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Headscratchers / Avatar: The Last Airbender - Geography

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  • Something I've always wondered is, if the Gaang needed to sneak into the Fire Nation undetected, why didn't they go east from the Earth Kingdom? It's pretty much a fact that the map in the show shows the world in it's entirety- therefore, the Gaang could sail or fly east over the ocean until they reach the Fire Nation. And based on the Fire Nation's tactics, it seems that they sail east toward the Earth Kingdom, but not west, creating a perfect blind spot for the Gaang to slip through. The only reason this wouldn't be viable is if there was an enormous stretch of ocean between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation that would take too much time and resources to cross, or conversely, there was some sort of landmass just off the edge of the map, blocking direct access.
    • Easy, either:
      • A: the series dropped the ball on the opening titles, maybe the map was a non-effort as well
    • or
      • B: Avatar world is flat
      • The Avatar world is pretty obviously not flat. Horizons and the atmosphere work the same, and when Aang is up in space absorbing Cosmic Energy, the world curves below him.
      • You forgot "C: the world is round, and encompasses more than what we see on the map." It's like looking at a picture of Eurasia and thinking "that's all there is to Earth, so why didn't the Mongols build a boat and conquer England?" You're also assuming that there's not a huge ocean in between the Earth Kingdom and the Fire Nation. It's why no one wanted to fund Columbus: everyone knew the Earth was round, and they also knew it was really damn huge. Columbus thought he could take a ship and sail across to Asia. Everyone else thought that he and his crew would die long before they hit the Indies- and they were right. It's just that Columbus ran into the Americas, and didn't have to worry about starving to death. With that in mind, would you really want to cross an unknown expanse of ocean with only what you can carry on Appa?
      • The "vast, empty ocean" idea is probably the correct one. After all, the Fire Nation has iron-hulled steamships, meaning that they should be able to do some very effective mapping of the seas west of the Fire Nation archipelago. The fact that the western ocean is never mentioned either as an area of interest or of travel suggests that there's probably nothing there but open ocean with maybe some scattered islands (like much of the Pacific Ocean, for example). Actually sending ships that way would be wasteful and difficult (in real life, coal ships usually required stops for re-fueling, so the Fire Nation would be wasting coal sending the ships the long way).
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    • I don't see why the "enormous expanse of water" explanation doesn't work. We're talking about during the Winter Solstice, right? So they had a time limit for sneaking into the Fire Nation. If you were in England, for example, and needed to get to the U.S. in the next two days, given the speed Appa can fly, would you fly your not-really-magic flying bison east, across the entire Eurasian continent AND all of the Pacific, or would you fly straight across the Atlantic? Exactly. They just didn't have the time.
      • I was actually referring to the time period where the episode "The Awakening" takes place. And if you'd actually read my first post in its entirety, you would have seen that I said the only reasons the Gaang couldn't just fly east to the Fire Nation would be because there was an enormous expanse of ocean or there was some sort of landmass blocking the way.
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    • And now, The Legend of Korra's "Harmonic Convergence" shows a spherical planet where, indeed, "what you see is what you get". The Earth Kingdom continent spans from the northern polar region to the southern. So either we're supposed to believe Ba Sing Se is the size of Saudi Arabia, or the planet is tiny.
      • Judging by how Ba Sing Se is talked about and pictured within the show, it probably is the size of Saudi Arabia.
  • The Fire Nation has an Eastern Fleet. Going East from the Earth Kingdoms means they'd still run into a blockade.
    • Ummm, what the Fire Kingdom considers to be East would be West for the Earth nation. Although the fact that they need to specify witch direction the feet is implies there may be a Western Fleet. And over all, as has been said, we don't know what if anything is between the Fire and Earth lands the other way, or if it is just Ocean, just how big it is. It could be a journey that would take months going that way.
      • Wrong on the directional thing. The Eastern Fleet that was referred to in "The Awakening" was suggested to operate around the eastern Earth Kingdom. A Western Fleet would probably operate around the western Earth Kingdom. In the Fire Nation itself there's probably a Home Fleet much like much of its defensive forces are in the Home Guard. Had the war not expanded to cover most of the Earth Kingdom, the Eastern Fleet probably would be stationed in the eastern Fire Nation, though, assuming it was formed at all, rather than being stationed on the other side of the world.
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    • I thought they did go East in "The Awakening." They would have some time to take this journey while Aang was mostly unconscious and it explains how he was able to fly to the Fire Nation on his own—otherwise it might seem like he flew over half the world in a couple hours. Also, their ship would have to otherwise go South (or North—not sure if there's a waterway up there) to get around the Earth Kingdom because Ba Sing Sei is on the East side of the continent.
      • They almost certainly did go South and then west along the southern coast of the Earth Kingdom continent. The Southern Water Tribe fleet was located near a river mouth on Chameleon Bay, and when they first manage to arrive in the Fire Nation territory in the episode "The Awakening", it's on Crescent Island on the South-East corner of the Fire Nation archipelago.
