Big Time

On October 1, 2017 · 0 Comments

Quite awhile ago, Twelve Mile Circle looked at some Remarkable Sundials. I found some rather amazing timepieces in a lot of different places, some of them quite large. Now I wondered about the largest actual clock with a face and hands. I didn’t know why the notion suddenly came to me after the passage of so much time. However, it did for some reason and I got curious. A couple of simple rules underpinned this examination: It needed to be a regular clock face and it needed to be permanent.

Makkah Royal Clock Tower


Makkah Royal Hotel Clock Tower
Makkah Royal Hotel Clock Tower. Photo by Basheer Olakara on Flickr (cc)

By that definition, the search for the largest clock led to Saudi Arabia. There in Mecca, overlooking most sacred site in Islam, stood the Makkah Royal Clock Tower (map). The clock adorned the third tallest building in the world, Abraj Al-Bait. The Saudi government built and owned this cluster of seven towers, the tallest and largest a Fairmont hotel finished in 2012. I noticed rooms available for as little as $125 per night although I imagined rates would be considerably higher during the Hajj.

The hotel tower rose 601 metres (1,972 feet), with 120 floors. The clock sat near the top. Each side of the clock’s face measures 43 m (141 ft). Reputedly, the clock could be seen from a distance of 25 kilometres (15.5 miles). I guess that meant that nobody in Mecca ever had a valid excuse for losing track of time and missing an appointment.


Central do Brasil


Central do Brasil
Central do Brasil. Photo by Sebástian Freire on Flickr (cc)

A clock in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil qualified as the largest example in the Americas (map). Railroad officials placed it at Central do Brasil, the city’s most important train station. This site served as an extremely important transportation hub, both for the city and for the nation. It served trains heading in all directions, and offered a connection to Rio’s subway system and bus station. Trains ran on regular schedules to it made sense to put a big clock where everyone could see it. The clock at Central do Brasil with a 20 m (66 ft) diameter sat near the top of a 135 metre (443 ft) tower.


Duquesne Brewing Company Clock


Blank Clock
Blank Clock. Photo by Brian Siewiorek on Flickr (cc)

The largest clock in the United States, found in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, came to be known as the Duquesne Brewing Company Clock. The name stuck even though the company went out of business in the 1970’s. The 18 m (60 ft) face originally adorned a prominent place on the hillside of the city’s Mount Washington beginning in 1933. I rode the incline to the top of Mount Washington a few months ago. That would be an ideal spot for a giant clock. However, the Duquesne Brewing Company purchased it and removed it from the mountain to adorn its brewery (map). After the brewery went out of business, the building owner painted company logos on the clock for a fee. Apparently nobody wanted to take advantage of that opportunity lately. The clock face now remains blank albeit still tracking time.


Grozny-City Towers


Grozny 8
Grozny. Photo by Alexxx Malev on Flickr (cc)

The largest European clock could be found in Grozny, Chechnya in Russia. It adorned the Grozny-City Towers (map), built in 2011. This 13.6 m (45 ft) diameter clock sat 140 m (460 ft) above street level. Grozny-City Towers also included apartments, a hotel and a business complex in addition to its giant clock.

Many of the world’s largest clocks dated to the 21st Century. That surprised me. Apparently an oversized clock competition started sometime in the last few years. What sparked that, I wondered?


Bonus Clock


Flavor Flav
Flavor Flav. Photo by angela n. on Flickr (cc)

Of course, no discussion of oversized clocks would be complete without mentioning Flavor Flav.

Wildlife Corridors

On December 4, 2016 · 2 Comments

Wildlife corridors do exactly what they imply, they provide safe passage for animals. Devices like these became increasingly important as pristine wilderness succumbed to development or urbanization. Without them animal populations became isolated even if protected within parks. This impacted genetic diversity and the overall health of local species. Further problems occurred when animals tried to travel from one safe space to another. They trampled over farmers’ fields or suburban backyards. They died crossing busy roadways. The National Wildlife Federation estimated, for example, "on U.S. highways, a vehicle hits an animal at least every 26 seconds."

