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Collage with Earth Image and  the words Geodesy

For children the world can seem like a huge place. For those lucky enough to have a back yard, it offers opportunities for exploring and wonder. This can take weeks if not months for a small child until the day comes when the backyard has become small and it is time to strike out into the larger neighborhood and discover the outside world. Until a few short centuries ago, mankind was locked in a figurative backyard, mired in superstition and ignorance of the nature of the world about us. Then in 1434 Gil Eannes, a Portuguese captain sailing for Prince Henry the Navigator, rounded Cape Bojador, the legendary Gates of Hell on the west coast of Africa. Thus began the Age of Exploration which forever changed how humankind looks upon its home.

Henry's vision, coupled with the bravery of his captains, unbound the chains that had held humankind in its backyard; within 100 years the Cape of Good Hope had been rounded, the Atlantic had been crossed, the Americas discovered, and the Earth circumnavigated. The first circumnavigation of the globe took three years and cost its leader, Ferdinand Magellan, his life. The world then was a huge and terrifying place.

As we enter the new millennium, we find ourselves in a much smaller world, figuratively if not literally, than that of Magellan. Ships cross the oceans in days, air travelers span continents and oceans in a few short hours, and satellites circumnavigate the earth in less time than it takes for us to check in to work and stop for the morning coffee break. Today's telecommunications allow colleagues and friends half the world apart to exchange greetings and information instantaneously. With this seeming shrinking of the Earth has come the realization that we humans are bound together by common problems. Our atmosphere knows no boundaries, crosses borders and oceans with impunity, and belongs to all. The oceanic circulation affects the climate of all as it marches from pole to tropics and back to pole in a seemingly endless conveyor belt that is beyond the power of man to alter. Interaction between ocean and atmosphere including storm formation and subtle to radical changes in climatic patterns affect all. Like the atmospheric and oceanic circulation, the living resources of the sea also know no human boundaries. Fish come and go as they please and the management of fisheries and protection of resources is a problem that transcends political boundaries.

NOAA scientists and policy-makers and their colleagues in the world scientific community often tackle the problems of the ocean, atmosphere and living resources of the sea as collaborative efforts that involve the cooperation of all. In doing so, NOAA personnel travel around the globe representing our Nation as part of great scientific efforts; they travel on NOAA ships to far corners of the Earth studying problems of ocean, atmosphere, and fisheries; and they fly where they have to in order to study atmospheric phenomena. In the course of their duties, NOAA personnel have worked on all continents. They have sailed throughout much of the world ocean and entered the ports of many countries. They have worked on fisheries problems the world over.

Join NOAA as its people travel over the Earth studying problems affecting all, sharing in cooperative ventures with many countries, and making friends throughout the world science community. Their world is "A Small World".

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Last Updated:
September 30, 2009