Revisiting Street View Extremes

On August 31, 2014 · 0 Comments

Time moves forward, an unstoppable force. We all must face that awful truth as we age. On a happier thought, that allowed me to revisit a Twelve Mile Circle article from nearly five years ago and see if it remained true. I concluded in Streetview Beats a Deadhorse from February 2010 that the northernmost Google Street View image correlated to a spot at 70.242777 degrees north latitude in the North Slope Borough of Alaska. The Dalton Highway went no farther, terminating at a restricted checkpoint of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

Forward to today, the final day of meteorological summer for the northern hemisphere 2014. Had the honorific shifted? I established simple rules and expanded the search to all four cardinal directions. The site must have been visited by the Street View car, not by someone aboard a ship or carrying a camera backpack. That eliminated Antarctica, Svalbard and various isolated South Pacific islands.


Nordkapp, Norway


North Cape
North Cape by Tor Even Mathisen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The northernmost crown had been stolen! It now shifted to 71.169475 degrees north, where the Street View car reached Nordkapp, Norway. All end-of-the–line Street View images were rather boring so I posted photos from Flickr instead. I still included a link for each entry for curious 12MC audience members though (for example, Street View).

Apparently many people were drawn to Nordkapp as a tourist attraction especially in recent decades because it was considered the northernmost point in Europe. I wouldn’t have the heart to tell them they were all wrong. I think it would be legitimate to say, in their defense, that it was as far north in Europe as anyone could conveniently drive a car. European route E69 provided a well-maintained road right up to the the Nordkapp doorstep where tourists could disembark at a newly refurbished visitors center and snap lots of photos memorializing their accomplishment.

Interestingly, "Nordkapp is a Norwegianized form of the English language name North Cape." A 16th century English explorer searching for a safe route through the Northeast Passage named it, and the designation stuck.


Cochrane, Chile


Casa mate
Casa mate by Claudio Jofré Larenas, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Cochrane, Chile, extended to -47.258816 degrees south and claimed the southernmost image title (Street View). I fully expect that position to change someday. It’s only a matter of time before Street View arrives in Ushuaia, Argentina or Cabo de Hornos, Chile along the Beagle Channel of Tierra del Fuego (map). For today at least, Cochrane held the title.

Cochrane also seemed an odd choice for a place named in a Spanish-speaking area, and like Nordkapp demonstrated that British ship captains sailed far and wide across the planet. Cochrane referred to Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, from Scotland. He sailed relentlessly during the first part of the 19th century, experiencing one adventure after another, and getting into and out of trouble repeatedly. He was an archetype of the swashbuckler. Numerous authors drew upon Cochrane as inspiration for their fictional characters thereafter. Cochrane, the town, honored its namesake’s role as Admiral of the Chilean Navy, a position he also filled later for Brazil and Greece in addition to his years of service in the British Navy. The guy got around.

We should be thankful that the Street View car made it down to Cochrane. The Chilean southern highway (Carretera Austral) didn’t connect Cochrane and other southern towns to the larger road network until 1988, and even today "the trip involves gravel, winding curves and unpredictable weather."

The biggest tourist attraction — other than the abundant natural scenery of various large parks in the area — seemed to be the oddly-shaped Casa Mate.


East Cape, New Zealand


east cape lighthouse
east cape lighthouse by Christopher
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Easternmost and westernmost didn’t have the same appeal during my review because of the arbitrary nature of a prime meridian. I won’t spend as much time discussing them. A prime meridian could exist anywhere. Once again British sea power influenced events and Greenwich became a worldwide standard. Nonetheless I examined the situation for the sake of completeness.

East Cape, the easternmost point of New Zealand’s primary islands, had Street View coverage up to the farthest point an automobile could travel (Street View). It would be difficult to ever improve upon 178.544347 degrees east. Images extended all the way to a car park where visitors could then hike to the actual point.

A 22km, mostly unsealed, no-exit road from Te Araroa takes you to the most Easterly point on mainland New Zealand. The historic East Cape lighthouse stands 154 metres above sea level and is accessed by a walking track of some 700 steps – worth it for the views at the top.


