Is Greenland Larger Than Africa?

Africa is much larger than Greenland.
Africa is much larger than Greenland.

Greenland is not larger than Africa as depicted by some maps. The misguided notion purports that Greenland is larger than Africa when in actual sense Africa’s land mass is 14 times that of Greenland. To understand where this mix up originates we need to discuss a mapping system called the Mercator projection.

The Mercator Projection

This is a 16th Century cylindrical mapping system that was created by a cartographer by the name Gerardus Mercator in the year 1569. A cylindrical map projection represents maps on which meridians are charted to equally spaced vertical lines while latitudes are plotted to horizontal lines.

The Mercator projection was created to help sea navigation. Keeping this in mind, the meridians and parallels were drawn as straight lines that crossed at right angles. This proved very useful to sailors. This projection biases the dimension of entities as the latitude increases from the Equator to the poles. This bias is worsened by the fact that the projection was initially represented on globes. As the map was transferred to a flat surface from a three-dimensional surface, holes in space appeared around the poles. As a solution to the problem, Mercator overextended the northern and southern ends of the map. This resulted in countries near the equator being represented as being much smaller than they are while the countries that are at the poles appear bigger than they are.

Conflicts Surrounding The Mercator Projection

A German journalist named Arno Peters called out the Mercator’s projection as downright racist and a tool of colonial domination. According to Peters, this representation of North American and Eurasian countries was a way to ignore the problems faced by larger countries which are in turn poorer that happen to be located around the equator. Peters ended up receiving a lot of support towards solving the problem from charitable organizations base in the region.

The Actual Size Of Greenland As Compared To Africa

Greenland is represented on the Mercator projection as almost the same size as Africa when it is actually smaller than the Democratic Republic of Congo. As mentioned before, Africa is 14 times the size of Greenland. The actual size of Greenland in land mass is 2.2 million square kilometers while Africa is 30.4 million square kilometers.


To solve the misrepresentation brought about by the Mercator’s projection, several solutions have been attempted. Arno Peters presented his map which was meant to show the actual sizes of regions on the map. The dimensions ratio of the continents are more balanced than Mercator's, but the surfaces and distances are highly inaccurate. There have been other systems that solved the issue of proportion, but only gave a limited picture of the globe. The maps that we use today combine the modified techniques of Arno Peters system and that of Mercator.


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