And So, Part 2

On April 20, 2016 · 7 Comments

I found such a wealth of information about the six national names split by the conjunction "AND" that I had to divide them into two articles. The first article covered Antigua and Barbuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. This one will finish the remaining nations, continuing in alphabetical order. Once again I wanted to focus extra attention on the junior partner, the unfortunate geography at the trailing end of each arrangement.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines


Bequia
Bequia by Ian Mackenzie on Flickr (cc)

Another conjoined arrangement, another Caribbean nation, this one found far down the chain of the Windward Islands. The native Caribs protected Saint Vincent fiercely and blocked colonization until the Eighteenth Century. Meanwhile they accepted escaped African slaves who sought refuge from nearby islands such as Barbados, Saint Lucia and Grenada. Their intermingled descendants, the Black Caribs, bedevil European colonists for decades. French, British and Black Caribs all fought for control. Revolts by Black Caribs remained common and frequent even after Britain gained the upper hand. It was a mess. The French shifted their focus to Martinique instead.

Speaking of messes, the Grenadines didn’t fall entirely within Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The Grenadines needed to be tagged onto a larger entity because they wouldn’t be viable as nation on their own. They were too small and spread across a long string of ocean. It might have made sense to collect all of the Grenadines together — and the British made attempts over the years — although it just never happened. Thus, when independence came in 1979, the upper two-thirds of the Grenadines became an integral part of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the remainder joined Grenada to the south. Someone living on the island of Carriacou in the Grenadines, for example, lived in Grenada, not Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Fortunately Grenada didn’t call itself Grenada and the Grenadines because that would have created even more confusion.

The Grenadines portion of the nation retained a smaller population with only about ten thousands residents, or ten percent of the overall national population. About half of those live on the island of Bequia (map). The remainder were spread amongst four other populated islands and two privately-owned resort islands.


São Tomé and Príncipe



Nobody lived on the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe when Portuguese navigators stumbled upon them in the Gulf of Guinea off the western coast of Africa. Portugal thought those unclaimed, uninhabited islands would make an ideal offshore base for commercial relationships with the continent. They colonized both islands during the Sixteenth Century and it became a cornerstone of their slave trade. The nation has remained a relatively stable democracy much of the time since gaining independence in 1975. It was also one of the smallest African nations with only a couple of hundred thousand citizens.

Príncipe (map) was much smaller than São Tomé and it had only about five thousand residents. The name came from the Portuguese word for Prince, specifically Prince Afonso, son of King John II, named for his grandfather King Afonso V. He was the heir apparent to the Portuguese throne although he didn’t live long enough to become its king. Prince Afonso died in a horse riding accident in 1491, still in his teens.


Trinidad and Tobago


Great Courland Bay after the storm
Great Courland Bay after the storm by Celeste Layne on Flickr (cc)

It seemed odd that FOUR of the nations included on the list had been Caribbean colonies of the British Empire: Antigua and Barbuda; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; and finally Trinidad and Tobago, rounding out the set. Clearly the British found it convenient to cluster island possessions into groups so they could be governed more efficiently.

Trinidad and Tobago took a different twist. Both islands had been well established with their own distinctive histories, just off the northern coast Venezuela. Trinidad had roots as a Spanish colony before Britain seized the island in the late Eighteenth Century. Tobago, on the other hand, traded hands almost more times than could be counted. Colonies on Tobago were established, captured, destroyed, rebuilt, and recaptured with alarming frequency, by several different European powers including Spain, England, France and the Netherlands. There was also another player, one I never knew about, the Courlanders. Often it was the Dutch and Courlanders who tussled over Tobago.

The Courlanders came from the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, an area now found in Latvia (map). They seemed like an unlikely power, and yet the Courlanders maintained a great merchant fleet that sailed around the world. The Duchy traded extensively in the New World too. Tobago was their attempt to establish a formal colony in the Caribbean. They tried numerous times and ultimately failed along a section of the island that bears its name, Great Courland Bay (map).

Tobago eventually got grafted to Trinidad only because of economic reasons. The British Empire site explained:

The 1880s was to confirm that the old plantocracy was indeed in trouble. The price of sugar had continued to drop… 1884 shocked the economy of the island when its largest employer and landowner ceased trading… The British sought to ameliorate the situation by administratively joining Tobago to the larger island of Trinidad to its south. This southwards move was intended to ensure that Britain avoided taking on debt and expensive provisions for Tobago and transferring the liability to the colony of Trinidad.

That arrangement remained in place when independence was granted in 1962, and it remains Trinidad and Tobago today.

And So

On April 17, 2016 · 6 Comments

I’ve paid close attention to country names during my many years of combing through access logs of Twelve Mile Circle readers, looking at various patterns and trends. I’m not sure what drew my particular attention to the names of nations containing the conjunction AND. It was probably one of those days when multiple instances appeared by chance, offering something beyond the ordinary rate of occurrences. By my count there were a total of six of these nations. I examined three of them for today’s article and I’ll discuss the remaining three in a follow-on post. These will be presented in alphabetical order because it seemed as good a pattern as any.

