“A journey of a thousand miles starts in front of your feet.”
— Lao Tsu
The Great Arc Project
More than two hundred years ago, on April 10, 1802, the British surveyor Col. William Lambton began an ambitious, audacious and mathematically meticulous scientific odyssey at St. Thomas Mount in Madras (now Chennai). It took four decades to be completed. The project ended on the foothills of the Himalayas. Lambton carefully laid the baseline, which stretched across a distance of 12 kilometres between St. Thomas Mount and another hillock in the southern direction, for the "measurement of the length of a degree of latitude" along a longitude,” in the middle of peninsular India.
This 12-km-long horizontal at about sea level grew into what is known as the Great Indian Arc of the Meridian, a gigantic geometric web of 'triangulations' roughly along the 78° longitude across the entire length of the subcontinent covering a distance of about 2,400 km in the north-south direction.
At the end of this massive and perilous exercise, which consumed "more lives than in most contemporary wars" and involved tomes of calculations and equations more complex than any in the pre-computer age, it was conclusively proved in 1843 that the Himalayas
constituted a mountain range that was higher than the Andes, until then believed to be the highest. It also established the height of the highest point on the earth, what is now called Mount Everest.
The girl saved a hundred fellow tourists from the tsunami because of a geography lesson about the giant waves. Tilly Smith urged her family to get off Maikhao beach in Thailand after seeing the tide rush out and boats on the horizon bob violently. Tilly told the media that credit for her quick-thinking should go to Andrew Kearney, her geography teacher at her school.
We may not understand all about the mysterious ways of the world around us but at least we can begin to think like Albert Einstien who said ‘the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible’. Geography is a subject that helps us make sense of the natural world around us. Many of us have distasteful memories of geography as a subject that makes us learn and locate capital cities on the map. An image that needs to be corrected.
Learning from landscapes
Learning begins from right where you are. Observing and understanding the natural lay of the land around us is the first thing that we ought to do, but most often dont. Natural and man-made landscapes teach us a lot about how we interact with nature.
A map is a picture of a place. It gives you a better understanding of that place. It is a two-dimensional representation of a particular place. Maps are made for many reasons and, therefore, they vary in content and context. Different maps show different information. Different symbols are used to represent the features of the environment on a map.