Smallest Country on Two Oceans

On September 7, 2017 · 1 Comments

While I researched the Smallest Multiple Time Zone Countries I noticed that a small corner of Chile actually abutted the Atlantic Ocean. Thousands of kilometres of its coastline hugged the Pacific Ocean and that one tiny little corner curved and extended far enough to reach the Atlantic. I enjoyed that meaningless anomaly for some unknown reason. I thought about it some more. Chile might not be that remarkable after all, I concluded. One would expect a large nation to possibly touch two oceans. Of course that led to a quest to find the smallest country with that distinction.

I created a couple of ground rules for this particular exercise. First, the landmass needed to be contiguous. I didn’t care about nations with lots of far-flung islands. Otherwise I would select something silly and call it a day. Next, I used a fairly relaxed definition of "ocean." For instance the Caribbean Sea served as an extension of the Atlantic, so I considered it to be part of the Atlantic too.

Timor-Leste


Clouds over Jaco Island, Timor Leste
Clouds over Jaco Island, Timor Leste. Photo by Kate Dixon on Flickr (cc)

Timor-Leste (or East Timor in English) covered the eastern half of Timor Island, with the other half belonging to Indonesia. It also included that interesting little exclave called Oecusse towards the western side of the island. The Timor Island split occurred because of colonialism. Dutch powers originally controlled the present-day Indonesian portion. Portuguese powers controlled the east, thus giving rise to the name Timor-Leste. The nation suffered through a rather tumultuous period despite its recent independence. Indonesian forces invaded it, a brutal civil war took place, and Australian troops came as peacekeepers a couple of different times. Things seem to have settled down in the last few years, though.

Back to the point, Timor-Leste covered only 14,874 square kilometres (5,743 square miles). The northern coastline hugged the Savu Sea, a part of the Pacific Ocean. It’s southern side touched the Timor Sea, part of the Indian Ocean. I’m not sure who made the rules about where one ocean began and the other ended. I guess the line had to go somewhere so that’s the arbitrary situation it created. These things are all artificial anyway. Timor-Leste seemingly "won" my trivial competition.

The two seas met at the nation’s easternmost point, a place called Jaco Island (map). A narrow channel separated it from the rest of the country, protecting it as part of Nino Konis Santana National Park. Nonetheless, for a few bucks, local fishermen reportedly would take take tourists to its pristine beaches on unsanctioned visits. That’s what the Intertubes said although I don’t necessarily endorse such clandestine behavior.


Israel


Eilat - Panorama night 1 - by Ron Borkin
Eilat – Panorama. Photo by Ron Borkin via israeltourism on Flickr (cc)

The next smaller occurrence surprised me a little. I didn’t really think of Israel as bordering two oceans. Nonetheless I believed it did based on my simple rules. Certainly it included an extensive coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, which served as an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. I always forgot about its access to the Gulf of Aqaba though, probably because the other coastline dwarfed it by comparison. The gulf led to the Red Sea which led to the Indian Ocean. Thus, Israel with a land area of 27,632 square kilometres (10,669 square miles) passed the test.

Just a few kilometres of Israeli coastline hugged the Gulf of Aqaba. It offered room for just one town, Eilat (אֵילַת). Historically, Eilat (map) traced back to the ancient world, even earning a mention in the Old Testament of the Bible. The unique situation of its geographic placement also guaranteed that it would remain a busy place in modern times. Israel, largely isolated by its neighbors, could use the port for easy access to Asian trading networks. Egypt and Jordan bordered on Eilat, and Saudi Arabia sat practically within eyesight towards the south. Those could all be bypassed using the waterway.

Eilat also provided a nice beach and served as a popular resort destination. One couldn’t drive too easily to the outside world from Israel so this would pretty much be the end of the line for a weekend getaway.


Costa Rica


Montezuma, Costa Rica
Montezuma, Costa Rica. Photo by Javier Bacchetta on Flickr (cc)

Next my attention turned to Central America. Every nation there except for Belize and El Salvador bordered both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, an extension of the Atlantic Ocean. I only had to pick the smallest one. That honor went to Costa Rica with a land area of 51,060 square kilometres (19,710 square miles). What a spectacular set of coastline it had too. Costa Rica featured more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) of water access.

Tourists began to flock to Costa Rica in recent years for its beaches. Some of the most spectacular examples ringed the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific side of the country. If someone traveled to the farthest spot, to the tip of the peninsula, one would find Playa Montezuma (map). This playa (beach) had a reputation for being both relaxing and cheap, a destination for aging hippies.

Smallest Multiple Time Zone Countries

On September 3, 2017 · 6 Comments

Sometimes I come up with a simple question and I think I’ll get, and even want, a simple answer. Writing these Twelve Mile Circle articles is a lot easier when I’m able to come to a conclusion quickly. Then I can move on with my weekend. Other times the story gets a lot more complicated, like today. I wanted to know the smallest country with more than one time zone. Simple, right? Not so fast. Things turned convoluted very quickly.

