Twelve Mile Circle explored the Ends of the Earth recently, including the southernmost tip of Bangladesh. However, more accurately, the article reached the end of mainland Bangladesh. In the course of my research I found a spot even farther removed in the Chittagong Division, a place called Saint Martin’s Island (map). I never knew it existed until then. It could have belonged to Myanmar (Burma) just as easily. In fact the island fell closer to Myanmar than to its own nation.
About That St. Martin Name
How odd to find another island of Saint Martin. It shouldn’t be confused with that weirdly divided island in the Caribbean. I enjoyed exploring that one a few years ago in person, recording border markers between French Saint-Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten. I’d also experienced the weirdly bifurcated Saint Martin Parish in Louisiana. Apparently things with that name attracted geo-oddities. Who knew?
The same saint underpinned both the Caribbean island and the Louisiana parish. They honored St. Martin of Tours. Christopher Columbus spotted the Caribbean instance during his second voyage in 1493. It happened to coincide with the saint’s feast day, November 11, thus the name. I saw earlier that certain locations discovered on December 25 sometimes came to be called Christmas so it didn’t surprise me to see a similar naming convention here. The same could be said for Easter Island too, I supposed. The European discovery in the Caribbean fell on St. Martin’s Day and Columbus named it accordingly
As for Louisiana
Similarly, Saint Martin of Tours inspired the name of the parish in Louisiana, albeit in a roundabout way. The town of St. Martinville, the seat of local government for the parish, described what happened in 1765:
[Charles-Philippe] Aubry had also sent a French priest, Fr. Jean Louis Civrey, to accompany the Acadians and serve the Attakapas district, where he became the first resident curate. In his records, Civrey refers to his new home as "la Nouvelle Acadie". He calls his new parish "l’Église des Attakapas (Attakapas Church)" and later, "l’Église St-Martin de Tours (St. Martin de Tours Church)", for which it is said St. Martinville is named.
St. Martinville predated the parish, which then adopted the town’s name upon its creation in 1807.
Did Saint Martin’s Island in Bangladesh memorialize the same saint? Honestly, I never found out. It seemed likely. The Anglican Communion venerated St. Martin of Tours too. He would have been a familiar figure to British adventurers who named the island.
Saint Martin lived during the Fourth Century and became a conscript in the Roman army. He converted to Christianity as a young adult around the time it became legal to do so in the Empire. The most well-known story recounting his pious acts involved an incident during his time as a soldier. A beggar dressed in rags on the verge of freezing to death sat by the side of the road. Martin removed his tunic, sliced it with his sword, and gave half of it to the beggar. That night God came to him in a vision and set him on a course that would guide him for the rest of his life. Martin became a conscientious objector, founded a monastery and eventually became Archbishop of Tours (now a city in France).
I’ll take a moment for an interesting tangent. The portion of the cloak retained by St. Martin became an important relic to the early Christian church and to the Frankish kings. In the Latin language a cloak of this type was called a "cappella." The priest in charge of guarding the cloak became a cappellani. The modern English words chaplain and chapel both descended from the people and places designated to protect this sacred cloak. Indirectly, the musical style "a cappella" (in the manner of the chapel) descended from the same etymology.
He became the patron saint of an eclectic group of people, both soldiers and conscientious objectors, as well as the poor, tailors and winemakers. The Basilica of St. Martin in Tours, France marked his tomb (map) and became a place of pilgrimage.
Nobody lived on the Bangladeshi island of St. Martin’s until about 250 years ago when Arabian sailors occupied it. The British came soon thereafter and took control. It wasn’t a large place, just 8 square kilometres (3 square miles) at high tide and a good bit less at low tide. It was also the only coral island in the entire nation of Bangladesh. St. Martin’s became its English name, of course. In Bengali it went by a phrase that translated into something like Coconut Island.
Most people who moved there became fishermen. They prospered quite nicely until recent decades. Since then, a number of tourist hotels and resorts opened, stressing the island ecology and the coral reefs around it. Fish populations declined. The reefs began to erode. The island began to shrink. Still it seemed to be a mostly idyllic place where tourists came to escape a hectic pace found elsewhere. Ferries crossed from Cox’s Bazar on the mainland, a two hour ride away. Electricity didn’t exist except for the generators at some of the larger hotels. No motorized vehicles were allowed, the only mechanized transportation being pedal-powered rickshaws. Wikitravel noted "not even a hint of nightlife."
Even farther south, the true southernmost tip of Bangladesh, culminated at an area called Chera Dwip (or Chera Dip, or Chera Deep). At low tide Chera Dwip attached to St. Martin’s Island. At high tide it separated and formed its own distinct island. Tourists enjoyed the area although they needed to be careful to keep from being stranded there when the tide rolled in.
