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National Geographic Redraws World Map

The world’s lowest point is now lower and the Indian city of Calcutta reverts to its indigenous name of Kolkata.


The surface elevation of the Dead Sea has been changed to 1,349 feet (411 meters) below sea level.
Courtesy of National Geographic Maps

These adjustments are among the nine place-name and boundary changes in the world announced Thursday by the National Geographic Maps Map Policy Committee.

“The Committee regularly meets to review and approve important changes to place names and boundaries around the world,” said Juan Valdes, chairman of the Map Policy Committee. “The review process involves consulting a myriad of sources, including national governments, the United Nations, and the U.S. State Department.

“It’s an in-depth process and when the changes are decided upon, they are authoritative and recognized,” said Valdes.

The Committee determined that the following changes will be made on all National Geographic maps and map products:

  • Dead Sea
    The world’s lowest point just got deeper, measuring in at minus 1,349 feet (minus 411 meters). Due to a variety of factors, the surface elevation of this salt lake has decreased by 9.8 feet (3.0 meters) since the 1990s.

  • Kolkata
    Calcutta reverted to its indigenous name of Kolkata on December 23, 2000. Bengali speakers have always called the city Kolkata, preferring the local pronunciation.

  • Sea of Japan (East Sea)
    Early in 1999, the National Geographic Society recognized the fact that the South Koreans legitimately dispute the term Sea of Japan. In keeping with the Society’s standard place-name convention, it recognizes that where a geographical feature is shared by more than one nation, and its name is disputed, it uses the most commonly recognized form of the name first and labels the disputed name in parentheses. Thus, on National Geographic maps, the Sea of Japan appears as the primary label for this feature while the East Sea appears below in parentheses.

  • New Boundary Between Yemen and Saudi Arabia
    In June 2000 the leaders of Yemen and Saudi Arabia signed a treaty defining their borders. The previous border, as agreed upon in the 1934 Treaty of Taif, was mostly undefined.

  • Madidi National Park (Bolivia) and Bahuaja-Sonen National Park (Peru)
    Madidi National Park was established by the Bolivian government in September 1995. At 4.7 million acres (1.9 million hectares), the park encompasses one of the most diverse ecoregions on the continent ranging from grasslands (Pampas) to high Andes peaks.

    The following year, the Peruvian government established the Bahuaja-Sonen National Park across the border from Madidi to create one of the world’s largest bi-national parks. The region in which this park is located holds several world records in the cataloging of flora and fauna species.

  • Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona
    Proclaimed a national monument in June 2000, this 129,000-acre (52,000-hectare) monument contains significant cultural and historical sites covering a 5,000-year period. This monument has one of the richest ironwood stands in the Sonoran Desert.

  • Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
    Designated a national monument in November 2000, this 293,000-acre (120,000-hectare) monument is rich in geologic formations and contains high densities of ancestral Pueblan sites.

  • Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
    First proclaimed in 1924 as a 54,440-acre (22,000-hectare) monument, it was expanded in November of 2000 to 661,000 acres (268,000 hectares). The monument is a geologic wonder preserving volcanic landscapes as well as islands of pristine vegetation.

  • Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado
    Proclaimed in June 2000, the 164,000-acre (66,000-hectare) monument contains the highest known density of archaeological sites anywhere in the United States.

    The updates are available from Atlas Updates for downloading, printing, and pasting to the hard-copy Atlas of the World.

    For in-depth coverage of the National Geographic map place-name and boundary changes, U.S. residents can tune in to National Geographic TODAY at 7 and 10 p.m on the National Geographic Channel.

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