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In my world, there is one spherical world that is 2,000,000 light-years in Diameter. The world also has the same land-to-sea ratio as the earth. On this world , there is a civilization of elves possessing 18th century maritime technology.

Given the rate of exploration/expansion of 18th century empires (such as Portugal and the Dutch empires), how large of an area could this civilization explore and or map out within 1000 years?

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closed as unclear what you're asking by JDługosz, Hohmannfan, TrEs-2b, bilbo_pingouin, Mołot Sep 7 '16 at 11:01

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    $\begingroup$ Since the 18th Century, we explored most of our planet (if not all), and even went on to explore extra-terrestrial objects. In 200-300 years.You give them 1000 years! Why would they be stuck technologically? They'd probably explore all of it in 1000 years. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Sep 7 '16 at 5:30
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    $\begingroup$ Lots of problems with the question, not least of which is that no mention is made of what proportion of the planet is water. Nor is the population size given. A lot of what the European empires 'discovered' was already known to the indigenous populations. Does this unfeasibly large planet have native populations spread across it waiting to be discovered to add their knowledge of the world to that of the explorers? $\endgroup$ – Steve Bird Sep 7 '16 at 5:52
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    $\begingroup$ Given the supposed size of this planet, if it were possible for the explorers to travel at the speed of light, it would take them 6.3 million years simply to circumnavigate it. $\endgroup$ – Steve Bird Sep 7 '16 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ Fastest 18th cen. ship traveled 20knots = 37.04/kmh = 324,685.9728km/year --- Assuming you have a ship that traveled all day constantly it would take 29,138,094,236 years to travel 1 light year. Again making that same assumption, the max distance for 1000 years would be 324,685,972.8 km... Assuming ships leave from the center going in opposite directions 649,371,945.6 diameter circle, at max. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Sep 7 '16 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ Also, a planet this large will rapidly collapse under its own weight into a black hole. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Sep 7 '16 at 12:21
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Figure as a ballpark just to throw some numbers out there that one crew of a ship can travel at 10 knotts and map whatever is to either side of them for some miles, whether that be the presence of islands or details of a coastline or simply a note on the map that they did look here and saw just water.

They need light, so figure 8 hours a day, which is about 80 miles, and seeing 2 miles to each side, so 320 square miles per day.

How many such ships can be outfitted and funded? A thousand? So 320,000 square miles per year for 1,000 years is 320 million square miles.

For scale that would be a circle 10,000 miles in radius. If they encounter land the actual mapped area is larger because they only charted the coastline and skipped the interrior.

That’s a “back of the envelope” calculation. Adjust the numbers as you see fit.

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  • Could there be exponential population growth in the settled/colonized areas? If so, how large is the exponent? I'm wondering if they may be expanding the radius of their knowledge at a constant speed.
  • Under perfect conditions a ship might travel 40,000 miles in a year, but conditions will never be perfect. Are the winds predictable? Do they always blow in the same direction? That might make exploration in one direction easy and the return difficult, if not impossible.
  • Does exploration mean some elves have set foot on a continent, or does it also require a return to the capital with a map? How good is their mapmaking and navigation?
  • Will they explore every square mile, or will it be "1,000 miles northwards, then find an island with water and food, build a port city, repeat."

When the Portugese explored down the African coast, one merchant was supposed to explore about 500 km of coastline per year. Their technology was more primitive at the time, but they had that coast to follow.

So if there is an urgent goal like "find the source of the dragon eggs and report back" I could see a million miles (or km) in a millenium. That would be a very narrow map, and the information that returns to the capital would be distorted and out of date.

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