2256: Bad Map Projection: South America

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Bad Map Projection: South America
The projection does a good job preserving both distance and azimuth, at the cost of really exaggerating how many South Americas there are.
Title text: The projection does a good job preserving both distance and azimuth, at the cost of really exaggerating how many South Americas there are.


This is the third comic in the Bad Map Projections series displaying Bad Map Projection #358: Oops, all South Americas!. It came almost three years after the second 1799: Bad Map Projection: Time Zones (#79) (3 years after the first). It was followed a year and a half later by 2489: Bad Map Projection: The Greenland Special (#299).

The comic shows a map projection in which every continent and large island has just been replaced with a differently scaled and rotated version of the continent of South America, even though there is only one South America in the real world.[citation needed]

By overlaying this map with the selection of map projections presented in 977: Map Projections, it seems that the "underlying" projection used here is the Winkel tripel projection, also used in 2242: Ground vs Air.

The comic is similar to joke map designs in which continents like Africa and South America have been swapped, or where someone will jokingly replace Greenland with South America.

The caption of the comic is a reference to the Cap'n Crunch cereal type that became a meme, Oops! All Berries, which has also been referenced in 2719.

Interestingly on the original South America, the archipelago or main island (hard to tell) of Tierra del Fuego is replaced with a small South America. In contrast, all other South Americas, including the one replacing the Tierra del Fuego, include it in their shape.

The title text claims that the map projection does a good job preserving distance and azimuth, the joke being that the distance and azimuth being preserved for the non-South America continents are those of South America and not the original continent. Note that for the map as drawn in the comic, while this is true for most of the larger landmasses, many of the smaller South Americas are distorted more significantly (such as the South Americas that replace New Zealand).

From roughly left to right and top to bottom, the South Americas replace:

  • North America
  • 3 SAs for the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (possibly Victoria Island, Ellesmere Island, and Baffin Island)
  • Greenland
  • Iceland
  • Ireland (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, UK)
  • Great Britain, UK
  • Eurasia
  • Newfoundland, Canada
  • 2 SAs for Hokkaido and Honshu, Japan
  • Africa
  • Taiwan
  • Cuba
  • Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti)
  • Puerto Rico, US
  • Jamaica
  • Sri Lanka
  • 5 SAs for Luzon, Bicol Peninsula (southeastern Luzon), one ambiguous landmass (possibly Negros Island), Samar, and Mindanao; Philippines
  • Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Borneo (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei)
  • Sulawesi, Indonesia
  • 2 SAs for New Guinea: one for Bird's Head Peninsula in the northwest of the island, and one for the rest of the island
  • Java, Indonesia
  • Madagascar
  • Australia
  • Tasmania, Australia
  • 2 SAs for South Island and North Island, New Zealand
  • Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, Argentina and Chile

These are the 26 largest non-Antarctic landmasses, plus 2 peninsulas of those landmasses, and 8 more islands.

See also related comics with map changes in comics 1500: Upside-Down Map and 1653: United States Map.


[A map of the world, but every landmass has been replaced with South America, rotated and resized to roughly match the real landmasses they represent. South America is correct, except that the islands at the southern tip of the continent also have been switched to a small South America.]
[Caption below the panel:]
Bad Map Projection #358: Oops, all South Americas!

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I overlaid this map on all the projections in https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/977:_Map_Projections to show the difference. Is that something this wiki wants? EmuSam (talk) 05:54, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

I don't know about the rest of the wiki, but I certainly do! --User:T0 (talk) 10:40, 17 January 2020 (UTC)
Heck yeah that's awesome! 13:48, 17 January 2020 (UTC)
I'm gonna venture out on a limb here in my toe-shoes and say that those of us reading the comments on the explain-XKCD wiki will geek our Azimov socks off over that. Iggynelix (talk) 13:59, 17 January 2020 (UTC)
Huwah, want? I clicked the link above with high hopes :x How did you not upload it yet :D 15:40, 17 January 2020 (UTC)
yes, please! WhiteDragon (talk) 22:05, 17 January 2020 (UTC)
What amuses me: Since you have the first comment, the wiki doesn't know how to show your picture on my iPad's Safari, so the bottom lines up with your comment and extends UP into the explanation, overlaid by the links for adding a comment etc. LOL! And I agree, totally fitting to include here. NiceGuy1 (talk) 08:08, 18 January 2020 (UTC)
I put the GIMP file here for anyone else to play with. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QIJJNCaEICZ_8ozxpgRjTPjUECykWDjL/view?usp=sharing EmuSam (talk) 22:16, 18 January 2020 (UTC)

How many different kinds of transformation have been applied to South America? I can see resize, rotation, and skew (shear). Can't see any reflections or anything that looks obviously non linear. Anyone care enough to check? 08:02, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

Not an expert on the terminologies used, especially in English. Does what has been done to the south America that is where Australia should be qualify as resize? It is not maintaining the aspect ratios, and is much "shorter" in the direction that used to be north-south (the way chile is "long") (and is now east west) and much wider in the other one. --Lupo (talk) 08:17, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

My God. It's full of South Americas Cosumel (talk) 20:30, 18 January 2020 (UTC)

Note: 358 is country code for finland, which is completely missing in the projection. (talk) 08:11, 17 January 2020 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Finland is part of Europe and Asia continent, which is now South America. It is thus not more missing thatn any country not in South America. --Kynde (talk) 13:43, 17 January 2020 (UTC)
How do you know? If Scandinavia was actually an island, separated from Europe by a strait running between the Baltic Sea and the Arctic Ocean, that was always covered by ice, would anyone have discovered it yet? 00:48, 19 January 2020 (UTC)

Something something a Brazilian South Americas how many is that Cellocgw (talk) 12:19, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

It's also similar to 1653: United States Map, isn't it? Nedlum (talk) 15:47, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

No it is not similar but it is somewhat related. But there is all the states that are moved around, not one state that makes up all of USA. But take Collorado and make it small enough and you can build anything with that square state. :-) I think this one is closer related: 1500: Upside-Down Map. But I have added both to the explanation for reference. --Kynde (talk) 23:38, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

I wonder what projection the South America is pulled from. I also wonder whether that projection has the rest of the world laid out similar to this arraignment, or if they are the same projection used for layout as for the shape. 17:39, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

Wait a minute. If Tierra del Fuego is replaced by the whole of South America, does this include a tiny Tierra? 20:42, 17 January 2020 (UTC)

Yes, there is clearly a small bend in the "tip" of the SA replacing Tierra. --Lupo (talk) 20:56, 17 January 2020 (UTC)
So many layers :-) --Kynde (talk) 23:38, 17 January 2020 (UTC)
"Further upsouth and further in!" 17:05, 18 January 2020 (UTC)

Reckon the twoislands west of sulawesi are actually representing the two separate countries that make up the island of New Guinea ... there are indonesian islands between sulawesi and irian jaya but they are relatively small. Plu irian jaya kind of looks like SA Boatster (talk) 21:30, 18 January 2020 (UTC)

I used https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_islands_by_area to make up the list. I think New Guinea is only one SA as all the others are a single SA to a single island or continent, including not separating Europe and Asia. EmuSam (talk) 22:16, 18 January 2020 (UTC)

Was South America chosen because its shape is the ur-geography, sort of a platonic land solid?

*Greenland <!-- Denmark? Danish Realm? --> Oh yes, this is absolutely my realm. Danish (talk) 14:39, 29 December 2020 (UTC)