Eartha: World's Largest Rotating Globe
It's a great time for maps, if measured by the recent explosion of online cartography, the satellite and street views, the topographic cutaways, the mashups. Millions of users zoom over secret government bases, hover as real estate demigods above devalued subdivisions, scan star systems for life and rooftops for naked sunbathers. And it doesn't cost a cent.
Which means it's also a terrible time for maps -- especially the old-timey paper kind that unfold and cost something (though filling stations used to give 'em away when gas was 35 cents a gallon -- go figure).
The map industry is changing dramatically, so we're glad to see the World's Largest Rotating Globe still spinning, ten years on, in the lobby of a venerable Maine-based family-owned mapping company. DeLorme (which evolved into a software company), put itself on the destination grid in 1998 with Eartha, a 41-ft. diameter globe.
Then CEO David DeLorme wanted something big to flag his company in the physical world -- so he designed the World's Largest Revolving and Rotating Globe. Eartha took two years to build. She would have been built faster, but halfway through her assembly DeLorme noticed a slight flaw. Eartha was torn down and reconstructed properly. The governor of Maine attached the last of her map panels, which included Maine, on July 23, 1998.
A year later, officials from Guinness World Records ran a tape measure over DeLorme's creation. Eartha, they learned, was just under 131 feet around, and 41 feet, one-and-a-half inches across her middle (DeLorme had guessed 42 feet).
Eartha eclipsed a 33-foot-wide rotating globe in Italy, as well as the original "World's Largest Rotating World," a 28-ft. diameter steel ball in Wellesley, Massachusetts. And although the weird glass Mapparium globe in Boston is still trip-worthy, its 30-ft. diameter wouldn't win this battle even if it could be turned back outside in.
Eartha mimics the Earth's movements inside a weatherproof three-story glass atrium at Delorme (which was acquired by Garmin in 2016), mounted on a custom-designed, mechanized cantilever arm. Visitors can marvel at DeLorme's creation from three different observation levels, roughly at the South Pole, the Equator, and Greenland. Viewing Eartha from these up-close vantage points can leave you feeling like an ant, an astronaut, or a god, depending on your elevation.
Eartha is tilted on a 23.5 degree axis, mimicking the real Earth's angle. The surface is composed of 792 panels printed from a computerized database and incorporating shaded relief and depth info, roadways and cities. According to DeLorme, it's the largest Earth image ever created.
Eartha takes 18 leisurely minutes to make a complete cycle, a speed that ensures that even the smallest visitor won't get sucked into her orbit. But Eartha can also reportedly be accelerated to a speed that zips though an entire Earth year in 60 seconds. Such whirling dervish velocity may have prematurely aged Eartha, whose motors began to break down in 2006. This was seriously bad news for the Worlds Largest Revolving and Rotating Globe. Eartha was shut down, and her custom-made propulsion system was rebuilt. By late 2007 she was back in motion -- a good thing, although it makes one appreciate the comparative durability of gravity and curved space.