Home North pole ice Fact Check: The Azimuthal Equidistant Map of the World, used by the USGS and the United Nations, is a clue that the Earth is flat.

Fact Check: The Azimuthal Equidistant Map of the World, used by the USGS and the United Nations, is a clue that the Earth is flat.


The azimuthal equidistant projection is useful, but like all 2D maps, it creates distortions because the Earth is an oblate spheroid.

Conspiracy theorist Mark Sargent has created a multi-part video series attempting to prove the discredited flat Earth theory. He separates his theories into “clues” which are supposed to prove that planet Earth is flat and that a secret group Sargent calls “the Authority” is keeping this from the public eye. In part three of his series, Sargent focuses on a specific map projection used by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) called the Azimuthal Equidistant, similar to maps favored by Flat Earthers. In both versions of the map, there appears to be a wall of ice surrounding the continents. He cites a note on Wikipedia that the USGS uses it for an atlas of the United States. Sargent also points out that NASA named a crater on the moon after the 11th-century Persian scholar Al-Biruni, who created an azimuthal equidistant projection map of the planet. Sargent claims this is proof that Al-Biruni created a truly correct map of the flat Earth. Additionally, Sargent cites the United Nations (UN) logo, which features the same projection. These are considered clues that the USGS, NASA and the UN are aware that the Earth is flat.

The Earth is an oblate spheroid that cannot be rendered accurately in any two-dimensional presentation. The azimuthal equidistant map does not represent the wall of ice that some flat-earth proponents believe encircles the flat world. This simply reflects the distortion of Antarctica that would occur when a map is based on a central point from which the rest of the map is projected outward, which in this case is the North Pole. If the map was instead projected from the South Pole, it would grossly distort the size of the other continents.

The flat Earth theory has been debunked countless times. As with his other videos, Sargent relies on speculation, pointing to supposed clues left by “The Authority.” The USGS uses the Azimuthal Equidistant Projection, as claimed by Sargent, along with many other types of maps, for various purposes.

The idea that any map is “correct” is a misunderstanding of what maps are. As previously noted by Logic, all two-dimensional maps are, in their own way, “misinformation” due to the limitations of any attempt to accurately represent the Earth – an oblate spheroid – in a flat form. Different map projections have different accuracies and are used in different ways. According to the USGS, the azimuth equidistant map helps show “airline distances from [the] center point of the projection. It is useful for radio, aviation and seismic mapping, and illustrates the polar hemispheres. The Mercator projection is used when mapping equatorial areas, and the equal-area sinusoidal projection better represents large landmasses that run north to south, such as Africa. In total, there are 18 map projections cited by the USGS in its Map Projections Report.

The azimuthal equidistant projection is the map projection used for the United Nations logo. Although Sargent claims this choice is a hint that the Earth is flat, the UN’s decision was more likely an aesthetic decision based on practicality, as it includes the world’s inhabited continents in a single image. The UN’s use of this map projection does not prove that they know the Earth is flat.

Map projections are all inaccurate to some degree. Legitimate uses of the Azimuthal Equidistant Projection do not prove that the Earth is flat.