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The convention was established by Ptolemy (AD 90 – c. AD 168) in his main work, Geography. The following is a 15th century reconstruction of Ptolemy's world map: It's an arbitrary decision, and several reversed maps exist. There are also maps that don't follow a standard orientation, some examples are T and O maps, polar maps, and Dymaxion/Fuller maps. ...


http://www.euratlas.net/history/europe/index.html This is by far the best map website, it has maps from 1AD to 2000AD. http://www.euratlas.net/antique/cartography/index.html


So, in researching the link from sbi, I think he's got one piece of the puzzle, but there seem to be a few more. Juan de Fuca (the same guy from whom the straits around Vancouver Island / the Seattle area are named), had claimed to have found a Northwest Passage Sailors from the south had also found the Gulf of Baja California, and frankly its big - so big ...


According to Wikipedia, this might be based on the romance novel Las sergas de Esplandián by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, which contains the first written mentioning of the Island of California. It is probable that this description prompted early explorers to misidentify the Baja California peninsula as the island in these legends.

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