1. “Here be dragons.”
It’s the enigmatic message of warning scrawled across the Southeast Asian coastline on one of the oldest globes in know existence. Look closely at this one-dimensional reproduction, and you’ll see it:
Housed in modern times at the New York Public Library, the Hunt-Lenox Globe represents one of humanity’s first attempts at creating a spherical representation of our shared planetary home. The globe itself is tiny — a mere five inches in diameter — and it was manufactured circa 1510, just after the “discovery” of the New World.
Some 600 years later, historians still argue spiritedly over the colorfully cryptic message, and what its (unknown) author might have meant by it.
Probably, it served to remind explorers of the peril of their undertakings, of the fact that some parts of the world remained abidingly uncharted, and therefore, deeply dangerous.
What we know for sure ends here and goes no further, it seems to say. Beyond this are things we haven’t yet imagined, and they might well be beastly to behold.
The globe portrays North and South America as large scatterings of individual islands, and Southeast Asia as a still-wilder, as-yet-unconquered corner of the earth — and, yes, back then, in the minds of many, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, the earth still had actual corners.