[MAP MONDAY] Why the “average” South African lives just outside of Bethlehem

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According to popular local rumour, the town where I grew up in the UK is at the dead centre of the country. I have no idea how this fact – if such it is – was decided. Britain is not shaped like a square, so how one draws bisecting lines through a territory eludes me*. Some say it’s to do with distance from the sea, others suggest cutting out a map from cardboard and seeing where the point of balance is when you try to lift it with a pin.

A man who could undoubtedly tell us how these things are calculated is Capetonian coder Adrian Frith, a prolific cartographer who’s drawn many South African maps for Wikipedia pages. His latest work is all about the centre: centres of population, to be exact.

Using data from the 2011 census and methodology for calculating centres of population from the US Census Bureau, Frith has put together this impressive map of national and provincial population centres. It makes for interesting reading: apparently using this calculation, the “average” South African lives just north of the Lesotho border, at the foot of Ghwarriekop next to the town of Senekal in the Free State. GPS location here, in fact: 28.28430°S 27.70690°E.

For those of us slightly more geographically challenged, that’s the big blue star in the map above, or just west of Bethlehem.

A full list of provincial centres of population – which are not at all where you think they might be – is over at Frith’s site here, along with an enlarged version of the map above.

[Main image – Adrianfrith.com]

Adam Oxford

Adam Oxford

Adam is the Editorial Director at htxt media. He has been writing about technology for almost two full decades now. In a previous life, he was the editor of PC Format and Digital Camera Shopper in the UK, before going on to work as a freelance journalist for seven years. His work has appeared in or on Stuff, The Guardian, Linux Format, TechRadar, Wired.co.uk, PC Gamer, Green Futures, The Journalist, The Ecologist and The Review. Adam moved to South Africa in 2012 and loves 3D printers, MakerFairs and tech hubs. He hates seafood. None of his friends remember this when cooking.