Memory Lane: Geography Lessons

1950s World map vintage world travel map wall map school map. $19.95, via  Etsy. | Wall maps, World map, Travel maps

Out sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Thomas, used to teach us geography by handing out lists of places that we never heard of, which we were to locate on a map and write some general description of where they were.

I found Tannu Tuva right away, knowing from my stamp collecting album that it nestled somewhere on top of Mongolia. But Heligoland? Where the dickens was Heligoland? No one could find it! We began to suspect Mr. Thomas of introducing made-up fictional places into the list.

But no–he hadn’t done that. Heligoland turned out to be a real place: an island in–yup!–the Heligoland Bight. Which connects with the North Sea. I very much doubt there’s anybody who was in that class who has forgotten where Heligoland is.

This exercise kind of grew on me. I came to take pleasure in exotic names of faraway places. My friends marveled at my knowledge of capital cities (“How the heck did he know the capital of Malta?”). All this stuff, all over the world. Salt deserts of Persia. Tien Shan Mountains. Great Slave Lake. Elephant Island. The White Sea.

How cool is all this stuff? Maps still fascinate me.

But I think I’m talking about a bygone time.

18 comments on “Memory Lane: Geography Lessons

  1. These days, a geography lesson would just become another excuse for the Left to exercise its self-loathing.

    I always enjoyed geography and know the globe pretty well. Maps fascinate me and I will spend a lot of time looking at a map, if I happen to be around an interesting one. Having studied some of the scientific theories expounded by Bible-believing scientists, regarding the Flood and that has only served to make it more interesting. One theory is that the earth had one continent before the Flood and that continents of today formed, not from “continental drift”, but more from “continental sprint” triggered by vast volcanic activity during the Flood. Whether that proves true or not, I feel safe in stating that our world was indelibly changed by a vast flood, which triggered an ice age, which subsequently shaped much of the topography of the earth.

    If you want an obscure piece of geographical information, look up the “driftless area” of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, where part of the Upper Mississippi valley was untouched by glaciers. It’s a beautiful area, and all but unknown.

    1. If I recall, the Book of Enoch described earthquakes and geological activity prior to the flood. That could lend credence to the idea that the continents began to break apart after the flood.

    2. Watchman,

      The best theory I’ve heard, and it is just a theory, is that the mid ocean ridges are basically a 40,000 mile string of volcanoes which erupted and caused the sea temperature to rise. As clouds formed, and drifted over the relative coolness of the land, rain began to fall. The topography of the world at that time was thought to be fairly flat, with no land, perhaps, being more than a few thousand feet above sea level.

      Eventually, the waters overwhelmed the land, and with no shorelines to impede them, the tidal effects of the moon caused the waters to tear across the land at high speed. The Ark, being on open waters, would be swept along and probably was quite insulated from the drama beneath the waters. Actually, if one had to ride out a massive earthquake, being on the open ocean in a stable craft would be the ideal situation.

      One thing that has been uncovered is that there is geological evidence of tremendous earthquakes during the Flood. Earthquakes of such magnitude that anyone present would have been shaken so violently that they would have been reduced to mush. Way off the Richter Scale. My opinion, and it is merely an opinion, is that no human artifact from the world survived intact. The miracle is two fold; that God could completely destroy everything that man had made on the face of the earth, yet with a simple vessel, he could preserve the lives of both humans and animal kinds.

      Finally, as the continents moved, they collided and raised up chains of mountains. The Himalayas are thought to have been formed when the Indian sub-continent collided with Asia. Both North and South America appear to have moved westward and both have chains of mountains on their western sides. The coastal region of California is very uneven, which would make sense if that had been on the leading edge of a fast moving land mass.

    3. Thor Heyerdahl (and he should know!) used to say the safest place for your vessel to be in a storm was far out to sea–the farther, the better.

  2. Geography is good to know. Everyone should have at least a basic knowledge of geography. I’m more of a history guy. I especially like pre-history. There’s a certain mystery about the distant past before records were kept.

    1. I should be surprised but I’m not. The education system has intentionally dumbed-down students and we are seeing the results now.

  3. Mr. Thomas sounds like a good teacher – making learning fun. Too bad the gov’t schools don’t let the teachers with the gift of teaching teach the way they want to – that’s why they don’t last long as employees. For the rest of the teachers it is just a job, and one with the biggest turnover of any profession in America.

    1. It didn’t seem like fun at first–but Mr. Thomas was a great teacher. All his kids still say so, all these years later. Oddly enough, he worked us pretty hard; but we did learn a lot.

      Teaching nowadays: it’ll break your heart if you really care about it; but once you learn not to care, it’s a piece of cake.

  4. I remember our geography and history books from my elementary school years. They had so few good photos and maps. But I loved it when I came across the National Geographic when visiting friends and family who happened to be member of the Nat’l Geo Society. Such beautiful photos and so much to learn. I have always been interested in the geography of the world, the names of countries, the people groups who live in those countries, and so on. Taking over my husband’s postage stamp collection was a big help and was similar to your experience with your teacher. I’d come across stamps from places unknown to me and obscure and I’d look them up to learn about them. In fact, recently a writing prompt led me to research my given name and discovered that there’s a Therese Island which is my middle name! It’s in the Seychelles and is a tourist location. The world that God created is so fascinating.

    1. Geography and people groups are strong evidence that we can see, of both the Flood, and Babel. The dispel of people around the world has always fascinated me and with a biblical time scale, it all makes a lot of sense that people all migrated away from the Middle East a relatively few years after the Flood.

    2. It would explain why some of our earliest civilizations, very far apart geographically, appear to have so much in common, culturally.

    3. I’ve heard it said that there is actually only one culture, earth wide. There may be local variations based on the physical environment and traditions, but at a basic level, people act pretty much the same, no matter where we are.

      People extend hospitality by sharing meals everywhere. Marriage is practiced everywhere. People seek friendship everywhere. People tend to have compassion for children everywhere. There are differences, but many of these differences come down to one of two factors.

      One factor is local environments. I live in a place where it’s fairly hot and dry. The “rules” here account for that. The workday, for outdoor labor, starts early, to take advantage of the cooler morning hours. People that move here as adults have to adapt. The same would be true for someone living in a place with cold, harsh winters. Clothing that would seem ridiculous in SoCal is a necessity if you plan to spend the winter in Fargo, ND. People that live in a seaport have cultural mores that reflect their reliance upon the sea, while agrarians all serve King Harvest.

      The other factor in cultural differences is the influences of local traditions and beliefs. Some of these traditions are the result of local environments, but others might reflect the history or beliefs of a location. Many times, local traditions and beliefs subtract from culture. If there is a history of distrust for a neighboring country, there may be tendency to be less hospitable towards persons from that country. The same holds true for religious differences. I would see many of these cultural differences as being subtractive from the overall culture.

      Interestingly enough, if common ground can be found, these cultural differences can be easily overlooked. For example, many churches are comprised of members that cross ethnic boundaries and people from diverse backgrounds are able to accept one another without the reservations that local traditions mouthful otherwise impose.

    4. Acts 17:26–God “hath made of one blood all the nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…”

      A lesson we’re still trying to learn today.

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