IV. Confirmation Of Ancient Maps Of Antarctica?
As a disclaimer of sorts, I would like to point out that I do not necessarily believe that a deglaciated Antarctica was charted in the recent past,
In 1524, only nine years after incorporating Agrippa's map onto a globe, Schöner returned with a drastically new design for a southern continent:
Charles Hapgood's tracing of Johannes Schöner 1524 globe with a depiction of a large southern continent which is an extreme departure from his 1515
Suddenly symmetry and concentricity that existed in his 1515 design were nowhere to be found. And, in fact, absolutely no portion of the earlier
design was retained. This was a complete and utter overhaul of the continent. If there were any chance he was designing these continents from scratch,
then his method of design was highly erratic. If on the other hand he incorporated the designs from two different maps then his method would prove
consistent and inline with Piri Reis' method. But the question arises, what would have led Schöner to abandon his previous design?
One reason for the sudden change was the recent voyage by Ferdinand Magellan. It not only included the discovery of Magellan's historic strait, but
also confirmed that no strait existed further north as Schöner had charted on his previous maps. Still, this in itself would not have necessitated
abandonment of his earlier design, a simple rescaling and Agrippa's map could have easily been adapted to this latest discovery. Well, except for a
slight twist associated with this particular strait. Magellan's crew had discovered a sizable waterway composed of Inútil Bay and Canal Whiteside
extending into the strait's southern shore.
The Strait of Magellan with a large waterway composed of Inútil Bay and Canal Whiteside extending into the southern shore.
Pigafetta, who kept a journal during the historic voyage, included a modest sketch of the strait with the waterway extending into the southern shore.
Schöner's 1524 globe included a very similar rendering of the U-shaped bay cut into the strait's southern shore.
The Strait of Magellan as portrayed on Schöner's 1524 World Globe (left) alongside Antonio Pigafetta’s map of the strait, both sharing a
similar portrayal of a U-shaped southern bay in the center of the strait.
If Schöner had simply invented his 1515 design for the southern landmass, he could still rescale it, cut a bay into the strait's southern shore and
his 1524 globe would have been complete. The fact that he abandoned the design makes it seem all the more likely that he was not willing to cling to a
design if it meant compromising the source map, especially if he had in his possession another map proving more suitable to his needs. Although it
would not be enough in itself to sway Schöner, it appears that he may have discovered a map with an adequate portrayal of the southern bay.
Thrusting this thread into a hard turn directly toward the fringe, I will point out that an ancient map of a deglaciated or partially deglaciated
Antarctica with an ice free Atka Bay would initially fit Schöner's needs. In the image below, there is a comparison of Oronce Finé's 1531 map of
Antarctica with a modern map of Antarctica—Oronce Finé's design is nearly identical to Schöner's original, but Finé's is far better detailed
than Hapgood's simple hand traced map above. Note that when Eastern Antarctica is aligned vertically with Western Antarctica set off to the left,
this bay sits similarly centered at its highest point with the sides of the bay resembling upward reaching appendages. This is just one of the many
striking accuracies found on the map.
Atka Bay, Antarctica (top), a U-shaped bay similar to Finé’s depiction (bottom) in both appearance and location.
When I began my personal journey toward 'the fringe' I had innocently come upon the Piri Reis map while googling Antarctica. I was a reasonable
skeptic and actually found it bizarre that anyone would make the claim that it depicted Antarctica and have it intrude on my search results. I
relented to curiosity and did a quick investigation confirming Charles Hapgood's extremely poor analysis of the map. But my curiosity eventually
brought me to the next map Hapgood introduced, Oronce Finé's 1531 World Map, which was quite a bit harder to dismiss.
Oronce Finé 1531 World Map.
Looking past the glaring omission of the Palmer Peninsula—which I will address a little further down—the remainder of the map is an astonishingly
accurate portrayal of Antarctica, composed of a large elongated Eastern Antarctica that is roughly 1½ times taller than it is wide and a small
similarly squarish Western Antarctica accurately extending off the upper third of the continent (see comparative image below). The flat chamfered
coastline of Western Antarctica with a bay cut into one of its coasts, is a unique combination both within Finé's map and the real world (C
in image below). Throw in the accurate portrayals of Atka Bay (A
) and Ross Island sitting beneath a lone point of land jutting out
from Victoria Land (F
), and the map had amazing potential. But one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in validating the map is explaining why
the continent is misaligned and scaled many times its actual size.
Outline of modern map of Antarctica with the Palmer Peninsula faded out (left) alongside an outline of Oronce Finé’s map of the continent (right)
displayed as they would both appear on a standard polar projection. Both versions consist of a large, elongated eastern landmass that is roughly 1½
times taller than it is wide. This part of Antarctica is called Greater or Eastern Antarctica. Protruding almost perpendicularly off of the upper
western side of this mass is a much smaller and uniquely squarish landmass called Lesser or Western Antarctica whose lower coastline aligns with the
center of Eastern Antarctica.
