Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah

On December 10, 2014 · 0 Comments

I pondered Zip Lines recently. Actually I’d been researching postal ZIP Codes and wondering how I’d missed the 50th Birthday of the system in 2013. Then I noticed an auto-suggestion for Zip Lines and it zipped me straight down a protracted tangent metaphorically speaking. I decided to find the longest Zip Line in the world, a feat more difficult than I anticipated. I turned to several sources including Zip Line Rider.

That’s when I learned a dark secret. Companies that provided these services were marketeers as much as entertainers. They wanted to find creative ways to attract riders to their often remote, sometimes nearly inaccessible locations. There were plenty of financial incentives to exaggerate their achievements. Who was going to be able to pull out a tape measure and test their claims? These competitors also seemed to be locked in a protracted arms race to construct the longest ride. One company would grab the title only to have another eclipse its achievement a few months later, except the original group that previously held the crown would continue to claim it anyway. I did uncover what I believed were some of the longer Zip Lines on the planet bearing in mind the caveat of inflated superlatives. Actual results, and of course future results, will vary.


ZipRider®, Parque De Aventura, Copper Canyon, México



The longest Zip Line uncovered during my investigation pointed towards Parque De Aventura within Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It was operated by ZipRider®, a company with locations in several parts of the world. The total length claimed at Copper Canyon extended to 2,515 metres (8,350 feet). Most people arrive at Parque De Aventura by train using the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico, better known as the Chepe for its abbreviation CHP. The "El Divisadero" station (map) unloaded passengers directly on the canyon rim at Parque De Aventura.

Copper Canyon would be an amazing place to visit even on its own and it did attract a lot of tourists who were not there for Zip Lining. The canyon was larger than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and even deeper in places.


Flying in the Sky; Rocca Massima, Italy



Originally I though Italy’s Flying in the Sky facility might have been the longest Zip Line available until I came across Copper Canyon, so let’s call it the longest in Europe instead (at least for today). It was nearly as long at an impressive 2,213 m (7,260 ft). However it was considerably faster with a top speed of 140 kph (87 mph) vs. 105 kph (65 mph). This was probably because Flying in the Sky harnessed people vertically rather than in a sitting position. Riders screamed down the slope of Monte S. Angelo near the community of Rocca Massima (map), southeast of Rome.

The Italian websites didn’t translate well. From what I could gather, several local citizens and entrepreneurs banded together to find a way to attract visitors, especially younger ones, to come to their rural enclave. A Zip Line seemed to be a natural fit.


The Eye of the Jaguar; Urubamba Valley, Perú



Easy come, easy go. The Eye of the Jaguar in Perú was once the consensus longest Zip Line (map). However while impressive at 2,130 m (6,990 ft), it continued to tumble down the list as new facilities opened in other parts of the world. Maybe it’s safe to call it the longest Zip Line in South America. It flies across the Urubamba Valley (Sacred Valley). There would be many reasons to visit the area in addition to simply seeking thrills. This was where the ancient Inca Empire held its firmest control. Their capital city Cusco was located nearby as was the renowned Machu Picchu.


ZipRider®, Icy Strait Point, Alaska, USA



The longest ride I found in the United States was another facility operated by ZipRider®. This one was located at Icy Strait Point, Alaska, just outside of Hoonah. It was an obscure spot on Chichagof Island about fifty miles from Juneau (map). That would seem to be an odd choice for a playground until one considered its placement along the Inside Passage, a popular route for summertime cruise ships. That was their prime audience, too. Their website noted that the facility opened only on days when ships landed at Hoonah. Those not booking admission through a cruise line would be accommodated only on a space-available basis, at the back of the line behind all of the cruise ship passengers.

This was another sit-down line. Perhaps that was why Icy Strait, while an imposing 1,675 m (5,495 ft) in length had a top speed of "only" 105 kph (65 mph). On the other hand, it featured six side-by-side lines so an entire family of cruisers could experience the thrills all at the same time.


Flying Fox; Taihape, New Zealand



I gave an honorable mention to Flying Fox Zipline at Mokai Gravity Canyon (map), in New Zealand. It wasn’t the longest by any stretch, reaching only 1,200 m (3,939 ft). However it was the fastest example that I found. It hit top speeds reputed to be around 160 kph (100 mph)! When one considers that terminal velocity for a human — the top speed of a person in a free fall — was something like 200 kmh (120 mph), the speed of Flying Fox seemed astounding. I can’t imagine Zip Lines getting much faster although I’m willing to bet someone will try.

