception that it’s the tallest mountain in the world.
While it may be the tallest mountain above sea level, when it comes to the tallest mountain on Earth, that title goes to Mauna Kea. Located in Hawaii, above sea level, Maua Kea is only 13,769 feet, but from its base at the bottom of the Pacific, it’s 32,80 feet, 3,000 feet taller than the mighty Everest.
Mexico City Is Sinking Into The Earth
Mexico City was initially built on a lake in 1325 A.D., however, the Mexico City we see today is sinking around 3.2 feet every year. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the Aztecs filled in Lago de Texcoco in order to create an artificial island, which the Spaniards built on top of the ruins in 1521.
However, because the locals rely on the water that is taken from beneath the city, Mexico City has sunk an unbelievable 32 feet over the last 60 years!
There Are More Than 7,600 Islands In The Philippines
While there’s a reason that the Philippines are often referred to as the Philippine Islands, there are more than most people think. In total, in the Archipelago of the Philippines, there are more than 7,641 islands, which is several more than the 7,107 islands researchers believed the country previously contained.
This led The Inquirer to admit, “The change is a reminder of how knowledge, even scientific knowledge, is a matter of faith…It’s good for our critical thinking to be reminded of the contingency of ‘expert knowledge.'”
Alaska Is Both The Westernmost And Easternmost Part Of The United States
From a quick glance at a map, Alaska may clearly seem to be the United States’ westernmost state. While this is true, it is also the easternmost part of the country as well.
This is possible because it stretches so far to the west that it falls into the eastern hemisphere. To top it all off, the Semisopochnoi Island, which part of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, is technically the easternmost part in all of North America.
Island-Ception In The Philippines
Somewhere in the world, there is an island in the middle of a lake, which is on an island in a lake, that’s on an island. Catch that? Located in the Philippines, there is Vulcan Point, which is an island inside of Main Crater Lake.
In turn, Main Crater Lake is situated on Volcano Island. Then, Volcano Island is located in Lake Taal, and finally, Lake Taal can be found on the island of Luzon, which is the largest and most populous island in the Philippines.
Morning And Night Happen At The Same Time In Russia
Even considering Russia’s massive size, it’s still incredible to learn that Russia has a whopping 11 time zones out of the 24 in the entire world! This means that on one side of Russia, the country is waking up at 7 am, while the other side is about to sit down for dinner.
A bonus fun fact is that France uses one more time zone than Russia because of all of their different overseas territories.
The Sargasso Sea Has No Coasts
While it may seem obvious that any body of water has to have some kind of coast or ridge line to separate it from a landmass, that’s not the case of the Sargasso Sea: the only sea without any coasts.
It is located in the Atlantic Ocean in the North, where it is surrounded by four ocean currents, with no land. It is given its name for the Sargassum seaweed that covers it all over.
The Largest Rock In The World Is In Australia
Although it has the name of Mount Augustus, it is not a mountain, but actually one massive rock. It can be found in the Australian Outback, standing more than 2,300 feet tall, and can be visible for more than 100 miles away.
Incredibly, this mammoth boulder is more than twice the Ayers Rock’s size, which is the much more famous granite rock. On top of all that, Mount Augustus is also 1,650 million years old!
Two Islands Just 2.4 Miles Apart Are Also 20 Hours Apart
In between the United States and Russia are the Diomede Islands, in which the two countries divide. Big Diomede is located in Russia and Little Diomede in America, which are separated by both the International Border and Date Line.
However, it is because of this that even though the island is just 2.4 hours apart, there is also a 20-hour time difference between the two. Because of this, Big Diomede is also referred to as Tomorrow Island, and Little Diomede is Yesterday Island.
Damascus Is The Oldest Continuously Inhabited City In The World
Cities such as Athens and Egypt may come to mind as the oldest cities in the world, but it’s actually Damascus, Syria. Since at least 11,000 years ago, it has been continuously inhabited and was eventually named the Arab Capital of Culture in 2008.
Today, Damascus has more than 125 monuments from various times in the city’s history, going back to the 3rd millennium BC. Currently, the city is home to more than 1.7 million people.
The State Of Kentucky Has More Caves Than Anywhere On Earth
Officially known as the Commonwealth of Kentucky and nicknamed the Bluegrass State, Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and 26th most populous of the 50 United States. Furthermore, it is also home to the world’s largest cave system known as Mammoth Cave.
