The Weasel: Around the world in a day

Related Topics

Brrrr! Bit brass monkeys, isn't it? Mind you, it's a dashed sight nippier where I am, hovering over the 3,807-metre Valkyrie Dome. This Wagnerian eminence is in the heart of Queen Maud Land around 600 miles from the Crown Prince Olav Coast fringing King Haaken VII Sea. Not far away, there is Kaiser Wilhelm II Land, Princess Elizabeth Land (it might be unchivalrous to reveal that it was named after HM in 1931), Roosevelt Plateau, and the snappily named King Leopold & Queen Astrid Coast. As more adventurous readers will recognise, these majestic monikers apply to patches of chilly wasteland. I am peering at Antarctica or, to be more precise, Plate 122 of the 12th edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, which reveals that the icy continent has been sliced up like a cake by various nation states, who have deposited the names of their rulers like graffiti carved on an ancient monument. Sadly, the Atlas omits a name in the French wedge that is the geographical equivalent of a Gallic shrug: Pourquoi Pas Point.

But pretty much everything else is in the work that claims to be "The Greatest Book on Earth". Moving to sunnier climes, we can find trousers (Jodhpur, Rajasthan), tinned meat (Fray Bentos, Uruguay), emotions (Mount Misery, Gibraltar), insects (Golfo de los Mosquitos, Panama) and a Fifties radio quiz (Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, previously known as Hot Springs). However, I doubt if Batman, a province of eastern Turkey, is connected with the caped crusader.

From Greenland's icy mountains (Mont Forel, 3,360 metres) to India's coral strand (Mamallapuram, Tamilnadu), the world is here, but you must turn to plate 34 for The World, an archipelago of 300 artificial islands constructed off the coast of Dubai that appears in the Atlas for the first time. At a scale of 1: 2,500,000, The World doesn't look much like the world, but a trio of tiny amorphous blobs. Still, if that's what the Atlas people say it looks like, my money is on them. If they can't draw The World, who can?

My scrutiny of the Atlas was prompted by a smaller book on the same topic. Whatever Happened to Tanganyika by Henry Campbell (Portico, £9.99) explores passé place names that remain fixures in the minds of those of a certain age. In fact, the gazetteer of The Times Atlas still includes Tanganyika ("see Tanzania") and, for that matter, Nyasaland ("see Malawi"), but the political incorrectness of my geography became apparent as I flipped through the vast pages. Did you know that Tripoli has become the more dashing Tarabalus or that Cairo is now hidden behind the veil of Al Qahirah? The lovely Alexandria has transmuted into El Iskandariyah.

Apparently, the new edition includes 3,500 name changes. Ulan Bator is still identifiable as Ulaanbaator, but I wouldn't have had the faintest idea concerning the whereabouts of Chennai (Madras) and even Dubayy is a bit of a head-scratcher (Dubai). Though I've never written Burma on an envelope as either address or acronym (Be Undressed Ready My Angel), it came as a surprise to learn that its military government now refers to the country as Myanmar (Make Yourself Available Now My Ardent Ravisher). Its largest city has swapped the evocative Rangoon for the less pleasing Yangon. Happily, Mandalay, which inspired Kipling but not Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca lived at Manderley), is still Mandalay. I'm particularly gratified that The Times Atlas sticks to the old name of the provincial capital Pegu rather than its less euphonious replacement. This distant spot is famous around the world, at least to cocktail lovers, due to the Pegu Club, a classic potion from the colonial era (6 parts gin, 2 parts Cointreau, 3 parts lime juice, 2 dashes Angostura, shake with ice and strain). I hope we won't have to start calling it the Bago Club.

Thanks to Henry Campbell, I discovered that there are two Normals (Illinois and Alabama) and one Oblong (Illinois) in The Times Atlas, though other American oddities are omitted. It prefers the old appellation for Ismay, Montana, despite the residents' decision to change the name to Joe, in tribute to American football star Joe Montana. The atlas does not find space for Mr Campbell's favourite Humptulips (pop. 216) in Washington State though it includes the even better Humpty Doo in Australia's Northern Territory. According to Wikipedia, the name is either aboriginal or derives from a colloquialism for "everything done wrong".

For a mental escape from England, I cannot recommend a flight through the pages of The Times Atlas too highly. You need neither passport nor air ticket, though you will probably have to leave your armchair since the book weighs a lap-crushing 5.8 kilos. Not that the experience comes entirely free of charge. While the 6th edition, which I bought in 1983, cost £45, the 12th edition has a cover price of £150. And they say the world is getting smaller.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week