A schematic template based on the shape of Antarctica overlaid onto Finé’s Antarctica demonstrates the uncanny accuracy of Finé’s design. The
template is aligned to the shape of Western Antarctica and to Ross Island (F). Note how Atka Bay (A) is accurately rendered and aligned
while finding itself placed just short of its actual location. Meanwhile the precise placement and alignment of Western Antarctica along the upper
half of Eastern Antarctica allow for a very accurate rendering of the Weddell Sea’s wide-angled coastline (B). We find Finé’s rendering of
Western Antarctica’s flat westernmost coast (C) running parallel to Eastern Antarctica with a similarly angled chamfer extending off its
southern end which is notched by Sulzberger Bay (D). Western Antarctica's southeastern coast aligns at a near right angle with Eastern
Antarctica with the mouth of a similar inland waterway cutting into the Western Antarctic coast where they converge (E). And finally, Ross
Island is accurately portrayed just below a lone point along the coast of Victoria Land (F).
Hapgood offered up an explanation that proved less than satisfactory, suggesting that a copyist confused the Antarctic Circle with the 80th parallel,
but Hapgood completely overlooked Atka Bay. His analysis was so flawed that not only did he not recognize the feature resembling Atka Bay, he actually
suggested that the western arm of the Bay could possibly be Palmer Peninsula (Palmer extending off Eastern Antarctica?!). Nor did he recognize the
significance of a southern oriented bay in the midst of Magellan's Straight.
I felt a better explanation for the overscaling and misalignment of the continent was related to some very basic principles of scaling. The original
source map would have been devoid of latitudinal and longitudinal delineation, perhaps delineated by an ancient unfamiliar grid or, more likely, no
delineations whatsoever. Lacking latitude and longitude for reference, there would have to be at least two key, distinct geographical features on the
source map matching two features on the current map in order to size and position the source map onto the current map. Upscaling and realigning would
occur as the map was scaled between these two new features or points. This is a pretty basic concept demonstrated in the following animation where
points 'a' and 'b' of a square are positioned and stretched between new points 'A' and 'B'. The original square is redrawn maintaining its
original shape or proportion, while it is realigned and enlarged to fit the new points; still a square, but with a new size and alignment.
Simple concept of scaling between two points. In this case the smaller square is enlarged and realigned when points 'a' and 'b' are stretched
between new points 'A' and 'B'.
As I suggested earlier, I had determined that the first point in scaling Finé's Antarctica would have been the placement of Antarctica's Atka Bay
at the Strait of Magellan to match up to a southern oriented bay. The second point, however, would prove much more elusive and yet lead eventually to
a rather astonishing discovery.
Atka Bay had an obvious link with the discovery of Magellan's strait, but Finé's map of the continent had no other well defined feature that seemed
to be reasonably or noticeably linked to a contemporarily known feature. I had noticed a set of two islands on a later map, the Mercator World Map of
1538, but since they were not on Finé's earlier map, I assumed that they were a later find and therefore would not have been involved in the
original scaling process. When I exhausted all options, however, I finally decided to investigate the islands. They were paired with the Latin
inscription, "Insulas Infortunatas": Unfortunate Islands.
Mercator World Map of 1538.
Magnification of a pair of island in the Pacific lying beyond Mercator's Antarctic continent inscribed with the name "Insulas Infortunatas":
It was truly a Eureka moment when I found that these islands were a discovery resulting from Magellan's voyage. If the islands were linked to Western
Antarctica, it would explain why someone would have felt compelled to extend the imposing landmass so high up into the Pacific in the vicinity of the
Unfortunate Islands, which flies directly in the face of the tragic and harrowing account of this leg of Magellan's voyage which saw the Pacific as a
huge empty void dotted with only two desolate islands which offered little to no relief for a tortured and dying crew. The cartographer was not
taunting or mocking the intrepid crew by inventing and dangling a landmass directly beneath the islands, but was convinced by his source map that the
two islands were truly linked to nearby land.
This theory still required two things to be true:
First, there had to be an earlier, initial rendering of Finé's 1531 design which depicted both the continent and the Unfortunate Islands. This would
have been ‘Depiction X’, the map which introduced the Antarctic design, with the cartographer likely working directly from the ancient source map
utilizing the source map’s islands to align the map with the recently discovered Unfortunate Islands. I was fortunate to discover that this
‘Depiction X’ still existed and was incorporated onto Schöner's 1524 globe which was created immediately after Magellan’s discovery of the
strait and island set. Everything seemed to be falling into place all too well.
Of course there was still the second requirement that seemed somewhat important: The Antarctic islands had to actually exist. Of course, the odds of
these two islands even existing off the coast of Western Antarctica were about one in a million if Schöner's design was not based on a genuine map,
in which case I would be lucky to find one island let alone two paired together resembling Schöner's depiction. So even though I was fast becoming
convinced they existed based on the accurate detailing of the maps and the fact that the islands would have been the perfect distinct geographical
feature used as a scaling point, it should not have been too surprising when I began looking at modern maps and found absolutely no signs of the
It was disappointing, yet I realized that there was still a small glimmer of hope that an ice shelf might blanket the islands, so I continued looking
for a more detailed map. When I finally got my hands on a highly detailed map I was truly stunned. Extending off the coast of Western Antarctica where
the islands should be was the Getz Ice Shelf, and drawn within the ice was a set of two islands: Carney and Siple.
