The “Terr-A-Qua Globe”

Finn Ronne speaking at the dedication of the globe, October 21, 1969. (National Archives Identifier 23856033)

On October 21, 1969, a large, illuminated, rotating globe was dedicated in the Exhibition Hall at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

The globe was one of eight made by the Terr-A-Qua Globes & Maps Company of Santa Ana, California, between 1966 and 1973. The globes show, in raised relief, all three of the Earth’s surface features—ocean floor, ocean surface, and continental topography.

Renowned aerial photographer Talbert Abrams donated the globe to the National Archives in honor of retired Navy Captain Finn Ronne and his wife, Edith “Jackie.”

From 1947 to 1948, Finn Ronne mapped the last unexplored coastline in the world. He discovered that the Weddell Sea and Ross Sea were not connected, confirming that Antarctica is a single landmass. Jackie accompanied him on the expedition and was the first woman to explore Antarctica.

In front of a crowd of over 100 people, Finn and Jackie accepted the globe on behalf of the American people in the spirit of exploration.

The globe on display in the Pennsylvania Avenue lobby, January 1975. (National Archives Identifier 35810584)

The $12,000 globe measures just over six feet in diameter and turns every three minutes. It has a horizontal scale of 103 miles to the inch and a vertical scale of one centimeter to a mile (for instance a 13,000-foot mountain appears one inch high). Ocean depths are shown through a transparent plastic surface. 

The globe was part of the now defunct Center for Polar Archives, which was established in the National Archives in 1967 and held the papers of Captain Ronne. The Ronne papers now part of our donated collections.

After being on display on the exhibition side of the building, the globe moved to the Pennsylvania Avenue lobby.

In 1980 the National Archives loaned, indefinitely, the globe to the Library of Congress but borrowed it back in 2009 for the exhibit BIG! Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the National Archives.

BIG Exhibit Installation
The globe on exhibit in BIG! Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the National Archives, 2009. (Photo by Earl MacDonald, National Archives)

It is currently back at the Library of Congress on display in the Geography and Map Division in the basement of the Madison Building. Unfortunately, the electric motor that allowed the globe to rotate has stopped working, as well as the internal fluorescent lights inside. 

Thank you to Barbara Bair for providing the photo of the globe on display at the Library of Congress, and Jeff Reed for the photo of the globe on display in the BIG! exhibit. 

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The globe on display at the Library of Congress, January 16, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Bair, Library of Congress)

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