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Category: Exploration

Illustrated and illuminated map of the northern Indian Ocean showing ships, islands, wildlife, cities, and people

Winds of (Ex)Change in the Indian Ocean

Posted by: Amelia Raines

Take a look at this monsoon chart, paying special attention to the western Indian Ocean between the east coast of Africa and the west coast of India, and you might notice a pattern: The left chart depicts the prevailing winds in the Indian Ocean in February; the right, in August. In winter, a sea of …

Map of archeological sites in Iraq

The Matron of Mesopotamian Antiquities

Posted by: Carissa Pastuch

Gertrude Lowthian Bell (1868–1926) was a British archaeologist, explorer, and diplomat. Proficient in French, German, Hebrew, Persian, and Arabic, and an avid reader and writer, she traveled widely and was able to engage with native populations because of her ability to communicate in many languages and openness to experiencing unfamiliar traditions. She found the Middle …

The map shows both the planned itinerary of La PeĢrouse and the routes of the principal European voyages in the Pacific up to the 1780s.

“Pérouse”-ing the Pacific

Posted by: Carissa Pastuch

Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse (1741–88) was a French naval officer and explorer, known for his discoveries in the Pacific, particularly off the northern coasts of America and Asia, and for his tragic demise near Vanikoro in the Santa Cruz Islands (present-day Solomon Islands) in 1788. Born in Albi, France, La Pérouse joined the French …

A stick chart of the Marshall Islands.

The Unique Seafaring Charts of the Marshall Islands

Posted by: Cynthia Smith

The Geography and Map Division holds thousands of vintage and antique nautical charts. Among the most compelling navigational charts in our holdings are the traditional stick charts of the Marshall Islands. The first time that I saw them, displayed in shadow boxes, I thought they looked like striking works of modern art. My curiosity led …

Brown, red, and yellow tinted map illustration of the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, with a circular frame around them

Summer Reading Projects or How to Become Levi-Strauss

Posted by: John Hessler

This post is part of the series Excavating Archaeology, which features selections from, and research on, the Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Archaeology & History of the Early Americas and related collections, housed in the Geography and Map Division and in the Rare Book & Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. Writing …

A stained glass window showing an image of Saint Brendan.

Searching for Saint Brendan’s Island

Posted by: Cynthia Smith

Over the years I have noticed the placement of Saint Brendan’s Island on historical maps. I became curious about the mythical island and the story behind it. Saint Brendan’s Island was placed in different locations on maps of the Atlantic Ocean. The island was often placed west of England and Ireland. It was also placed …

Brown, red, and yellow tinted map illustration of the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, with a circular frame around them

More than a Metaphor: Maps of Mammoth Cave

Posted by: Julie Stoner

This is a guest post by Kelly Bilz, Librarian-in-Residence in the Geography and Map Division. Beneath the surface of west-central Kentucky winds a complex system of rivers and grottos known as Mammoth Cave. Named “mammoth” for its size, the cave doesn’t have much to do with the creature—although mammoths and mastodons did live in Kentucky near Big …