Last Places in Commonwealth Countries

On July 6, 2016 · 0 Comments

The series of Last Places continued. One should feel free to consult the previous articles, Last Place in England and Last Places in Asia, to understand the premise. I found it more difficult to uncover examples this time so I broadened the base, extending my search to the entire set of the Commonwealth of Nations countries. Most failed to produce any results although a few offered nuggets of goodness.


Last Place in Australia to Hunt Whales


Albany Whale World
Albany Whale World by denisbin on Flickr (cc)

This one surprised me. I knew that many nations hunted wales from the Eighteenth Century until well into the Twentieth Century, and a small handful never gave it up. It made sense to me that Australia, with all that seacoast, pursued whaling commercially too. What surprised me was the Australia didn’t stop hunting whales until 1978. I would have guessed a much earlier date given its fierce opposition to whaling today. The Cheynes Beach Whaling Company shut its doors in that fateful year, closing an Australian tradition that dated back to its earliest colonial days. That new direction marked a different tradition though, and one much better for the whales.

Cheynes got into the whaling game late from its base near Albany, Western Australia (map) in the 1950’s. Blood flowed in the waters for the next quarter century.

In 1952, the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company in Frenchman Bay commenced operations with advice and equipment supplied by the Norwegians. Using the whale catcher boats, the Cheynes II, III and IV, the whalers took an average of 86 humpbacks a year until a ban on hunting that species came into effect in 1963. In 1955, they had begun to take sperm whales, which now became the focus of the whale chasers, and catches steadily began to rise. When whales were plentiful, work went on at the station around the clock, seven days a week.

The old whaling station didn’t simply disappear after it closed. Just two years later it reopened as a tourist attraction, Whale World, now called the Discovery Bay Tourism Experience. The site offered an exact rendition of the station. Workers simply walked away in 1978 and left everything behind, almost as if they expected to return the next day. The site remained perfectly preserved.


Last Place in New Zealand to Cart Wool out on Packhorses


Around New Zealand
Around New Zealand by Coss and Johanna on Flickr (cc)

I wanted to find superlatives truly describing a nation’s fabric whenever possible. Sheep farming seemed sufficiently stereotypical of New Zealand. It delighted me to see Hore Hore Station mentioned as the last place in New Zealand to cart wool out on packhorses, listed in a family history. That didn’t appear to be a particularly reliable source although a 1957 photo series called Life on a Sheep-Station made similar claims.

Probably the only sheep station left in New Zealand where the wool must be carried out on horseback is the Hore Hore Station, 30 miles in from Ruatoria, in the shadow of Mount Hikurangi. The station’s only link with the road is by a tortuous track leading five miles up the Mata River through a precipitous gorge. All supplies are brought in by packhorses, and the wool is brought out in the same way.

Finding the exact spot proved more difficult. Hore Hore came from a Maori phrase meaning "nowhere place" and it described the situation perfectly. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Finally I turned to the New Zealand Gazetteer — I probably should have started there — and located the exact spot (map).


Last Place in Canada to Publicly Execute a Criminal


Ottawa Jail Hostel
Ottawa Jail Hostel by Bonnie Dean on Flickr (cc)

I discovered gibbeting in the England article and now I pondered public execution in Canada. I hadn’t formed a sudden fascination with death so the 12MC audience shouldn’t worry about my mental condition. As I searched for "last" things around the world, invariably the selections fell into common themes; electricity/telephones and capital punishment. Don’t blame me, blame the Intertubes.

The Carleton County Gaol in Ottawa, Ontario (map) offered only three public executions in its 150 year life span, although its final one made history for being the last time the public could watch a man hang in Canada. The condemned man, Eugène Larment killed Ottawa policeman Thomas Stoneman in 1945, the first Ottawa policeman to die in the line of duty.

Detective Stoneman was working on a special assignment attempting to locate a stolen vehicle. The vehicle had been used in a daring theft of automatic weapons from the Canadian War Museum. On October 24, 1945, at 0102 hours Detective Stoneman and a fellow officer approached three youths who were suspected of having just broken into cars. Unknown to the officers, the youths were armed with handguns stolen in a previous break and enter. One of the suspects shot Detective Stoneman… Eugene Larment was charged with murder, convicted and hung for his crime.

