Twelve Mile Circle received a wonderful suggestion from loyal reader “Joshua D” probably six months ago. He mentioned the schwebefähre ("suspension ferry") in Rendsburg, Germany. These structures went by various names in different languages including "transporter bridge" in English. They were so odd, so whimsical, so amazingly impractical that I found them difficult to comprehend, much less explain. Maybe this would help:
By Y_tambe on
A transporter bridge had features reminiscent of a bridge and a ferry simultaneously, except the ferry was more of a gondola suspended above the river by steel cables. It was cheaper to build than an actual bridge and it could continue to operate while a ferry could not, such as during high water or icy conditions. The concept never gained significant mainstream adoption however because of all of the practical reasons one could imagine. Maybe two dozen transporter bridges ever went into operation during their heyday a few years on either side of 1900. Few survived and fewer still continue to fulfill their original purpose today.
The weird design and scarcity only increased my desire to ride one someday.
Puente de Vizcaya
Barquilla – Puente Vizcaya by Francisco Martins, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
The first transporter bridge, Puente de Vizcaya, opened in 1893 in Portugalete, Spain (map). It gained a nickname over time, Puente Colgante — "hanging bridge" — and "The objective behind the construction of the Vizcaya Bridge was to link the two banks of the mouth of the river Nervión without hindering the shipping," by joining Portugalete to Getxo.
UNESCO added Vizcaya Bridge to its list of World Heritage Sites "as one of the outstanding architectural iron constructions of the Industrial Revolution, " operating continuously since its construction except for a brief period during the Spanish Civil War.
Schwebefähre Rendsburg by Henning Leweke, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license
Schwebefähre Rendsburg (aka Rendsburger Hochbrücke), the transporter bridge brought to my attention by Joshua D, commemorated its 100th anniversary recently (map). The gondola can accommodate up to four cars or a hundred pedestrians suspended about six metres above the Kiel Canal, taking a minute and a half to whisk passengers between Rendsburg to Osterrönfeld. The fare is also wonderful: free!
Le Pont Transbordeur de Rochefort
Pont transbordeur by Henri-Jean Siperius, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
Le Pont Transbordeur de Rochefort (map) celebrated its 114th birthday recently with several thousand visitors and spectacular fireworks, if my very limited understanding of French was correct. It provided passage over the Charente River between Rochefort and Échillais during some unusual hours, closing for lunch each day and then on Monday morning and on Thursday afternoon, all of which seemed quirky in an endearing French way.
The transporter bridge also accommodated only pedestrians and bicycles which led me to believe it was operated more as an historical attraction for tourists rather than as a serious transportation alternative. The major four-lane vehicle bridge a half kilometre to the west (Street View) would be a more practical solution. Thankfully officials preserved the old structure as a work of magnificence even though long since technologically obsolete.
Tees Transporter Bridge
Transporter Bridge by John, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
The United Kingdom once had several transporter bridges, of which at least two survived. One was the Tees Transporter Bridge (map) in Middlesbrough. According to the Middlesbrough Council, "The Tees Transporter is a total of 851 feet (259.3 metres) in length which makes it the longest of those remaining Transporter Bridges in the world" and "is fully operational and provides a regular quarter-hourly service between Middlesbrough and Port Clarence for 12 hours a day."
The current Street View imagery actually showed the bridge in action from inside the gondola. Check it out before Google decides to update it.
Puente Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda
Recuperación del Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda
No functioning transporter bridge existed outside of Europe except for one in Argentina. Maybe.
The Puente Transbordador Nicolás Avellaneda (aka Puente Transbordador de La Boca) in Buenos Aires (map) had been mothballed for decades. Recently it became a focus of restoration. Repairs were scheduled to be completed in January 2014 although I couldn’t find any information to confirm whether that actually happened or not.
It couldn’t possibly be true, a place named for Dwayne Johnson a.k.a "The Rock", the professional wrestler and actor?
