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Introduction

True-color image of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center image.
True-color image of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center image.
Physical map of Earth with political borders as of 2016

Geography (from Greek: γεωγραφία, geographia, literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets. The first person to use the word γεωγραφία was Eratosthenes (276–194 BC). Geography is an all-encompassing discipline that seeks an understanding of Earth and its human and natural complexities—not merely where objects are, but also how they have changed and come to be.

Geography is often defined in terms of two branches: human geography and physical geography. Human geography deals with the study of people and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across space and place. Physical geography deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and geosphere.

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The Cannikin warhead being lowered into test shaft
Amchitka, a volcanic, tectonically unstable island, is a part of the Rat Islands group of the Aleutian Islands located in southwest Alaska. It is about 68 kilometres (42 miles) long, and ranges from 3 to 6 km (2–3.75 mi) in width. Courtesy of its maritime climate, it is particularly susceptible to storms, and is mostly shrouded with overcast skies. The island was inhabited for more than 2,500 years by the Aleut people, but has had no permanent population since 1832. It was included in the Alaska Purchase of 1867, and since then has been part of the United States. During World War II, it was used as an airfield by US forces in the Battle of the Aleutian Islands.

Amchitka was selected by the United States Atomic Energy Commission to serve as the site for underground detonations of nuclear weapons. Three such tests were carried out: Long Shot, an 80 kiloton blast in 1965; Milrow, a 1 megaton blast in 1969; and Cannikin in 1971 – at "under 5 megatons", the largest underground test ever conducted by the United States. The tests were highly controversial, with environmental groups fearing that the Cannikin explosion, in particular, would cause severe earthquakes and tsunamis. Amchitka is no longer used for nuclear testing, although it is being constantly monitored for the leakage of radioactive materials.

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Eastern Samar

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Featured biography

The title page of Tractatus de globis et eorum usu
Robert Hues (1553–1632) was an English mathematician and geographer who made observations of the variations of the compass off the coast of Newfoundland. He either went there on a fishing trip, or joined a 1585 voyage to Virginia arranged by Walter Raleigh and led by Richard Grenville which passed Newfoundland on the return journey to England. Between 1586 and 1588, Hues travelled with Thomas Cavendish on a circumnavigation of the globe, taking the opportunity to measure latitudes. Beginning in August 1591, Hues travelled with the Earl of Cumberland, intending to complete a circumnavigation of the globe. During the voyage, Hues made astronomical observations while in the South Atlantic, and also observed the variation of the compass there and at the Equator. Cavendish died on the journey, and Hues returned to England in 1593. In 1594, Hues published his discoveries in the Latin work Tractatus de globis et eorum usu (Treatise on Globes and their Use) which was written to explain the use of globes that had been made and published by Emery Molyneux in late 1592 or early 1593, and to encourage English sailors to use practical astronomical navigation. Hues' work subsequently went into at least 12 other printings in Dutch, English, French and Latin.

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Lake District
Credit: David Iliff

A panoramic view of Skiddaw mountain, the town of Keswick, and Derwentwater, as viewed from Walla Crag on a clear autumn afternoon in the Lake District. Located in North West England, the district is a popular tourist destination and is famous for its lakes and mountains, especially those within its national park.

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Stephen F. Chadwick
Stephen F. Chadwick, Governor's Biennial Message (1878)

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