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.

Particularly Possessive

On December 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

I noticed that Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County and St. Mary’s County — all in Maryland — included the genitive apostrophe to form their possessive constructions. I’d always taken it on faith that the United States Board on Geographic Names disallowed apostrophes for that specific purpose. That’s how we ended-up with Harpers Ferry and other odd conglomerations. The possessive remained albeit awkwardly without an apostrophe. I wondered how Maryland got away with it.

A little checking revealed a probable answer in the Board’s Frequently Asked Questions page: "certain categories—broadly determined to be ‘administrative’—are best left to the organization that administers them. Examples include schools, churches, cemeteries, hospitals, airports, shopping centers, etc." In those cases (and apparently counties were considered part of "etc."), possessives formed by an apostrophe-s were allowed although discouraged. Maryland felt that a prince, a queen and a saint would all deserve an apostrophe.

For names not considered broadly administrative, however, exceptions with the genitive apostrophe were extremely rare. The Board authorized apostrophes for that specific purpose only five times since its creation in 1890. Lots of theories and folklore attempted to explain that odd disdain for apostrophes although the FAQ proclaimed: "The Board’s archives contain no indication of the reason for this policy." Someone a century ago apparently had a preference, made a bold decision and it stuck.

Each of the five exceptions merited further examination. Most were obscure. Fortunately the Geographic Names Information System included additional justification for these deviations and I could use them to tell their stories.


Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (approved 1933)


Martha's Vineyard, Aquinnah Cliffs
Martha's Vineyard, Aquinnah Cliffs by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Martha’s Vineyard (map) would be the prime example. I won’t spend any time talking about it because I’d like to save that for another day. Maybe it’s wishful thinking or maybe it’s foreshadowing. I’ll simply note that if I ever want to tally Dukes County on my county-counting list I’ll need to travel to Martha’s Vineyard (or one of several smaller islands nearby).


Ike’s Point, New Jersey (approved 1944)



Ike’s Point

GNIS described Ike’s Point as "a swamp point on the western side of Jenkins Sound about 0.4 km (0.25 mi) south of Shellbed Landing." It was named for a local family and it had been in common usage for at least 60 years when evaluated in the 1940’s. The Board decided to keep the apostrophe to clarify pronunciation. Otherwise it would have been Ikes Point and subject to interpretation. Surprisingly, Google Street View coverage went all the way to Shellbed Landing. It’s possible to sort-of see Ike’s Point.


John E’s Pond, Rhode Island (approved 1963)


Block Island Southeast Lighthouse
Block Island Southeast Lighthouse by Heather Katsoulis, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The same issue pertained to John E’s Pond on Block Island, RI, not far from the Southeast Lighthouse (map). Otherwise it would have been John Es Pond. Originally the Board named this tiny pool of water something else, Milliken Pond. The decision was reversed in 1963 citing "apparent persistence in local usage, recently verified by GS field workers" that dated back to 1886. Actually, further statements in the record implied that another variation may have been more common, John E’s Tug Hole. Some 12MC Intertubes sleuthing found several other "tug holes" on Block Island: Dees Tug Hole (included in GNIS – map); Ames Tug Hole and Elija Tug Hole. Tug hole appeared to be a very localized term for a pond.


Carlos Elmer’s Joshua View, Arizona (approved 1995)


Joshua Trees
Joshua Trees by Melanie J Watts, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Carlos Elmer’s Joshua View (map) certainly seemed to be a mouthful for an isolated slope in Arizona. The problem was that Carlos, Elmer and Joshua might confuse readers because all of them could be construed as first names. The place wouldn’t make any sense without the apostrophe. From the minutes of the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names, January 11, 1995:

Booth, Arizona Board member and proposer of the name, provided a brief biographical sketch of Carlos Elmer, long time Arizona photographer published in Arizona Highways Magazine. Booth commented that he had consulted with Elmer’s widow in trying to locate an area that he loved and to establish a name in memory of him, and together they pinpointed a mountain slope that is very dense with Joshua trees, a subject of many of Elmer’s photos… removing the word Joshua from the title would be inappropriate, because Joshua trees were the subject of the area that Carlos Elmer photographed.

The United States Board on Geographic Names concurred with the Arizona Board’s recommendation.


Clark’s Mountain, Oregon (approved 2002)



Clark’s Mountain

Clark’s Mountain retained its apostrophe for historical reasons. The name came about as part of events commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. William Clark likely admired the view from this eponymous mountain as told in the journal of Meriwether Lewis on January 10th, 1806.

