By George

On April 27, 2016 · 1 Comments

What were the odds of seeing Twelve Mile Circle visitors from George, South Africa and George, Washington, USA on the same day? I found the coincidence fascinating. The city of George in Washington was, of course, named for George Washington. That other George in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, I suspected, must have been named for one of the several King Georges who ruled Great Britain. Which one though? There were six such kings over a span of more than two centuries. That led me to wonder if I could find a geographic place named for each one of them. I uncovered more than I expected so I had to split the topic into two articles. This post will cover George I, II and III. The next one will discuss George IV, V and VI.

George I (reigned 1714-1727)


King George County Court House
King George County Court House by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr (cc)

George didn’t become King until he was well into his 50’s upon the death of Queen Anne. He’d been born in Hanover and spent his time as Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg growing up. There were numerous members of the extended royal family more closely related to Anne that George, however they were all Catholic so they didn’t qualify to succeed her. Being of Protestant faith, the throne came to George, the first king of the House of Hanover. His age pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn’t reign long and it limited the opportunity for places to be named in his honor.

A section of Richmond County in Virginia (referenced in Not the City) became King George County (map) in 1720. The county website confirmed that it was named for George I. That would make sense because its founding happened right in the middle of his reign.

Not much happened in King George County although a future President of the United States, James Madison was born there in 1751. That was impressive although I discovered another person born in the county that interested me even more, a man with the unusual nickname William "Extra Billy" Smith. He had quite a distinguished career, serving in the United States Congress, the Confederate State Congress, the Governor of Virginia both for the United States and for the Confederacy, and as a Major General in the Confederate Army. He tried his luck in California during the Gold Rush and he operated a postal service that ran from Virginia to Georgia. The postal operation earned him his unusual nickname. It seemed that he created a bunch of unnecessary side routes to collect additional fees. Friends and foes alike began to call him "Extra Billy" after authorities discovered his scheme, a name that followed him for life.

I noticed that there’s an Extra Billy’s Smokehouse and Brewery in Midlothian, Virginia. I’ll have to put that on my list of places to visit.


George II (reigned 1727-1760)


Welcome to Georgia
Welcome to Georgia by Paul Hamilton on Flickr (cc)

Next came George II, son of George I, who ruled for a much longer period. A longer reign equaled more opportunities for places named for him, and that’s exactly what I found. The state of Georgia (map) in the United States may have been the most significant. James Oglethorpe founded the Georgia colony in 1733 under a royal charter issued by George II, and it was always a good idea to flatter one’s patron. A beautiful lake in the Adirondacks of New York, sometimes called the Queen of American Lakes, also took his name: Lake George (map). The lake got its name during the era of the French and Indian War when Sir William Johnson occupied the territory and won the Battle of Lake George. The Georgetown neighborhood (map) of Washington, DC, however, may or may may not have been named for George II. It’s founding certainly dated to his reign. Nonetheless the founders and primary land owners were George Beall and George Gordon so those could have inspired the named too.

George II also had a war named for him: King George’s War, (1744–48), the North American campaign of the War of the Austrian Succession.


George III (reigned 1760-1820)


Suite Balcony at Hyatt Regency Oubaii - George, South Africa
Hyatt Regency Oubaii – George, South Africa by TravelingOtter on Flickr (cc)

George II’s son Frederick died before him so the succession went to his grandson, George III who was only 22 years old. George III also lived a very long time. He reigned for nearly sixty years so his name got affixed to lots of places although few of them existed in the United States. He was viewed as an oppressor when the nation fought for its independence so his name may have been expunged. I couldn’t find a single instance although I’m sure some must have survived somewhere.

Elsewhere, however, his named flourished in places across the British Empire. George, the South African city referenced previously was a shining example. George became quite a lovely tourist destination in the Garden Route, wedged between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean. More unlikely was George Town (map), the capital city of the state of Penang in Malaysia. The naming traced to Captain Francis Light who founded a settlement there in 1786 on behalf of the British East India Company.

Other places named for George III included: George Town, Tasmania, Australia; South Georgia Island; Prince George, British Columbia, Canada; Georgetown, Guyana, and undoubtedly many other places too numerous to mention.

On April 27, 2016 · 1 Comments

Australia’s Time Zone Corners

On April 24, 2016 · 2 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle loves mail! I’ve discovered all sorts of interesting geographic artifacts from readers who’ve sent a much appreciated note. This time a message arrived from reader "Jonathan" who has offered several suggestions in the past. He mentioned a place he noticed while looking at maps of Australia. It was called Cameron Corner, found at the intersection of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. This wasn’t just any ordinary tripoint, it also marked a separation between three Time Zones during periods of Daylight Saving Time – DST. I later saw that this happened at two other Australian tripoints. The concept definitely piqued my curiosity.