The execution took place at the Carleton County Gaol (also known as the Nicholas Street Gaol or Ottawa Jail) in 1946. It closed in 1972. Hostelling International bought the property and converted it into the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Those staying overnight could sleep in a converted cell complete with iron doors and bars. It offered tours each day including the third floor "death row."

I’ll add one small footnote. The last public execution in Canada indeed took place at Carleton. The last execution, not held publicly, happened in 1962 at the Don Jail in Toronto.


Last Place in Kenya Stuffing Animals for Big Game Hunters


King of Beasts
King of Beasts by Thomas Hawk on Flickr (cc)

Another nation, another surprise. I didn’t realize Kenya banned big game hunting in 1977. I thought they still allowed it. An American dentist killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in 2015 so I figured it was still a thing everywhere. Rich European and Americans used to flock to Kenya to collect all sorts of safari trophies, stuffing their victims for display. Now they don’t.

Paul Carl Zimmerman opened his taxidermy studio in Nairobi in 1929, after first arriving as part of "a zoology research team sent by a German university." His studio grew to become the largest taxidermy factory in Kenya, and one of the largest in the world. By 1973, Zimmermann Ltd. mounted trophies for 400 safaris a year, primarily lions, wildebeests and buffaloes. The business shuttered after the hunting ban. Only the name remained, adopted by the Zimmerman Estate housing complex on the site of the old taxidermy studio (map).

Rock Cut, Part 2

On May 11, 2016 · 2 Comments

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I stumbled across the existence of an entire genre of structural design known as Rock Cut Architecture, described in the previous article. I could hardly contain my glee although there was still a lot of work to be done. There were so many examples from widely varied parts of the world that I couldn’t fit them all into a single article. That made this follow-on post necessary, with additional illustrations from several more nations.

Ellora Caves, India


Great Kailasa From Above
Great Kailasa From Above by Craig Moe on Flickr (cc)

India became such an epicenter for buildings and rooms carved from stone that it had its own distinct subcategory, Indian Rock Cut Architecture. It wasn’t just one culture or religion either. Followers of several beliefs and faiths practiced and perfected this art. These structures rose in numerous places. One of the best was the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff, not far from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.

A Hindu Structure known as Cave 16 or the Kailasa temple (map) was particularly impressive. This massive structure unfolded on multiple levels, so large and complex that it had to be carved from the top down. It dated to the reign of Krishna I in the Eight Century.


Yungang Grottoes, China


Yungang Grottoes
Yungang Grottoes by Olga on Flickr (cc)

Sites featuring rock cut architecture in India were often called Caves by English speakers, and in China they were Grottoes. I didn’t know why. I simply observed that China placed a close second to India in terms of rock cut prevalence and impressiveness. There were several expansive sites, notably the Yungang Grottoes near Datong in Shanxi Province (map). These were Buddhist structures from the Fifth and Sixth Centuries. Buddhism moved north from India as did a penchant for rock cut architecture. At Yungang, devotees carved more than 250 openings and 50,000 statues into the Wuzhou Shan mountains, "a classical masterpiece of the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art."


Vardzia Monastery, Georgia


Vardzia
Vardzia by Tony Bowden on Flickr (cc)

Vardzia in Georgia (map) represented an instance of carving into stone for protection as much using it as a convenient building material.

In desperate circumstances people are often driven to perform feats of mythical proportions. In the late 1100s the medieval kingdom of Georgia was resisting the onslaught of the Mongol hordes, the most devastating force Europe had ever seen. Queen Tamar ordered the construction of this underground sanctuary in 1185, and the digging began, carving into the side of the Erusheli mountain, located in the south of the country near the town of Aspindza.

Once completed, the Vardzia Monastery contained multiple levels and thousands of rooms, stretching over a half kilometre of mountainside. Invaders weren’t a problem although natural forces took a heavy toll. An earthquake caused many of the cells to collapse after only a century.


