The World Without Water

Saturday April 27, 2019 Written by Ronan

Poster G1

The planet might be facing the unfortunate, Waterworld-esque prospect of rising sea levels, but it’s interesting (or at least distracting) to imagine what it would be like if things went the other way: an Earth devoid of seas, lakes and even small puddles.

Religious fervour drove one 17th-century theologian with a knack for technical drawing to do just that, and the result is this pretty curious sketch. Published in his seminal religious tome Sacred Theory of the Earth, Thomas Burnet’s strikingly detailed map of our world without water resembles an apple with mice-like bites taken out of it. The reasoning (we use the term loosely) behind Burnet’s efforts was to show that, although God originally created a perfectly smooth planet, the flood from Genesis messed everything up. In Burnet’s vision, not only did it rain for 40 days, but the ground also cracked and fissured, letting out all the water supposedly stored in the Earth’s centre. So there you have it: a visual, scientific and scripture-compatible explanation of how we ended up on such a mountainous, sinkhole-ridden planet. Or as Burnet put it, a “rude Lump that we are so apt to dote upon”.

If you’d like to decorate the walls of your own rude Lump with this image, you’re in luck: a pull-out decorative art card, care of the archivists at Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc., comes free with every copy of Smith Journal volume 30. Grab a copysubscribe or find your nearest stockist.