The system is more than 400 miles long (of which has been explored), with researchers believing that there are more than 200 miles of unexplored underground systems. Tourists can even visit parts of the cave in Mammoth National Park.
It Snows In The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert is considered one of the hottest places on Earth, with temperatures reaching more than 136 degrees Fahrenheit. With the temperatures this high, one would think that this region would never see snow, but that’s not the case.
While the desert’s average temperature is 86 degrees, in the evenings, it can drop to an average of 25 degrees fahrenheit. Unbelievably, in January 2018, it received its third snowfall in 40 years, with the previous being in 2016 and 1979.
A Heart Can Be Seen At The Great Barrier Reef
The largest living organism on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef spans 1,429 miles of coastline of Australia. As if it isn’t beautiful enough, if you’re flying above it, you can see part of the reef that’s in the shape of a heart.
The first pilot that ever spotted it flew overhead in 1955. The “heart” is 55 feet in diameter and is part of the Hardy Reef in Whitsunday’s. Unsurprisingly, you’re not allowed to get close enough to it by boat.
Everest Isn’t The Closest Mountain To The Moon
Not only is Mount Everest not the tallest mountain in the world, and even though it’s the tallest mountain above sea level, it’s also not even the closest mountain to the moon. This prestigious honor, in fact, goes to Mount Chimborazo.
This is possible because our planet isn’t actually a sphere, as most people think, but actually, an oval inflated in the middle. In Ecuador, Mount Chimborazo may only be 20,564 feet in height, but because the equator pushes it up, it is closer to the moon than Everest by 1.5 miles.
Africa Spans All Four Hemispheres
Africa is the world’s second-longest and second-most-populous continent after Asia. In total, it covers 6% of Earth’s total surface area and 20% of its land area, with a population of 1.3 billion people as of 2018.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, it is also the only continent in the world to cover the north, south, east, and west hemispheres, totaling 12 million square miles. Today, Africa is made up of 54 countries, the largest being Algeria.
Water Covers Most Of The Planet Although Humans Can’t Use It
Amazingly, the planet is covered by more than 71 percent of water, yet humans can actually consume only .007 percent of it. This is because only 2.5 percent is freshwater, with the rest being saline and ocean-based.
Even then, only 1 percent is readily accessible, with the rest of it being trapped in glaciers and snowfields around the planet. That sure is a lot of undrinkable water on the planet!
There’s A Piece Of Land In North Carolina That Belong To England
Along the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the town of Ocracoke, is a piece of land that is leased forever to England. The piece of land is a cemetery and memorial that honors the HTM Bedfordshire, which was an English naval ship that patrolled the waters during World War II.
When the ship was sunk by a German U-boat, all 37 sailors perished and most bodies were never recovered. However, four bodies did wash on the shore and were buried in a cemetery that was leased to England so the men can be buried on their home ground.
It Takes A Drop Of Water 90 Days To Travel Down The Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and the second-largest drainage system on the North American continent. The river either borders or passes through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
The river is so long, measuring at 2,348 miles, that it would take a drop of water 90 days from the northernmost source in Minnesota to its end in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a lot of time for a single drop of water!
The Country With The Longest name Has 56 Characters
The United Kingdom’s official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which is the most characters in a country’s full name. However, that wasn’t always the case.
Libya once held the record at 63 characters when it once went under the name Al Jumahiriyah al Arabiyah al Libiyah ash Shabiyah al Ishtirakiyah al Uzma. Its name was changed in 2013 officially to the State of Libya. We’re going to say that’s probably for the best.
It Snows In Hawaii
Although Hawaii is known for its tropical environment, its volcanoes are tall enough that they appear to be a whole other world at the top, stripped of their palm trees and salty air. They’re so tall, in fact, that they even get snow during some parts of the year.
For example, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island, and Haleakala on the island of Maui are all above 10,000 feet and are known to receive snow during the winter months.
Australia’s Alps Get More Snow Than The Swiss Alps
A lot of people assume that Australia is nothing more than beaches and deserts, but they are dead wrong. Along the border of New South Wales and Victoria reside the Australian Alps, which are a popular destination for Australians to have some fun in the snow during the winter months of June to September.
If that isn’t crazy enough, the Australian Alps actually receive more snowfall than the Swiss Alps because of their proximity to the coast.
