Where On Earth Is North Korea?

There has been some pretty hot and scary geo-politics in recent times, particularly the focus on the relationship between the United States and North Korea.

Alan Parkinson (aka @GeoBlogs) alerted me to a recent survey conducted by the New York Times that gathered views from citizens concerning military strategy, sanctions and the like.

One of the questions asked citizens to identify the position of North Korea on a world map – and the responses were (to me, at least) quite frightening.

ScreenHunter_03 May. 16 13.46

1,746 people were asked to place North Korea on a map, and only 36% managed to get it right. Interestingly, males managed a 45% success rate, against females who achieved 27%. The most accurate age group was the over 65s, with a 48% success rate.

ScreenHunter_04 May. 16 13.46

However, the main thrust of the survey revealed some interesting results connected to citizens’ spatial awareness. It showed that respondents who could correctly identify North Korea tended to view diplomatic and non-military strategies more favorably than those who could not.

They also viewed direct military engagement – in particular, sending ground troops – much less favorably than those who failed to locate North Korea.

The largest difference between the groups was the simplest: Those who could find North Korea were much more likely to disagree with the proposition that the United States should do nothing about North Korea.

American Geographers?

Americans’ inability to identify countries is not new. A Roper survey in 2006 found that, in the midst of the Iraq War, 6 out of 10 young adults could not locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East. Also, about 75% could not identify Iran or Israel, and only half could identify New York State.

How would UK citizens shape up with a similar test?

Click on the box below for the full article:


Posted in General Geo, Human World, Maps, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lava Caving In The Reykjanes Peninsula

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I love each and every trip to Iceland as a Field Studies Tutor for Rayburn Tours. I thoroughly enjoy the chance to share some of the wonders of this fantastic island with eager students, and am particularly happy when I get to try something new.

Although I have in the past explored a number of lava tubes in Iceland (as well as at other locations such as Hawaii and New Zealand) , on my last trip I had the opportunity to visit a new location – the Leidarendi Lava Caves on the Reykjanes peninsula.

aAlthough the previous few days had been decent spring weather, when we set off on our journey to the lava caves it began to snow heavily. As we were to spend a good bit of time underground, this obviously didn’t matter too much – and it certainly added to the atmosphere of the day.

The caves are located just a few miles south east of Hafnarfjordur, one of the southern suburbs of the Reykjavik metropolitan area. They are found in a giant scoria crater called Stori Bolli (‘Big Cup’), and were first opened in 1992, and were created around 2000 years ago when a major eruption produced a huge lava field in this part of south west Iceland.

Lava caves (or tubes) were formed when surface-flowing lava solidified – while molten lava continued to flow in a tunnel (or tube) below the surface. The tubes eventually drain as the lava flow ceases, and the rock cools to leave a long, narrow cave.

When we arrived at the caves, we were met by our excellent guides from ‘Iceland Expeditions’, who kitted everyone out with safety helmets and head torches. The entry into the cave system was pretty narrow, but once inside it was possible to walk through the old channels – with a few spots demanding a crouched posture or all-fours, and one or two a bit of a crawl  with chest on the cave floor.

cWhile underground, we were given some fascinating information about the volcanic activity in the Reykjavik area, and were able to explore a good length of the lava tube system. With our head torches lighting the way, the smooth cave walls were clear to see – and it didn’t need a great imagination to visualise how flowing lava streams had sculpted and polished these channels.


One distinct feature of the Leidarendi system is the presence of lava-icicles – stalactites and stalagmites on the cave floor and ceiling – formed from dripping and splashing lava. Lava flakes that had fallen from the walls and roof due to frost and erosion littered the tunnel floor beneath our feet.

It was a strange feeling re-emerging from this sheltered underground world back into a raging snow storm – but a great experience that really brought alive the scale and wonder of the volcanic activity that has formed this unique subterranean landscape.




Posted in Fieldwork, Iceland, Physical World, Students, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking Like A Dog In Reykjavik


Collage 2017-05-15 11_08_05

On my last trip to Iceland as a Field Studies Tutor for Rayburn Tours, I arrived a few hours ahead of my group. This gave me a great opportunity to explore the streets of Reykjavik with no students to worry about.

I love to explore like a geographical dog – walking aimlessly in all directions, and taking a good sniff at everything I encounter (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Here is a collection of photographs of some of the sights of the city I was able to enjoy:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in General Geo, Iceland, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World’s Population Hits 7.5 Billion



Image: Simon Kemp (The Next Web)


When checking one of my favourite classroom tools recently  – the ‘World Population Clock’ found at  worldometers.info – I noticed the total for world population has now hit the 7.5 billion mark.

There has been a stunning increase in world population of 25 million people since the start of 2017, and it is believed that more than half of the world’s population today is aged 30 or under!

