New Web Index: 1959 World Less Polar Regions

Published Jan. 29, 2024
Updated Feb. 23, 2024

A new web map, 1959 World Less Polar Regions, is now live on ASU GeoData. The web map indexes a newly digitized series of maps produced by the Army Map Service in 1959. The maps depict the world at the small scale of 1:11,000,000, while featuring many interesting features and some peculiarities.

An image of a map of the world broken into equal rectangles to represent the extent of each sheet in the map series "World Less Polar Regions"


Among the many thematic layers found within the 1959 World Less Polar Regions series is a layer of navigational routes (and distances) between the ports of many major and minor world cities. Sheet 5, for example, includes all of East Asia. There, one can see trade routes connecting Tokyo to, among other places, Manila, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles. 

Map of Japan and the east asian coastline showing navigational routes for shipping
A small sample of the historic network of shipping and/or navigation routes in East Asia.

Sheet 2 is the section of the map covering Europe. Published in 1959, this sheet shows national borders as they existed before World War II (despite the war having ended 14 years prior). One conspicuous case is that of Germany, where the border between East Germany (German Democratic Republic) and West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) is quite faint, as is the actual, contemporary border between Germany and Poland. 

Image of the Eastern Europe section of the map series, showing both pre-war and post-war boundaries.
Despite being printed nearly 15 years after the end of WW2, it still uses pre-war boundaries, with post-war taking a secondary role.

The series also shows the historic minimum extent of Summer Polar ice, marked with “Approximate Limit of Permanent Polar Ice.” In our warming world, historic data regarding polar ice is important. 

Image of Historic sea ice boundary, depicted in Sheet 1 of the 1959 World Less Polar Regions series.
Historic sea ice boundary, depicted in Sheet 1 of the 1959 World Less Polar Regions series.

Enjoy exploring the world spanning series, viewing navigational lines, permanent ice extents, political borders, and small-scale terrain relief in the new 1959 World Less Polar Regions Web App.

If you’d like to access high resolution images of these maps, please submit a Map/Geo Service Request and we’ll be sure to get back to you within two business days, but typically sooner. 

     -Grace Bahen, Map and GIS Assistant