There Is A Supervolcano Beneath Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park may be considered one of the most impressive in the United States; it’s also home to an active supervolcano. According to National Geographic, a supervolcano explosion could release more than 240 cubic miles of materials, around twice the volume of Lake Eerie.
The Yellowstone volcano has actually erupted on three separate occasions, although the most recent one was over 640,000 years ago. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s overdue, although not likely to erupt anytime soon.
The Largest Sand Island On Earth Is In Australia
Located in Australia, Fraser Island was formed by sand blowing across the land for thousands upon thousands of years. Its length is around 76 miles with its width being approximately 14 miles.
It was established as a World Heritage Site in 1992 and is the largest sand island in the world. It is the traditional land of the Butchulla people and according to the 2016 census, had a small population of just 182 people.
There Are Floating Islands In Peru On A Lake
Above Peru in Lake Titicaca is a tribe of individuals that call floating islands made of reeds their homes. By stacking numerous piles of reeds, they create small islands that not only float but can withstand the weight of numerous structures at once.
Initially, the small floating island city of Puno was built this way so the people could easily escape danger. However, time never seemed to get to this small village and it has remained more or less the same.
The Shortest Flight In The World Is Just 57 Seconds
Why someone would ever take it, few have few answers, but if you wanted to, the shortest commercial flight in the world can be taken between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland. The 1.7-mile flight connects the two islands and takes a grand total of 57 seconds depending on the weather.
The real question is how much that under one-minute flight costs. It’s safe to assume most people buy a ticket just to say they did it.
Los Angeles Is East Of Reno, Nevada
It’s common knowledge that California is west of Nevada, considering that it’s the westernmost coastline of the United States and Nevada is landlocked. What people don’t always realize is that the city of Los Angeles, California is actually East of Reno, Nevada.
Los Angeles is actually a whole 86 miles east of Reno, which is crazy to think about when Nevada is around 300 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Don’t let logic fool you when it comes to geography!
Istanbul Is The Only Major City That Rests On Two Continents
Istanbul is a major city and the only one that is located in both Europe and Asia, with the Bosphorus Strait running right through the middle. A bridge connects the two parts of the city, with the European half being the most populous and serving as the city’s historical center.
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey with a history that goes over 2,000 years and as a population of more than 14 million people. In the past, it has served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires.
Russia Has The Coldest Inhabited Place On Earth
By a stretch, Russia is home to the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth. This is mostly because the residents of Antarctica do not live in permanent towns, as they move around.
This Russian location is Oymyakon, Russia, which in 1924, reached a staggering low of -96.16 degrees Fahrenheit. Nevertheless, this region is not always this cold, and its average temperature resides somewhere around a still bone-chilling -58 degrees Fahrenheit. Hard to believe anyone would want to live there.
Russia And China Touch 14 Countries Each
It’s no secret that Russia and China are two of the largest countries in the world, despite the fact that China could fit comfortably in Russia, both each border 14 other countries. Russia, which includes the region of Kalinigrad borders Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, North Korea, Norway, Poland, and Ukraine.
On the other hand, China borders Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nepal. North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.
Sudan Has More Pyramids Than Egypt
When discussing ancient pyramids, Egypt might come first to mind for most people, being so well known for its Pyramids of Giza.
Nevertheless, although Egypt is closely associated with pyramids, Sudan has nearly twice the amount of these ancient structures. Sudan has between 200 and 255 known pyramids, which were built for the Kushite kingdoms of Nubia, which is significantly more than Egypt’s 138 pyramids. Today, you can visit Sudan’s ancient and reconstructed pyramids of Meroe.
Red Features A Total Population Greater Than The Gray
As you can clearly see by this map, Americans tend to favor the coastal states, considering the red areas represent a greater population than that of the gray area. With a vast majority of “red” being in southern California, it seems as though people flock to the west coast for the lifestyle: the promise of year-round summer.
Then, some favor the eastern seaboard, enjoying the lifestyles of New Englanders and the tri-state area. What we can conclude from the map is that the colder and more rural states aren’t on the “move-to” list for many of the 328.2 million Americans.
Texas Doesn’t Look All That Big Next Compared To Africa
While Texas is the second-largest state in the United States by area, right behind Alaska, it is nothing in comparison to the world’s second-largest continent, Africa. Everything might be bigger in Texas, but when the state is dropped down on top of Africa, it looks about as big as one of the countries– which is still impressive!
