I’ve been experiencing an ongoing conundrum. I have a huge pile of potential topics to cover on the Twelve Mile Circle but I never get around to using them. I seem to get diverted to whatever topic happens to be on hand and I forget about those I’ve held in reserve. Occasionally I’ll take a look and somehow find excuses to tell myself, "not this time." The spreadsheet continues to grow.
A little pruning is in order. I dumped a bunch of topics I figured I’d never cover: maybe they would take too long to research; or maybe they didn’t have enough material to fill an entire article or maybe they were just plain stupid. I assigned a number to those that remained and used a random number generator to pick a value. That determined today’s topic. I think I might do this once a week until I get the reserve list into reasonable order again.
The website selected Random Number 51 which means I’ll try to figure out "cities or towns with the same name that are located farthest apart. "
Let’s start by examining the concept of farthest apart. I’ll need to find antipodes, those place on the globe that are exactly opposite of each other. These result in great circle distances of just about 20,000 kilometres, give-or-take. My goal will be to find places that share the same name with a minimum separation approaching 20,000 km as closely as possible. This limits the possibilities considerably. There aren’t very many places on earth where both ends of an antipode fall on dry land.
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license
It’s easy to narrow-down some possibilities. I figured there wouldn’t be much of an overlap in town names between China/Mongolia and Chile/Argentina, as an example, so I didn’t bother to look. I did note my earlier article that "Taiwan used to be called Formosa. The antipode for one small corner of the island falls in Argentina, in the province of Formosa." However, it doesn’t apply here because I’m looking for two cities or towns, not a former national name and a province.
I saw a few possibilities quickly. I focused my energy using the maxim, "the sun never sets on the British Empire" I also speculated that there could perhaps be some synergy between Spanish names used in the Philippines and Portuguese names used in Brazil, or a potential Dutch connection between Suriname and the Dutch East Indies. Those are for you. I focused on the sphere of British influence. New Zealand is close to being antipodal to the United Kingdom. Western Australia does the same with the eastern United States and various British-settled islands of the Caribbean. Those seemed like better bets.
The Encyclopedia of New Zealand didn’t offer much hope: "Direct borrowing of United Kingdom place names was uncommon." Uncommon didn’t mean impossible though, so I weeded through their examples and dumped them into a great circle distance calculator.
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I did search briefly for place names in New Zealand that seemed to have a Spanish influence without any luck. I figured I could do better by turning my attention to Australia. I struck gold.
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I know what you’re thinking. I’m cheating, right? A place called Cane in the U.S. Virgin Islands doesn’t even appear on Google Maps. Nonetheless it is a real place and I confirmed that it’s included in the US Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System. Maybe some enterprising reader could try another version of this game where the towns have to be home to more than 10,000 (or 100,000) residents.
I’m not saying 19,524 km is the farthest distance between two towns with the same name, just that it comes very close to the theoretical maximum. I’d be thrilled if someone could improve upon this result.
I received an email message from 12MC reader Andrew a few days ago. He said that he and a friend have been playing a game using Google Maps. The rules are simple: try to find the longest possible Google Maps route by providing only a starting and an ending point. Both points have to be place names, not lat/long coordinates. Also, results have to be the default Google routing (no fair adjusting the route manually by pulling it onto other roads to create artificial extensions).
The best example they’ve uncovered is Agulhas, South Africa to Pusat Serenti Pengerang, Malaysia. Here is the default route that Google suggests:
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This is an amazing distance of 30,160 kilometres (18,741 miles) that should take 17 days and 7 hours if undertaken as a continuous journey and everything goes perfectly. I’ll ignore the obvious obstacles posed by Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan for someone of my nationality. Sudan and Myanmar probably wouldn’t be a picnic either.
I played around with this but I couldn’t improve upon the result. The best alternative I generated was Agulhas, South Africa to Magadan, Russia (route map) at "only" 29,619 km (18,404 mi).
The northern tip of North America to the southern tip of South America might seem to like a legitimate candidate using the famous Pan American Highway. However, as odd as this might sound and even after more than a century of automobile road building efforts, the grids of the two continents do not connect. This is known as the Darién Gap. Roads simply do not penetrate this 160 km (99 mi) stretch of swampland and rainforest in Panama’s Darién Province. Nor is the distance likely to to be bridged anytime soon. There are serious environmental concerns within this unspoiled region. Road projects have been proposed in the past and they’ve all been rejected. Sure, a few expeditions on motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles have penetrated the gap. However, an average sane motorist would never attempt to recreate it.
I’m assuming that Andrew & friend have already picked-over the most likely alternatives. Nonetheless, go ahead and give it a shot and see if you can improve upon it.
I think South Africa to Malaysia is a perfectly legitimate route although some might quibble with step 245, "Take the Algier, AL to Marseille, FR ferry…" I’ll always take a ferry if I can find an opportunity. Nonetheless, let’s take this as an opportunity to try a variation on this game. What is the longest route Google suggests that remains completely upon existing road surface without resorting to a ferry?
The best I could do was Agulhas, South Africa to Aswan, Egypt.
