Many corners of our world have now been discovered and in each of these places we have set about solving their ancient mysteries. But there is still one great puzzle awaiting an answer, as Kate Drummond explains…
“Being a stepping stone between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, many great explorers have travelled through Turkey. Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Gengis Khan and Julius Caeser are just a few of the famous names, who were not only renowned leaders but pioneering explorers of their time. However the one who captured my imagination is a little known Turkish sea explorer, Piri Reis, whose claim to fame is one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
Captain Piri was a great naval officer for the Ottomans in the 16th century. He sailed the high seas for the early sultans, but his true love was cartography. With unlimited access to the Ottoman resources he produced a map that has fascinated and bewildered modern man. This great man’s map accurately depicts the western coast of Africa, the eastern coast of South America and the northern coast of Antarctica.
The northern coastline of Antarctica is perfectly detailed. The most puzzling however is not so much how Piri Reis managed to draw such an accurate map of the Antarctic region 300 years before it was discovered, but that the map shows the coastline under the ice.
Geological evidence confirms that the latest date Queen Maud Land could have been charted in an ice-free state is 4000 BC. Studies have proven that the last defrosted period in the Antarctic ended about 6000 years ago. The Captain admits in notes on the actual map that he used various sources, both maps supplied by sailors and archives – but the baffling question remains, where did Piri Reis find the information to create this amazing map in 1513?
Perhaps in archives recovered from Egypt and the great libraries of Alexandra. We will possibly never know, but it’s totally fascinating to think that 6000 years ago there were great explorers with the technology and intelligence to map the world so accurately. When you come to Turkey you can see the map on the back of every 10 lira note, though the original in the Topkapi Palace is rarely on display, and if you travel to Canakkale you can visit the Piri Reis Musuem.”
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* photo by Chris Tate – Intrepid Photography Competition