Capt. C. found the road along the coast extreemly difficult of axcess, lying over some high rough and stoney hills, one of which he discribes as being much higher than the others, having it’s base washed by the Ocea[n] over which it rares it’s towering summit perpendicularly to the hight of 1500 feet; from this summit Capt. C. informed me that there was a delightfull and most extensive view of the Ocean, the coast and adjacent country; this Mout. I have taken the liberty of naming Clark’s Mountain and point of view; it is situated about 30 M. S. E. of Point (Adams) and projects about 2 1/2 miles into the Ocean…

Meriwether Lewis named the vantage point Clark’s Mountain — with an apostrophe — for his co-leader while the famed Corps of Discovery explored overland to the Pacific Ocean and back. The Board decided to honor his choice.

Seriously Broken

On October 29, 2014 · 5 Comments

I was amazed to find so many broken place names. I didn’t know what led people to memorialize broken objects, just noted that they they did and it amused me. Broken Lakes, Broken Ridges, Broken Points, Broken Valleys and on and on. The list was so exhaustive that I had a terrible time limiting my selection to the largest of such populated places, a couple of themes and some oddballs.

Native Americans Broke Stuff


Priorities
Priorities by Barry Lenard, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

That’s what I felt anyway after identifying several names related to the original inhabitants of the Americas. The largest location I found was Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a major suburb of about a hundred thousand residents on the eastern side of Tulsa (map). The image I selected didn’t have all that much to do with Broken Arrow per se except that it was taken there and it seemed to serve as a poignant commentary of one sort or another. It could have been taken anywhere, I suppose.

According to the City of Broken Arrow

When a group of Creek Indians established a settlement near what is now our city, they called it "Broken Arrow." Broken Arrow is the name of the place where many of those same Creeks had lived when they were in Alabama – before moving west on the Trail of Tears. While many Americans think of the term "broken arrow" as meaning an act of peace by Native Americans a few hundred years ago, the Creeks who got that name did so because they broke branches of trees to make their arrows, rather than cutting them.


Broken Bow, Nebraska
Broken Bow, Nebraska by BitHead, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A broken arrow in Oklahoma could be paired with a Broken Bow in Nebraska (map) although it was considerably smaller with about 3,500 residents. Broken Bow was the seat of local government in Custer County and one could be forgiven for thinking that the name referred to Custer’s demise at the Battle of Little Bighorn somehow. The explanation provided in the History of Custer County, Nebraska was rather more mundane.

Mr. Hewitt was a blacksmith and a hunter, and while out hunting one day he found, on an old Indian camping ground, a broken bow and arrow, which he carried home with him… some time afterwards he received notice that the third name [for the town] he had sent to Washington had been rejected, and going to the box after a piece of iron he picked up the broken bow, and the name "Broken Bow" came to his mind quickly.

I also discovered a similarly-sized Broken Bow in Oklahoma about a three hour drive from Broken Arrow. It was named for the Broken Bow in Nebraska, strangely enough.


Miners Broke Stuff



There was once a broken hill in a distant western corner of New South Wales, Australia, deep in the outback. Actually it was a string of hills "that appeared to have a break in them." Then a ranch hand discovered silver ore there in the late 19th Century and the broken hill became Broken Hill (map), a large mine and a settlement.

Miners extracted silver, zinc and lead from "a boomerang-shaped line of lode." It was a dirty, dangerous job and more than 700 people died on the site. A memorial served as "a stark reminder of the fact that more people have died working the mine’s in Broken Hill than Australian soldiers died in the Vietnam War."

Ironically, the broken hill that served as the town’s namesake no longer exists. It was mined completely away.


mine de cuivre - Zambie (around Kabwe)
mine de cuivre – Zambie (around Kabwe) by Amis de la Terre, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Another broken hill, this one in Zambia, resembled the broken hill in Australia. Foreign prospectors noticed the similarities and named it Broken Hill after the Australian location: "the mine became one of the biggest mines before the advent of copper mines on the Copperbelt." The town was later renamed Kabwe (map) in the post-colonial era, an indigenous word meaning "ore or smelting."

In 1921, a miner working at Broken Hill noticed a skull in the debris and he retrieved it. This came to be known appropriately enough as the Broken Hill skull. It belonged to a distant human ancestor known as Homo heidelbergensis that lived more than a half million years ago. The skull can be seen today at the Natural History Museum in London.


Some Other Broken Stuff


BR day lodge
BR day lodge by Jason Blair, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

New Zealand had a Broken River, and near there a Broken River Ski Field (map).



Broken Island, Falkland Islands

Finally, I noticed Broken Island in the Falkland Islands (or Islas Malvinas if one prefers, although I don’t really want to get into the geo-politics of the situation). Google misspelled the name. Every other source I consulted agreed that it was Broken Island.

I included that last one because I didn’t have a 12MC push-pin on the Falklands in my Complete Index Map. Now I do. I’m still waiting for my first website visitor from the Falklands by the way. Its Internet country code top-level domain is .fk. We could have a lot of fun with that one.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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