New England, Part 2 (Of Course Geo-oddities)

On May 29, 2016 · 0 Comments

Of course I had to visit Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. The Twelve Mile Circle audience loved geo-oddities and I needed to deliver. I’d been to New England several times and I’ve plumbed its depths for nuggets repeatedly. What was left? Well, this lake with a really long name for one. That wasn’t the only remarkable feature in this corner where three states connected, this easily accessible area with an overabundance of lovely features all neatly aligned and waiting for my appearance. It became a day for geo-oddites.

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg


Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg

Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg offered 45 characters of awesomeness too good to pass up, or perhaps more accurately 45-ish characters as there were several different spelling variations. I’ve often seen this touted as the longest place name in the United States and I had to experience it in person. We trudged down to Massachusetts to check it out (map). The lake itself wasn’t all that remarkable; it was certainly a pretty gem sparkling in the early afternoon sun although it competed with many other wonderful lakes sprinkled about the countryside. Its real distinguishing feature was its name.

Many people have written about the unusual name and their accounts littered the Intertubes, including some appearing in respectable publications like the New York Times. Fact needed to be separated from fiction. The cold, hard truth was that Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg contained an element of fiction. Numerous sources traced its long-form name back to newspaperman Laurence J. Daly who edited the local periodical, The Webster Times. He’d concocted a fanciful tale on a slow news day in the early 20th Century about an agreement between Native American tribes, claiming the full translation meant "you fish on your side, I fish on my side and nobody fish in the middle." It sounded great but it wasn’t accurate.

It took a while but, gradually, the You-I-Nobody fantasy built a head of steam, aired on national radio broadcasts, rewritten in newspapers everywhere, and buoyed by a "Ripley’s Believe It or Not" illustration. People with Webster-area roots began mailing clips about Mr. Daly’s tale to the editor of the Webster Times, Laurence J. Daly, he recalled in my presence more than once.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the body of water officially as Chaubunagungamaug in the Geographic Names Information System. That was an impressive string of 17 characters although far short of 45. It also included some additional history.

In 1642, Woodward and Saffery, the first surveyors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, called it "The Great Pond." In 1645, Connecticut Governor John Winthrop called it "The Lakes of Quabage." In a 1707 survey, John Chandler recorded the name as “Chaubunnagungamoug.”

Various translations of the shorter string, Chaubunnagungamoug, referenced the Algonquian language spoken by local Nipmuc Indians, and generated meanings such as Place of the Boundaries or Lake Divided by Islands. GNIS also recognized Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg and similar spellings as legitimate variants. Did I actually visit the place with the longest name in the United States? Well, maybe. I didn’t have to go out of my way to experience it so it wasn’t like it involved any special effort.


CTMARI Tripoint


CTMARI Tripoint

I was much more interested in some unfinished business, the only object skipped in 2012 during an epic Craziest Geo-Oddity Adventure Ever. I hit every conceivable geographic feature of importance in Connecticut on a single day as I circled the state with Steve from Connecticut Museum Quest (now simply CTMQ). I truly believed that we were the first people ever to undertake that quest and it may never be surpassed. The Connecticut-Massachusetts-Rhode Island tripoint had been on our original itinerary (map) and we failed to capture it. We had to abandon our final objective with daylight running short and exhaustion kicking-in. I seemed to recall being quietly content with that decision at the time. We’d seen enough.

Steve reminded me of our omission when I put out a call for my 2016 travel plans. The CTMARI Tripoint absolutely had to make the cut. The goal was never about Lake Chargogga-whatever, it just happened to fall along a convenient line as I charted our course towards Connecticut’s Quiet Corner where I could reach the tripoint. I relied upon Steve’s CTMARI page for directions and you should too. Not only did it include the clearest, easiest path to the tripoint, it also included an account of the Great East Thompson Train Wreck of 1891, "The only time in US railroading history that FOUR trains crashed into each other!" Go over there and read it. I’ll wait.

We followed Steve’s recommendations, had a relaxing walk through the woods, and arrived at the tripoint just as expected. The cellular network extended nicely to this corner despite its perceived remoteness and I fired-off a self-congratulatory tweet with photo to the world. I could now finally call the journey to all Connecticut Extremes complete.


Jerimoth Hill


Jerimoth Hill

I’m certainly no peak bagger although I’ve managed to summit a few state highpoints over the years, usually those requiring minimal effort because I’m lazy and unmotivated. It’s always an added bonus if I can drive all the way to the top. I think my total stood at 6 state highpoints prior to this trip: Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina and Tennessee. Plus the District of Columbia. Then I added Rhode Island.

Jerimoth Hill would never be described as a challenging summit requiring great technical expertise. Literally, it was merely one crest amongst many rolling hills at the far northwestern corner of Rhode Island (map). It happened to extend a few feet higher than others nearby when someone drew artificial lines a few centuries ago to create a colony that later became a state. Still, at 811 feet (247 metres), Rhode Island had a higher elevation than Mississippi, Louisiana, Delaware and Florida. It used to be a running joke in the highpointer community that fewer people had reached the summit of lowly Jerimoth Hill than the peak of Mt. Everest. A crotchety landowner blocked access to the summit at the the point of a gun for decades, eventually allowing people to visit on special days once or twice a year. He passed away several years ago and it became the property of the state of Rhode Island after a series of real estate transactions. Now anyone can park by the side of Old Hartford Pike and walk a gentle trail through fragrant pine forest a few hundred yards to the marker.

