Do We See the Shapes of Seas? Test Yourself

The geographical imagination tends to prioritize land over water, which is hardly surprising. Water is generally in the cartographic background, conceptualized as something of a void.  As a result, people have a difficult time recognizing the shapes of seas, bays, gulfs, large lakes, and other major bodies of water, even those located in areas that they know well. This seems to be true even for people with extensive geographical knowledge. To test this proposition, I have traced out the shapes of a number of well-known water bodies and used them as a quiz with a few friends and family members. None of them has done very well. Readers can test themselves with eight of these images posted below. It is important to note that these simple maps are all drawn at different scales.

At the end of the article, a few hints are provided. Answers will be given later this week.

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Hints: All these water bodies are in North America. Straight lines indicate opening to the ocean or some other water body. If you are perplexed, focus on the shapes of islands and coasts rather than that of the water body itself.

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