Cameron Corner


Untitled
The Corner Store, Cameron Corner by bushie on Flickr (cc)

The specific situation that existed at Cameron Corner meant that anyone within the vicinity would have an unusual opportunity to celebrate New Years three times in a single evening. It sort-of reminded me of the instance of being able to celebrate one’s birthday twice. During DST, New South Wales followed UTC+11 (i.e., eleven hours beyond Coordinated Universal Time, abbreviated UTC for some odd reason). South Australia followed UTC+10:30 during DST. Queensland didn’t recognize DST at all so it remained at UTC+10 all year long. A post marked the actual tripoint where this rare condition occurred.

People actually lived at Cameron Corner in the middle of nowhere, albeit with a very small permanent population of two souls who operated the Cameron Corner Store. I found more information about this obscure crossroads than I would have imagined given its remoteness. Little of this came from my usual sources. I found another source that was great though, TripAdvisor, of all places. A fair number of people went out of their way to stop at Cameron Corner and some of them recorded their experiences in rich detail. The store included a restaurant, a small hotel, a campground, a petrol station, and a pub where it seemed like visitors made a point of drinking into the early hours of the morning. There wasn’t much else to do so far into the Outback. The site also had a 3-hole desert golf course where a round included a hole in each state.

There were a number of TripAdvisor quotes that interested me, including a very simple description of Cameron Corner, "a metal post, a pub and a fence." That seemed straight and to the point.

Another reviewer noted,

There is only one shop/store on the Queensland side although their postcode is in NSW and telephone number is SA. As each state has a different time zone, they are known to have three New Year’s each year. I was told by Fenn, the shop-keeper that last year, they had about 70 guests passing this area for New Year’s and that they walked from one state to the other to celebrate the different times (which are only metres away from each other).

And finally

The corner itself, of course, is nothing but the marker post, the dingo fence and the Corner Store and the feeling of being remote is oh-so palpable when you arrive there and step out of your vehicle; the silence is absolute. Just magic!… This is not a trip to be undertaken lightly, though; on the trip in on the unsealed road we saw no other traffic – 280km – and only one car on the way out; spare water and fuel for the "just in case" moments are a must

This prompted me to look at some of the other Australian corners. Cameron Corner was the most accessible by far.


AUS locator map with corners full
AUS locator map with corners full on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

Poeppel Corner and Surveyor Generals Corner exhibited the same phenomenon, with a three state, three time zone anomaly during DST. MacCabe Corner and Haddon Corner did not, and Haddon Corner wasn’t even a tripoint. I decided to examine the first two a little more closely.


Poeppel Corner


Poeppel Corner
Poeppel Corner by
John Benwell on Flickr (cc)

The Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia all met at the Poeppel Corner tripoint. Unlike Cameron Corner, nobody lived there and scant information existed. The Australian National Placenames Survey included a nice newsletter article though (pdf format). The corner was set deep within the Simpson Desert, accessible only by 4-wheel drive vehicles, and registered perhaps 2,000 visitors per year:

In 1880, Augustus Poeppel, South Australian Government Surveyor, marked the corner with a coolibah Eucalyptus microtheca post, 2.1 metres long by 0.25 metres in diameter. The post was dragged 58 miles (92 kilometres) westward from the Mulligan River. Poeppel adzed it on three sides and chiseled into it the words "South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland"… Poeppel returned to the corner in 1883 to commence the survey of the Queensland/Northern Territory border. The post was not seen again by a European until 1936

The nearest people today are probably found in tiny Birdsville, more than a 150 kilometres (93 miles) away. One would need to be amazingly dedicated to go all the way to Poeppel Corner to experience this single post in the ground.


Surveyor Generals Corner


Surveyor Generals Corner Visit from Alan McCall on Vimeo.

More difficult yet would be a journey to Surveyor Generals Corner, the tripoint of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. It contained an interesting geo-oddity though, a surveying error.

So in 1968 two monuments were set up at the resulting right-angles where the WA border does a brief east-west zig-zag in the desert. The easternmost corner, where two states and a territory meet, was named Surveyor-Generals Corner after the three officials who attended the ceremony.

Two cultures crossed at Surveyor Generals Corner. People of European descent created Australian States with straight lines that formed an arbitrary tripoint. The original Aboriginal people considered the spot their own, and had occupied it for millennia. Thus, anyone who wanted to experience Surveyor Generals Corner in person required explicit permission and a guide, in addition to the usual Great Central Road permit. That could be arranged by contacting the Wingellina (Irrunytju) Community Office in the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, Western Australia. The logistics were discussed in ExplorOz.com

The corner consists of two actual markers separated by a distance of 75 metres. This creates a dogleg in the WA border. It is approximately seven km north east of Irrunytju community. Both are on the land of Mr Eddy and you must be escorted to the markers by one of the traditional owners. Arrangements (permits) have to be obtained prior to heading to Irrunytju (Wingellina) thru the West Australian DIA website. Prior to heading that way, ring the store or community centre to ensure that people will be around and available at the time of your arrival. Once arrived at Wingellina, head to the community centre and pay the appropriate fee (At July 07 – it was $100 per vehicle and $20 per person) and someone will be located to escort you (usually Mr Eddy or Mr Donald Ferguson, both community elders). Both are very helpful and will give you permission to take photographs.

