New horizons: where you really face if you look out from a Sydney beach

Australian beach views from “Beyond the Sea” by Andy Woodruff. The brighter ends of lines show their point of origin, while the continent name on the map is the destination of those beach views. Photo: Andy Woodruff Andy Woodruff of Axis Maps created this map for Fairfax Media showing the countries Sydney beachgoers “look” towards. Bondi and Dee Why have very different end points. Photo: Andy Woodruff
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One of Woodruff’s “messy” maps showing the “views” of hundreds of Australian beaches. Photo: Andy Woodruff

Where do you think you’d reach if you swam in a completely straight line from a Sydney beach? The answer is more surprising than you might first guess.

Launch into the waves at Bondi Beach, paddle in a straight line for a very, very long time and, all things working in your favour, you’ll reach southern Chile.

Do the same from Dee Why, just 16 kilometres north of Bondi, and you will eventually come ashore in Mexico.

It gets more unexpected: jump into the Indian Ocean near Ningaloo in Western Australia and you will meet Yemen, by which time you will have earned a well-deserved rest.  

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

A new set of maps by web cartographer Andy Woodruff illustrate the distorted sense of geography drawn into most maps of the world.

Inspired by a series of maps that show what lies across the ocean in purely latitudinal terms – Australia is on the same latitude as Peru, Chile and Argentina – Woodruff decided to go beyond our taken-for-granted cartographic version of reality. 

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps Photo: Andy Woodruff

While lines of latitude are a helpful construct, they do not take into account the true shape of the Earth and its land masses.

“The latitude maps got me interested in answering the question more strictly: standing on a given point and facing perpendicular to the coast, if you went straight ahead, never turning, where would you end up? There are two reasons why following a line of latitude won’t answer the question,” he writes on his blog. 

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

“1. Coastlines are crooked and wacky. 2. The Earth is round.”

The resulting images in his Beyond the Sea series are ribboned with sweeping lines, taking in the curvature of the earth and the constantly twisting angles of our coasts.

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

On Woodruff’s maps, the brighter ends of lines show their point of origin, while the continent name on the map is the destination of those beach views.

One NSW beach faces Antarctica, while one view from Australia “looks” all the way across the Pacific, under the Tierra del Fuego and eventually reaches land in Brazil, of all places. 

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

Woodruff put together a simpler map especially for Fairfax Media that shows just how different views from our coastline can be, despite originating in the same city. To get to Chile, our imaginary Bondi swimmers would loop south of New Zealand, while the Mexican-bound Dee Why local would skirt above our Kiwi neighbours.

“It does, however, depend on the exact point from which you measure. If you look from other points on those beaches, following the way each one curves, many other ‘views’ would just run into New Zealand,” Woodruff cautioned. 

Beyond the Sea by Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps. Photo: Andy Woodruff

“I’m not sure I had particular goals from the beginning other than satisfying my own curiosity, but as the project came together I saw the maps as a way to illustrate something about the planet’s geography that we generally don’t see in our everyday flat maps and navigation apps,” he said.

“We tend to think of things on a map in terms of being simply up, down, left, or right of us, and even though we know perfectly well that the Earth is round, what that actually means for directions can be surprising.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.