The mere existence of these nations brought a number of questions to mind. Couldn’t their founders come up with a single name that represented the collective? How did they decide which name came first, was it a sign of importance or what? I decided to focus on the junior partners in each arrangement because they deserved a little extra attention, being stuck at the tail-end of the nations’ names for all those years.

Antigua and Barbuda


IMG_6759.JPG
Barbuda by Sailing Nomad on Flickr (cc)

The Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda shared an intertwined history. Barbuda had a very small population so it would have been a poor candidate on its own when the United Kingdom began to spin-off various colonial possessions. It made sense to append Barbuda onto Antigua to form a single nation. No decent collective name described the set. I supposed they could have played around with Leeward Islands or Lesser Antilles, although those described larger arrays of islands aligned with several colonial powers. Antigua and Barbuda was good enough.

Both islands had been spotted by Christopher Columbus who bestowed their names, Spanish for Ancient and Bearded. Those were odd choices. I’ve never seen an island with a beard. Nonetheless that’s what happened and the names stuck throughout the centuries. The native Carib inhabitants were particularly fierce and it took almost 150 years for anyone to establish a colony on Antigua. It was the English who finally found success. Early in its history, Christopher Codrington established a sprawling sugar plantation with the labor of African slaves, helping to spur Antigua’s growth. He needed to provision his huge Antiguan estate so he and his brother leased the island of Barbuda: "They were granted the first 50 year lease for Barbuda by King Charles II on 9 January 1685. The rent ascribed to the lease was ‘one fat sheep yearly if demanded’."

Thus, Antigua and Barbuda forged a bond from the earliest days of colonialism. This relationship remained intact when independence arrived in 1981. Antigua still dwarfed Barbuda in population and economic activity, and was divided into several parishes. Barbuda became its own single unit. It had barely fifteen hundred residents, most living in the sole town of Codrington (map), compared to the nearly one hundred thousand residents of the nation as a whole. It made sense for Barbuda to play second fiddle.


Bosnia and Herzegovina


Mostar old bridge HDR
Mostar old bridge HDR by Justin van Dyke on Flickr (cc)

I decided to generally sidestep the complex historical situation of the two namesakes forming Bosnia and Herzegovina. After all, these lands fell within the Balkans. They very term Balkanization described segmented small states that fought amongst themselves, either on the Balkan Peninsula or more generically. The breakup of Yugoslavia near the end of the Twentieth Century allowed old hatreds to reemerge. Ethnic groups fought for position aligned with ancient grudges. Bosnia and Herzegovina was one of several new nations that rose from the tattered scraps of the former Yugoslavia, although not before armed clashes, bloodshed and ethnic cleansing burned across the land. The current Bosnia and Herzegovina came out of the Dayton Peace Accords of 1995 and subsequent negotiations in Paris.

Even its overall construct was confusing. The present nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into two nominally autonomous regions. One was the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other was Republika Srpska. That’s right, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a sub-unit called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Someone living in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina also lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina, however someone living in Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t necessarily live in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I examined the second banana, Herzegovina, a little closer. There didn’t appear to be a clearly defined boundary for Herzegovina in present Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was somewhat amorphous in historical terms too. Generally it fell at the southern edge of the nation along with its unofficial capital at Mostar. Herzegovina had been around for a long time though, dating back at least to the Fifteenth Century. Herzog was a heraldic title in the German language adopted to this corner of the Balkans, equivalent to Duke in the English language. Herzegovina meant nothing more than the "duke’s land."

Mostar had a similarly simplistic etymology. The Ottomans under Suleiman the Magnificent built a bridge over the Neretva River in the Sixteenth Century. It was an amazing bridge with an exaggerated arch like something from a fairy tale. The bridge earned a name over time, the Stari Most, meaning Old Bridge (map). Those who protected the bridge were called mostari, or bridge keepers. The town where the bridge crossed the river became Mostar, the old bridge town. Stari Most survived through the ages until 1993 when Croat army forces destroyed it during fighting that erupted as Yugoslavia died. The current bridge is a reconstruction.


Saint Kitts and Nevis



Saint Kitts and Nevis sat due west of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean Sea, about forty miles (65 kilometres) away. No nation in the Americas had fewer citizens, barely fifty thousand. Despite its proximity to Antigua and Barbuda, the history of Saint Kitts and Nevis differed considerably. Spanish, French and British powers all controlled these lands, sometimes cooperatively and more often in forceful opposition. Britain eventually won that struggle and the islands remained solely in British hands beginning with the Eighteenth Century. Britain placed the two into a forced arrangement along with the island of Anguilla for governance purposes. None of them really got along with each other. Anguilla managed to extricate itself in the 1970’s, so Saint Kitts and Nevis remained joined when the United Kingdom granted sovereignty in 1983. Tensions continue to exist between the two islands even today as they plod along in an arranged marriage, with Nevis occasionally making overtures of separation.

