[ISHMap-List] Blank Spots

Robert Batchelor batchelo at georgiasouthern.edu
Tue Feb 25 19:05:22 CET 2014

Which where the last blank spots to be filled on the world map?
When where they filled?

That seems like a difficult question to answer because it is definitional.
 For example, is the ocean a blank space?  Is this merely a question about

Conrad has a famous passage about the end of the blank space in Heart of
Darkness, which concludes, "True, by this time it was not a blank space any
more. It had got filled since my boyhood with rivers and lakes and names.
It had ceased to be a blank space of delightful mystery--a white patch for a
boy to dream gloriously over. It had become a place of darkness."  The
reference is often assumed to be to Winwood Reade's 1873 "Map of African
Literature".   (

Antartica was almost always partially blank well into the 1950's on most
commercial maps, but the fashion shifted towards both filling in space and
to not showing parts of Antartica that were uncertain--cf. the National
Geographic World Map of 1960 for example which at points almost appears
medieval in its annotations.  But I suspect that there were still maps in
the 60's and 70's with blank spaces in Antartica and elsewhere.  After
1972, landsat and even before that aerial photography allowed for at least
the illusion of comprehensiveness, and the problem then becomes the level
of generality.

I suspect with Google Earth, we now have blurred spots rather than blank or
dark spots.  Notice, with the Arc-GIS ocean basemap (
what happens when you look closely at the eastern half of the Ross or the
southern and eastern parts of the Weddell seas.  They aren't blank, but
some parts are rather impressionistic compared to others.  White swaths of
snow and ice, map projections and frames, can provide cover in the way that
sea serpents, crests and really large compass roses once did in the ocean.

Hope that helps,
Bob Batchelor

Robert Batchelor
Associate Professor of History
Georgia Southern University
Forest Drive Building (Office 1211)
PO 8054
Statesboro, GA 30460
Phone: 912-660-6613
FAX: 912-478-0377
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