Mana Point, Kauai, Hawaii, USA


201401_Kauai-PMRF-Barking-Sands_401
201401_Kauai-PMRF-Barking-Sands_401 by Thad Westhusing, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Street View provided extensive coverage of the Hawaiian islands so it was only a matter of finding the westernmost image on the westernmost major island, Kauai. I noticed images from minor outlying islands along the archipelago, however, those didn’t involve automobiles or road networks so I discarded them. I settled on Mana Point on Kauai at 159.779397 degrees west (Street View).

The area was known for two things: surfing and missiles. It was the site of Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands:

…the world’s largest instrumented multi-environmental range capable of supported surface, subsurface, air, and space operations simultaneously. There are over 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace.

The updated Street View extremes delivered viewers to some interesting places. I wonder where they will lead another five years from now?

Cactus

On August 14, 2014 · 3 Comments

The previous article about Spanish punctuation embedded in various place names in the United States made my mind wander to the desert southwest, which led me down a mental tangent related to cacti for some unknown reason. As I daydreamed, I considered, perhaps I should examine places named cactus. There weren’t many, and even the larger ones seemed rather obscure and perhaps even a tad unusual just as we like it here on Twelve Mile Circle.

Cactus, Texas



How many towns had their own signature song? Large cities often attracted musical attention although the level of interest generally waned proportionally farther down the population tally. Yet, Waylon Jennings recorded "Cactus Texas" in 1996. Why Cactus? Maybe for the same reason the name attracted me; I thought of tumbleweeds and dust. Only an overlooked community on an arid plain could ever do justice to the Cactus name. Feel free to turn the music on in the background as I take a look around town.

The Handbook of Texas from the Texas State Historical Association included an entry on this particular Cactus (map).

It began as a company town to produce ammunition for World War II. The Cactus Ordnance Works, one of the largest plants in the county, was established there as a government project by the Chemical Construction Company in May 1942… the cactus and other prickly plants were cleared, and huge dormitories were hastily erected to house construction workers.

Cactus fared worse after the war although various companies continued to produce a range of chemicals at the old ordnance works until the early 1980′s. The population shrank to a few hundred people for a time although it rebounded to about 3,200 residents — larger than ever — by the 2010 Census.


Cactus Springs, Nevada


The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet
The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet by Chris M Morris, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Cactus Springs (map) could be considered just another isolated settlement in an otherwise empty desert except for The Temple of Goddess Spirituality Dedicated to Sekhmet. It sprang from the creativity of a single individual, Genevieve Vaughn,

Highway 95 runs down the middle of the flat Mojave Desert valley in Nevada. Driving east from Beatty, the tiny oasis of Cactus Springs is the first inhabitable spot for sixty miles. It was at this site in 1993 that I dedicated a temple to the Goddess Sekhmet. I feel blessed to be able to give a gift to a goddess who for centuries has not had temples built in her honor.

The full account can be found at Herstory of Sekhmet Temple in Nevada.


Cactus Flat, South Dakota


Giant prairie dog, Ranch Store Gift Shop, Badlands, SD
Giant prairie dog, Ranch Store Gift Shop, Badlands, SD by Brian Butko, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Cactus Flat, spelled F-L-A-T according to the Geographic Names Information System, although frequently rendered in its plural form, clung to the edge of South Dakota’s Badlands. Places that survived out there often sustained themselves by finding a gimmick to attract tourists heading into the nearby park in the hallowed tradition of Wall Drug. Cactus Flat had its own scaled-down Wall Drug knock-off, The Ranch Store of the Badlands.

The feature event at The Ranch Store is the same as it was fifty years ago – a large prairie dog colony to the north of the store, where one can walk among the dogs and toss them a snack of unsalted peanuts. Standing fortress to the entire colony is, of course, the six-ton Prairie Dog.

Thus a giant prairie dog (map) came to define diminutive Cactus Flat.


Cactus Beach, South Australia



Cacti may be native to the Americas(¹) although an inconvenient geography couldn’t prevent the name from appearing in unexpected corners elsewhere. I found Cactus Beach (map) in South Australia. It was reputed to be one of the best surfing destinations available.