    • Sokka tells Aang where they travelled why he was out. From Chameleon Bay they sailed west, "inland", and had crossed the Serpents Pass a few days ago. Note that the main part of the Earth Kingdom is not one continuous landmass, but three big islands. The western of the two inland seas divided by the Serpants Pass is connected with the western sea, where you find the Fire Nation (as well as with the northern sea). Map at 7:22 of episode 3.01. The outlet of that challen is pretty close to Crescent Island.
  • Not sure this is the right place, but how did the FN soldiers get to the air temples in the first place? Aang says the only way is with a flying bison, and from how the eastern air temple looks in episode 3, it's probably right (it stands on the peak of a really steep mountain). Adding to that that the war balloons were invented 100 years after, and that even with the comet only a handful of firebenders can actually fly, and it seems there isn't a clear answer to that.
    • I've thought about this too. Maybe they still had dragons at the time, maybe they got their hands on some Flying Bison (Neither seems too improbable). I've also read somewhere (for the life of me, i cannot provide a link or an idea to where i heard it) that some Airbenders betrayed their own people and assisted the Fire Nation, which doesn't seem too far fetched to me. Also, The tanks they use had some kind of cables that can be shot upward and used like a grappling hook, so that would probably work, even if the exact tanks we saw in the series didn't exist at that point, an early version or a simple grappling hook device could've been used. Beyond that, the Fire Nation has been shown, if nothing else, to be extremely capable, clever, and intelligent. It doesn't break my suspension of disbelief to assume they figured something out.
    • The dragon theory is probably the best one. The invasion of at least the Southern Air Temple happened soon after Aang ran away (if I'm recalling correctly.) And Aang remembers there being dragons, so they obviously hadn't been killed off yet.
    • The Fire Nation has massive zeppelins/airships. I think it’s feasible that, even if they weren’t as advanced at the start of the war, they had flying technology at that point which would have been sufficient to at least carry the soldiers up to the mountains, while the leaders of the army rode on dragons.
      • I think any air technology besides dragons is unlikely since the air balloons were such a novel and pivotal advane for the fire nation.
      • I thought they didn't develop airships until after that episode at the Northern Air Temple? After that inventor guy built one, and the Fire Nation salvaged it after it crashed during a battle?
    • The ostrich horses in The Avatar State could climb walls, Perhaps the FN had some animals like those.
    • When the northern air temple is attacked we see fire nation infantry traversing up mountain passes. Since the attack on the air nomads was likely a surprise, they could have had plenty of soldiers pose as pilgrims visiting the temple to observe the comet from a prime location while also having reserves hidden on the passes. Once powered by the comet and with surprise on their side, the fire nation may have been able to take the temples without air transportation.
    • At that point, Aang was looking for any excuse not to acknowledge the possibility that the Fire Nation had wiped out his people, regardless of how rational the excuse was. It's just like his argument of "The Fire Nation couldn't have started a war with the other nations because I have friends from there!"
  • In the Episode "The Waterbending Scroll" (1.09), the Gaang steal a boat and sail it down river. The Boat must have come upriver, since it had originated at a sea port. How then does said river have a giant waterfall on it? The boat could not have sailed up the waterfall.
    • Who says that's the river's only route? Rivers split into tributaries and other canals and such all the time.
  • The seasons are very inconsistently portrayed. In the first season, for example, the Gaang are travelling from the South Pole to the North Pole. It’s winter in the southern hemisphere when they start out - the winter solstice takes place halfway through that season. So when they reach the North Pole, why isn’t it summer there? For that matter, the terms ‘winter solstice’ and ‘summer solstice’ are meaningless in themselves without an additional reference to the hemisphere.
    • Another example: in season 2, when the Gaang are in Ba Sing Se, which is on a fairly high latitude in the northern hemisphere, it should be autumn there, but it’s portrayed as spring.
    • It's possible that the planet the series takes place on isn't tilted on its axis like Earth is, so there would be no difference in seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres.
    • In the very first episode, we learn that it IS summer in the southern hemisphere, as Sokka refers to the midnight sun (implying it was actually quite late at night when they found Aang; their summer begins in less than a month, so the sun would already be keeping above the horizon for a full 24 hours, assuming a tilt similar to our world's). To have seasons at all, the earth MUST be tilted to create a difference between the length of day at the poles during each solstice. The reason they refer to the entire world as going into the same season could be because this world is north-centric, much like our own (though without nearly as much justification, as the landmasses and population are pretty evenly split between hemispheres). In Legend of Korra, they resolve these discrepancies by showing outright that the southern hemisphere does experience its winter while the northern hemisphere is in summer.
  • Why is the main continent of the Fire Nation called an island? It's bigger than either of the continents surrounding the poles. It's at least the size of Australia, which is a proper continent, and it's probably more comparable in size to Antarctica. Yes, the eastern islands are quite clearly the result of convergent plate boundaries, but the continent itself is NOT a single volcanic arc, or even a complex orogenic belt like the Philippines. It is a proper continent, by every geographical and political definition we use in our world, and that they seem to otherwise use in theirs.
    • The only tangible difference between islands and continents is geologically. A continent is a landmass that sits atop and moves with a tectonic plate in the earth's crust. An island like the Fire Nation's mainland is the result of volcanic buildup on the ocean floor, which is lower and more dense than the continental crust, and that manages to breach the surface.

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