To put it in a bit of perspective for those who enjoy numbers, Africa has an area of 30,370,000 sq km, while Texas doesn’t even break one million sq km, coming in at 676,587 sq km. This means Africa is 45 times larger than the state!
Light Pollution Throughout The Continental United States
If you’re an outdoor lover who enjoys star gazing at night, we recommend venturing to middle and northwest America, where the light pollution is substantially less than the coastal states east of the Mississippi River. Sadly, according to a 2016 study, scientists estimate that around 80 percent of North Americans can’t see the Milky Way.
But, as geographer Tim Wallace has mentioned, a majority of the states with random light output, such as North Dakota, are due to shale oil extractions and huge commercial buildings, such as airports and power stations.
Air Traffic Control Zones Look Nothing Like The Country
Interestingly, the air traffic control in the United States isn’t broken up by state, but rather by zones and sectors. Throughout the continental US, there are 21 zones, as illustrated on the above map. Each of these zones is centralized around a major city, such as Houston, New York, and Washington D.C.
But that’s not where air control ends. Within these 21 zones, there are sectors and 50 miles in diameter of airspace. Within each given portion of airspace is where all of the country’s airports are located, each with its own five-mile radius.
Land Use Throughout The United States
The United States has one of the largest landmasses at its disposal and a very diverse one at that. With 3.8 million square miles to work with, it’s only natural that the land making up the United States has various uses, depending on where it’s located.
While much of the western states use their land for forests and timber, middle America has great pastures for farm animals, such as cows, sheep, and horses. But even tiny spaces go a long way, like the national parks and the tiny northern splotch of land that produces maple syrup!
The Reach Of The Mongolian Empire In 1279
The Mongolian Empire was the largest bordering land empire in the history of the world. Through the 13th and 14th centuries, the Empire stretched from Central and Eastern Europe, down to the Sea of Japan, northward into part of the Arctic, westward towards the Carpathian and Levant Mountains, into the mainland of Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Iranian Plateau.
Emerging from the alliance between several nomadic tribes, Genghis Khan took leadership and ruthlessly took over a solid part of the world. Thankfully, after years of the Empire, a war over succession eventually led to its downfall. But before that, the Empire was an astounding nine million square miles.
New Zealand Is Very Small Compared To The United States
Since the United States is the fourth-largest country in the entire world, it’s no surprise that when New Zealand is put on top of it, the island looks like a tiny blip in comparison. To put it in mathematical language, the US is estimated to be around 9,833,517 sq km, while New Zealand is about 268,838 sq km.
This makes the United States around 3,558 percent larger than the southwestern Pacific country of New Zealand! Thankfully, New Zealand isn’t alone in its small area, being similar in size to the United Kingdom.
Metric System Vs. Imperial System
One of the age-old arguments a majority of the world has with the United States is why the country insists on staying with the imperial system of measurement. Aside from Liberia and Myanmar, the rest of the world, as you can see by the gray masses, use the metric system.
In America’s defense, they can actually blame the British on the unit of measurement. Hundreds of years ago, when the British colonized America, they brought with them the imperial system. Ever since, Americans have used that system, deciding not to jump on the metric system-train, so to speak.
Middle America Has More Farmland Than Trees
America is home to eight percent of the world’s forests, having around 228 billion trees in the country. And, as the map clearly illustrates, those forests are more densely populated in the northwest as well as east of the Mississippi River.
Contrary to popular belief, the wood-per-acre average has significantly grown since the 1950s, which is amazing since the European settlers uprooted a lot of growth when they first arrived in America. Now more than ever, people realize the importance of nature. In 2007, the then-mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, made plans to plant one million trees In New York by 2017 — the goal was met!
Abandoned Railroads Throughout The United States
Railways played a huge role in the construction of America, from the settlements in the west to the Industrial Revolution in the east. It was 1827 when the first railroad was constructed. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was the vision of John Stevens and catered to both freight and passenger transport.
As the map shows, a majority of the abandoned railways are located in the east, slowly expanding out west. This pattern makes sense with the early settlements, slow construction, the 1893 economic panic that halted many projects, and the eventual invention of the automobile and the airplane that would become the more popular modes of transportation.