Federated States of Micronesia


Sunset on Chuuk
Sunset on Chuuk. Photo by Matt Kieffer on Flickr (cc)

I supposed, technically, that honor should go to the Federated States of Micronesia. Its land area covered only 702 square kilometres (271 square miles) split into two time zones. For purposes of my little quest I considered land area only. Who really cared about water? Nobody lived on the water except for a few passing boats and they could follow whatever time they wanted to observe. So I looked at land area. Micronesia had the least land of any multiple time zone country.

However, this nation didn’t include any time zones crossing over land as one would observe in larger countries. FSM stretched 2,700 km (1,678 mi) across the Pacific Ocean along the Caroline Islands archipelago. Two of its states, Yap and Chuuk observed Coordinated Universal Time +10:00 (UTC+10:00). The other two, Kosrae and Pohnpei, observed UTC+11:00. Half of its hundred thousand citizens lived on Chuuk (map).

FSM seemed like a bit of an artificial creation, controlled by Portugal and then Spain until Spain’s defeat in the Spanish–American War. Spain then sold the Caroline Islands to Germany who lost them to Japan as a result of the First World War. Japan held onto the islands until its defeat in the Second World War. Then it became a United Nations Trust Territory administered by the United States. Finally the Federated State of Micronesia gained its independence in 1986 in a Compact of Free Association with the U.S.

In spite of its arbitrary origin and its crazy geographic spread, I supposed it still met the definition of the smallest nation with more than one time zone. That didn’t really leave me satisfied, though.


Cyprus


Cyprus
Cyprus. Photo by Dan Nevill on Flickr (cc)

Cyprus also seemed problematic. The nation consisted of a single land mass, an island in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Two time zones definitely existed there in a manner of speaking. However that occurred only because of Northern Cyprus.

Cyprus gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1960. The island included significant Greek and Turkish settlements so establishing sovereignty required skillful negotiations. This resulted in a tripartite treaty between the UK, Greece and Turkey called the Zürich and London Agreement. Then, in 1974, a military junta staged a coup intending to unite Cyprus with Greece. Turkey responded with force, invading the island and seizing about a third of it. Turkey established Northern Cyprus and evicted about two hundred thousand Greek Cypriots. The international community, with the exception of Turkey, did not and still does not recognize the sovereignty of Northern Cyprus.

Nonetheless, the Turkish army stationed in Northern Cyprus, created a de facto situation that split the island. Both sides established their capital in Nicosia (map), on separate sides of a U.N. buffer zone.

Every other nation may claim that a single government covers the entirety of Cyprus and the Cypriot flag may show a unified nation, however Turkish troops enforced a different reality. Cyprus observed time zone UTC+02:00. Northern Cyprus followed UTC+03:00, the same as Turkey. Half of the year, during the summer, they followed the same time because Cyprus observed Daylight Saving Time and Northern Cyprus did not.

Bottom line, if only a single sovereign Cyprus existed without a de facto Northern Cyprus, only one time zone would exist there.


Chilé


Punta Arenas Chile. View across the city.
Punta Arenas Chile. View across the city. Photo by denisbin on Flickr (cc)

Alright, so I still wanted to find the smallest contiguous nation with more than one time zone. I didn’t want something with a bunch of far-flung islands and I didn’t want something arising out of an international dispute. Chilé seemed to be the next best solution.

I wouldn’t actually call Chilé a "small" nation. It ranked 37th in size with a land area of 743,812 square km (287,187 sq miles). Even so, one would expect something fairly large geographically to justify more than one contiguous time zone. Chilé,by the way, also had a third time zone for Easter Island although I ignored it for this purpose.

Most of Chilé, both by land and people, fell within UTC-04:00. Its southern portion, the Region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica observed UTC-03:00. This included the provinces of Última Esperanza, Magallanes, Tierra del Fuego, and Antártica Chilena. Looking at the map, that made sense.



Much of Chilé followed a narrow north-south alignment along the western cost of South America. However it curved distinctly east at its southern end. There it hugged the bottom of Argentina, with a small portion even bordering the South Atlantic Ocean. Most of the people of this region lived near Punta Arenas (map), deep within that southeastern curve. It meant that a large portion of people of the Magallanes Region would be inconvenienced if they followed the same time zone as the rest of Chilé.

This actually happened fairly recently, with the Magallanes Region making the time zone switch on May 14, 2017.

C&O: Carderock to Georgetown

On August 31, 2017 · 2 Comments

I ride my bike most weekends and I like to switch-up the route whenever possible. Sometimes I complete a circuit. Other times I’ll go for an out-and-back. When I do that I enjoy playing a little game I call "how far can I get in an hour." We’re blessed with an abundance of well-maintained, scenic trails and I can make it a pretty far. One route takes me from my home in Arlington across the Potomac River into Washington, DC, and then straight up the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal trail. Usually I don’t cover as much ground on this trail because the crushed gravel surface slows me down. Also I have to take my hybrid instead of my road bike for better traction. I still enjoy the challenge though.