The two islands were not only paired together similarly to Schöner's depiction of the Unfortunate Islands, they paralleled the coast in similar
fashion and were also positioned toward the northern end of a uniquely flat shoreline. The possibility now seems more clear as to why Schöner
completely abandoned his previous 1515 design of the continent. A map of a deglaciated Antarctica would have been better suited to his needs as it
carried two features matching recent discoveries, Atka Bay and the island set of Carney and Siple.
Schöner's depiction of the Unfortunate Islands more closely resemble Antarctica's Carney and Siple Islands than...
What further bolsters the possibility that Schöner was affixing a genuine map of Antarctica to his globe is that he neglects to depict the
Unfortunate Islands as they are described. According to Pigafetta and other varied accounts of the voyage, the Unfortunate Islands were located some
600 to 800 miles apart east to west, and all accounts agree that there was also a separation of 4 to 6 degrees latitude; Pigafetta declares the island
of San Pablo to be located at 15 degrees south latitude and the island of Tiburones to be 600 miles west of San Pablo at 9 degrees south latitude.
Other 16th century maps like the Hadji Ahmed Map of 1559 (see below) conform precisely to these parameters while Schöner's map places the two
islands on the same parallel and also disregards the stated 600-mile distance between islands, locating them an extremely insufficient 100 miles
The end result being that Schöner showed little regard for or awareness of the positioning or distances recorded in logs of the voyage, but instead
opts for a depiction which more closely resembles a respectable portrayal of Siple and Carney as a set of islands accurately proportioned and aligned
to each other and to the Antarctic continent.
The actual Unfortunate Islands depicted more accurately on the Hadji Ahmed Map (right).
Now one might imagine that I have merely discovered an exceptional coincidence, and that might indeed be the case, but let's consider the
ramifications of this discovery.
First of all, consider the iterations of Schöner's design which followed: 1) As noted above Finé's map omits the Unfortunate Islands, 2)
Mercator's map is unaware of any link between the continent and the islands and therefore pulls Western Antarctica southward, but leaves the
Unfortunate Islands off in the distance, and 3) The Hadji Ahmed Map replicates Schöner's design for the continent, but repositions the islands to
match Pigafetta's coordinates.
Yet Schöner who first introduces the design not only includes the islands, but also portrays them in the correct location with the correct alignment.
It is exactly what you would expect from 'Depiction X', the original incorporation of the design directly from an Antarctic source map would be the
Secondly, consider what this now adds to the overall accuracy of Schöner's Antarctica. In the image below, I have once again used Finé's map as it
is a better representation than Hapgood's, and also added Schöner's depiction of the Unfortunate Islands.
Modern map of Antarctica.
Finé's 1531 depiction of Antarctica with Schöner's portrayal of the Unfortunate Islands added.
This leaves us with one last issue to address, the omission of the Palmer Peninsula, where there are a few possible explanations. First I believe that
in a pre-glacial Antarctica, Palmer may have existed as an island, separate from Western Antarctica. The subglacial topography allows for this
possibility, which would create a similar arrangement as say Sakahlin to Asia. Schöner's source map may therefore have been a territorial map
excluding Palmer Island. It is also possible that Palmer may have been omitted to fit the shape of the skin or other medium it was drawn upon. The
Tabula Peutingeriana displayed in the previous post omits the greater part of Africa for this very reason.
Recreation of Schöner's source map with Palmer Peninsula rendered as an island. (Modern-day inscriptions added)
There is also one last option which combines Schöner's 1515 method with Piri Reis' 1513 method. Schöner may have been drawn initially to the map
because like Agrippa's map it included a strait, this time between Palmer and Western Antarctica, while the map's inclusion of Carney and Siple
Islands as possible matches to the Unfortunate Islands may have increased the attraction.
Knowing that older maps were strewn with inaccuracies, some worse than others, Schöner may have utilized a similar adjustment used by Piri Reis. Piri
Reis realized that Ptolemy's depiction of the tip of Africa was erroneous, and therefore reconciled it to fit South America. Likewise, Schöner may
have determined that Palmer might be a representation of South America, but after scaling Palmer to South America and Siple and Carney to the
Unfortunate Islands, which would have created a mega-continent enveloping most of the globe, similar to Piri Reis who moved the western coast of an
enclosed southern sea from Africa and merged it with South America, Schöner moved Palmer from alongside Western Antarctica to a position over the
continent's next available bay, Atka Bay, and merged Palmer with South America.
Of course, it is impossible to know for a certainty what actually led to the omission of the Palmer Peninsula, but these are just a few viable
possibilities based on the precedents cited. The main point being that the omission is a true concern, but should not negate the possibility that
Schöner's design was based on a genuine map any more than cropping off a greater portion of Africa would negate the Tabula Peutingeriana being a
true world map.