This guy had more than 7 million Twitter followers and he followed only one person, Muhammad Ali. That would indicate someone of immense popularity, and yet, could that be enough to get an entire town named for him?
The Rock, Georgia, USA
No, of course not. The Rock in Georgia was not named for Dwayne Johnson and I never figured that was a realistic possibility. I was simply amused by the weird juxtaposition of a professional wrestler and a populated place with the same name. Johnson didn’t have any association with the state or for the town as far as I could determine. Nonetheless I never considered that The Rock — the town — had anything to do with the Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant chain either. However it did, as improbable as that sounded.
The Rock in Georgia was named for The Rock Ranch, and:
The Rock Ranch is a beautiful 1,500 acre cattle ranch located about an hour south of Atlanta in Upson County. It’s a place where families, school groups and even businesses can come to enjoy what we call "agritourism." The Rock Ranch is owned by Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy and dedicated to "Growing Healthy Families"!
S. Truett Cathy and kin are no strangers to controversy. There’s no doubt that The Rock Ranch would have a strong opinion on those Healthy Families that it was dedicated to Growing, regardless of where one’s own personal feelings fell on that spectrum.
Bequia by Globalgrasshopr, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
My tangential thought process led me to consider other placenames beginning with the definite article. It had to be unusual, I considered, and then I realized it may not have been all that rare even if it wasn’t the norm. A simple visit to the US Department of State’s A-Z List of Country and Other Areas demonstrated that quickly at a national level.
- THE Bahamas
- THE Congo (Republic of, and Democratic Republic of)
- THE Gambia
- Saint Vincent and THE Grenadines
The rule of thumb seemed to center upon entities named for something like a river or a group of islands. Those increased the likelihood of having the definite article tacked onto them. The Grenadines portion of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines fascinated me, I guess because Saint Vincent and the Grenadines included only a portion of the Grenadines. The largest island of the Grenadines, Carriacou, was actually a dependency of Grenada. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had to settle for the second largest island, Bequia. Perhaps the name should be changed to Saint Vincent and Some of the Grenadines? It seemed like false advertising.
While not explicitly stated in the US Department of State list in this form, one often encounters THE Netherlands and THE Philippines too. I suppose while I’m at it I could add THE United States and THE United Kingdom. There used to be THE Ukraine although that began to shift to Ukraine by iteself after becoming an independent state in 1991.
Nonetheless I think the only two nations where the definite article would always be capitalized would be The Bahamas and The Gambia (vs. the United States and the United Kingdom, where lowercase would be acceptable in many circumstances). It all gets so confusing.
In the United Kingdom
I looked for instances of THE attached to placenames in many areas and found no nation with a greater prevalence than the United Kingdom. There must be hundreds of them. Some where quite remarkable such as The Burf, The Folly, The Glack, The Mumbles, and The Shoe. The best of course were the several places named The Butts because 12MC couldn’t resist another opportunity for lowbrow humor. This would be an appropriate time to turn on the video of Da Butt for some inspiration.
Many British placenames that sounded odd to the rest of us were rooted in things that made complete sense in their original context. English Heritage provided a logical explanation for The Butts:
An archery butts is an area of land given over to archery practise in which one or more artificially constructed mounds of earth and stone were used as a target area. The name originally applied to the dead marks or targets themselves but the earthen platforms on which the targets were placed also became known as butts… Archery butts can be recognised as field monuments through their earthwork mounds but documentary sources allow the best identification of archery butts, usually through place-names eg. Butt Hills… Archery butts are associated with the use and practise of the longbow which was in part responsible for England’s military power throughout the medieval period.
Thus, many of The Butts derived from archery fields although some did not: "The Middle English word ‘butt’ referred to an abutting strip of land, and is often associated with medieval field systems." In Britain, The Butts could have been associated with archery or with an odd leftover land remnant.
The Gazetteer of British Place listed two specific location of The Butts, one in Glamorgan, South Wales (map) and the other in Hampshire, England (map), although other sources listed more.