A wildlife corridor can correct those issues. Solutions exists at various levels, from vast regional or even transnational fixes, all the way down to the hyper-local. Twelve Mile Circle decided to focus on a few examples from around the globe.

Siju-Rewak Elephant Corridor


Elephants in Meghalaya, along the Siju Rewak Elephany Corridor
Elephants in Meghalaya, along the Siju Rewak Elephany Corridor.
Photo by Neelima v on Flickr (cc)

Indian elephants represented the largest population of three distinct subspecies of Asian elephants. However the population dropped drastically during the 20th Century. The last century began with about a hundred thousands animals. Yet it ended with maybe a quarter of that. Habitat loss, human pressures and population fragmentation further limited Indian elephants to perhaps 15% of their historical range. This made corridors vital to their survival.

If you look at a map depicting the distribution of the elephant today, you will see a shattered kingdom, a vastly reduced range broken into fragments, a few drops of colour splashed accidentally on a worn out South Asian fabric. This is the tragedy facing the Asian elephant today – existence in isolation.

The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)’s National Elephant Corridor Project identified natural migration paths. The Siju-Rewak Corridor in the Garo Hills offered one case study. It fell within the state of Meghalaya, in the far northeastern corner of India where it bordered Bangladesh. Here the Someshwari (or Simsang) River cut through the Garo Hills, creating a rocky ravine too steep for elephants to cross except in four places. The Trust worked with local communities to set-aside necessary land at choke points so elephants could pass undisturbed. This connected a string of protected properties; Balpharkam National Park, Siju Wildlife Sanctuary, Rewak Reserve Forest and Nokrek National Park (map).


Amboseli-Chyulu Wildlife Corridor


Safari to Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Safari to Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo by future15pic on Flickr (cc)

A similar situation existed in eastern Africa. Kenya dealt with multiple dimensions to the problem. Wildlife on the plains required lots of room to roam. Tourism brought a huge economic benefit that depended on healthy, sustainable animals. Nobody would come for a safari experience if there weren’t any marquis species like giraffes, lions, zebras and elephants. Yet the people who lived there also needed land for their survival. Animals got pushed onto parks. The need for corridors became imperative.

As an example, the African Wildlife Federation created the Amboseli-Chyulu Wildlife Corridor. It connected Amboseli National Park, Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Park (map). The Federation also used monetary incentives. Local landowners earned payments "for every acre set aside for conservation and safeguarded against poaching, subdivision, and other activities that could degrade habitat."


Mata Atlantica



Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlantica) also faced similar pressures.

The Brazilian Atlantic Forest is one of the most biodiverse forests in the world. 70% of Brazil’s population now lives in the area that was once the Atlantic Forest. Only 7% of the forest remains and in Pontal do Paranapanema that number is down to 3%.

Efforts to create wildlife corridors sprang up in various parts of the nation. In support, non-profit groups such as the World Land Trust purchased acreage that they then donated for conservation purposes. Other groups such as WeForest investigated where animals migrated using GPS collars, then focus on creating corridors along those natural routes. One corridor connected Morro do Diabo State Park (map) and the Iguaçu National Park.


Local Roads


Wildlife Underpass
Wildlife Underpass. Photo by Kurt Bauschardt on Flickr (cc)

Not everything needed to take place on such a gigantic scale. Effective local solutions also existed in many places, for example, in the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. There on its southern edge sat Larch Sanctuary and the Whitemud Nature Reserve.

Nestled in the middle of Edmonton lies Larch Sanctuary, a section of the Whitemud creek ravine just upstream of its confluence with Blackmud creek. This 58 acre reserve is on the south side of 23rd Avenue, with housing developments at the top of the banks on either side, so it truly is a sanctuary. Despite being right inside a major city, Larch Sanctuary retains remarkable biodiversity.

