"In America, the geography is sublime, but the men are not"
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
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In the third century B.C., Pytheas, a Greek geographer and explorer, sailed along the Atlantic coast of Europe, explored Great Britain, sailed north to "Ultima Thule" (Norway) and traversed the Baltic Sea as far as the Vistula. His work On the Ocean, while it has not survived, was the earliest first-hand information written about northwestern Europe. (source)
The Cape of Good Hope is not the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas is. It is about 160 kilometres east of Hope and extends 65 kilometres farther south. (source)
The only populated continental land south of 40° South Latitude is cold Patagonia, the southern tip of South America. On the other hand, most of Europe, Asia, and two-thirds of North America are north of 40° North Latitude. (source)
Rome is closer to Tunis than to Berne, Vienna, or Belgrade. Before the breakup of Yugoslavia, Tunis was the closest national capital to Rome (excluding tiny countries such as San Marino). (source)
In 1852, the first official calculation of the height of Mount Everest was performed. All six measurements that were made were different. Averaging the six results (between 28,990 feet and 29,026 feet), the result was 29,000 feet exactly. Unwilling to publish a figure that just looked like an estimate, the people who made the calculation arbitrarily added 2 feet to the value, giving a value of 29,002 feet. (source)
Three of the world's ten longest rivers have their source in China, and three more have their source in Mongolia. (source)
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Venice, Italy is north of Vladivostok, Russia. (source)
Due to Iceland's geographical isolation from mainland Europe, no-one had ever set foot on it until mediaeval times. The first humans to arrive on Iceland were Irish explorers, who arrived no later than the year 795. The colony that they established did not last; when the Vikings arrived eighty years later, only a few hermits remained. (source)
The lowest mountain in the world is Mount Wycheproof in Victoria, Australia, with a summit just 140 feet above the surrounding plains.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the Earth's surface bounded by land, at about 1,300 feet below sea level. The water in the Dead Sea has no outflow. As water evaporates, minerals are left behind, so that the Dead Sea now has 25% salt content.
There are no land masses at exactly 60° South latitude. (source)
The world's largest island is Greenland (2,131,600 km²). It is almost three times as large as the world's second-largest island, New Guinea (790,000 km²).
The only place from which both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans can be seen at the same time is from Mount Irazú in Costa Rica (an active volcano). The mountain rises from the town of Cartago, which is around 14 miles southeast of the Costa Rica's capital city of San José. (source)
The Nile is the only river in the world whose source is near the equator and flows from there into a temperate zone.
The Eastern side of the Panama Canal connects to the Atlantic Ocean and the Western side of the canal to the Pacific, not the other way around. (source)
Antarctica's ice sheet holds 90% of the world's fresh water. This ice sheet is up to 2,000 metres deep in places and covers almost the entire continent.
Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, is the only city spanning two continents, namely Europe and Asia. (source)
The world's largest freshwater lake without any islands is Bernard Lake, in Ontario, Canada, about 60 kilometres south of North Bay. It is an oval-shaped lake about 8 kilometres long by 2 kilometres wide. (source)
The coldest place in the Earth's lower atmosphere is usually not over the North or South Poles, as might be expected, but over the Equator. The tropopause, the boundary between the two lowest layers of the atmosphere, varies in height from an average of only 9 kilometres above the two poles to 18 kilometres over the Equator. Air temperature steadily decreases up to the top of the tropopause. So, temperatures often fall as low as −80°C high over the equator, whereas over the poles they rarely fall below −55°C.
The Sahara, the world's largest desert, is not the largest sand desert. Only 15% of the Sahara is sand dunes, while over 70% consists of stone desert. The largest sand desert is the Great Arabian Desert, or Rub-al-Khali, in the Arabian Peninsula. (source)
The weight of ice on Antarctica has depressed the continent's land so far that most of it lies below sea level. The Bentley Trench, the lowest point, is 2,538 metres below sea level. However, Antarctica is also known as the world's highest continent. The continent's ice surface averages over 2,000 metres above sea level.
In response to England's closure of the Libyan embassy in London, Colonel Muammar el-Qadhafi ordered that England be removed from all Libyan maps in the mid 1980s. In its place was a new arm of the North Sea between Scotland and Wales. (source)
While the Strait of Gibraltar (often incorrectly known as the Straits of Gibraltar) runs between Spain to the north and Morocco to the south, the easternmost part of the strait runs between Great Britain (to be precise, the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar) to the north, and Spain (the autonomous city of Ceuta) to the south. (source)
Niagara Falls is slowly eroding. As millions of gallons of water rush over the falls every minute, the underlying rock is being worn away, causing the falls to recede at the rate of one to two feet per year. Since their formation some 12,000 years ago, the falls already have withdrawn seven miles upstream. At the present rate, they would meet up with Lake Erie (about twenty miles from their present site) within the next 35,000 years.
Baffin Island, in northern Canada, is more than twice as large as the island of Great Britain. However, several thousand times more people live in Great Britain.
Until relatively recently, the waterfalls that carried the greatest volume of falling water were the Sete Quedas (Seven Falls), on the Paranà River along the border of Brazil and Paraguay. However, they no longer exist. They were drowned in 1982 when a dam created for the Itaipu Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric power plant, was opened. The falls are now just cliffs hidden behind the lake created by the dam.
The Dasht-e Lut Desert in central Iran, which is about 62,000 square miles in size, has never been inhabited by humans, and no traces of animal or plant life have been found in it. (source)
The oceans of Earth contain about 496,370,000 cubic miles of water. (source)
The Atacama desert, along the Pacific Ocean in Chile, is the driest place on Earth. Prior to a freak storm in 1971, no significant amount of rain had fallen on the desert in 400 years. There are still some weather stations in the desert that have never recorded rain. (source)
The east coast of Canada is closer to London, England than it is to the west coast of Canada.
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