Nevis would be a highly unusual nation. It had only twelve thousand residents and precious few resources other than tourism and a budding tax haven for individuals and companies hoping to hide their assets. I focused on this island way back in the very early days of 12MC in The Point of Five Nevis Parishes in 2008. It held a rather fascinating geo-oddity. The island formed roughly an oval with its five parishes meeting at a common point atop a volcano at its center, Nevis Peak (map). Each parish formed a pie wedge and theoretically one could climb to the top of Nevis Peak and stand in all five parishes at the same time.

I supposed I should note that Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis, perhaps a point of interest to fans of the Broadway musical Hamilton. From an unlikely beginning on Nevis, Hamilton would arrive in New York for an education, work his way onto the staff of General George Washington during the American Revolution, support the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, become the nation’s first Secretary of State the Treasury, and then die after being shot by Aaron Burr in a duel. That was quite a pedigree. His image also adorned the U.S. $10 bill although there was talk of replacing him a few months ago. The success of the musical may have been sufficient to save Hamilton from that fate. What a strange turn of events.

Mike

On March 6, 2016 · 4 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle highlighted Mundane First Name Places in the previous article. However, I left out the most prolific mundane name I’d discovered to date so I could feature it in its own spotlight. It didn’t make sense to combine it with all of the others. Simply, his name was Mike.

Mike



Mike Hungary
Mike, Hungary via Google Street View, December 2011

I didn’t know Mike existed in Hungary although clearly it was there in the form of a village in the southwestern corner of the nation (map). It hid in relative obscurity although I found a website that offered quite a comprehensive history of Mike — such as it was — since Mike didn’t have much in the way of historical significance in the larger scheme of things. Still, I appreciated the author’s efforts. Someone cared enough to chronicle Mike’s twists-and-turns throughout the centuries at a level of detail befitting a much larger town.

The settlement is situated in the south of Somogy County, in the north-west of Zselic region, between Kadarkut and Lábod. It is 18 km from the nearest town, Nagyatád. There is no railway, our railway station is Kutas… The first written notes are from 1213, the settlement is mentioned as Mica.

Neither Mike nor Mica translated into anything meaningful from Hungarian into English so the mystery remained. I wished the name had been flipped and then we’d have Hungary Mike. 12MC would have had a lot of fun with that one, perhaps a close cousin to Hungry Jack.


Tin Can Mike



Speaking of Mike in an unexpected location, I found Tin Can Mike Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota (map). Hundreds of lakes dotted this remote corner of the border between the United States and Canada. I guessed early explorers must have started running out of normal-sounding names. They must have resorted to, well, things like Tin Can Mike Lake although apparently it had also been named the more mundane Murphy Lake previously. Tin Can Mike seemed to have been a real person. I found a forum dedicated to those who appreciated the canoe area wilderness and liked to share their tips and experiences. One thread explained, "Tin Can Mike was named after Mike Murphy (thus the former name of Murphy Lake). Apparently Mike Murphy always carried and used a cup made from a tin can and got the nickname Tin Can Mike’" In the Land of 10,000 Lakes it took only a tin can to justify the naming of a body of water.

The Wilderness Area also included a Hungry Jack Lake by strange coincidence ("putatively named for Anderson Jackson Scott, a surveyor’s assistant who at this lake was temporarily without food supplies"), although it lacked a Hungry Mike.


Ivy Mike


"Ivy Mike" atmospheric nuclear test - November 1952
"Ivy Mike" atmospheric nuclear test – November 1952 by the Official CTBTO Photostream on Flickr (cc)

Ivy Mike wasn’t a place although it connected to a particular patch of geography, specifically Enewetak Atoll in the Ralik Chain of the Marshall Islands (map). The U.S. government conducted more than forty atmospheric nuclear tests at the atoll between 1948 and 1958. Some were more remarkable than others, including Ivy Mike. This marked the first detonation of a hydrogen bomb, a frightening escalation in nuclear weapons technology during the height of the Cold War.

The group that posted the Ivy Mike photo was an interesting lot. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) didn’t technically exist. Rather, the current version was actually the Preparatory Commission for the CTBTO based in Vienna, Austria as will the actual CTBTO if it ever truly comes to pass. The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty laid out precepts for a CTBTO, to verify a test ban once 44 nations ratified the treaty. The treaty was signed in 1996 and still remained inactive twenty years later, awaiting final ratification by a handful of holdout nations including the United States. Meanwhile the Preparatory Committee continued on its merry way, implementing an infrastructure to complete its future duties, assuming it ever has the authority to move forward.


MKE


Milwaukee Airport Security Sign

Not Mike, rather MKE, was the International Air Transport Association code for General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (map). I already knew that from the many times I’d flown in and out of Milwaukee on visits with the in-laws over the last couple of decades. I still smile every time I pass through security and into the recombobulation area on the way to the passenger gates (featured in More Strange Signs in 2009). MKE didn’t technically fit the Mike theme although it had a special connection so I included it anyway.

It also referred more generically as a shorthand for the city of Milwaukee. As an example it appeared prominently in the website URL and logo of the Milwaukee Brewing Company. Other local businesses have used the abbreviation too.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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