I’ve not been to Australia in awhile. However, if I’m ever lucky enough to return, I would love to push away from the coast and visit one of these tripoints. Have any of the Australian 12MC readers ever been fortunate enough to experience these places in person?


Unrelated, but not completely unrelated

In preparing this article I went back through the index and I noticed I’d posted several other Oz-centric articles over the years. Enjoy.

On April 24, 2016 · 2 Comments

And So, Part 2

On April 20, 2016 · 6 Comments

I found such a wealth of information about the six national names split by the conjunction "AND" that I had to divide them into two articles. The first article covered Antigua and Barbuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. This one will finish the remaining nations, continuing in alphabetical order. Once again I wanted to focus extra attention on the junior partner, the unfortunate geography at the trailing end of each arrangement.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


Bequia
Bequia by Ian Mackenzie on Flickr (cc)

Another conjoined arrangement, another Caribbean nation, this one found far down the chain of the Windward Islands. The native Caribs protected Saint Vincent fiercely and blocked colonization until the Eighteenth Century. Meanwhile they accepted escaped African slaves who sought refuge from nearby islands such as Barbados, Saint Lucia and Grenada. Their intermingled descendants, the Black Caribs, bedevil European colonists for decades. French, British and Black Caribs all fought for control. Revolts by Black Caribs remained common and frequent even after Britain gained the upper hand. It was a mess. The French shifted their focus to Martinique instead.

Speaking of messes, the Grenadines didn’t fall entirely within Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The Grenadines needed to be tagged onto a larger entity because they wouldn’t be viable as nation on their own. They were too small and spread across a long string of ocean. It might have made sense to collect all of the Grenadines together — and the British made attempts over the years — although it just never happened. Thus, when independence came in 1979, the upper two-thirds of the Grenadines became an integral part of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the remainder joined Grenada to the south. Someone living on the island of Carriacou in the Grenadines, for example, lived in Grenada, not Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Fortunately Grenada didn’t call itself Grenada and the Grenadines because that would have created even more confusion.

The Grenadines portion of the nation retained a smaller population with only about ten thousands residents, or ten percent of the overall national population. About half of those live on the island of Bequia (map). The remainder were spread amongst four other populated islands and two privately-owned resort islands.


São Tomé and Príncipe



Nobody lived on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe when Portuguese navigators stumbled upon them in the Gulf of Guinea off the western coast of Africa. Portugal thought those unclaimed, uninhabited islands would make an ideal offshore base for commercial relationships with the continent. They colonized both islands during the Sixteenth Century and it became a cornerstone of their slave trade. The nation has remained a relatively stable democracy much of the time since gaining independence in 1975. It was also one of the smallest African nations with only a couple of hundred thousand citizens.

Príncipe (map) was much smaller than São Tomé and it had only about five thousand residents. The name came from the Portuguese word for Prince, specifically Prince Afonso, son of King John II, named for his grandfather King Afonso V. He was the heir apparent to the Portuguese throne although he didn’t live long enough to become its king. Prince Afonso died in a horse riding accident in 1491, still in his teens.


Trinidad and Tobago


Great Courland Bay after the storm
Great Courland Bay after the storm by Celeste Layne on Flickr (cc)

It seemed odd that FOUR of the nations included on the list had been Caribbean colonies of the British Empire: Antigua and Barbuda; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; and finally Trinidad and Tobago, rounding out the set. Clearly the British found it convenient to cluster island possessions into groups so they could be governed more efficiently.

Trinidad and Tobago took a different twist. Both islands had been well established with their own distinctive histories, just off the northern coast Venezuela. Trinidad had roots as a Spanish colony before Britain seized the island in the late Eighteenth Century. Tobago, on the other hand, traded hands almost more times than could be counted. Colonies on Tobago were established, captured, destroyed, rebuilt, and recaptured with alarming frequency, by several different European powers including Spain, England, France and the Netherlands. There was also another player, one I never knew about, the Courlanders. Often it was the Dutch and Courlanders who tussled over Tobago.

The Courlanders came from the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, an area now found in Latvia (map). They seemed like an unlikely power, and yet the Courlanders maintained a great merchant fleet that sailed around the world. The Duchy traded extensively in the New World too. Tobago was their attempt to establish a formal colony in the Caribbean. They tried numerous times and ultimately failed along a section of the island that bears its name, Great Courland Bay (map).

Tobago eventually got grafted to Trinidad only because of economic reasons. The British Empire site explained:

The 1880s was to confirm that the old plantocracy was indeed in trouble. The price of sugar had continued to drop… 1884 shocked the economy of the island when its largest employer and landowner ceased trading… The British sought to ameliorate the situation by administratively joining Tobago to the larger island of Trinidad to its south. This southwards move was intended to ensure that Britain avoided taking on debt and expensive provisions for Tobago and transferring the liability to the colony of Trinidad.

That arrangement remained in place when independence was granted in 1962, and it remains Trinidad and Tobago today.

On April 20, 2016 · 6 Comments
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