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CIA World Factbook: Flags, Part 4.

Posted by Laurie Frost on November 1, 2009

Our last look at flags from the CIA World Factbook is a hodgepodge.

I like the flag of the British Indian Ocean Territory because of its wavy stripes:

The stylized boat on the flag for French Polynesia is quite nice, and I like the hat on Lesotho’s:









So are the shields on Swaziland’s and Kenya’s:










I find the design of the flag for the Northern Mariana Islands not entirely successful, even after the explanation that what the wreath surrounds is “a latte stone (a traditional foundation stone used in building).”  Why is the stone obscured by a star? And as much as I like the sailing ship,  Saint Pierre and Miquelon’s  just has too much going  on.









Can’t make the same complaint about Libya’s:

Just plain green.

And now, my very favorite of all. It is tempting not to look for an explanation of why it is as it is, but instead simply to enjoy the flag of the Isle of Man:

But I couldn’t resist visiting the Isle of Man website, where I learned, in essence, that the meaning of the legs is anyone’s guess:

National symbol

The National Symbol is the Three Legs of Man, first officially used in the early fourteenth century on the Manx Sword of State. The legs, clad in armour and bearing spurs, run in a clockwise direction and bear the Latin motto ‘Quocunque Jeceris Stabit’ or ‘Whichever way you throw it, it will stand’ – a testament to islanders’ independence and resilience. The Three Legs also appear on the Manx Coat of Arms, flanked by a Peregrine Falcon and a Raven.

The source of the legs emblem is subject to many theories including the legend of the Island God Manannan, who is said to have set fire to the Legs in a fit of rage and hurled them down the hill in a burning wheel. The Legs are also related to Sicily’s emblem of three naked legs surrounding the head of Medusa, and the swastika, both of which can be traced back to pagan symbols representing the Sun.


Credits for all images of flags: The CIA World Factbook

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CIA World Factbook: Flags, Part 2. Flora and Fauna

Posted by Laurie Frost on October 29, 2009

Continuing to look at the public domain images of flags in the CIA World Factbook , this time we’re moving on from birds to other animals, along with plants, on a selection of flags.

Lions often appear in coats of arms, which are widely included in flag designs. Bermuda’s is one of the more unusual. I can’t figure out how the body parts of this lion hang together, let alone why a sinking ship is what a red lion would want on its shield.

Compare that lion to Sri Lanka’s flag’s:

The Cayman Islands’ also has a lion, but I’m more attracted by its turtle.

Another coat of arms, this one with a sheep, is displayed on the Falkland Islands’ flag:

Then there’s Bhutan’s dragon and Mayotte’s seahorses:

Now look at this one for South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. A seal and penguin support a shield featuring a lion and topped by a reindeer. A reindeer?  On Antartic islands? Well may you ask. But they’re there, descendants of  herds brought by Norwegian whalers in 1910.  The motto at the base of the coat of arms, LEO TERRAM PROPRIAM PROTEGAT, means Let the Lion Protect its Own Land. I suppose the lion must mean the UK. Certainly there are no lions in these islands, which are also claimed by Argentina.

And here’s another rather odd coat of arms, on the flag for the Turks and Caicos Islands. The light brown thing is fairly obviously a lobster. The pink thing is a conch shell, and once you’re told that, you can probably agree it is one. But what is that black and red thing? A cactus, of course. I’m not making this up. The CIA Factbook says so.

So I had a look for why the coat of arms for these Caribbean islands would feature a cactus, and discovered that there is such a thing as the “turks head cactus.” Here’s a picture of a variety found in Arizona from the Fish and Wildlife Service. There’s a picture of one that more closely resembles the thing on the coat of arms over at the Turks and Caicos National Museum website, but it isn’t in the public domain, so you’ll have to go here to see it.

credit: USFWS

More trees than you might expect appear on national flags. Canada’s maple leaf is a familiar plant design on a flag, but here are a few more:

The coat of arms of Equatorial Guinea has a a silk-cotton tree at its center.

Here’s another with some kind of vegetation on a coat of arms, but you might have trouble figuring out what you are seeing. Fiji’s flag:

You got the lion, dove, and palm tree, but how about the others? Give up? Try sugarcane and bananas. As for what the lion is holding, the CIA Factbook didn’t help me. But the website for Fiji High Commission says it’s a cocoa pod.

The Factbook wasn’t much help in figuring out the Pitcairn Islands’ coat of arms, either, other than that a shield with an anchor was part of it.

So I went over to the Picairn Islands website’s store and found that “Surmounting the shield is a helmet crested with a Pitcairn Island wheelbarrow carrying a flowering slip of miro (a local plant).” The territory’s homepage summarizes its history: “With a population of only around fifty, the people of Pitcairn are descended from the mutineers of HMAV Bounty and their Tahitian companions.”

Finally, a few simple designs. A bauhinia flower is the inspiration for Hong Kong’s flag. A lotus is at the center of Macau’s.

Lebanon has a cedar, and Norfolk Island, a Norfolk pine.








Credits for all images of flags: The CIA World Factbook.

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CIA World Factbook Flags, Part 3: Sun and the Moon and the Stars

Posted by Laurie Frost on October 28, 2009

Here are some more public domain images of flags from the CIA World Factbook. Suns, the moon, and stars are the the theme for this post.










Argentina and Uruguay both use blue and white stripes and yellow suns. But I much prefer the face of Argentina’s. It reminds me of the sun that rises on The Teletubbies. Uruguay’s big nosed, crinkly chin face belongs on a grumpy old man.

The description of the flag of Bangladesh from the CIA Factbook says this red circle is the rising sun. Japan’s flag also has a red disk representing the sun, but it is against a field of white and is centered. Now look at Palau’s flag. A sun against a blue sky, right? Wrong. This circle is a moon.









Nepal, the only country with a flag that is not a rectangle or a square, has a sun on its bottom triangular pennant, and what is described as a moon on the top one. The crescent moon design is clear, but what is behind it — the sun or a star or the sun-as-star?

The flags of the world have more stars than I want to count, some single, some mimicking constellations, some in circles. Ethiopia and Morocco have single pentacles.









Brazil’s 27 stars for its 27 administrative districts are arranged to suggest constellations visible in the Southern Hemisphere.

The flag for the European Union is among those that have stars arranged in a circle, as does Cape Verde’s.









One, that of  Bosnia and Herzegovina, has half stars:

Lots of  flags, especially those of Islamic nations, have stars and crescent moons. Flags of Comoros, Mauritania, Tunisia
and Turkey:









Credits for all images of flags: The CIA World Factbook.

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