A Dolphin’s World Map

Once again I have tried to imagine the point of view of one of the other species we humans share this planet with. After the penguins and the moles this time it’s the turn of the dolphins. How does a dolphin mapmaker see the world?

Two dolphins swimming around a world map from the perspective of a dolphin
How do dolphins see the world?

Sympathetic and intelligent

Dolphins are known as friendly animals. Are they really as sympathetic as they look or are we somewhat misled because their mouths are permanently in the smiley position? I would not dare to make any firm statements about that.

Dolphins are also known as intelligent beings. But how intelligent are they exactly? That too is an unanswered question. According to writer Douglas Adams, they are even more intelligent than everyone thinks. In his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, they are smart enough to leave Earth just before the planet is destroyed, with the famous last words: so long and thanks for all the fish.

Section of the world map like dolphins would make it, with the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean and the terra incognita around it.
A dolphin’s view of the North Atlantic


But the fact that dolphins, as far as we know, do not make maps, has nothing to do with intelligence. Without hands to make pencils, felt-tip pens, laptops or other tools – or even to hold those tools – it’s hard to be a cartographer, no matter how smart you are.


One thing seems clear to me: if dolphins were to make maps, all the attention would be focused on the seas and oceans, with the continents as terra incognita. We humans sometimes venture out of our comfort zone, but the only possibility for a dolphin to visit the planet’s land masses is via a dolphinarium. And, as a dolphin, I don’t think I would be very keen on that.

Like with the molar projection, the dolphin’s map is mirrored in relation to our anthropocentric world maps. After all, dolphins look at the water surface from below. Moreover, it makes sense to put the most interesting areas at the top of the map and let the white spots dangle at the bottom.

A world map like a dolphin would make it: a network of oceans en seas with some terra incognita in between
A dolphin’s world map

Atlantic and Pacific

Yet it’s not easy to completely get rid of the self-centered approach. That’s what I realized after I had completed the map shown above. White spot or not, Europe still holds a central position. Okay, then that’s obviously the world view of an Atlantic dolphin. A dolphin from the Pacific would probably make a map like this:

A world map like a dolphin would make it: a network of oceans en seas with some terra incognita in between: the Pacific in the middle, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans on either side
The Pacificentric world map

Update: May 12, 2020

Geographer Simon Kuestenmacher saw my dolphin’s map and asked if he could use it for his book Mad Maps. It looks wonderful when published and it’s great to read about the idea about the map in German!

The world map from the viewpoint of a dolphin, published in the book Mad Maps by Simon Kuestenmachter
Die Welt aus Sicht eines Delfins

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Spam-controle: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.