Revisiting Street View Extremes

On August 31, 2014 · 0 Comments

Time moves forward, an unstoppable force. We all must face that awful truth as we age. On a happier thought, that allowed me to revisit a Twelve Mile Circle article from nearly five years ago and see if it remained true. I concluded in Streetview Beats a Deadhorse from February 2010 that the northernmost Google Street View image correlated to a spot at 70.242777 degrees north latitude in the North Slope Borough of Alaska. The Dalton Highway went no farther, terminating at a restricted checkpoint of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.

Forward to today, the final day of meteorological summer for the northern hemisphere 2014. Had the honorific shifted? I established simple rules and expanded the search to all four cardinal directions. The site must have been visited by the Street View car, not by someone aboard a ship or carrying a camera backpack. That eliminated Antarctica, Svalbard and various isolated South Pacific islands.


Nordkapp, Norway


North Cape
North Cape by Tor Even Mathisen, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

The northernmost crown had been stolen! It now shifted to 71.169475 degrees north, where the Street View car reached Nordkapp, Norway. All end-of-the–line Street View images were rather boring so I posted photos from Flickr instead. I still included a link for each entry for curious 12MC audience members though (for example, Street View).

Apparently many people were drawn to Nordkapp as a tourist attraction especially in recent decades because it was considered the northernmost point in Europe. I wouldn’t have the heart to tell them they were all wrong. I think it would be legitimate to say, in their defense, that it was as far north in Europe as anyone could conveniently drive a car. European route E69 provided a well-maintained road right up to the the Nordkapp doorstep where tourists could disembark at a newly refurbished visitors center and snap lots of photos memorializing their accomplishment.

Interestingly, "Nordkapp is a Norwegianized form of the English language name North Cape." A 16th century English explorer searching for a safe route through the Northeast Passage named it, and the designation stuck.


Cochrane, Chile


Casa mate
Casa mate by Claudio Jofré Larenas, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Cochrane, Chile, extended to -47.258816 degrees south and claimed the southernmost image title (Street View). I fully expect that position to change someday. It’s only a matter of time before Street View arrives in Ushuaia, Argentina or Cabo de Hornos, Chile along the Beagle Channel of Tierra del Fuego (map). For today at least, Cochrane held the title.

Cochrane also seemed an odd choice for a place named in a Spanish-speaking area, and like Nordkapp demonstrated that British ship captains sailed far and wide across the planet. Cochrane referred to Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, from Scotland. He sailed relentlessly during the first part of the 19th century, experiencing one adventure after another, and getting into and out of trouble repeatedly. He was an archetype of the swashbuckler. Numerous authors drew upon Cochrane as inspiration for their fictional characters thereafter. Cochrane, the town, honored its namesake’s role as Admiral of the Chilean Navy, a position he also filled later for Brazil and Greece in addition to his years of service in the British Navy. The guy got around.

We should be thankful that the Street View car made it down to Cochrane. The Chilean southern highway (Carretera Austral) didn’t connect Cochrane and other southern towns to the larger road network until 1988, and even today "the trip involves gravel, winding curves and unpredictable weather."

The biggest tourist attraction — other than the abundant natural scenery of various large parks in the area — seemed to be the oddly-shaped Casa Mate.


East Cape, New Zealand


east cape lighthouse
east cape lighthouse by Christopher
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Easternmost and westernmost didn’t have the same appeal during my review because of the arbitrary nature of a prime meridian. I won’t spend as much time discussing them. A prime meridian could exist anywhere. Once again British sea power influenced events and Greenwich became a worldwide standard. Nonetheless I examined the situation for the sake of completeness.

East Cape, the easternmost point of New Zealand’s primary islands, had Street View coverage up to the farthest point an automobile could travel (Street View). It would be difficult to ever improve upon 178.544347 degrees east. Images extended all the way to a car park where visitors could then hike to the actual point.

A 22km, mostly unsealed, no-exit road from Te Araroa takes you to the most Easterly point on mainland New Zealand. The historic East Cape lighthouse stands 154 metres above sea level and is accessed by a walking track of some 700 steps – worth it for the views at the top.


