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World Globe Glossary, Facts & Features

World are not only beautiful ornaments, each one enbodies a world of fascinating facts and features and some of the terms used are explained below:

Finding Places on your Globe

Although a globe is round, with no beginning or end, there are two main reference lines from which all distances and locations are calculated. One is the equator, running east and west around the middle of the globe, dividing it into two equal halves. The other is the prime meridian, an imaginary line running from pole to pole and cutting through Greenwich, London. Both of these lines are 0 degrees and the globe numbering system starts at the point where they interest.

All lines running east and west, parallel to the equator, are called latitude lines. They are sometimes referred to as parallels because they are parallel to each other. Latitude lines are shown at 15 degree intervals north and south of the equator. Look at New Orleans on your globe and you will find it located at 30 degrees. Since it is north of the equator, we say it is 30 degrees north latitude or 30N.

The lines running north and south from pole to pole are called longitude lines, sometimes referred to as meridians. Longitude lines are numbered along the equator on your globe at 15 degree intervals east and west of the prime meridian at Greenwich. Again using New Orleans as an example, we find it located at 90 degrees west longitude. Thus, New Orleans is located at 30N latitude and 90W longitude.

Lines of latitude and longitude appear on your globe only at certain intervals; otherwise, they would cover up all other map detail.

Seeing the World on a Globe

People have been slow to accept the concept of a spherical world, yet the ancient Greeks knew the Earth was round. The Greek historian Strabo wrote of a world globe ten feet in diameter made by Crates of Mallus and exhibited in 150BC. Thus, for centuries, men have known the shape of Earth, but most visualized it only as the small, flat that embraced their everyday lives.

Today, however, we live in a global community, and the globe has become the map of our modern world. And exploration in outer space with manned and unmanned satelites has brought home graphically the roundness of our Earth and its place in the universe.

The question "Where is it?" is answered best by using a globe, for only on a globe are distances, directions, sizes and shapes of countries, and their relationship to each other all correct.

Your globe will dispel any misconceptions about the distances and directions obtained from studying flat maps. Looking straight down at the north pole, you see that ours is largely a northern hemisphere wolrd. Many great countries border the North Pole- Japan, China, Russia, the Scandinavian countries, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Today, the Artic has become a busy intersection for aaeroplanes following the shortest routed between major cities of the world.

Not only is your globe a true guide to our modern world, its usefulness extends to may other areas of learing. It illuminates the pages of history, makes events in today's world more significant and enriches our understanding of the sciences.

Travelling Great Circle Routes and Measuring Distances

We frequently hear the term great circle or great circle route used in connection with air travel and more recenlty space flights. Great circles are the greatest circles that can be drawn on a globe or on the face of the Earth. They divide the sphere exactly in half. The equator is a great circle and so is every meridian.

Because we live on a round world, the shortest route between any two points lies along a great circle. You will see this for yourself when you measure distances on your globe and discover that the arc of a great circle between any two points always creates a direct line.

Looking at a flat map, one would assume that to travel from Chicago (42N latitude) to Tokyo (36N latitude), one would head west and even a little south. But the shorter route is the great circle route, which can be simulated by stretching a piece of string tautly between th etwo cities. This route, hundreds of miles shorter, heas northwest, past the 60 degree parallel and southern Alaska, almost missing the Pacific Ocean entirely.

To work out the dstance between Chicago and Tokyo, mark each city on your string then place it on the equator line and count the number of degrees between the marks. You will find there are about 89 degrees. Multiplying by 69.17 (miles per degree at the equator) gives the answer of 6,156 miles.

Tracing great circle routes on your globe will give you a new idea of distances and directions. It may come as a surprise to those who have always studied flat maps to find that the great circle route from Toronto to Bangkok is directly over the north pole; that the route from Melbourne, Australia to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil lies over Antarctica; and that you head northeast from Seattle for the most direct route to Moscow.

Measuring in Degrees

Thousands of years ago, the Babylonians invented a system of dividing up a circle that cartographers use today. The distance around your globe, or any sphere or circle regardless of its size, is measured by dividing it into 360 sections called degrees, and each degree represents a fraction of the complete globe.