I noticed something interesting next to The Butts in Hampshire, Jane Austen’s House Museum. Jane Austen (1775–1817) resided here during the latter part of her life, where she wrote the novels Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. She may have also revised drafts of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey here as well. Thus it could be said that the famous author gazed upon The Butts regularly.
The 12MC audience anticipated my next move again. This time it was "The Basement Geographer" who flagged British prime minister Earl Grey and the Grey Cup in a comment responding to Gray vs. Grey. Those will be mentioned along with other topics today. I knew that could be a risk when I mentioned the prairie town of Earl Grey in Saskatchewan. I interpreted this as a sign of an engaged conversation and I appreciated the input.
Earl Grey, Saskatchewan
Anyway, let’s talk about Earl Grey, the rural town and its namesake. There have been seven men with the the hereditary title Earl Grey. Earl referred to a Peerage of the United Kingdom in this context, not to some dude named Earl although that may have been much more entertaining. According to the History of Earl Grey as published in "From Buffalo Grass to Wheat: a History of Long Lake District,"
…this settlement began when a settler spent the winter of 1903-04 in a dugout in the side of the hill near where the old school stands today. The district was then known as Snorum. It was surveyed about 1885. When the village was incorporated in 1906, a C.P.R. [ed., Canadian Pacific Railroad] official suggested that it be called Earl Grey in honor of the Governor-General, Earl Grey.
This particular Earl Grey was also Sir Albert Henry George Grey, 4th Earl Grey and more importantly for this story, Governor General of Canada between 1904 and 1911. "He is probably best remembered as the donor of the Grey Cup, the trophy awarded to the champion team of the Canadian Football League."
Earl Grey Pass, British Columbia
The Canadian Geographical Names Data Base included one other Earl Grey, a mountain pass bearing the name in British Columbia. The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park explained the origin on its guide to the Earl Grey Pass Trail.
During a visit to British Columbia in 1908, Earl Grey, Canada’s Governor General… crossed the Purcell Mountains on a trail that connected the East and West Kootenays. He traveled up Toby and down Hamill Creeks, over a 2,256m pass which was later named in his honor… The Purcell’s so impressed Earl Grey that he had a cabin built for his family’s vacation in 1909. The remains of the structure still stand on Toby Creek, one kilometer from the Eastern trailhead.
These two Canadian geographic features along with numerous roads and schools spread throughout the Provinces were all named for Albert Grey.
Grey or Orange?
bergamotto by mariella44, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license
Earl Grey Tea, however, was named for a different Earl Grey. I figured I should check that out since I was already examining geographic features named Earl Grey. The tea referred to UK Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, who was the grandfather of Albert Grey, the former Governor General of Canada.
Lord Grey’s most remarkable achievement was the Reform Act of 1832, which set in train a gradual process of electoral change, sowing the seeds of the system we recognise today… One of his other legacies is the blend of tea known as Earl Grey. He reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic present, of tea that was flavoured with bergamot oil. It became so popular that he asked British tea merchants to recreate it.
Bergamot oil came from the pressed peel of the Bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia), an infrequently encountered sour citrus grown commercially in a small handful of places. The majority of those orange groves concentrated historically around the Calabria region of Italy, especially within the Province of Reggio Calabria (map), also recognized informally as the "toe" of the Italian boot. According to the Consorzio del Bergamotto (Consortium of Bergamot),
The bergamot is cultivated along the Ionian coast of the Province of Reggio Calabria, specifically between the towns of Villa San Giovanni and Gioiosa Jonica; an area of about 1,500 hectares produces 20,000 tonnes of fruit, which yield an average of 100,000 kg of essence.
The Consortium provided an English-language video with much more information.
- Black tea infused with obscure citrus: 2nd Earl Grey
- Canadian Football League championship: 4th Earl Grey
Feel free to drop those distinctions into your next cocktail party conversation if you need to disperse a crowd.