Few Remain

On December 7, 2014 · 1 Comments

It had been a long time since I checked the visitor logs for new readers arriving from countries that had not ever landed on the pages of Twelve Mile Circle previously. I’d pretty much given up on that specific pursuit after tracking seven years of 12MC, figuring I’d already received what I was going to get. Nonetheless I checked the other day, the first time in more than a year, and I found a few new arrivals. That surprised me. Truly, I think this might have to be the last roundup of national representation though. The visitor map has only tiny holes remaining in it from places that are quite likely to be long-term holdouts like North Korea and such.

Niger


Niamey, Niger
Niamey, Niger by LenDog64, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Niger, a landlocked nation in north Africa that uses French and indigenous languages, wouldn’t seem to be high on the list of places that might be interested in content from Twelve Mile Circle. That was indeed the case. Its seventeen million citizens had bigger concerns than an English-language website focused on geo-oddities: "Niger ranked 186th and last in the 2013 Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme, with 76 per cent of its people living on less than US$2 a day." Nonetheless, after several years of tracking traffic, I found someone living in Niger who had a burning question. He or she sought information about the Lowest Elevation in Nepal and it filled a big blank spot on my map. Now if I could just convince someone to arrive from the Central African Republic…


Republic of the Congo


08 Kongo - 463
08 Kongo – 463 by Prince Tanzi, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

I had a similar issue with the Republic of the Congo. On the other hand, I’ve never had any problem attracting visitors from its confusingly-named neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). They had some similarities both with their geographic placement and with their use of French as an official language (albeit one a former colony of France and the other of Belgium). Their primary divergence for my purposes likely occurred due to population. The Republic had fewer than five million citizens while the Democratic Republic had closer to seventy-five million. That right there would seem to explain why I’ve hosted 9 visitors from the DRC over the history of the site and, well, now one visitor from the Republic. That person landed on a very logical page about National Capitals Closest Together. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo are one of the better pairs of cities that address the question. This seemed to also prove the point that I’ll get a visitor from an obscure location eventually if I write about it.

Maybe I should write something about Pyongyang. Then again, maybe I should just let that visit from North Korea arrive organically.


Montserrat


Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat Island (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/11/09)
Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat Island (NASA, International Space Station Science, 10/11/09)
by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The other two locations hailed from a completely different part of the world, the Caribbean. Twelve Mile Circle actually does quite well with visitors from the tropical islands there because of my Caribbean Ferries page. Not only do I get a lot of visitors from cold weather countries seeking potential vacation ideas, I capture a lot of traffic directly from people already on the islands. I’d never had a visitor from Montserrat though. That was due to a geological quirk, I am sure. This British Overseas Territory was rocked by the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano in 1995. It destroyed the capital city, Plymouth, and forced most of the island’s inhabitants to flee. Only a few thousand people live on Montserrat today and much of the island remains off limits as part of a strictly enforced "exclusion zone." The volcano remains active and it’s a constant threat.


Saint Barthélemy


Toiny, St. Barth
Toiny, St. Barth by Charlievdb, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I’m not sure what happened with St. Barths. I’d never had a visitor from there before and then I recorded 14 visitors over the last year. This was likely a delayed counting issue arising from changes in political status. Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin were part of the French overseas department of Guadeloupe until 2007. The two are now separate overseas collectives of France and thus are tracked as distinct entities by Google Analytics. Oddly, I’ve been recording Saint Martin hits for years and St. Barths only recently. I guess it took Google awhile to get its act together on that subject. Of course I’m sure I’d been receiving traffic from St. Barths all along although it was aggregated within Guadeloupe.


I May Have to Give Up on Antarctica

The greatest strength of 12MC is the collective knowledge and connections of its readers. Through all of you, I’ve been able to establish connections with people who have been stationed in Antarctica. It appears that telecommunications to and from Antarctica register as traffic from whatever host nation provides the link (e.g., New Zealand, Argentina). Even though Antarctica has its own country code top-level domain (.aq) it’s probably not going to show up that way in my reader logs, which is unfortunate.