Angular distance is a term sometimes used in describing the location of a place on a globe

Because Earth's area is so great that 1 degree can equal as much as 69.17 miles, the degree is broken down into smaller parts for more exact measurements such as those required for navigation. Each degree can be divided into 60 equal parts called minutes, and each minute can be further divided into 60 parts called seconds.

Even the tiny second can be divided into decimals for greater accuracy, making it possible to pinpoint any place on the face of the Earth, no matter how small. A single house in New Orleans, for instance, might be located at 30 degrees 27 minutes and 14.085 seconds N and 90 degrees 43 minutes 31.535 seconds W.

Using the Time Dial

You can tell the time of any place on Earth by counting the number of meridians and figuring one hour later for each one east of you or one hour earlier for each one west of you.

Your globe has a time dial loosely capped over the north pole, and you will see that it is divided into twenty-four equal parts, each representing one hour (or one meridian). Numbering is from noon to midnight and midnigth to noon. Half the dial is dark to indicate the darkness hours from sunset to sunrise and half is light for daylight hours.

Let us suppose you are in St.Louis. It is 10.00 AM and you want to know the time on Paris, in Cairo and in Tokyo. Set the time dial so that 10.00AM is directly in line with St.Louis, sighting along the 90 degree west meridian. Now rotate the globe (the time dial turns with it) until you find Paris. Sighting up along the nearest meridian, you find it is 4.00PM. Turn the globe to Cairo and repeat. It is 6.00PM there. Now, rotating the globe all the way to Tokyo, you find the day is over and it's 1.00AM the next morning.

Why we have Standard Time Zones

If we did not have a system of standard time zones throughout the world, every spot on Earth would have a different time. Travellers would have the almost impossible task of trying to keep their watches set accurately.

At the equator, the Earth rotates 1,038 miles per hour, or 17.25 miles per minute. Going westward, to keep accurate time, one would have to set his watch back one minute every 17.25 miles travelled. Travelling eastward, one would set his watch ahead in the same proportions.

To avoid such difficulties, Earth was divided into twenty-four time zones by internatioanl agreement. A traveller then has only to set his watch ahead one hour as he enters a new time zone going east, or back one hour if he is travelling west.

Each of the twenty-four time zones is centered on the 15 degree meridian and all time within any zone is the same. The boundaries of the zones are irregular in many places to suit local convenience. Obviously, it would be impractical for a city to have two different times because it happened to straddle a time zone boundary.

Caring for your Globe

For non-illuminated globes and globes with hand-applied maps, use a dry cloth to remove household dust and markings. For illuminated globes, household dust can be removed with a dry cloth, though you may wish occasionally to use a slightly dampened cloth to remove fingerprints or smudges. Do not use industrial or even houdsehold cleaners that contain alcohol or any solvent. Minimize exposure to direct sunlight to preserve the rich colours fo your globe.

Place Names & Labelling

Globes vary on the quantity of place names displayed. The children's globes have large, clear, easy-to-read labels that are usually fewer in number than some of the other globes we sell

You will find capital cities, countries, major rivers, oceans and ocean currents, mountains, lakes, deserts and inland seas all labelled on a globe.

The limiting factor on place names displayed is space of course. So the bigger the globe, the more information is displayed. Coastal areas can fit in more names and this available space is taken advantage of by the cartographer.

Globes & Paper Gores

Have you ever wondered how globes are made? The globe ball itself is either made from vinyl or from paper gores. The paper gores are produced by first cutting the paper world map into special shapes called gores (tapering triangles) which look like this:

Globe Paper Gores

The gores are then laid over the cardboard or vinyl globe by hand which requires some skill as you can appreciate. As this process is done by hand and because globes are sperical, it is impossible to allign the gores perfectly. For this reason we do not exchange globes where the gores do not line up perfectly as this is the nature of this specialist, handmade product. Creases, score marks and slight misalignments are characteristics of the traditional manufacturing process and help to enhance the antique appearance of the globe.

Techniques dating back over 400 years have been utilised to craft our paper gore globes. The gores technique offers superior colour clarity, greater detail and more information than any other method of globe production.

Illuminated Globes

The illuminated globes that we supply are labelled on the website with a light bulb symbol. Most of these globes are mains powered and some are battary poewered. This is specified in the description for each globe.