Cactus itself was actually called Point Sinclair and was given its current name by the first guys who drove up there, looking for surf. Well, when they first saw it, the surf was pretty poor and someone said, ‘this place is cactus!’ meaning no good and boy, how wrong they were, as Cactus is now regarded as one of the best breaks in Oz!

I’m almost afraid to mention Cactus Beach and let people know it exists. A recent news report said,

The waves at Cactus Beach were only discovered in the 1960s, but it has been a prickly issue ever since. Some locals have been trying to keep the secret to themselves. Directions are difficult to find, with signs pointing to the beach being scrubbed off and the more recently torn down.

So don’t go there to surf. Just note the succulents and move on.


(¹) Cacti are native to the Americas with the exception of a single species, Rhipsalis baccifera, more commonly called the Mistletoe Cactus. That’s your trivia for the day.

Geography

Turpan Depression

On August 10, 2014 · 1 Comments

Are you ready for another installment in my occasional series on lowpoints? I am.

Everyone always focuses on the greatest of mountains and the highest of elevations. Lowpoints need a little love too, especially those below sea level, and the further down the better. I turned my attention to China, a nation that does not receive nearly as much 12MC coverage as it deserves, and to its Turpan (Turfan) Depression in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The deepest spot on the Turpan Depression descended an impressive 154 metres (505 feet) below sea level, which made it perhaps the second, third or fourth lowest point of land on earth depending on the source consulted.


The Lowest Point on Chinese Land.jpg
The Lowest Point on Chinese Land” by KgbkgbkgbOwn work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.


The Chinese deserved credit for marking the spot rather distinctively. It might not be quite the tourist destination as Death Valley, however it seemed to have a lot more potential than Laguna del Carbón or Lac Assal. It is also located near a sizable city, Turpan, with more than a quarter of a million residents, and it’s already becoming an attraction for extreme sports.


Ancient city of Jiahoe
Ancient city of Jiahoe by Farrukh, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

The Turpan Depression exhibited history in abundance as a site along the famous Silk Road’s northern route. Dynasties came and fell over a couple of millennia as they sought to control trade at this pivotal oasis that later became the city of Turpan: Tang, Uyghur, and Moghul all spent time here. The nearby ancient city of Jiaohe dated to the earliest of those times around the same basic period as the Roman Empire, only to be destroyed later by Genghis Khan.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the city of Jiaohe is nearly 2,300 years old. Jiaohe was of great military significance as it was located directly in the path which at the time safely and conveniently connected the Orient to the Occident. Geographically Jiaohe city is located near the nexus of the Flame Mountain and the Salt Mountain, through which was the only course for trade exchanges and military movement. On the other side of the pass ancient cavalries could reach an oasis in the Turpan Basin.

Clearly, this lowpoint of China has potential as a premier tourist attraction in the desert.


Flaming Mountains
Flaming Mountains by momo, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

It is truly a desert too, and hot.

Turpan is not only special for its low altitude, but also for its strange climate. In summer, the temperature can reach as high as 47°C (117°F), while on the surface of the sand dunes, it may well be 82°C (180°F). It is no exaggeration to say that you can bake a cake in the hot sand. The average annual rainfall is little more than ten millimeters; sometimes there is not a drop of rain for ten months at a stretch.

The extreme lowpoint of the Turpan Depression can be found at a location known as Ayding Lake or Aydingkol Lake.



View Larger Map

As one might suspect, a gouge in the earth created by shearing land masses during continental drift might serve as an excellent basin to catch water. Ayding Lake was indeed an impressive body of water into the early part of the 20th Century. Its name derived from the Uygur word for Moonlight, "gaining the name for the lake water as bright and beautiful as moonlight."

Today it might be described better as a cautionary tale or an ecological disaster. People siphoned the waters of Ayding Lake primarily for agriculture. Now instead of a large lake "…you won’t see moonlit water. What you can see is perhaps dried mud and salt beds."

Geography

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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