Gibraltaresque

On May 21, 2017 · 0 Comments

I didn’t intent to feature Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. I talked about that one before. For example, a major road crossed its airport runway. Fun stuff!


The Rock of Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar. Photo by Stian Olsen on Flickr (cc)

One other little tidbit interested me too, its etymology. Gibraltar came from the name of an Arab or Berber military leader, a Muslim, who crossed the straight and invaded Visigothic Hispania sometime around the year 710. They called him Tariq ibn Ziyad and the place where he crossed into Europe became Jebel el Tarik, the mountain of Tarik. Somehow Spanish speakers converted Jebel el Tarik into Gibraltar.

Interesting tangent aside, I actually wanted to focus on places named Gibraltar other than the famous Gibraltar. Longtime Twelve Mile Circle readers probably noticed how one article often led to additional articles. That happened here too. Remember Borders of Lago de Maracaibo? Well, I noticed that the Sucre exclave in Venezuela’s Zulia state also contained a town called Gibraltar.


Gibraltar in Venezuela


Cristo Negro
Cristo Negro on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

Once this smallish town of 4,000 residents held an exalted position in Spain’s colonial dominion. The empire needed a trade route into the continental interior from the north. Lake Maracaibo provided a means to penetrate deep into South America from the proper direction. The southern tip of the lake offered the nearest access to the settlement of Mérida in the Andes Mountains. A harbor would be really useful right there, and that led to the founding of San Antonio de Gibraltar in 1592 (map). Spain sent Gonzalo Piña Ludueña to the New World to make it happen and he came from Gibraltar. Thus, he provided a name for the new port. Agricultural products could now be extracted from the area to help feed the rest of Spain’s Caribbean possessions.

That didn’t mean Gibraltar existed peacefully. Pirates attacked incessantly for much of the Seventeenth Century. They sacked and looted Gibraltar at least a half dozen times between 1642 and 1678.

Native inhabitants also took their toll on Gibraltar. They attacked several times, the worst occurring in 1600. In that raid they tried to burn a large crucifix hanging in the local church. It would not burn and it became a revered object, the Cristo Negro (Black Christ) of Gibraltar. Officials moved their relic to Maracaibo for safekeeping until Gibraltar could be rebuilt. Unfortunately for Gibraltar, the residents of Maracaibo took a liking to the Cristo Negro and didn’t want to return it. Then the local council decided on a solution. They placed the crucifix on a boat without a crew and let God’s will determine where it should go. The wind blew it back to Maracaibo where it remains in its cathedral to this day, now called the Cristo Negro de Maracaibo.


Gibraltar in Australia


Gibraltar Rocks
Gibraltar Rocks. Photo by jennofarc on Flickr (cc)

I saw Gibraltar in Australia too. First I noticed Gibraltar Peak near Canberra (map). I liked that it fell within the confines of the Australian Capital Territory. Nothing more. Lots of peaks in the ACT towered above its 1,038 metre (3,406 ft) summit. Given that, I wondered why they named it Gibraltar. It did include some cliffs and a geological feature called the "Gibraltar Rocks" near its summit. Maybe it had a slight resemblance to the original. I couldn’t tell. It seemed like a nice area to visit either way. Gibraltar and other parts of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve hosted tons of hiking and climbing trails.

Australia also contained an entire Gibraltar Range of mountains (map) in New South Wales within a national park of the same name. However none of the individual peaks appeared to be named Gibraltar, just the collective. The Gibraltar Range summit reached 1,106 metres (3,600 feet).

Other Gibraltar promontories existed elsewhere in Australia.


Gibraltar in Canada



The Geographic Board of Canada said that Alberta’s Gibraltar Mountain got its name because of its "fancied resemblance to the famous rock." It reached an altitude of 2,665 meters (8,743 feet), a part of the Canadian Rockies. The bivouac.com website included a photograph and offered additional information,

It was named in 1928 because some thought it resembled the Rock of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea. In the summer of 1918 three young men working at the Burns coal mine ascended the mountain. While on the summit one of them was near the edge of the cliff when wind gusts pushed one of them over the edge and the body was never found. 40 years later when the buildings of the old Burns mine were about to be razed, a trunk with some of the victims belongings was found.

I agreed, I could see a passing resemblance between the mountain in Alberta and the actual Gibraltar. Also, people should stay away from the edges of cliffs. Wind gusts and such.


Gibraltar in the United States


Gibraltar, Michigan
Gibraltar, Michigan. Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr (cc)

Lots of Gibraltar places and geographic features existed within the United States too. I chose to focus on the City of Gibraltar mostly because it seemed to have the best online presence (map). The name clearly referred to the original in Europe, however it didn’t have any meaningful promontories. No rock towered above the rest. In fact it looked basically featureless, almost completely flat. I guessed the name referred to the city’s geographic position on the Detroit River instead. At Gibraltar the river flowed into Lake Erie, directly across from Canada. It seemed to be something akin to the strategic placement of the more famous Gibraltar.