Can’t Get Enough of Kossuth

On November 30, 2014 · 0 Comments

The formation and expansion of Kossuth County in the 1850’s discussed in The Odd Case of Iowa’s Largest County pointed to a simple question. Who was Kossuth? That string led me to Lajos Kossuth. I was wholly unfamiliar with the name and I wondered why a county deep within the American heartland would honor a former Governor-President of Hungary. This area wasn’t settled by Hungarians.


Kossuth Lajos Prinzhofer
Lajos Kossuth via Wikimedia Commons, in the Public Domain

Iowa wasn’t the only Kossuth reference in the United States either. A quick check of the Geographic Names Information System uncovered additional populated places named for him in Indiana, Mississippi, Maine, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, plus a Kossuthville in Florida. The geographic placement implied a couple of different thoughts since the Kossuth tribute phenomenon seemed to be confined primarily the eastern half of the U.S. First, the designations began in close proximity to Kossuth’s zenith at the midpoint of the 19th Century (before the western states became highly organized and started naming everything) and second, his place in the American memory must have been brief (because he was overlooked when the western states started naming things in earnest).



Budapest Street Directory #14: Lajos Kossuth/Kossuth Lajos utca
Budapest Street Directory #14: Lajos Kossuth/Kossuth Lajos utca by Istvan, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Lajos Kossuth de Udvard et Kossuthfalva was and continues to be a revered figure in Hungary. He sought an independent Hungary and for a brief period he actually achieved it. Hungary was under the control of Austria’s Habsburg Empire. Civil dissatisfaction and unrest had been ongoing for a number of years and finally sparked a revolution in 1848. Hungary declared its independence in 1849 with Kossuth serving as the Governor-President. It wouldn’t last long. The Austrian army teamed with Russia and invaded later that year. Kossuth was forced into exile where he continued to advocate tirelessly for Hungarian independence until he passed away in 1894.

There are tributes to Lajos Kossuth all over Hungary today, including his likeness within in the statue complex at Hősök tere (Heroes’ Square), a major plaza in Budapest. Street View gives Hősök tere decent coverage if you want a more expansive understanding of its geographic context. Certainly, one would expect numerous memorials and commemorations in Hungary. That didn’t explain his prevalence in the United States.



P20021116_105453_0028
Statue of Lojas Kossuth by warsze, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

There were distinct elements of Kossuth’s struggle that resonated with audiences far beyond Hungary, including those throughout Europe hoping to establish democracies as well as within the U.S. where a representative government had already been achieved. Kossuth drew inspiration from the American Revolution and in turn many citizens of the United States viewed Kossuth as carrying that same banner, an instrument for spreading American ideals to other parts of the world. It helped that Kossuth proved very adept at publicizing his cause through his skills as a prolific orator, writer and media sensation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Statues of Kossuth were raised in the United States too, such as the one in New York City, above (map).



Portrait with Kossuth
Portrait with Kossuth by Roman Boed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Lajos Kossuth traveled widely after his exile to promote Hungarian independence, including a wildly-successful tour through the United States. As described by The Hill after the dedication of a bust of Kossuth placed in the U.S. Capitol building in 1990,

This Hungarian statesman’s presence in the U.S. Capitol might seem arbitrary, but in fact Kossuth’s life was intertwined with the life — and values — of American democracy… The U.S. assisted him in traveling to America, where he ultimately spent one year. Kossuth became one of the first foreign statesmen to address a joint session of Congress, speaking to the body in 1852 about democracy… Moreover, throughout his year in the U.S., Kossuth made more than 300 speeches to thousands of American citizens. It is estimated that more than half of the nation’s population at the time heard him speak

Sorry about the random person appearing in the photo, however, there weren’t any other decent photos available and one has to use what one can find. This much later tribute to Kossuth served a means to regenerate awareness of his deeds that have largely faded from collective consciousness in the United States. It was commissioned by The American Hungarian Federation and sponsored for placement by Rep. Tom Lantos, a native of Hungary and the only member of the U.S. Congress who was also a Holocaust Survivor.

Kossuth may have been largely forgotten in the United States, however his name would have been well-known in the 1850’s. Creating and naming Kossuth County in Iowa in 1851 would have been viewed as a popular and logical choice associated with notions of freedom and independence.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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