Unbelievably, the island included Google Street View coverage! Someone carrying a backpack recorded it in October 2015. I noticed something peculiar, however. The same man appeared in every single Street View image. He wore a uniform. He didn’t seem to be wearing a military uniform, although he might have been a policeman, a crewman from a ferryboat or a tourism official. I couldn’t tell. Regardless, he escorted the Street View camera all over the island. The day warmed up and he removed his tie. He got bored and talked on his mobile phone. Occasionally he helped himself to a bottle of water that he carried around in a red translucent plastic bag. Then he carried a different bag. Then he wore a different shirt, I think because filming probably took place over a couple of days. Was it weird that he followed the camera or that I tracked him obsessively from the other side of the world?
He probably appeared in hundreds of distinct images, sometimes right by the camera and sometimes lurking in the shadows, our own South Asian Where’s Waldo. I finally found an image of him where Google forgot to blur his face. I figured I’d give him a little Intertubes recognition. He deserved it.
Then I went down a little tangent wondering about that particular expression. Fortunately there were sources such as the late William Safire who explored That’s/It’s a Wrap in 2005. It did refer to the movie industry as I believed although of more recent vintage than I imagined, perhaps dating back only as far as the 1950’s. Some sources considered it an acronym for "Wind, Reel and Print" the film; others considered that explanation a contrivance created after the fact.
Either way, with the year so recently concluded, it seemed like a good opportunity to take stock of my most recent efforts. The Twelve Mile Circle put another year in the books. How did 2016 perform?
I’ve posted 1,320 articles so far, which is crazy. I didn’t really think about that total much, considering it a testament to small actions taken over long periods. The drip-drip of my incremental efforts eventually filled a large bucket. Articles served two very distinct audiences actually, regular readers like you and the ephemeral search engine crowd. It pleased me that the main 12MC page registered the most views again this year. The freshest content rolled through there, the logical place where regular readers naturally congregated.
The one-and-done readers would land, so I figured, directly atop a specific article page as directed by Google or whatever. This naturally skewed page views to older articles that the algorithms already knew about. Sure enough, Chesapeake Bay Car Ferries from 2010 continued its historic domination. It got steady hits all year long, many from people who wanted to ride the ferry. Too bad the last one sailed across the Bay more than a half century ago.
If I looked solely at articles posted in 2016, the award for most readers went to Residual Braniff posted fairly recently in October. That caught me by surprise. I didn’t think many people would care about an extinct airline that couldn’t survive deregulation. I’ll repeat the old mantra once again — I have no idea what interests the 12MC audience. It always seemed to be the most unexpected articles that attracted the most eyeballs.
WordPress powers 12MC and I couldn’t find an easy way to generate statistics about comments so I followed a bit of a manual method. I wasn’t about to go through all 5,245 of them, that’s for sure. The previously-mentioned Chesapeake Bay Car Ferries probably still retained the all-time lead with 27. I turned my attention solely to articles published in 2016.
Interstate Highway Counties grabbed the lead with 13 comments. That one took some effort. I had to create a map and everything. What a pain. A lot of the comments said something like, "you missed such-and-such." Even so, I appreciated the input because of the time I put into it. Second place went to Odds and Ends 12, my occasional series where I talk about topics that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. It’s been awhile. I think I may be due for another one soon.
Next came a bunch of articles with 9 comments each.
Most Viewed Map
I created a map on Google Maps in 2014 that generated more than 1.3 million page views. It continues to grow at a healthy clip. The map illustrated an article about Interstate Highway Time Zone Crossings.
To be completely candid, I designed the map for my own selfish purposes. I drive long distances on some of my county counting adventures and I like to know when I need to change my watch. It didn’t bother me one way or the other if anyone else found it useful. Apparently no other utility quite like this existed elsewhere on the Intertubes. As of this morning Google ranked it as the #1 search result for interstate highway time zone map. It gets steady hits with spikes clustered near 3-day weekends and during holidays periods such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. You know, popular times for road trips.
Eventually I added a little note on the map hoping to persuade viewers to jump over to 12MC and give it a try. Maybe 20-30 people per day do that, just a tiny fraction of those who view the map on Google. Perhaps one or two may have become regular readers as a result? Who knows. It’s a bit frustrating that something like twice as many people view this single map I created on Google on any given day than every single page on my humble 12MC combined.
Push Pin Progress
Everyone knows that I’ve mapped every location ever mentioned in a Twelve Mile Circle article, right? Sometimes I wonder. They’re all included in the Complete Index. I mention that because the tally now stands at 3,350 places. I always check it when I plan my routes. That’s how I remembered to go to the Fairfax Stone on a trip to West Virginia last October.
