Wednesday, July 25, 2007

THE PIRI REIS MAP


Piri Reis was a famous Turkish admiral in the sixteenth century who had a passionate interest in his collection of old maps. When the admiral's flagship tied up in some new port, Piri Reis and his aides scoured the bazaars for ancient charts and maps. During a now-forgotten sea battle, the admiral captured several enemy sailors. One of the captives boasted of sailing with Columbus on his three voyages to the new world.

Reis, ever on the lookout for new information and maps, questioned the man, who turned out to be one of Columbus's pilots. Reis asked if Columbus was mad, or if he knew that there was land across the ocean. The pilot said he knew, that he had maps, and that the pilot still had the maps!

The admiral's eyes scanned the yellowed charts. The tracings on the parchment were precise. Using his collection of antique charts, Admiral Piri Reis compiled a world map in 1513. In 1929, a group of historians, poking around in the harem section of the Palace of Topkapi in Constantinople, found the Piri Reis map in a pile of rubble. These scholars were astonished to discover that the map showed the coastal outlines of South and North America. It also included precise data on the southern polar continent, Antarctica, supposedly not discovered until 1818.

Arlington T. Mallerey, an authority on ancient maps, eventually came into possession of these documents. He was puzzled to find that the geographical data on the map was not in the correct position. Assisted by the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Bureau, Mallerey made a grid and transferred the Piri Reis map onto a globe. The map was totally accurate.

Later, studies by Professor Charles H. Hapgood and Richard W. Strachan revealed that the originals of the Piri Reis charts may have been aerial pictures snapped at a great height. The rivers, mountain ranges, islands, desserts, and plateaus, were drawn with unusual accuracy. As an example, Greenland was represented as being two separate islands. This was confirmed just recently by a French polar expedition; their seismic soundings beneath the surface indicated ice covers the space between the two islands.

In Antarctica, an exploratory profile was made by seismic soundings. It revealed mountains and valleys beneath the ice cap that matched the markings on the Piri Reis map. In the January, 1966, issue of Fate magazine, Professor Charles H. Hapgood explained the sensational discovery.

"Now this was extraordinary. In the first place, nobody is supposed to have discovered Antarctica until 1818, three hundred years after Piri Reis, and it is regarded as unthinkable that the Greeks, Romans, Babylonians or Phoenicians could have sailed that far. In the second place, the ice cap in Antarctica is supposed to be millions of years old, and therefore to have been in existence long before man evolved on earth. Mallerey's suggestion (that someone had mapped the south polar continent before the ice cap originated) appeared outrageous and scientists in general refused to concern themselves with it."

It seems incredible that ancient cartographers had maps that were more accurate than the best charts produced today. Yet, Captain Mallerey stated that "it was evident that there was very little ice then, at either pole. But, secondly, they had a record, for example, of every mountain range in Northern Canada and Alaska, including some ranges that the Army Map Service did not have. The U.S. Army has since found them! Just how they were able to do it, we do not know. But, you will probably recall that the Greeks had the legend of an airplane. We don't know how they could map so accurately without an airplane. But, map it they did. Not only that, but they knew their longitude correctly, something we could not do until two hundred years ago."

1 comment:

Old Map said...

It really does sound interesting! Maps are such an important part of life–whether they are made of paper or are digital–and it would interesting to learn their history and how they came to be.
Antique print