Coober Pedy, Australia


Underground House at Coober Pedy
Underground House at Coober Pedy by Matthew Klein on Flickr (cc)

The popularity of rock-cut architecture faded many centuries ago. The technique was incredibly labor intensive. In the meantime, other building techniques and materials continued to improve. Nonetheless, this distinctive style survive into the modern era although generally during unusual circumstances such as those found at Coober Pedy in South Australia (map).

Coober Pedy was one of those places that probably had no reason to exist except that it happened to sit atop enough gemstones to crown itself "Opal Capital of the World." Otherwise it was a harsh desert climate not particularly conducive to civilization. For one, there weren’t any local material available to build anything to shelter those who mined for opals. However, the surrounding bedrock was perfect for digging into so local inhabitants did just that and created what were known as dugouts. People simply carved into hillsides.

The early Coober Pedy dugouts were indeed the holes that had been dug in search for opal. Today opal mining in the town area of Coober Pedy is not allowed any more. But hey, you can always renovate or expand, Need another shelf? Dig a hole in the wall. Shelf not big enough for the new stereo? Dig a bit deeper. A walk in robe? Dig a big hole. Another bed room? Not a problem! And always the off chance of finding some opal… In reality nobody digs by hand any more. Any new building work is done by modern tunneling machines.

Many homes and businesses in the area were created as dugouts, as were two churches, one Catholic and the other Serbian Orthodox. Residents of these structures also benefited from a constant comfortable temperature. Whether the desert at the surface hit scorching hot or freezing cold, it always remained nice underground. Rock cut architecture might not be an optimal choice in most places today although it seemed to be a great solution for Coober Pedy.

Australia’s Time Zone Corners

On April 24, 2016 · 2 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle loves mail! I’ve discovered all sorts of interesting geographic artifacts from readers who’ve sent a much appreciated note. This time a message arrived from reader "Jonathan" who has offered several suggestions in the past. He mentioned a place he noticed while looking at maps of Australia. It was called Cameron Corner, found at the intersection of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. This wasn’t just any ordinary tripoint, it also marked a separation between three Time Zones during periods of Daylight Saving Time – DST. I later saw that this happened at two other Australian tripoints. The concept definitely piqued my curiosity.

Cameron Corner


Untitled
The Corner Store, Cameron Corner by bushie on Flickr (cc)

The specific situation that existed at Cameron Corner meant that anyone within the vicinity would have an unusual opportunity to celebrate New Years three times in a single evening. It sort-of reminded me of the instance of being able to celebrate one’s birthday twice. During DST, New South Wales followed UTC+11 (i.e., eleven hours beyond Coordinated Universal Time, abbreviated UTC for some odd reason). South Australia followed UTC+10:30 during DST. Queensland didn’t recognize DST at all so it remained at UTC+10 all year long. A post marked the actual tripoint where this rare condition occurred.

People actually lived at Cameron Corner in the middle of nowhere, albeit with a very small permanent population of two souls who operated the Cameron Corner Store. I found more information about this obscure crossroads than I would have imagined given its remoteness. Little of this came from my usual sources. I found another source that was great though, TripAdvisor, of all places. A fair number of people went out of their way to stop at Cameron Corner and some of them recorded their experiences in rich detail. The store included a restaurant, a small hotel, a campground, a petrol station, and a pub where it seemed like visitors made a point of drinking into the early hours of the morning. There wasn’t much else to do so far into the Outback. The site also had a 3-hole desert golf course where a round included a hole in each state.

There were a number of TripAdvisor quotes that interested me, including a very simple description of Cameron Corner, "a metal post, a pub and a fence." That seemed straight and to the point.

Another reviewer noted,

There is only one shop/store on the Queensland side although their postcode is in NSW and telephone number is SA. As each state has a different time zone, they are known to have three New Year’s each year. I was told by Fenn, the shop-keeper that last year, they had about 70 guests passing this area for New Year’s and that they walked from one state to the other to celebrate the different times (which are only metres away from each other).

