I returned recently from another one of my hurried trips, this one to the New England states. All of them. Plus New York for good measure. Those of you who followed Twelve Mile Circle’s Twitter account knew that already. The rest of the 12MC audience may not have noticed anything at all. I wrote a bunch of articles in advance and they posted automatically, quite happily, as I cruised backcountry roads for a week.
Once again, I chauffeured my favorite runner through small town America as part of a Mainly Marathons event, this time to the New England Series. This group catered specifically to people hoping to run marathons or half-marathons in all 50 U.S. States (my favorite runner focused on half-marathons), stringing together back-to-back races. The 2016 New England series stopped at Sanford, Maine; Greenfield, New Hampshire; Springfield, Vermont; Northfield, Massachusetts; Coventry, Rhode Island; Simsbury, Connecticut; and New Paltz, New York, on succeeding days, May 15-21. A race happened at dawn, then the circus packed up and moved on to the next state, and the cycle repeated itself. Seven races, seven states, seven days.
This was the fourth time I’ve attended a Mainly Marathons series, with my runner completing the Dust Bowl, Riverboat and Center of the Nation series previously. That was a lot of states. With New England now done, I’ve attended their races in obscure corners of 23 different states. Recently the Mainly Marathons group added a five kilometre option mostly for those of us who attended along with the longer-distance runners. I actually ran the 5K each day mostly so I wouldn’t stand next to the snack table for a couple of hours and stuff myself silly. I don’t have any intention of moving up to the half-marathon or marathon distances though. 5K each day was plenty enough for me.
We made time, as usual, for touring during the afternoon as we traveled between races. I’ll get into all of the details in the next batch of articles. I thought I’d start things off more scattershot with a few signs I noticed along the way. I’ve had a thing for unusual signs and this trip was no different. Ordinarily I’d present these at the end of a series although I thought I’d use them to whet the 12MC appetite. Think of today as an appetizer.
Welcome to Vermont
Surprisingly, I stopped at only one state border to record my crossing. This one occurred on U.S. Route 5 / Vermont Route 11 just after we passed the Connecticut River, as we left New Hampshire (map). This photo was particularly notable for my lack of skills as I managed to capture the top of the side-view mirror at the bottom of the image. That happened because I was too lazy to get out of the car when we stopped, and too incompetent to hold a camera high enough to get a decent picture. That was also the only photo I took of the car, now as I considered it, although I probably should have taken more. We rented a compact car because it was just the two of us. We figured it would be fine and we’d save some gas money. The rental agency must have given away all of the compacts on the lot though, because we ended up with a black, two-door Ford Mustang with only 500 miles on the odometer. We cruised around New England for a week in a sweet ride.
Think of the Children
I still wasn’t sure why the Toonerville Trail in Springfield, Vermont (map) felt it was necessary to ask us politely with a please and a thank you to think about our children in ALL CAPS. So I thought of the children. Unfortunately my only thought was a sign invoking the overworn and pandering expression "Think of the Children."
While fixated on thinking of the children, or so I thought, I began to notice strange minivan school buses in multiple New England states. I’d never seen anything like them before. Were they used by private schools with far-flung pupils? Or for select children in special programs? I could definitely consider a role for these non-bus buses, and wondered if this was a common solution in New England (or elsewhere) or if I’d focused on them simply because they were unusual. I spotted this example on Interstate 91 near Deerfield, Massachusetts (map).
Also, before anyone becomes too concerned with my driving skills and posts a disapproving comment, let it be known that my passenger took this photograph. I kept both hands on the wheel and maintained a safe distance.
I’ve often featured street names on 12MC, the more unusual the better. Generally I’ve only observed them on a map. That’s why I was so pleased to find Marginal Way in Sanford, Maine in the wild (map). It was right on the race course! Runners actually plodded directly down Marginal Way. I wondered about the name. How should a homeowner feel about property considered marginal? Would it affect its resale value? It ran along the edge — maybe the margin? — of a nearby pond. Was that how it earned its weird designation?
This was an instance where I thought a sign might be overkill. Certainly people have jumped from bridges, although generally very high ones and often quite tragically. That wouldn’t be the case here at the Henniker Bridge in Henniker, New Hampshire (map), only a few feet above the water. This was a covered bridge of recent vintage constructed as a pedestrian pathway over the Contoocook River. It served as a footpath between the main campus of New England College and various athletic fields.
College students do seem to get into all kinds of antics. Maybe the sign was necessary after all.
The driving force, the entire premise of this series, were races held in different states. Travel distances ranked higher in important than sightseeing for most participants. As a result, races generally fell within rural, out-of-the-way places near state borders. Sometimes this took us onto America’s Byways, for example the beautiful Connecticut River Byway extending through several states including this spot in Northfield, Massachusetts (map). We ended up putting a little over 2,000 miles (3,200 km) on that Mustang, many of them on winding country roads through quiet scenery.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twelve Mile Circle decided to stick with the aqueduct theme once again after the recent discussion of England’s Barton Swing Aqueduct. There were other structures, equally fascinating in their own distinct ways. Some were large, some were unusual, and some offered elements of both. Many of those innovative structures seemed to concentrate in western Europe, an obvious leader in navigable inland waterways.
