One of the inside pages from the new Atlas of the World.
National Geographic Society
One of the inside pages from the new Atlas of the World.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 10/8/2004 2:36:42 PM ET 2004-10-08T18:36:42

From lines scratched in ancient dirt to Medieval charts with drawings of monsters in unknown parts of the ocean to modern computer printouts, maps have served a vital role throughout human history. Now, one of the nation's most venerable mapmakers, the National Geographic Society, is updating its massive Atlas of the World.

"We live in an international age," Allen Carroll, chief cartographer for the society, said, adding that Americans have a responsibility to understand the world around them.

The eighth edition of the classic volume goes on sale Oct. 14, featuring more than 15,000 changes and updates from the last version.

So, what's new?

Well, the Earth's highest point is higher: More accurate measurements of Mount Everest show a height of 29,035 feet, up 7 feet from previous measurements.

And the lowest point is lower: The Dead Sea is now listed at minus 1,365 feet, down 26 feet because of increased water consumption in the region.

There's a new nation, the first in this century: East Timor.

Other changes include showing the locations of spaceports for the first time, a newly defined boundary between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, new administrative divisions in Slovakia and Czech Republic, updated shorelines for Lake Chad and the Aral Sea, glacier movement in polar areas and the renaming of Calcutta, India to Kolkata.

It's a hefty book -- 416 pages and seven pounds -- with a price to match, $165.

But it's also more than just a book.

The atlas includes access to the society's online atlas Internet site, providing updates that can be printed, and access to more detailed maps and views of places around the world.

Viewers can watch a turning globe display such data as cloud cover, sea-surface temperatures and physical geography. Other displays allow the viewer to zoom in from a look at the globe to detailed images of specific places, such as Buckingham Palace in London or the Capitol in Washington.

In the massive atlas itself the traditional political maps are supplemented with a section of thematic maps such as wildlands, population and energy, transportation and communication, fresh water and conflict and terror.

And many other parts of the atlas are updated including the city section, which features detailed downtown street maps and many photos.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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