And finally

The corner itself, of course, is nothing but the marker post, the dingo fence and the Corner Store and the feeling of being remote is oh-so palpable when you arrive there and step out of your vehicle; the silence is absolute. Just magic!… This is not a trip to be undertaken lightly, though; on the trip in on the unsealed road we saw no other traffic – 280km – and only one car on the way out; spare water and fuel for the "just in case" moments are a must

This prompted me to look at some of the other Australian corners. Cameron Corner was the most accessible by far.


AUS locator map with corners full
AUS locator map with corners full on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

Poeppel Corner and Surveyor Generals Corner exhibited the same phenomenon, with a three state, three time zone anomaly during DST. MacCabe Corner and Haddon Corner did not, and Haddon Corner wasn’t even a tripoint. I decided to examine the first two a little more closely.


Poeppel Corner


Poeppel Corner
Poeppel Corner by
John Benwell on Flickr (cc)

The Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia all met at the Poeppel Corner tripoint. Unlike Cameron Corner, nobody lived there and scant information existed. The Australian National Placenames Survey included a nice newsletter article though (pdf format). The corner was set deep within the Simpson Desert, accessible only by 4-wheel drive vehicles, and registered perhaps 2,000 visitors per year:

In 1880, Augustus Poeppel, South Australian Government Surveyor, marked the corner with a coolibah Eucalyptus microtheca post, 2.1 metres long by 0.25 metres in diameter. The post was dragged 58 miles (92 kilometres) westward from the Mulligan River. Poeppel adzed it on three sides and chiseled into it the words "South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland"… Poeppel returned to the corner in 1883 to commence the survey of the Queensland/Northern Territory border. The post was not seen again by a European until 1936

The nearest people today are probably found in tiny Birdsville, more than a 150 kilometres (93 miles) away. One would need to be amazingly dedicated to go all the way to Poeppel Corner to experience this single post in the ground.


Surveyor Generals Corner


Surveyor Generals Corner Visit from Alan McCall on Vimeo.

More difficult yet would be a journey to Surveyor Generals Corner, the tripoint of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. It contained an interesting geo-oddity though, a surveying error.

So in 1968 two monuments were set up at the resulting right-angles where the WA border does a brief east-west zig-zag in the desert. The easternmost corner, where two states and a territory meet, was named Surveyor-Generals Corner after the three officials who attended the ceremony.

Two cultures crossed at Surveyor Generals Corner. People of European descent created Australian States with straight lines that formed an arbitrary tripoint. The original Aboriginal people considered the spot their own, and had occupied it for millennia. Thus, anyone who wanted to experience Surveyor Generals Corner in person required explicit permission and a guide, in addition to the usual Great Central Road permit. That could be arranged by contacting the Wingellina (Irrunytju) Community Office in the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku, Western Australia. The logistics were discussed in ExplorOz.com

The corner consists of two actual markers separated by a distance of 75 metres. This creates a dogleg in the WA border. It is approximately seven km north east of Irrunytju community. Both are on the land of Mr Eddy and you must be escorted to the markers by one of the traditional owners. Arrangements (permits) have to be obtained prior to heading to Irrunytju (Wingellina) thru the West Australian DIA website. Prior to heading that way, ring the store or community centre to ensure that people will be around and available at the time of your arrival. Once arrived at Wingellina, head to the community centre and pay the appropriate fee (At July 07 – it was $100 per vehicle and $20 per person) and someone will be located to escort you (usually Mr Eddy or Mr Donald Ferguson, both community elders). Both are very helpful and will give you permission to take photographs.

I’ve not been to Australia in awhile. However, if I’m ever lucky enough to return, I would love to push away from the coast and visit one of these tripoints. Have any of the Australian 12MC readers ever been fortunate enough to experience these places in person?


Unrelated, but not completely unrelated

In preparing this article I went back through the index and I noticed I’d posted several other Oz-centric articles over the years. Enjoy.

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12 Mile Circle:
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