Where Flamingos Flock In The Wild
While a majority of people will only ever see flamingos in zoos, there are some places around the world where they live freely in the wild. As illustrated by the above map, these wading birds tend to favor Africa, Europe, tiny parts of Asia, the Caribbean, and the southern tip of America.
Fun fact about flamingos: these birds tend to stand on one leg, but no one really knows why. It’s thought that they stand in such a way to retain body heat, as their long, skinny legs spend most of the day wading around in cold water.
Further Proof That California Is Its Own Country
While Italy technically has a larger population than California, having a population of 60.3 million compared to the state’s 39.5 million, the latter is obviously bigger in terms of area. As you can see from the map, California easily fits over the entirety of Italy, even crossing over a few borders into Swiss territory.
To give a bit of perspective on the size of the country versus the area of the state, let’s look at some numbers: Italy is 301,340 sq km, while California’s is a solid 403,882 sq km, making the country 74.61 percent the size of the state.
The Population Of Middle America = Both Coasts
It’s no secret that a majority of people flock away from middle America in favor of living on either the eastern and western seaboard to live. But it might come to a surprise to see the population of both coasts in comparison to a vast majority of the country’s middle states.
To break it down, the orange represents a population equivalent to that of the red portion in the middle of the map. Pretty much, if you’re not a people person, we recommend living somewhere in the red section of the map.
Eight Million Miles Of Highway In The United States
Formed back on November 11, 1926, the United States Federal Highways has an expanded reach of 157,724 miles throughout the country. Each highway has a designated number, something that is coordinated among each of the 50 states.
And while the roadways stretch throughout the continental U.S., their maintenance is in the responsibility of state and local governments. If you’ve ever been on a New Jersey highway, then you know tax money is going to something other than fixing all of the highway potholes!
Australia Vs. The United States
When looking at a world map, it’s hard to determine which country is larger, Australia or the United States. So, we’ve layered them in order to gain a better perspective.
The United States is around 9,833,517 sq km, while the land down under is 7,741,220 sq km. In mathematical terms, America is about 1.3 times as large as Australia, or 27 percent. Considering the United States has a population of 328.2 million, it’s a good thing there is so much space!
The Majority Of The US Has A Smaller Population Than LA County
If there is one thing to say Los Angeles County in southern California, it is packed tighter than a tin of sardines. With a population of 10 million, according to the 2019 census, the single county of LA out-populates a vast majority of the United States, as shown above.
Granted, North Carolina and Georgia should join Ohio, Illinois, New York, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania on this map. As of 2019, North Carolina just makes it past LA County’s population with 10.49 million people, while Georgia’s population comes in at 10.62 million.
Cuba Fits In The Hudson Bay
It’s amazing to see an entire country fit snugly inside a body of water, considering how bays tend to look fairly small on the world map. Thankfully, we have this “perspective map” to give us an idea of just how large the Hudson Bay is compared to the island country of Cuba.
Let’s start by saying, the bay is huge, comparatively speaking. The Hudson Bay’s surface area is 1,230,000 sq km, while Cuba has an area of 110,860 sq km. With that size difference, no wonder Cuba looks like nothing more than a sandbar on this map.
The US If States Were Sized By Population Density
Wouldn’t it be interesting to open a textbook and see a map of the United States looking all split-up like this? While normal images of the US have all of the borders connected, this interesting take is based on what the map would look like, if it were designed based on the population density per state.
As you can see, it doesn’t look like the states of California or Florida changed much, if at all, while Alaska, the biggest state in the country, is shrunk down to almost nothing! And can we talk about how big New Jersey is compared to its usual small self?
China Vs. The United States
It’s no secret that China is the world’s most populated country, being the home to over one billion people. But when it comes to the surface area, it is almost beaten out by the United States.
To put it in perspective, by using a bit of imagination, you can see that if you reconfigure the shape of China, it is almost the same size as the US. But, at the end of the day, China is a bit bigger, at 9,596,960 sq km, while the United States just falls behind at 9,147,593 sq km.
Greenland Looks Tiny Next To South America
If you’re like us, then when you look at a world map, the territory of Greenland seems like it could overtake South America in terms of surface area. Well, we’re here to tell you that is not the case, and this map should put their respective sizes into perspective.
Let’s start with Greenland. The island has an area of 2,166,086 sq km, while the continent of South America comes in at a whopping 17,840,000 sq km. That, folks, tells us that South America is a solid 8.2 times larger than the northern territory.