Maybe I should include some real content today instead of just rehashing all of my old material?
I found quite a number of geographic places in the United States and beyond named for the New Year. This included various foreign language equivalents like Año Nuevo. However only a single place on the planet — as far as I could tell — bore the name Happy New Year. The US Geological Survey listed a Happy New Year Creek in Alaska:
Prospectors’ name shown on a 1902 manuscript map by E. J. Chamberlain, U.S. Deputy Surveyor… flows N to Slate Creek, 40 mi. SW of Eagle, Yukon-Tanana High. 5 miles long.
Hopefully that will be considered geo-odd enough to jump-start another successful year of Twelve Mile Circle exploration. I have big plans. Thanks for riding along.
I revisited an old concept from a much earlier version of Twelve Mile Circle, the simple pleasure of wandering aimlessly through Google Street View. That’s something I used to enjoy regularly. However, life got busier and other priorities mostly prevented that luxury in recent years. They still do, although I needed to clear my mind of a million other things as the holidays approached. A couple of hours traveling vicariously online did the trick. Plus I found some interesting places.
Google Street View covered territory in many nations albeit with notable exceptions. I wanted a closer look at mysterious Myanmar (Burma) as an example, because it remained under tight control until only recently. However Street View hadn’t arrived there yet. Then I wondered if I could peer across the border from its neighbors. I began with Bangladesh. It shared a brief border with Myanmar although only a single road featured Street View coverage along the way. The road extended to the end of the Teknaf Peninsula. Naturally I lost all interest in Myanmar and fixated on that little road running to the farthest southern point of the Bangladeshi mainland.
What a road! It turned out to be a perfect place to meander, a great place for people watching. Humanity seemed to be everywhere as I followed along the Street View path. People gathered in every small patch of open space. Impossibly small roadside shops sold necessities. Animals wandered freely. I compared that with the average Western town where people hid in their homes, where public appearances limited themselves to automobiles.
In this corner of Bangladesh, the vehicle of choice seemed to be a 3-wheeled motorized rickshaw. Others made do with motorcycles, bicycles or even their own feet. A hive of activity hugged both sides of the narrow path. The Street View car must have created quite a commotion as it passed. Even so, the modern world extended all the way down here to the end of the line. A mobile phone tower in the background implied Internet connectivity. I can always hope for a 12MC visitor from Bangladesh’s Chittagong Division someday. I’ll need to think of a suitable prize.
The terrain seemed extremely flat too, and perilously close to the Bay of Bengal. I wouldn’t want to be around there during Monsoon Season.
Where would people go when the water rose? That wasn’t idle speculation. Historically floods bedeviled Bangladesh. A 1998 deluge submerged 100,000 square kilometres (38,000 square miles), forcing 25 million people from their homes. I wondered, did Bangladesh even have land high enough to avoid rising waters? Obviously it had a highpoint. Was it good enough?
The nation actually contained a mountainous region along it border with Myanmar, much to my surprise. The hills didn’t encompass a lot of Bangladesh although they certainly existed. Oddly, Bangladesh didn’t have a recognized highpoint because nobody ever bothered to measure it officially. Many geographers believed the honor went to Saka Haphong in the Mowdok range (map). It reached 1,052 metres (3,451 feet) unofficially. After I got over the shock of learning that nobody really knew the highpoint of an entire nation, I figured I’d head towards Saka Haphong should I ever find myself in Bangladesh during a monsoon.
Dirt Road Super-Highway
China didn’t have Street View either although neighboring Mongolia had a little. I followed the same process and got the same result: interesting views of Mongolia sidetracked my attempts to peer into China.
I meant "interesting" as an appreciation of its scenery completely wide-open and devoid of any features whatsoever. It reminded me of the Big Sky of eastern Montana in the United States, although amplified by an order of magnitude or two. I could almost imagine Genghis Khan galloping across the steppe on horseback with his hordes.
Looking to the horizon in any direction I saw nothing, simply nothing. Just two sets of dirt tracks across grassy fields in Mongolia’s Dornogovi province. I’ve experienced many dirt roads in my life. However, I’ve never seen one with TWO tracks. That implied sufficient traffic and speed to justify separate lanes. That seemed crazy. With vehicles stirring up easily-visible dust storms as they drove, with lines of sight across an endless horizon, with almost zero population or vehicles, with plenty of room to pull over and let occasional traffic pass, who would ever need to worry about a driver coming in the opposite direction? Yet, apparently it was necessary.