Aqueducts designed simply to move water were interesting by themselves, however I was considerably more fascinating by those designed to carry boat traffic above the surrounding terrain, akin to a bridge for boats for a lack of better words. For more than a century the title of longest navigable aqueduct had been held by the Briare aqueduct of the Canal latéral à la Loire, the canal over the Loire River in France (map). It was a magnificent masonry structure with a steel trough stretching 662 metres (0.4 miles). Then came Germany’s Kanalbrücke Magdeburg, or Magdeburg Water Bridge in 2003 (map), considerably longer at 918 metres (0.6 miles) albeit more utilitarian than beautiful.
In what’s being hailed as an engineering masterpiece, two important German shipping canals have been joined by a giant kilometer-long concrete bathtub… The water bridge will enable river barges to avoid a lengthy and sometimes unreliable passage along the Elbe. Shipping can often come to a halt on the stretch if the river’s water mark falls to unacceptably low levels.
The Magdeburg Water Bridge provided a vital direct connection between two separate canals on either side of the River Elbe, the Mittellandkanal and the Elbe-Havel, essentially connecting eastern and western Germany directly by water as well as to nations beyond its borders from Poland to France and the Benelux region. The possibility had been envisioned at the turn of the last century when construction first began. Two World Wars and the politics of a protracted Cold War completely halted the dream. German reunification provided an impetus to renew and complete this effort, nearly a century after initial construction first began. Now it’s a reality.
Belgium’s Port of Antwerp locked-up (pun alert) the title for the world’s largest canal lock. It handled 200 million tonnes of cargo in 2015, enough to make Antwerp one of the Top 20 busiest ports in the world, and it "aims to keep growing," Locks were necessary to protect the port from strong tidal actions pushing in and out along the Scheldt River. The locks kept water levels constant on the port side of the structures. Oceangoing cargo container ships kept growing larger so the locks had to follow suit in a continual game of catch-up. They became truly mammoth.
Antwerp first claimed the largest lock title with the construction of the Zandvlietsluis, or Zandvliet Lock, in 1967. That remained sufficient for a solid three decades until a new class of larger ships threatened to diminish the port’s usefulness. The port authority responded by opening a new lock parallel to the Zandvlietsluis in 1989, the Berendrechtsluis, or Berendrecht Lock. It was great enough to accommodate Post Panamax container ships (Panamax being an official set of dimensions for the largest ships that can navigate the Panama Canal). The Berendrecht Lock, currently the largest lock in the world, is 68 metres (223 ft) wide, about 11 metres (36 ft) wider than the Zandvliet Lock.
Right on schedule, however, container ships grew once again to an even larger behemoth class called New Panamax. Elsewhere in the Port of Antwerp, engineers are building the Deurganckdoksluis, or the Deurganckdok Lock. It will encompass the same length and width as Berendrecht, and in addition it will be four metres deeper to accommodate the extra draft of New Panamax ships. The Deurganckdok Lock was undergoing testing at the time I posted this article and was expected to open in April 2016.
Obviously Twelve Mile Circle fixated on superlatives like the world’s longest navigable aqueduct and the world’s largest lock, although the real reason for this article centered on a combination of the two: the worlds longest/largest aqueduct with a built-in lock. Actually there was but a single example of such an unusual structure currently, the Netherlands’ Naviduct. The concept was so new that the term stood on its own. THE Naviduct.
The whole situation seemed odd. The Netherlands was renowned for land reclamation and that figured indirectly into the creation of the Naviduct. The nation planned to drain a 410 km2 (158 mi2) polder — about the size of the Caribbean island of Barbados — to be called Markerwaard. It went so far as to create a 27 km (17 mi) dike between Enkhuizen and Lelystad that it completed in 1975 and called the Houtribdijk, resulting in two large lakes, Markermeer and IJsselmeer. However the project stalled and the Netherlands abandoned its plan altogether a couple of decades later. Nonetheless the nation still had a long dike which, by that time, carried the new N302 Motorway that separated two large lakes. Authorities also built a lock between the two lakes, a necessary step because prevailing winds affected the lakes differently even though they were at the same elevation. However ships and cars couldn’t cross the point at the same time. It created a transportation mess.
Thus, Dutch officials faces simultaneous dilemmas of their own creation: a problematic connection between two bodies of water; and a transportation bottleneck impacting maritime and automotive traffic. They responded by designing an aqueduct with a lock built within it, the Naviduct. Motorway traffic flowed below the aqueduct while ships sailed across it. I don’t know why they didn’t simply build either a tunnel or a bridge for the motorway. Regardless, their preferred solution was infinitely more interesting and it went into service in 2003. The structure remains the only Naviduct for the time being although it has been considered as a possible solution for other locations in the Netherlands. It would be hard to imagine its usefulness elsewhere since few other places face the same set of extreme geographic challenges. We should simply enjoy its existence.