New Difference

On April 5, 2015 · 8 Comments

The recent 12MC article Small Change, Big Difference created an unusual amount of interest. One comment from reader Ross arrived embedded with a challenge:

This reminds me of a question I’ve often wondered: Which place changes the most when you add "New" in front of the name? In other words: Which "New" place is the most unlike the place it was named after? My guess: New Britain (the island in Papua New Guinea). It’s hard to imagine a place more unlike "Old" Britain.

Ross obviously put a lot of thought into his well-educated choice. This example might be the best one around, at least as good as any top tier of contenders. I thought I would see if I could add some other places to the list for consideration and open the discussion to a broader audience.

New Ireland, Papua New Guinea


Kavieng waterfront
Kavieng waterfront by Behan, on Flickr (cc)
Does Not Look Like Ireland

Britain had Ireland nearby so I suppose PNG’s New Britain needed a New Ireland nearby too (map). The two were located in close proximity just like their namesakes. Face it, just about anything geographic or climatic in Papua New Guinea would differ considerably from anything in the British Isles. One could select just about any place with a "New" prefix in the tropics and it would score well in this contest.

The New Ireland name in PNG was affixed to an island, a string of islands and a province. The largest town on the island of that name, Kavieng, became the capital of the larger province of New Ireland. This was the site of fierce fighting in World War II and wartime relics can still be found within the area. Today most visitors come for the military history or to dive on pristine coral reefs located just offshore.

New Ireland used to be New Mecklenburg (Neu-Mecklenburg) which would be equally odd. Maybe it should get extra credit for being distinctly different from two separate European locations. Plus New Guinea differed from Guinea (see 12MC’s Upstart Eclipses Namesake for that story) to add to the distinction even further.


New Amsterdam, Guyana



Does Not Look Like Amsterdam

Those wandering European settlers and merchants sure seemed to enjoy naming tropical locales after their homelands. The same thing happened in Guyana with the town of New Amsterdam (map). The Dutch became the first colonial power in Guyana. New Amsterdam was integral to their commercial interests.

New Amsterdam is Guyana’s oldest town, with a rich history. About 1733, the name New Amsterdam was given to a little village that sprang up around Fort Nassau, several miles up the Berbice River. In 1785 it was decided to abandon Fort Nassau and move to the neighbourhood of Fort St. Andries lower down the river at the confluence of the Berbice River and its tributary the Canje River which is now the site of present day New Amsterdam… New Amsterdam, covers about 13.7 square kilometers in area with an estimated population of approximately 35,000.

New Amsterdam might also deserve bonus points. Not only did it differ considerably from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, it looked nothing like the other New Amsterdam on the tip of Manhattan Island that formed the nucleus of New York City.


New Germany, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa



Looked Vaguely European, Actually

I thought this location might be very promising. A handful of German settlements sprouted within South Africa and one of them became New Germany (map).

The Bergtheil or Bramsche Colonists: In the early 1840’s, just after the colony of Natal had been annexed by the British, the Natal Cotton Company was established. One of its directors, Jonas Bergtheil, went to Germany to attract settlers to Natal to grow cotton for the Company. After much searching, he found a group of people in the area of Bramsche, Osnabrücker Land, Kingdom of Hanover (now in Lower Saxony) who were willing to try their luck in this new colony. The Bergtheil colonists settled in New Germany, Westville, just outside Port Natal (later renamed Durban)…

Then I watched the video driving tour and it looked like any suburb anywhere. The location may have been distinctly removed from Germany, however, it still had an air of familiarity.


New Bedford Inlet, Antarctica



New Bedford Inlet, Antarctica
Does Not Look Like New Bedford or the Original Bedford Either

It was hard to reconcile the disconnect between Antarctica and temperate climates. I found a "New" location hidden within its folds and I’ll bet there were plenty of others equally out of place. New Bedford Inlet wasn’t discovered until 1940 when it was "photographed from the air… by members of the United States Antarctic Service (USAS), and named after New Bedford, Massachusetts, the centre of the New England whaling industry in the middle of the 19th century." It was a horribly inhospitable spot packed with glaciers and freezing temperatures in Palmer Land. That hardly resembled Massachusetts even during a bad winter.

New Bedford in Massachusetts was in turn named for Bedford in England. New Bedford Inlet didn’t look anything like England, either. Once again I thought this type of nesting deserved extra credit.


A Couple More to Ponder

I found many others. I wanted to mention two more although I won’t elaborate on them much.

  • New Caledonia (map), a collectivity of France in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia probably wouldn’t be confused with Caledonia (i.e., Scotland)
  • New Washington (map) in the Philippians resembled neither Washington, DC nor the state of Washington in the United States. However it was named for George Washington directly and not for either of those other locations so it probably didn’t count.

Can anyone come up with even more extreme occurrences to add to Ross’ list?

Southern Swing, Part 1

On January 7, 2015 · 2 Comments

I still hate airlines. I don’t fear flying, I simply want to withhold as much of my money as I can from those greedy [censored] until the tight squeeze of market forces compel them to start treating their passengers with a little respect. I’m pretty much at the point where I’ll drive to any destination of a thousand miles or so instead of fly. That sentiment led to another grandiose road trip over the winter holidays. Of course, the handful of readers who follow the 12MC Twitter feed already figured that out. That’s an incentive for the rest of you to subscribe to my Twitter page I guess, or maybe it’s a disincentive. I don’t know.



