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5 places on Earth that are still unmapped

5 places on Earth that are still unmapped

The thought of unmapped regions of the globe can send tremors of excitement through the hearts of adventurers. But figuring out the topography of remote or even forgotten regions has important consequences. Namely, it can give us a clearer understanding of the world’s populations, what their needs are, and support organisations in assisting those in need – for example, those providing disaster assistance. Wondering where some of these places are? The crowdsourced Missing Maps Project has mapped over one million kilometres of roads and almost 44 million buildings. But there’s so much that’s still uncharted.

1. Vale do Javari, Brazil

One of the most isolated parts of the world, according to Mental Floss, is Vale do Javari in Brazil, possibly because as many as 14 uncontacted Amazon tribes make their home in this region. It comprises an area about the size of Austria – or 86,000 square kilometres. An expedition was mounted by Brazil’s agency for indigenous peoples in March 2019, with the goal of easing tensions between two rival indigenous groups, reports The Guardian.

2. Slums

Look at a map of a city and you’ll find streets and parks and highways and buildings all clearly indicated. But in some cities, that clarity is just an illusion, at least in part. As BBC Future points out, in cities like Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Lagos in Nigeria, slums are not delineated on maps – because ‘they aren’t a top priority for those living there’. In fact, many of the world’s largest cities have large impoverished communities.

3. Sandy Island, South Pacific

Some places that do exist don’t show up on maps, while other places that don’t exist do. One recent example is Sandy Island, which BBC reports appears on marine charts and world maps as well as on Google Earth and Google Maps. But when scientists set out to study the island that’s supposed to be located between Australia and New Caledonia, they discovered it isn’t there, and possibly never was. Human error, repeated down the years, is thought to be at fault – although it’s also possible that the island came…then went.

4. Yucatán Cenotes

This underwater cave system on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, thousands of kilometres long, has remained largely unexplored since the time of the Mayans, and doesn’t exist on any maps, according to photographer Klaus Thymann. He’s both begun to explore – a pursuit not without its dangers – and photograph it in order to bring about awareness that will lead to its conservation, he told The Guardian. The rivers that run through the system “form the aquifer of Yucatán and support about 11 different ecosystems”.

5. Gangkhar Puensum

It’s probably the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, although some people have tried to scale this 3000-metre peak in Bhutan. Like many tall mountains, this one is unmapped – although unlike other mountains, it remains uncharted for spiritual reasons. To locals some areas in the mountains are the refuge of centuries-old Buddhist saints, and the mountains themselves are homes to gods and goddesses. Although climbers hoping to scale tall peaks like this one could use Google Earth to get an idea of what they’re in for, many consider that cheating.

Written by Lela Nargi. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.