Mana Point, Kauai, Hawaii, USA


201401_Kauai-PMRF-Barking-Sands_401
201401_Kauai-PMRF-Barking-Sands_401 by Thad Westhusing, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Street View provided extensive coverage of the Hawaiian islands so it was only a matter of finding the westernmost image on the westernmost major island, Kauai. I noticed images from minor outlying islands along the archipelago, however, those didn’t involve automobiles or road networks so I discarded them. I settled on Mana Point on Kauai at 159.779397 degrees west (Street View).

The area was known for two things: surfing and missiles. It was the site of Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands:

…the world’s largest instrumented multi-environmental range capable of supported surface, subsurface, air, and space operations simultaneously. There are over 1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace.

The updated Street View extremes delivered viewers to some interesting places. I wonder where they will lead another five years from now?

Canadian Landmark

On August 26, 2014 · 0 Comments

I found a genuine Canadian landmark in the form of Landmark, Manitoba, a village of about a thousand people in the Rural Municipality of Taché, southeast of Winnipeg. Sure there were other Landmarks in Canada including mountains by that name in British Columbia and Yukon plus a point in Newfoundland and Labrador, although the Landmark in Manitoba was the only inhabited one.

The Landmark Chamber of Commerce mentioned some attractive entertainment options recently including "’Redneck Nite’ at Keating Mechanical & Landmark Christian Fellowship Church" featuring both a Lawnmower Race and a Roadkill Supper. That wasn’t intended to be sarcastic or mocking. I grew up in redneck territory and I appreciate that kind of corny stuff. As we used to say back home, "there ain’t no fun like redneck fun." I’ve even featured lawnmower racing on the pages of 12MC before. The roadkill supper, well, maybe I’d take a pass on that.

Landmark took special pride in its fortuante geographic prominence, astride the "Longitudinal Centre of Canada."


Longitudinal Centre of Canada
SOURCE: Google Street View, Longitudinal Centre of Canada near Winnipeg, Manitoba; April 2012

If one started with the extreme eastern and western edges of Canada and used them to calculated the national midpoint, the resulting line would run along a longitude of 96° 48′ 35″ west. That’s what the experts said. I didn’t fact-check it. I figured if people bothered to place official signs along the Trans-Canada Highway attesting to this unique situation, that it was either correct or I didn’t want to dispel their hard work and effort. That would be rude.

Some might have speculated that English-speaking Canadians recognized a slightly different longitudinal centre of the nation than their French-speaking brethren because the government posted two separate signs. That might not be far-fetched although I disproved it. Based on my eyeball estimate, the line ran between the two signs on both sides of the highway. The English version came into view first for drivers traveling in either direction so it all evened out. French Canadiens might still have a valid complaint, as I think about it, because the English signs came first. I’m sure the opposite would have occurred had the longitude crossed through Québec instead.



The Longitudinal Centre described the same basic precept as the better-known 100th Meridian, a metaphor for the emptiness and beauty of the Canadian prairie. Musicians found inspiration in these geographic designations. I mentioned one instance a couple of years ago in Tragically Hundred. Now I’ve learned that John K. Samson of The Weakerthans focused on the Longitudinal Centre in his 2012 debut album Provincials, which "delves deep along roads into the Canadian landscape of Manitoba." He even mentioned the signs:

How the wind strums on those signs that say
The Atlantic and Pacific are the very same far away.

Canadian musicians had a better appreciation of specific longitudinal designations than their counterparts south of the border, apparently.

Any 12MC readers in Winnipeg, or anyone crossing the Great Plains on the Trans-Canada Highway for that matter, should consider a road trip extending from the Longitudinal Centre to the 100th Meridian. The journey should take about three hours between the two points, never leaving Manitoba. That could be a nice day trip. Don’t forget to send photos.