Too bad I didn’t notice this place when I posted Venice of Whatever. A book written for the Gibraltar Historical Museum described Gibraltar as the "Venice of Michigan." Several canals ringed the islands forming much of the eastern side of town. Many of its five thousand residents lived on those islands with instant access to lake Erie. Clearly the inhabitants of Michigan’s Gibraltar loved their European analogies.

Even More Ladylike Places

On April 16, 2017 · 3 Comments

Most readers probably anticipated that after slogging through Manly Places, Even More Manly Places, and Ladylike Places, that the next in this series would be Even More Ladylike Places. That seemed absolutely necessary in my mind so I could create symmetry and closure. However I’d written a variation on this theme already with the recently-published Ladysmith. I tried to keep things on the more obscure side this time around, sidestepping better known ladies by design.


Ladies of the Reef


lady elliot island viewed from the west
lady elliot island viewed from the west. Photo by wo de shijie on Flickr (cc)

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef offered a case in point. I noticed a couple of different islands that fit this topic. Lady Musgrave Island (map) took its name from the wife of a colonial administrator, Sir Anthony Musgrave. He served as governor of South Australia 1873–1877 and then of Queensland 1883–1888. From those dates, Lady Musgrave must have been his second wife, Jeanie Lucinda Field. I don’t know how she ended-up in Australia. She was born in New York City.

Another spot along the reef became Lady Elliot Island (map). This one featured a roundabout derivation. Lady Elliot definitely existed although I don’t think she ever set foot in Australia. She married Sir Hugh Elliot, governor of Madras, 1814–1820, then a crown colony on the Indian subcontinent. I’m going to go out on a limb and say she was probably Margaret Jones, his second wife, because his first marriage ended in divorce long before his diplomatic career took off.

However, the name of Lady Elliot Island didn’t come from Lady Elliot directly. It came from the name of a ship. Captain Thomas Stuart, commanding a ship registered in India and named for the lady in question, first spotted the island in 1816. Later, on the return voyage, the ship struck a reef farther up the coast. It sank and everyone died. That dangerous feature also got its name at that time, Lady Elliot Reef (map).


The White Lady of Brandberg


Namibia 2016 (228 of 486)
Namibia 2016. Photo by Joanne Goldby on Flickr (cc)

Namibia’s highest point of elevation occurred at the Königstein (King’s Stone) on Brandberg Mountain. The mountain hid a secret, the renowned White Lady. Indigenous people, probably bushmen and probably living two or more thousand years ago, drew representations of their world in thousands of images. Much of their artwork survived in remote, dry, desolate corners of the Namib Desert (map).

One image in particular caught the imagination of archaeologists and then tourists after its rediscovery in 1918. It showed what appeared to be a shaman in white, in an energetic ritual dance. Researchers noticed its similarity to depictions that came from Egypt and the Mediterranean during a similar time period, although that proved to be coincidental. Nonetheless the White Lady continued to captivate many who gazed upon it. Ironically, later interpretations seemed to demonstrate pretty conclusively that the lady was actually a man.


Lady’s Island Lake


Our Lady's Island
Our Lady's Island. Photo by Emmet & Kathy on Flickr (cc)

A little village in Ireland’s County Wexford got its name, Our Lady’s Island, hundreds of years ago in reverence to the Virgin Mary. As the village explained,

Tradition has always existed that Our Lady’s Island was founded by St Abban, nephew of St Ibar, in the sixth century and its reputation as a place of pilgrimage and of devotion to Our Lady was established by or before the year 600 A.D.

However, I decided to focus on the lake (map) where the little village — now connected to the mainland — grew and prospered. Perhaps not too creatively, it came to be known as Lady’s Island Lake. The lake more properly qualified as a "back-barrier seepage lagoon." Various sources on the Intertubes claimed only one other lake in Ireland fit that same definition. I couldn’t prove it so I’ll just leave it at that.

The lake doesn’t have a natural outlet although water seeps into it from the ocean, creating brackish conditions. It offered a great environment for birds such as Sandwich Terns and Roseate Terns. Occasionally the barrier between sea and lake must be breached.

Breaching of the barrier, which has been carried out since at least the 17th century, is needed to relieve flooding of farmland and also the pilgrimage route around Lady’s Island. The cut is made in Spring when water levels are highest and the water level then falls until the lake becomes tidal for variable lengths of time. The practice has become contentious, however, because water levels sometimes fall too low, allowing predators to cross over the exposed bed of the lake to the important tern nesting sites.

I’m surprised they hadn’t figured out a way to accommodate both the birds and the pilgrims.