DC to Florida to Mississippi and Back

We took a rather unusual route to the Mississippi Gulf Coast this time, via St. Augustine, Florida. I know many readers would think of that as a crazy detour. I rationalized it a couple of different ways. First, there wasn’t a completely straight route between the Mid Atlantic and the Mississippi Gulf so the detour didn’t make all that much difference in the larger trip. Was it the most direct route? No, of course not. It wasn’t totally insane either.

Second, there were lots of cool things to see and do in St. Augustine and I knew the boys would love it. My wife actually nailed it on the head, though. "Is this a county counting thing?" she asked. Well, ahem, yes that might have had something to do with it. She was fine with the idea once I confessed the ulterior motive. We’ve been married long enough by now that she accepts my weird hobby even if she doesn’t completely understand it.

We left on Christmas day to avoid the worst of the soul-sucking horror of Interstate 95 traffic and stopped overnight somewhere in North Carolina. That evening, with few restaurant options, I chose shrimp and grits for my Christmas Dinner. That’s a thing, right? The traditional shrimp and grits Christmas Dinner? I enjoyed it anyway, and it reminded me that we were in the South. I washed it down with a Sweet Tea since we were way below the Sweet Tea Line by that point. The next day we continued to Florida and all went smoothly except for some bad traffic for the final forty-five miles of South Carolina. We made it safely to St. Augustine (map) by late afternoon.



Castillo de San Marcos National Monument



Castillo de San Marcos

We stopped first at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (map).

Americans often think of Plymouth, Massachusetts (established 1620) or Jamestown, Virginia (established 1607 – and visited by 12MC) as the "oldest" successful European settlements in the continental United States. That’s because people of English descent wrote many of the history books. As a point of fact, that honor should go to St. Augustine instead which was founded by Spanish settlers in 1565.

St. Augustine didn’t incorporate a magnificent fort from its inception. Rival European nations and their privateers conducted raids up and down the Atlantic coast. St. Augustine was sacked a couple of times by the English and threatened by the French. Spain finally had enough after the 1668 attack by Jamaican privateer Robert Searle. Construction of Castillo de San Marcos began in 1672, a full century after the original settlement of the city.

The National Park Service discussed the architecture and construction of this oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S., and its only surviving specimen from the Seventeenth Century:

… It is a prime example of the "bastion system" of fortification, the culmination of hundreds of years of military defense engineering. It is also unique for the material used in its construction. The Castillo is one of only two fortifications in the world built out of a semi-rare form of limestone called coquina… A cannon ball fired at more solid material, such as granite or brick would shatter the wall into flying shards, but cannon balls fired at the walls of the Castillo burrowed their way into the rock and stuck there, much like a bb would if fired into Styrofoam. So the thick coquina walls absorbed or deflected projectiles rather than yielding to them, providing a surprisingly long-lived fortress.

Castillo de San Marcos was constructed in a star shape with four bastions. This allowed defenders to create deadly crossfire for anyone hoping to to attack. The fort never fell during battle, however it changed hands a number of times because of political changes.

  • Florida became a British territory in 1763 as part of the settlement of the Seven Years’ War.
  • Florida returned to Spanish control in 1783 at the end of the American Revolutionary War (Spain had been a supporter of American independence and this was its reward).
  • Florida became part of the United States through the Adams–Onís Treaty in 1821.
  • Florida seceded from the U.S and joined the Confederate States of America in 1861.
  • Union troops seized the undefended fort in 1862 and held it for the remainder of the war and ever since.

During all that time and up until 1933, it remained a military garrison. Only then did the property convey to the U.S. National Park Service.



Saint Augustine Lighthouse



St. Augustine Lighthouse

Our other primary stop that day was the Saint Augustine Lighthouse (map).

Everyone else, it seemed, had a similar idea. The weather was absolutely perfect on the Saturday after Christmas. All the sites were mobbed. We drove onto Anastasia Island and noticed a line of traffic stretching at least a half-mile in the opposite direction, backed up by a traffic light at the end of the bridge in St. Augustine proper. Getting onto the island was easy. Getting back would be a problem. We couldn’t do anything about it so we headed towards the lighthouse anyway. We feared the worst when we were forced to park down the street because the parking lot was completely full. Tons of people mingled around the lighthouse base although few of them ventured to the top. I suppose the 219 steps in the spiral staircase separated the tourists from the lighthouse nerds. From there, 165 feet (50 metres) above the fray, we spotted another bridge several miles away. We enjoyed a panoramic lighthouse view of the Florida coast and discovered a way to avoid the dreaded stoplight. Pro Tip: maybe skip the extra helping of mashed potatoes on Christmas so one can climb to the top of the tower and find the secret escape route.

A lighthouse stood at this spot even during the Spanish period. It was an important structure marking the inlet between two barrier island, Anastasia and Conch, so that ships could enter the Matanzas River and approach St. Augustine safely. This version was constructed in 1874 and continues to remain an active navigational aid. According to Lighthouse Friends, the tower was built using brick from Alabama, granite from Georgia, iron work forged in Philadelphia, and a first-order Fresnel lens crafted in France."



And More


A1A Ale Works
A1A Ale Works

We also visited a couple of brewpubs including A1A Ale Works in downtown St. Augustine (map).

Imagine that. Somehow we ended-up at a fort, a lighthouse, and a brewpub — all things that I "collect" and count. It sounded pretty self-indulgent although we also did plenty of things enjoyed by the other members of the family too. I’ll talk about some of those in the second part.

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.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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