Longitudinal Centre at Landmark, MB

Now, if only the Longitudinal Centre actually ran through Landmark. That was a cheap shot. The line fell extremely close, maybe even clipping the very last house in town (map). I’m sure it won’t be an issue much longer when the town continues to grows as a bedroom community for Winnipeg.

Ironically, the name Landmark had nothing to do with the Longitudinal Centre and inexplicably it had nothing to do with anything apparently. Landmark went by various names into the early 20th Century including Prairie Rose, Linden and Lorette, in addition to Landmark. Sources differed. Landmark was either a name assigned arbitrarily by the government to a local post office or it was picked randomly by one of the early settlers. Either way the name stuck and it certainly seemed appropriate given Landmark’s fortunate geographic placement.

Mapillary

On August 3, 2014 · 2 Comments

I noticed a tweet from a Twelve Mile Circle reader a few months ago that mentioned Mapillary. I can’t recall who that was although he or she deserves my appreciation. Since then I’ve been watching Mapillary from a distance and I’ve become increasingly intrigued by its possibilities. 12MC almost never features individual websites. This is a rare exception.

For the uninitiated, Mapillary was founded about a year ago as a crowdsourced alternative to Google Street View. Mapillary intends to do it differently. It doesn’t have a huge fleet of vehicles at its disposal to scour the planet like Google or other large companies that provide similar services. However its effort is no less ambitious as described quite succinctly in its Manifesto: "At Mapillary we want to create a photo representation of the world, a map with photos of every place on Earth."

Street View cars can’t travel everywhere, so goes the theory, nor can Google refresh its images more than once every couple of years if not longer even with its massive resources. Crowdsourcing would be one way to get around those limitations, and that’s where Mapillary saw its niche. It would need to generate a critical mass to do that though. Perhaps that’s attainable. OpenStreetMap began with a similar premise and it’s now approaching its 10th anniversary.

Mapillary sounded a lot like the word capillary, and I think that’s the idea. Just as capillaries provide a network to deliver blood throughout the body, Mapillary would reach to every corner of the globe photographically.

The concept seemed to be picking up steam. Last February Mapillary had only about a hundred thousand photos. It hit two million a couple of weeks ago. The site is still in its infancy though. There’s great coverage of Malmö, Sweden for example — the company headquarters — and scattered places where particularly active early adopters happen to live. Other places, even major cities, still remain sparsely covered. This was an example from my little corner of the woods:


Mapillary
Mapillary Sample from the Washington, DC Area
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC-BY-SA)

However, that provides exceptional opportunities for any viewer to be the first person to cover a favorite area. If someone didn’t like the coverage of his hometown, well, he could do something about it. I’ve not created an account so far although I think I may when things calm down and I get a little more free time. There are places near me that need better coverage than some random bicycle guy’s arm.

I’m kicking myself because my on-again-off-again project, "Bike Every Street in Arlington" is about a quarter done now and all I have to show for it is the world’s lamest Flickr tag composed primarily of neighborhood signs and historical markers, with an odd monument or boundary stone thrown in for good measure. Imagine if I’d snapped a photo automatically every two seconds with the Mapillary app for Android as I rode along, and then uploaded the results to the site. The whole world would have been able to share complete coverage of those areas, including miles of dedicated bike paths where cars cannot travel.

I had another motive. Someday this could serve as a genuine alternative to Google Street View. 12MC once relied heavily upon Google. I’ve started moving away from it especially since the release of the new Maps version about a year ago, and began favoring OpenStreetMap. Potentially, Mapillary could fill the Street View portion of that same gap if it succeeds. Currently it does not generate code that allow users to embed images in a blog (that I know of) although maybe that would be a feature they could add as it grows. I’d much prefer a crowdsourced alternative.

I need to decide how to mount a camera to the handlebars of my bicycle. I may go with the Do It Yourself cheap version with a phone. I may get a Garmin VIRB someday if I decide it’s worth the investment. Initially I’ll probably start with Mapillary’s panorama option with my phone and simply record a few noteworthy Washington, DC sites not yet covered.

Stick around. I’ll probably have a follow-up report once I have an opportunity to play around with Mapillary for real.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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