Dames



I could look for ladies in other languages, too! Dames seemed reasonable. I probably could have written an entire article on the hundreds of places and features named Notre Dame ("Our Lady," for the Virgin Mary). It might have featured the university in Indiana, the cathedral in Paris or the island in Montréal.

Instead I focused on Dame Marie (map) in Haiti. Twelve Mile Circle included very little Haitian coverage so this offered a rare opportunity for me to add a pushpin to my Complete Index Map. Otherwise I found very little information about Dame Marie. It fell pretty much at the end of the road, about as far west on Haiti as one could travel. Unfortunately Hurricane Matthew damaged it rather extensively in October 2016. Hopefully Dame Marie will recover.

Ladylike Places

On April 13, 2017 · 2 Comments

The recent Manly Places dealt with U.S. locations that swung wildly towards an overabundance of men. Naturally I also wanted to examine the opposite condition. The inverse of manly seemed as if it should be something like ladylike so that’s what I called the followup article. This one required more effort. Women lived longer than men naturally and the ratios reflected that. Fluctuations didn’t hit the same extremes either.

Women did seem to congregate in larger numbers in major northeastern cities, such as Boston, New York and Washington: "Nine of the 10 metros with the highest ratio of women to men are in the East: Oakland is the only exception." However, fluctuations occurred even within those metropolitan areas. The most women in New York City could be found in the 10021 ZIP Code. In the suburbs of Washington, DC, in Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Maryland specifically, 1.2 women lived alone for every man in a similar situation.

Prisons


Alderson Federal Prison
Alderson Federal Prison. Photo by Aaron Bauer on Flickr (cc)

I found some bad news and some good news about women and prisons. Incarcerated women skewed the populations of lightly populated rural counties and towns just like their male counterparts. However, at least within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, women accounted for only 7% of the inmates. Still, where women’s prisons existed, anomalies could occur. No county had a greater imbalance than Summers County, West Virginia, the home of Federal Prison Camp Alderson. This minimum security facility housed nearly a thousand women (map). That created an imbalance in Summers County of 1.23 women to every man.

Some well-known criminals served time there, too. I remembered Lynette Fromme mostly because of her nickname, "Squeaky." She became a follower of Charles Manson and later tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Her sentence could have kept her confined for the remainder of her life although she earned parole in 2009 after serving 34 years. She spent many of her years at Alderson, helping to skew the population ratio of Summers County except for the couple of days in 1987 when she escaped briefly.

Things really got wacky at the town level. The greatest imbalance occurred in tiny Raoul, Georgia, population 2,500. Four out of five residents were women. There, the Lee Arrendale State Prison of the Georgia Department of Corrections created the anomaly. The largest town on the list of Top 100 cities with the most women, Chowchilla, California made space for two prisons for women. However one of them, Valley State Prison, became a men’s facility in 2012. It will likely drop from the list after the next Census.


Colleges and Universities


Mary Lyon Hall
Mary Lyon Hall. Photo by Mount Holyoke College (cc)

My intuition failed me once again. I figured colleges and universities would skew ratios more than prisons. I didn’t get things completely wrong, though. One of the largest towns to crack the Top 100 list reflected that category. Mount Holyoke College fell within the boundaries of South Hadley, Massachusetts (map). This institution dated to 1837, beginning as the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. It’s 2,500 students comprised a sizable chunk of the town’s population of 17,000; enough to contribute mightily to a favorable ratio of women to men.

A lot of colleges for women either closed or became coeducational institutions as the Twentieth century progressed. About sixty still remained in the United States. That limited the number of chances to dramatically impact populations.


International


Saipan Hyatt Sunset
Saipan Hyatt Sunset. Photo by drufisher on Flickr (cc)

I looked a little beyond the United States this time. Sort of. Wikipedia had a nice list of countries by sex ratio that I consulted. After I sorted the list it showed that the Northern Mariana Islands had the greatest abundance of women. It contained about 1.4 women for every man. Of course the Northern Mariana Islands actually belonged to the United States in a commonwealth arrangement (map), even though it appeared separately on the list.

This anomaly occurred because of legal loopholes and deplorable exploitation of female garment workers brought to the islands primarily from China. The Northern Marianas fell within something of a gray area. Products coming from there could claim that they were "Made in the USA" and avoid tariffs. However, a lot of wage and fair labor laws applicable on the mainland United States did not apply to them. A large garment industry started operating in the Northern Marianas around 1984 to take advantage of the situation. That’s why women so outnumbered men. They toiled in factories twelve or more hours a day without breaks for poverty wages. Once exposed, the U.S. Congress began to pass laws that eventually restricted the loopholes. The last of the factories closed in 2012 and the population of Saipan dropped by nearly a third.

Estonia may top the list after the next Census takes place in the Northern Marianas. I examined the ratios within Estonia by different age categories. It seemed after a quick glance that Estonian men simply began to die in droves once they hit their 60’s.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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