"If you don't know where you are, you're nowhere."
That's the word from National Geographic Society President Gilbert M. Grosvenor, who unveiled a massive new book Tuesday that shows where everywhere is.The $18 million, 405-page, sixth National Geographic Atlas arrives in a world undergoing change.
And that change made compiling the new book exciting, confusing, taxing and costly, say its editors.
"Producing this new atlas was like covering a breaking news story," said William Graves, editor of National Geographic magazine.
Changes such as the merger of East and West Germany and North and South Yemen - and the potential for other changes - nearly delayed publication and resulted in some unexpected costs.
For example, on Sept. 21 the German embassy called to inform the society that the new united Germany had chosen Berlin as its sole capital. That cost the Geographic $100,000.
Officials thought they had taken every precaution. They printed all the physical maps first, then the less controversial political maps.
Germany was left for last, but finally the Geographic had to go ahead.
The editors took a chance and designated two capitals: Bonn and Berlin. But the Germans outfoxed them by choosing to have just one.
The presses ground to a halt. The map of Germany and some of the text was changed.
Wary of further potential changes, in the Soviet Union for example, Grosvenor said buyers of the $74.95 book will be entitled to two updates over the next three years. Those would be supplements, but Grosvenor said the exact form they take will depend on what changes they reflect.
In addition to the traditional maps, the new volume has a number of satellite images, including an unusual world map showing all land areas virtually cloud-free.
That map was compiled from thousands of pictures collected over several years by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites. Then the best cloud-free images of each part of the world were pieced together to form a giant world mosaic.
"It's an image of the Earth as we've never seen it before," said Grosvenor.