The highest mountains of the world in a cumulating stairplot

Dansk    Esperanto

When I am a tourist I like to see extreme sights. Whether it is the oldest painting, the deepest lake or the tallest skyscraper, it offers an authenticity that is easy to understand. The words “World’s strongest locomotive” contains both a definition of locomotives and a ranking of those. That gives you a good reference point for other locomotives in the future. In addition, the extremity of the world’s strongest locomotive allows you to be as excited as you want.

So how do we get more extremities in the world? We must become more creative with our criteria for extremity. Below I have made a plot of the world’s highest mountains at different distances to the sea.

The x-axis shows the distance from the sea in kilometers. The y-axis is the height in meters. The line shows the highest mountain that is closer to the sea than the x-value indicates. The colors indicate the nearer ocean.

If one is standing on top of Mount Teide in Tenerife, one knows that there is no higher mountain closer to the sea anywhere (on Earth). The view is therefore geometrically unique.

I was a little surprised by several names on this list. Let us go through them:

  1. Jakta, Norway, 1588 meters high, 1.45 km from the sea. This mountain is located in one of the many narrow norwegian gulfs. The list arbitrarily starts here. It is, according to this list, the highest mountain which is higher than its distance to the sea.
  2. Mount Irving, Antarctica, 1950 meters high, 2.5 km from the sea. The ice-covered mountain lies on a small island close to Chile.
  3. Mount Foster, Antarctica, 2105 meters high, 2.6 km from the sea. This mountain is very similar to Mount Irving, just a little bit higher. The story of its first ascent, which took 27 hours, is quite dramatic.
  4. Perserajoq, Greenland, 2259 meters high, 3.4 km from the sea. Like Norway, Greenland has many narrow gulfs and Perserajoq is a sharp peak between two such gulfs. It does not have a Wikipedia page.
  5. Mount Parry, Antarctica, 2520 meters high, 4 km from the sea. This mountain is also located on a small Antarctic island, but it is a bit higher than the previous two Antarctic record holders.
  6. Pico do Fogo, Cape Verde, 2829 meters high, 5.6 km from the sea. Even though the stratovolcano is very active, a community of courageous people still lives on the crater. But it is of course cool to live on the highest mountain closer than 6 km to the sea.
  7. Mount Paget, Sandwich Islands, 2934 meters high, 6.8 km from the sea. This mountain on the windy south Atlantic island is the highest British mountain if we do not count the mountains in the British Antarctica.
  8. Mount Grace, Alaska, 3213 meters, 10 km from the sea. The mountain is next to a small gulf on the southern Alaskan coast. Strangely, it is not the most famous “Mount Grace”. The harmless Mount Grace in Massachusetts is ranked higher on Google.
  9. Mount Terror, Antarctica, 3262 meters, 13.2 km from the sea. This is a shield volcano on a small island off the coast of Antarctica. It is named after a British warship from 1813.
  10. Pico Del Teide, Tenerife, 3718 meters high, 15 km from the sea. This stratovolcano is the highest mountain on any Atlantic island. The legends say that the sky is held up by the mountain.
  11. Mount Erebrus, Antarctica, 3794 meters high, 16.3 km from the sea. This stratovolcano right next to Mt. Terror is the southernmost active volcano in the world.
  12. Saint Elias, Canada/Alaska, 5489 meters high, 19 km from the sea. This mountain contributes with the largest increase on the list. It pushes out the tallest (not highest) mountain in the world, Manua Kea.
  13. Pico Cristóbal Colón, Colombia, 5700 meters high, 46 km from the sea. The enormous mountain belongs to the Andes but is very close the eastern coast of Colombia.
  14. Mount Logan, Canada, 5959 meters high, 63 km from the sea. The highest mountain of Canada also found a way onto this list.
  15. Huascarán, Peru, 6746 meters high, 97.7 km from the sea. The peak of this mountain is the point on earth where gravity is weakest.
  16. Aconcagua, Argentina, 6962 meters high, 135 km from the sea. As expected, the highest mountain in South America is also on this list.
  17. Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan, 7570 meters high, 605 km from the sea. The mountain is the highest unascented mountain in the world, because climbing this is illegal. It is also the first mountain on this list, where the sea would not be visible on the top due to the curvature of Earth.
  18. Kangchenjunga, Nepal/India, 8586 meters high, 670 km from the sea. The Himalayan mountain is the third highest mountain in the world.
  19. Mount Everest, Nepal/China, 8848 m alta, 688 km from the sea. The mountain needs no further introduction and is of course the upper limit of the plot.

The plot was made in R with my own function, stairplot.R which puts non-overlapping labels by itself. The code and data can be found on github.

The data is collected by looking at lists on Wikipedia and surfing around on Google Earth. Therefore, it is likely that I have missed a mountain. If you find such mountain, please write to me or comment and I will correct.


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