For months, I’ve been telling myself I should slow down and enjoy some of the scenic and historic sites along the C&O. On Sunday I finally decided to do that, although the notion didn’t come to mind until I almost finished the hour. So I did a fast hour out, with a much slower return, stopping frequently for photos. I became the stereotypical tourist in my own backyard.

Someday I will ride all 185 miles of the C&O Canal trail from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, DC. I’ve done stretches of it including the DC-area portion dozens of times. Until that day comes, however, I can now say I’ve recorded a small part of it. This accounting shouldn’t be confused with a trail guide though. A really good one already exists. Instead, I present a few things that I liked as I completed my return. Readers can click the arrows on the side of each photo to see additional images in the series.

Carderock; Mile 11.8


C&O Canal: Georgetown to Carderock

Why did I stop and turn around at Mile 11.8? Because I looked at my watch and I’d finished the hour. I’m very precise like that. I needed to head back home. Actually I made it about halfway between Carderock and Great Falls (map) if I want to get technical about it. Whatever. The Carderock Recreation Area featured all sorts of outdoor activities, not just biking. Lots of people hiked its well-known Billy Goat Trail on the rough stony banks of the Potomac River. Others climbed its cliffs, some of the most easily accessible rock walls in the DC area.


Original Mile Marker; Mile 9.0


C&O Canal: Georgetown to Carderock

The geo-geek in me loved the marker at Mile 9.0, an historical artifact dating back to the operational days of the canal. Construction began in 1828 and builders didn’t finish it until 1850, although some sections started serving commercial traffic before that. However, railroads competed with the canal even before workers finished digging it. Floods devastated it several times too. The whole enterprise finally ended, abandoned, after the Flood of 1924.

That mile marker (map) stood sentinel all that time, passed by innumerable mule boats filled with cargo, and then into the present era. It read "9 miles to W.C." Presumably that referenced Washington City and not the nearest toilet facility. It took a boat pulled by a mule about a week to cover the entire length of the canal so this marker meant two or three more hours to go.


Sycamore Island; Mile 6.5


C&O Canal: Georgetown to Carderock

Sycamore Island always intrigued me as I passed it on earlier rides. A private club owned the island, as it had since 1885, and tightly controlled access to it. Members took their own hand-pulled ferry across the narrow channel from the C&O trail towpath to the island. They rang a little bell when they wanted to cross and the permanent caretaker headed to the boat to pull it across. Only the caretaker lived on the island full-time.

The club didn’t offer a lot of amenities by design. Members could take canoes out on the water, enjoy the island’s natural setting, fish, swim, chat with other members, read books, or simply relax. It offered a little oasis of solitude in an otherwise complicated world. Lots of people seemed to want that opportunity, too. Applications were accepted only "between January 1 and March 31st on even-numbered calendar years." Even after that, by all accounts, it could take years for a prospective member to finally get to the top of the waiting list.


Lockhouse 6; Mile 5.4


C&O Canal: Georgetown to Carderock

Locks required manual labor to open and close. However, miles of the canal crossed wilderness and few people lived nearby. Lock tenders couldn’t commute to their jobs from nearby towns. The canal company had to build homes for their employees on site. Many of these original lock houses survived and a few can be rented for overnight accommodations. The C&O Canal Trust restored Lockhouse 6, 10, 22, 25, 28 and 49 for that purpose, with each reflecting a different historical period. Lockhouse 6 (map), pictured above, represented the 1950’s when people finally started to think about preserving the canal. Lockhouse 6 was one of the few for rent with electricity, running water and heat.


River View; Mile 4.5


C&O Canal: Georgetown to Carderock

I’d seen a little stub trail leading from the towpath somewhere around Mile 4.5 on several occasions. Kayakers seemed to portage to it from a nearby parking lot so I knew it lead to the river. I had a little time on my return trip so I followed the stub to its conclusion (map). It led to what looked like a parking area (clearly visible on satellite), which seemed odd because I couldn’t imagine a car ever driving down the towpath to get to the stub. Maybe it provided a way for emergency vehicles to access the river or something. People sometimes did get into trouble on this turbulent stretch of water. I don’t know. The terminus also included a viewing platform with some great scenery just upriver from Chain Bridge. Barely within the borders of the District of Columbia, it felt a world away from the rest of the city.


Georgetown; Mile 1.0


C&O Canal: Georgetown to Carderock

I rather enjoyed the final slow meander towards home. Soon, way too soon, I arrived at Georgetown where I had to leave the C&O a mile before it ended (map). There I had to cross Key Bridge once again and head back into Arlington.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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