Same City Name Distance

On May 31, 2012 · 8 Comments

I’ve been experiencing an ongoing conundrum. I have a huge pile of potential topics to cover on the Twelve Mile Circle but I never get around to using them. I seem to get diverted to whatever topic happens to be on hand and I forget about those I’ve held in reserve. Occasionally I’ll take a look and somehow find excuses to tell myself, "not this time." The spreadsheet continues to grow.

A little pruning is in order. I dumped a bunch of topics I figured I’d never cover: maybe they would take too long to research; or maybe they didn’t have enough material to fill an entire article or maybe they were just plain stupid. I assigned a number to those that remained and used a random number generator to pick a value. That determined today’s topic. I think I might do this once a week until I get the reserve list into reasonable order again.

The website selected Random Number 51 which means I’ll try to figure out "cities or towns with the same name that are located farthest apart. "

Let’s start by examining the concept of farthest apart. I’ll need to find antipodes, those place on the globe that are exactly opposite of each other. These result in great circle distances of just about 20,000 kilometres, give-or-take. My goal will be to find places that share the same name with a minimum separation approaching 20,000 km as closely as possible. This limits the possibilities considerably. There aren’t very many places on earth where both ends of an antipode fall on dry land.

Antipodes equirectangular
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license

It’s easy to narrow-down some possibilities. I figured there wouldn’t be much of an overlap in town names between China/Mongolia and Chile/Argentina, as an example, so I didn’t bother to look. I did note my earlier article that "Taiwan used to be called Formosa. The antipode for one small corner of the island falls in Argentina, in the province of Formosa." However, it doesn’t apply here because I’m looking for two cities or towns, not a former national name and a province.

I saw a few possibilities quickly. I focused my energy using the maxim, "the sun never sets on the British Empire" I also speculated that there could perhaps be some synergy between Spanish names used in the Philippines and Portuguese names used in Brazil, or a potential Dutch connection between Suriname and the Dutch East Indies. Those are for you. I focused on the sphere of British influence. New Zealand is close to being antipodal to the United Kingdom. Western Australia does the same with the eastern United States and various British-settled islands of the Caribbean. Those seemed like better bets.

The Encyclopedia of New Zealand didn’t offer much hope: "Direct borrowing of United Kingdom place names was uncommon." Uncommon didn’t mean impossible though, so I weeded through their examples and dumped them into a great circle distance calculator.

View Larger Map

I did search briefly for place names in New Zealand that seemed to have a Spanish influence without any luck. I figured I could do better by turning my attention to Australia. I struck gold.

View Larger Map

I know what you’re thinking. I’m cheating, right? A place called Cane in the U.S. Virgin Islands doesn’t even appear on Google Maps. Nonetheless it is a real place and I confirmed that it’s included in the US Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System. Maybe some enterprising reader could try another version of this game where the towns have to be home to more than 10,000 (or 100,000) residents.

I’m not saying 19,524 km is the farthest distance between two towns with the same name, just that it comes very close to the theoretical maximum. I’d be thrilled if someone could improve upon this result.

On May 31, 2012 · 8 Comments

8 Responses to “Same City Name Distance”

  1. Colin McKellar says:

    Growing up in Perth, Australia, I remember hearing about another town called Perth in Scotland. I moved to Scotland about 9 months ago, and live next to the Scottish Perth, and now when I tell people I’m from Perth, I have to clarify that it isn’t the local one. Unfortunately, these two Perths are only 14700km apart, and nowhere near what you have found elsewhere. There are several other Perths however, including one in Ontario. This Perth is a healthy 18230km away from my hometown.

    Taking a different tack, on the map above, it appears that the former Portuguese colony Macau is right near the inland tip of Brazil. There appears to be a suburb of Rio called Macau which is only 16300km away from the Chinese Macau. I don’t speak chinese (or portugese) well enough to know if there are significant enough suburbs of Macau that have alternative names that may have a complement in south western Brazil.

    One last thing: I call shenanigans on Cane, Western Australia. I’ve driven through the area several times and there is no town or community there. I would be surprised if there were more than two dozen people living in the whole area designated “Cane”. It appears to be a post code named after the Cane River. I may be persuaded to be quiet on the issue, however, given the glorious 19500km great circle.

    • I totally get the Perth-Perth clarification. When I’m on the west coast of the United States I constantly and annoying have to refer to my hometown as "the other Washington."

  2. I have an idea — publish the list of topics that you just threw out — maybe one of your readers will find one or more of them interesting enough to do the research themselves and provide you with enough material for your own post, or perhaps a guest post!

  3. I like, too!

  4. Fredrik says:

    I was thinking Hamilton, Bermuda could work with anything near Perth. It turns out one of the suburbs of Perth is called Hamilton Hill (19,965 km from Hamilton, Bermuda). But the search for a place called only Hamilton lead me to a small industry area south of Perth clearly visible slightly inland from Bunbury. I have no idea how lagre this place is or how many inhabitants. It is located 19,881 km from Hamilton, Bermuda.

  5. Dominique M says:

    Miramar, in Wellington is 19,513 km from Miramar in Spain. So close, and yet so far.

  6. Dominique M says:

    The Philippines had a Spanish influence, so did South America. San Mateo is 19937 km and an error “Algorithm did not converge” from San Matias in Bolivia.

  7. Dominique M says:

    Got it. 19831 km and 19826 km. Two villages fairly close to each other in the Philippines are called San Matias.

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