Just seven countries now account for half of the world’s population:

  • China: 1.385 billion
  • India: 1.335 billion
  • United States: 325 million
  • Indonesia: 262 million
  • Brazil: 210 million
  • Pakistan: 195 million
  • Nigeria: 189 million

Some other interesting facts:

# Nigeria has the youngest population with more than half of the country’s 189 million residents below the age of 15.

# Monaco has the world’s oldest population, with more than half of the city-state’s residents over the age of 50.

# There are approximately 65 million more men than women alive on Earth today.

# Worldwide, the average life expectancy for babies born today sits at 71 years, but women are likely to live roughly five years longer than men.

# Japanese people can expect to live the longest, with the average national life expectancy currently sitting at 83.7 years.

The UN reports that the world’s population is currently growing at a rate of  1.11% – which translates to growth of about 80 million people each year. At current rates, the world’s population should pass the eight billion mark sometime in 2024.

Sources of data can be found at the original article by Simon Kemp at: https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2017/04/26/worlds-population-just-passed-7-5-billion-fascinating-facts-us/#.tnw_Y0y3peNU



Posted in General Geo, Human World | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Now You See It – Now You Don’t – The Case Of The Disappearing Beach …

ScreenHunter_01 May. 15 09.59A beach that disappeared more than 30 years ago has returned to an island off the County Mayo coast in south west Ireland.

The sand at Dooagh, Achill Island, was washed away by storms in 1984 leaving a rocky wave cut platform – but a freak tide around Easter this year returned the 300 metre sandy beach.

The returned beach is already attracting tourists back to the area, which  had earlier supported four hotels and a number of guesthouses before the sand disappeared.


ScreenHunter_02 May. 15 09.59

Images: Guardian Newspaper

This location is a fine example of how dynamic a coastline can be over time, as this was not the first time this area has had a change of character due to natural processes. The beach was washed away previously before the 1890s, before returning again in the 1930s – a real coastline of change.


More at:




Posted in Curriculum, Physical World | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3D Mapping With The Ordnance Survey

The Ordnance Survey has revealed its latest impressive development – a new 3D mapping software package that brings to life some of the UK’s most dramatic landscapes. The interactive tool offers aerial views of peaks, glens, lochs and lakes – and also allows walkers to plot different routes and then share their plans.

Users are able to zoom in on specific locations and also rotate the chosen viewpoint giving a variety of perspectives on some of our most popular areas of countryside. It is also possible to search for routes already created from a 950,000-strong database.

Below is a 3D view of one of my favourite short local walks – from Watersmeet to Lynmouth in north Devon. It comes with a ‘route card’ with marked waypoints (not shown here), distances, starting and finishing grid references, latitudes and longitudes, and a neat elevation map of the complete route. Fantastic stuff!

ScreenHunter_07 Apr. 25 17.40

ScreenHunter_03 Apr. 25 17.37

ScreenHunter_04 Apr. 25 17.37

Here is another example – this is Snowdon – showing how this programme could be used to support lessons in the geography classroom. Well worth the subscription costs, I feel!

ScreenHunter_08 Apr. 25 17.50

The new Aerial 3D view is intended to complement standard OS maps – OS Landranger (1:50k) and OS Explorer (1:25) – that have been staple to walkers and hikers for decades. It is currently available in a seven-day free trial, which provides access to 607 other maps by OS. National Parks Pathways are also included. Afterwards access costs £19.99.

Log on here for your free trialhttps://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/

Posted in Fieldwork, General Geo, Human World, Maps, Physical World, Students, Teachers, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Map Your Surname in the UK

ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 25 17.08

This web site might be of interest to geographers it produces a ‘heat map’ for the UK according to the distribution of selected surnames.


 The data used for the website comes from the Consumer Data Research Centre, and shows that

on average surnames have not moved far in distance over the last 700 years. Many UK residents have Anglo Saxon family names that came into common usage between the 12th and 14th centuries, and were first coined in particular parts of the country. With many individuals not moving far from their ‘roots’, 700 or more years later most names can still be associated with particular localities. However, the geography of many popular family names (like Smith or Brown) is much more evenly spread, although even popular names like Jones, Williams or Davies still have strong regional connotations.

As ‘new’ names have been imported from overseas during the past 60 years or so, many of these have become concentrated in our urban areas. But they are beginning to show a wider dispersal in more recent times as migrants assimilate into UK society. I produced a map for my own surname, and it showed the hottest colours in the north west of England. Are there lots of Berry’s up in the north west?However, I was relieved to see there is also a smaller ‘hot island’ close to my home area in Devon.

ScreenHunter_02 Apr. 25 17.09

Why don’t you log on, and type in your own surname to see what pattern it shows? I’m sure students would be keen to explore this site themselves, using their own name and that of their friends, boyfriends or girlfriends.

How could we use this site in a structured way in the geography classroom?

Posted in General Geo, Human World | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment