Charts bought in shops use a scale shown as a ratio such as 1:50,000, which means that one inch, centimetre or whatever on the map, represents 50,000 of the same units on the ground.

4.5 Landmarks as Etak Stars

Scale on mental maps does not use ratios or inches to the mile. A mental map looks nothing like a professionally drawn map, regardless of how well you know the area or your artwork:

1. Short complicated routes with many changes of direction occupy more space than long routes, with few changes of direction.

2. Familiar journeys contain more detail and occupy more space than rarely travelled routes.

3. The perception of time en route is more important than actual time and distance. A voyage that takes two days should occupy more space than a trip of one day, but a two-day familiar journey is often seen as quicker and it occupies less space.

These factors stretch your map here and squash it there, but with a little explanation the end result is understandable to others. The Polynesian's bamboo, shell, and pebble charts look confusing, but they were representations of mental maps drawn to pass information on to others. Soldiers do the same when they lay out items of equipment, stones, and twigs to represent the battlefield and use it to brief their troops.

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