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Google suggest 17,661 km (10,974 mi) in an unusual reverse question-mark shape. The funny thing with this one is that there appears to be a route through Sudan along the seacoast that bypasses the loop through the Sahara. Nonetheless, that’s how Google routes it by default and that’s the result I’ll report. The other fascinating feature is that I can’t get anything to route through Israel. Ask Google to take one from Agulhas, South Africa to Amman, Jordan and it will return a message that says, "We could not calculate directions…"
The best non-ferry route I could find for Eurasia was Brest, France to Pusat Serenti Pengerang, Malaysia at 15,196 km (9,442 mi) (route map). For North America it was Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the previously-mentioned Darién Gap at 11,849 km (7,363 mi). I didn’t find much in South America. Google Maps still doesn’t provide very comprehensive routing down there.
There are plenty of other variations one could attempt. The longest route I found for the United States was Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida at 8,827 km (5,485 mi) (route map), albeit much of the path goes through Canada. Theoretically one can complete that journey in 4 days 15 hours. For Canada, how about Inuvik, NT to Labrador City, NL (route map) at 8,087 km (5,025 mi)? — although that does includes a ferry.
I’ll leave this game for now with one more example, the longest road distance I could find from my hometown.
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Google suggest 7,485 km (4,651 mi) between Washington, DC and Prudhoe Bay.
Go ahead and have some fun with this and be sure to post your map links or embedded images in the comments. Thank you Andrew for the great suggestion! I’ve had a lot of fun with this over the last few days.
Something has to be the smallest. Most of us, or at least those of us in the 12MC audience from the United States, probably know that Rhode Island claims this honor for the U.S. Exactly how small is it though? One hears frequently of individual counties within the United States as being "larger than Rhode Island." It’s certainly true but is it a rare occurrence or is it something altogether more common?
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Little Rhody makes up for its diminutive size by having a much longer official name though, "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." Some might consider that a bit of a Napoleon Complex although the truth is rather mundane. The name represents the merger of two predecessor colonies, so take heart that Rhode Island could have been even smaller than it is today. Rhode Island formed after the banishment of Roger Williams from the Massachusetts Bay Colony due to religious differences in 1636. Tucked into a corner as it were, Rhode Island didn’t have the same opportunities to gather or solidify territorial claims further west. It became even more of an outlier as the new nation formed and expanded to the Pacific.
Rhode Island encompasses 1,214 square miles (3,144 square kilometers). Actually, I’m being generous since that calculation also includes its territorial waters. If one were to examine only dry land it would cover only 1,045 square miles. However, for the sake of comparison, I wanted to give Rhode Island the full benefit of the doubt and chose to inflate its size to the largest plausible number.
From there it was pretty easy to consult the U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder where I downloaded square mileage and population numbers for each of the 3,143 individual counties and county-equivalents. I knew Rhode Island was small but I didn’t realize just how small it was until I calculated the results and created a map. There are an astounding 504 counties in the U.S. that are larger than Rhode Island. That total would jump to 622 counties if I considered only Rhode Island’s dry land.
Rhode Island — including its territorial waters — is smaller than each of the counties marked in red. Practically every county west of the Great Plains is larger. There are others scattered around the eastern half of the nation including one that actually borders on Rhode Island itself: Worcester County, Massachusetts (map).
I’ve not calculated this as a percentage of the overall United States landmass although it’s safe to say it’s considerable. Eyeballing it I’d conclude the larger counties cover somewhere between a third to a half of the Lower 48 states. Throw in Alaska where only a tiny handful of boroughs are smaller than Rhode Island, and I’ll bet it represents at least half of all U.S. acreage.
You can open that image within another tab or window if you’d like to take a closer look. I’ve shrunk it down to fit into the size limitations of this article even though the underlying graphics file is considerably larger.
This got me thinking about "Alternate Rhode Islands." Surely, the preponderance of larger counties contain thousands of empty acres with nary a soul living amongst them. It’s unfair to compare Kenedy County, Texas and its 416 residents (which we’ve discussed before) to Rhode Island’s population of 1,052,567, as an example. Let’s set those sparsely-settled counties aside.
I still felt that there were probably a decent set of counties both larger than Rhode Island and greater in population. A quick data sort revealed a dozen instances. Each of these could easily become a standalone state based upon Rhode Island criteria. I’ve also proposed a potential capital city for each of these fictional states:
|Potential State …
||Derived from …
||Capital City …
||West Palm Beach
Additionally, I could add a couple of counties that are " near misses" with populations just below Rhode Island: Pima County, Arizona and Fresno County, California.
I then added a final dimension in an attempt to determine which of these counties were most like Rhode Island in terms of population density. Rhode Island has about 867 people per square mile. Some of the counties had considerably greater population densities. Los Angeles and Harris both had nearly triple the density of Rhode Island. Imagine the behemoth of a state either one of those could become should they ever split away.
The best Rhode Island proxies are King and San Diego. King is probably the better example. It comes quite close to being of similar size and population to Rhode Island. I’ll bear that in mind the next time I’m in Seattle. It could legitimately anchor another Rhode Island-like state.