Illuminated globes are designed to use dual mapping. This means that when the light is turned off you see a political map showing country boundaries and when the light is switched on the map becomes a physical world map showing ocean tranches, mountain ranges and forests etc.

Dual Mapping

Dual mapping is a great feature on the illuminated globes only. When the light is on the physical world is shown and when it's off, the political map is displayed.

This is a great teaching tool, the globes look lovely and it's brilliant for planning your wild adventure around the world!


The diameter of the Earth at the Equator is 7,926.28 miles or 12,756.1 km. 12,756.1 km is equal to 1,275,610,000 cm.

A 12 inch (30 cm) diameter globe is approximately 42 million times smaller than the Earth itself. What a beautiful thing!


Some of the globes we supply have raised and indented relief maps. Relief adds texture and interest to the globes.

The raised areas show mountains and the indented areas show oceanic trenches.

This three-dimensional map of the world's terrain isn't to scale of course, otherwise Mt. Everest at 8,848 m would hardly show as a full stop on the surface of the globe. This means the elevation and indentation dimensions are exaggerated so taht the interesting features are displayed nicely in 3D.

23.5 Degrees Tilt

The Earth spins around on it's axis at an angle of 23.5 degrees on it's plane relative to the sun. Most globes (apart from the ones you can remove from their stands and hold) are mounted on thier stands at this angle.

There are many interesting discussions and research projects to conduct about the special tilt of the Earth and it's great to be able to use a globe to demonstrate this.

Questions such as how the 23.5 degree angle makes the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere or how this tilt happened in the first place are good starting points.

The Equator

The equator is an imaginary line that runs around the circumference around the exact middle of the Earth.


Latitudinal lines are imaginary lines running around the globe parallel to the equator in 10 degree increments. The equator is at 0 degrees latitude and both of the poles are 90 degrees latitude


Longitudinal lines are imaginary lines running from pole to pole around the globe. They are numbered from 0 to 180 in 15 degree increments.

0 degreed longitude is the Prime Meridian which passes through Grenwich (London) and 180 degrees is the International Date Line.

The Meridian

The meridian is a full or semi-circular arc made from metal or plastic that holds the globe in place. In geography, the meridian is an imaginary arc on the Earth's surface running from the North to the South Pole.

The Meridian arc on a globe is marked with numbers in degrees; 90 degrees at both poles and 0 degrees at the Equator, running in both directions in 10 degree increments.

The degrees of the meridian can be used to work out the distances between two places on a globe with the same longitude or latitude. By using geodesy and trigonometry you can perform all sorts of calculations which can be beautifully demonstrated on a globe.

The Prime Meridian & The International Date Line

The line in Greenwich represents the Prime Meridian of the World - Longitude°. Every place on Earth is measured in terms of its distance east or west from this line. The line itself divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the Earth - just as the Equator divides the northern and southern hemispheres.

The International Date Line sits on the 180° line of longitude in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and is the imaginary line that separates two consecutive calendar days

The Time Dial

Some of the globes we supply have a circular dial at he North Pole which displays the 12 hours of a clock. Rotate the globe to make it X o'clock in X place. You can then work out the time anywhere else in the world by tracing a line up or down, to or from the dial to the chosen location.

The Compass Rose

A compass rose is a figure displayed on globes and maps used to show the orientation of the cardinal directions; north, east, south and west. A compass rose can have 4, 8, 16 or 32 points with 8 or 16 points being the most commonly used for globes.

The "Rose" part of the name refers to the ornate figures produced on early maps and compasses.


Cartography is the study and practice of map making. A cartographer is a person who studies, designs or makes maps.

A politcal map displays country boundaries, a physical map shows mountains, soil types and forrests and a topographic maps show elevations and relief with contour lines and shading.

Terrestrial & Celestial

Terrestrial globes and maps show the Earth and celestial globes or maps show the stars, constellations, our moon or other planets.

Globe Designs & Manufacture

Read about globe design, manufacture and the different sizes and styles available here.

Famous Globes Around the World

You can read all about and look at some pictures of the world's largest globes here.

Amazing Facts About Our Globe - Planet Earth

Find some amazing facts and figures about our globe that will blow your socks off here.