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Strange Maps

277 – The Biggest Drawing In the World

“With the help of a GPS device and DHL, I have drawn a self portrait on our planet,” writes Swedish artist Erik Nordenankar on his website for the project, appropriately named “My pen was a briefcase containing the GPS device, being sent around the world. The paths the briefcase took around the globe became the strokes of the drawing.” The resulting drawing’s dimensions are 40,076,592 by 40,009,153 meters – which are about the dimensions of the Earth’s surface, if it could be rolled out as a canvas.

Mr Nordenankar sent off his GPS-laden briefcase on March 17, 2008. He gave detailed travel instructions to DHL, which returned his package to Stockholm exactly 55 days later. Then, Mr Nordenankar plotted the spatial and temporal GPS information on a world map to obtain his portrait. “Due to the GPS drawing technique and the magnitude of the drawing, the self portrait had to be made in only one stroke. That giant stroke passed through 6 continents and 62 countries, thus becoming 110,664 km long.”

Assuming that Mr Nordenankar’s briefcase, left Stockholm to the south, its itinerary took it Denmark, up north again to Norway and then in a straight line towards the Crimea, where some expert to-ing and fro-ing formed the artist’s eye. Lines from the Ukraine to central Europa (possibly Slovakia), bending up towards St Petersburg and then south towards the Caucasus form his brow and forehead.

The nose is formed in the Middle East, the right nostril constituted in Syria, a ‘beard line’ snaking across the Mediterranean towards France, the Low Countries and environs, where Mr Nordenankar’s right ear takes shape. His jawline drops south through the Sahara, bending up towards Egypt (mouth) and the Israel/Palestine-Jordan border (philtrum). The briefcase then travelled south along the African Red Sea Coast, over Somalia, performing some strange maneuvers east of Madagascar.

The briefcase then headed north again, hovering just below the Equator, creating an atrophied hand over the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and Papua New Guinea. The briefcase then continued along the Equator, coming into view on the left hand side of the map (forming Mr Nordenankar’s right arm), crossing America in Panama,diving south past Brazil’s easternmost point to beyond 40° South, and up again (to form some kind of strap or a suspender).

Fancifully swinging across North America, the briefcase rejoined Mr Nordenankar’s face – or rather his curly hair – over the British Isles, tracing his neck across the Iberian peninsula, North Africa’s Atlantic Coast, the African interior and then up again in a curly arc to the Nordkapp (not Europe’s northernmost point; nearby Knivskjellodden is 1,500 meters further north), finally returning to Stockholm.

Thanks to Kathryn E. Clagett for sending in this map.

UPDATE (May 28, 2008): I always find it unfortunate when improbable stories turn out to be untrue, and this is no exception. The elaborate loopings over sea raised suspicions that the story was fabricated, but I wrote it ‘as is’, leaving the Great Online Public to draw their own conclusions. Numerous commenters have since pointed out other improbabilities. Now the artist himself has admitted that his work of art is also a work of fiction, as report the Daily Telegraph, Wired and other sources: This is fictional work. DHL did not transport the GPS at any time, reads a message at the bottom of Mr Nordenankar’s webpage. The Telegraph adds that the clarification was added at the prompting of DHL, who had allowed the artist to film in one of their warehouses on the understanding that the school project would stay ‘indoors’.

(Thanks to Andy for providing a link to the story in Wired)


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