Three of Them

Sequences of three came to mind, a trio of possibilities. Little did I know that so many places also focused on a similar theme. I found an abundance of opportunities. Of course, that equated to long lists for me to review as I started searching for something memorable. By "memorable" I meant to me personally. I gave up trying to figure out what might resonate with the larger Twelve Mile Circle audience a long time.

Three Coins



Three coins came in the form of Trois-Pistoles, Québec. I’d hoped that the French pistole might be a cognate of the English pistol. Unfortunately that seemed too good to be true. Something involving three pistols would almost automatically guarantee an interesting story. Instead the French pistole referred to a type of gold coin common in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. An early French settlers wanted a drink of water and dipped a goblet into the river. Unfortunately the goblet slipped from his grasp and fell overboard. This must have been a pretty nice goblet because he wasn’t very happy about it. He exclaimed in dismay that he’d lost the equivalent of three gold coins. This all happened sometime around 1620 according to the Commission de Toponymie Québec and the name stuck.

I mentioned this town briefly in an earlier article about Canada. Specifically I noted a beer made by the Unibroue brewery called Trois-Pistoles that referenced the town. This time around I found a video that offered an explanation. The beer honored a legend about the town’s Catholic church, Église de Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, or Our Lady of the Snows (map). Very briefly, church construction ran behind schedule so the builder enlisted the Devil’s horse to pull stones up from the river. A magic bridle slipped from the demonic horse and it escaped, leaving the church incomplete. It still lacks a single stone somewhere in its wall, for those who believe such stuff. Watch the video if you want to hear the full explanation in an entertaining French-Canadian accent.


Three Rivers


19830624 07 Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by David Wilson on Flickr (cc)

A ridiculous number of places claimed Three Rivers although its use as a nickname for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came to my mind quickest. Maybe a more common usage existed elsewhere. To me, Three Rivers was pretty synonymous with the city where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers joined. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve become more sensitized to Pittsburgh because I’ve been there a couple of times fairly recently. I’d never been there before and then suddenly I rode on the Great Allegheny Passage and later stayed a little longer.

Its nickname became so common that a local sports stadium used to be called Three Rivers Stadium. Pittsburgh’s professional baseball and football teams played there for thirty years until the city knocked it down in 2001. Now Pittsburgh has a stadium with the name of a corporate sponsor just like every other place. A large park still bears the name though. Three Rivers Park includes a bunch of the immediate waterfront along the rivers near downtown, even incorporating Point State Park at its confluence (map).

I supposed I could have selected any of the actual places officially named Three Rivers. One of them existed in Michigan where the Rocky and Portage Rivers joined the St. Joseph River. I crossed the St. Joseph a little farther downstream on the old camelback bridge during my recent trip through the Midwest (map). Nonetheless, I still gave the honor to Pittsburgh.


Three Brothers or Sisters


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Three Sisters Islands. Photo by David on Flickr (cc)

Numerous examples of Three Brothers or Three Sisters came to light during my search. This highly common variation existed practically everywhere. Naturally I selected one familiar to me because I’m lazy. I see three little rocky islets every time I bike along the Potomac River heading upstream from Georgetown (map). They’re called the Three Sisters. I’ve known about them my whole life. I remember my father pointing them out to me even during my childhood. The usual legends existed; Indian maiden this, Catholic nun that, someone stranded, someone drowning, on and on.

The Three Sisters had a more modern history, though. The government wanted to put another bridge across the Potomac River in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It would have become the Three Sisters Bridge. Back then it seemed that the solution to every traffic need involved another superhighway. Many cities lost vibrant neighborhoods under ribbons of concrete. However, relatively few highway lanes ran through parts of the District of Columbia because people fought their construction and won. Washington largely escaped the fate of other US cities of the time where highways marred the landscape and separated their citizens. The Three Sisters managed to retain their charm.


Three More


Three Mile Island
Three Mile Island. Photo by Jennifer Boyer on Flickr (cc)

I figured I had a little extra time to mention a trio of others, although briefly.

  • Three Mile Island: A major nuclear accident took place outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1979 on Three Mile Island. It seemed like a big deal at the time although Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi eventually proved otherwise.
  • Three States: A little unincorporated village surrounded the Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas (ARLATX) tripoint. Logically the settlement took the name Three States. Only about 45 people lived there at the most recent census although I couldn’t think of any other community so focused on a similar geo-oddity. I might even get a chance to visit Three States someday.
  • Three Churches: West Virginia included the community of Three Churches named for, well, three nearby churches.

I could have continued although I didn’t want to mess up the theme. Although I guess I already did that when I added this fourth section down here for the miscellaneous stuff.

Smallest Country on Two Oceans

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

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.