In reality it’s completely unremarkable and practically indistinguishable from any other knoll nearby. However, I gave the Rhode Island highpointers all due credit for doing their best to make their summit special. I got the sense that their treatment was more than a little tongue-in-cheek, with its stone cairns, summit register box and Himalayan prayer flags like one would expect on much more exalted mountaintops. Still, Jerimoth Hill counted as a state highpoint just as much as Denali and I doubt I’ll ever travel to Alaska and climb to 20,310 feet (6,190 m). I took my short stroll through the woods to a small boulder and I deemed it a success.


Easy Road Trip



Best of all, these three geo-oddities were aligned neatly and in close proximity. Anyone should be able to replicate my feat. I imagined it might be a nice day-trip for 12MC readers from Boston or Hartford.


See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

By George, Part 2

On May 1, 2016 · 1 Comments

With numerous places named for British Kings George I, II and III already examined and set-aside in the previous article, it was time to turn my attention to IV, V and VI. This would be more difficult. The first set of Georges ruled for a contiguous period of more than a century, from 1714 to 1820, an era coinciding with a rapid growth of the British Empire. The remaining three ruled for half that time with a large gap in between while the Empire began to unravel. There were considerably fewer opportunities to name places for those Georges. Most of the names had already been bestowed within the Empire and new territories weren’t being added much anymore. Also, opportunities in the United States and other places dried-up after their independence. Even so I still found a few examples scattered amongst other areas of the world although sometimes I needed to get creative.

George IV (reigned 1820-1830)


Church of Our Lady Guelph, Ontario
Church of Our Lady Guelph, Ontario by Patty O’Hearn Kickham on Flickr (cc)

That creativity extended to the City of Guelph in Ontario, Canada (map). Guelph? Yes, Guelph was named for King George IV. The University of Guelph explained the logic:

Where did the name GUELPH originate? The city of Guelph was named in 1827 to honour the British Empire’s King George IV, whose family name was Gwelf. The spelling has been changed to today’s "Guelph" — but it’s pronounced just as it was 170 years ago: gwelf (rhymes with self). The origin of the city’s name is also why you might hear Guelph referred to as "The Royal City." Of course, we just refer to it as ‘home.’

I decided to provide another example just in case readers felt a bit cheated by the reference to Guelph. Purists in the audience probably wanted to see something named George instead. How about Georgian Bay (map)? This corner of Lake Huron on the Canadian side of the border sat east of Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula. It was quite sizable with a surface area of fifteen thousand square kilometres (just a little smaller than Kuwait), so George IV got at least one geographic feature of note named for him. Indeed, I confirmed that it was true.

Examples began to taper quickly from there. Lots of cities named streets for George IV, including a nice elevated one in Edinburgh, Scotland. However his decade long reign limited the availability of naming opportunities.


George V (reigned 1910-1936)


La nuit Avenue Georges V à PARIS (kbg Sylvie_3)
La nuit Avenue Georges V à PARIS by Voyage_50mm_Pentax on Flickr (cc)

The First World War was a horrific conflict that ravaged Western Europe although it did result in something that met the criteria for this article, a swanky street in Paris named for George V. The street originally went by Avenue d’Alma. The French decided to honor George V for his support to the nation during the war and changed its name to Avenue George V on Bastille Day, July 14, 1918 (map). It wasn’t a long road, less than a kilometre, although it was exceedingly prestigious as would befit the ruler of an important ally. It formed one side of Paris’ Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle) when paired with Ave. Montaigne and the Champs-Elysées, an area considered "the most luxurious place on the right bank." This also provided a home to the magnificent George V Four Seasons Hotel, a 1928 Art Deco masterpiece. These were all served by the adjacent George V station on the Paris Metro subway.

Additionally, George V gained a lake named for him located directly on the equator in Uganda (map) although he was still Prince George at the time. I thought that should still count even though he wasn’t yet king. I had to take what I could get. There weren’t many examples.


George VI (reigned 1936-1952)


Looking out while over the George VI ice shelf
Looking out while over the George VI ice shelf by NASA ICE (cc)

What blank spaces on the map could the British possibly be able to fill by 1936 when George VI came to the throne? Why, places in Antarctica of course! It might have been a bit removed from the beaten track although the territory was immense, as were the naming opportunities

Lincoln Ellsworth was born into a wealthy Chicago family and had the financial means to become an Antarctic explorer. His groundbreaking 1935 expedition by airplane "covered a distance of 2200 miles of which 1200 miles was over previously unexplored territory." and he "was able to photograph the major fault depression" along his route. The British Graham Land Expedition reached the rift overland by sled the following year, traveling 200 miles "down the channel separating Alexander Island from the Peninsula." This expedition named this area King George VI Sound (map). Most of the sound was covered by ice, and that became the King George VI Ice Shelf. It was big too, stretching 300 miles (483 km). The scale was downright impressive. George VI did alright with that deal, all things considered.

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.

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12 Mile Circle:
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