This was the "only continuously-wooded, relatively-undeveloped stretch of land running through the City," It also contained Edmonton’s only ox bow lake, a topic of particular interest to 12MC. However animals needed a way to get to and from this protected space. They risked being hit on a busy divided highway, Anthony Henday Drive. Thus, the solution centered on constructing a specially constructed underpass (satellite view). Then animals could cross freely.

Even More Weird Placenames

On January 24, 2016 · 2 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle has been on a bit of an odd placenames fixation as of late. I found a few more examples although they didn’t have enough of a story behind them to justify an entire article on any one of them. I figured I’d resurrect an earlier series and title this "Even More Weird Placenames" in continuation of the theme. This will also help me whittle-down my ever persistent list of possible topics I’ve been compiling since I began this site.


Knockemstiff



Knockemstiff, Ohio

A anonymous 12MC visitor landed onto the site by chance seeking information about Knockemstiff. I didn’t know anything about it and had nothing prepared so I supposed they left disappointed. Even so, it sounded like a suitable topic and I knew I’d explore it eventually. It took little effort to find Knockemstiff once I got around to it, a crossroads in Ohio near another place featured on these pages previously, Chillicothe.

Knockemstiff served as the backdrop for a series of short stories published in 2008 by local writer, Donald Ray Pollock, in a book with the same title. One review said Pollock "presents his characters and the sordid goings-on with a stern intelligence, a bracing absence of value judgments, and a refreshingly dark sense of bottom-dog humor." His literary works received national attention including the New York Times which profiled the settlement of Knockemstiff, attempting to learn the story behind its unusual alias.

The town’s name is a source of folklore and conjecture… a resident saying that the origins dated far back, perhaps 100 years, to an episode in which a traveling preacher came across two women fighting over a man. The preacher said that he doubted the man was worth the trouble and that someone should "knock him stiff." But variations on that story exist, as do ones that say the name is associated with moonshine and bar fights.

That was a long way of saying that no definitive explanation existed. The story had been lost to history. Nonetheless this brief summary will be waiting here for the next unknown visitor who may stumble onto 12MC searching for Knockemstiff.


Ennis in Ellis


Bluebonnet Sunrise - Ennis, Texas
Bluebonnet Sunrise – Ennis, Texas by Kelly DeLay on Flickr (cc)

The City of Ennis fell within the confines of Ellis County, Texas. Ennis had been named for a railroad official, Cornelius Ennis. Ellis probably referred to Richard Ellis, who headed the commission that declared Texas’ independence. The two men had no connection or relationship that I was aware of, although that was completely irrelevant to this story anyway. My fascination centered on the peculiar notion that if one replaced the “nn” in Ennis with “ll” it became Ellis. I was unaware of any other town-county combination where one could make a simple letter substitution in the town’s name to transform it into the county name. Of course I didn’t look too hard trying to find other examples either. I’d like to say that I wanted to reserve that puzzle for the 12MC audience although the real reason was my laziness.

Completely unrelated, the aforementioned Ennis in Ellis "was designated by the 1997 State Legislature as the home of the ‘Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail’ and was designated the ‘Official Bluebonnet City of Texas.‘" That was a pretty big deal considering the prominence of the bluebonnet in Texan culture. The Department of Horticultural Science at Texas A&M University elaborated,

As historian Jack Maguire so aptly wrote, "It’s not only the state flower but also a kind of floral trademark almost as well known to outsiders as cowboy boots and the Stetson hat." He goes on to affirm that "The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland."

During times when bluebonnets weren’t in bloom, no worries, one could always visit Bluebonnet Trail — not the trail itself, rather a street named Bluebonnet Trail — in a local trailer park (map).


Brazil


Welcome to Brazil, Indiana
Welcome to Brazil, Indiana by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr (cc)

I’m sure if I thought long and hard enough I could figure out a few similarities between Brazil and Indiana. Nonetheless I still found it strange to see a town named Brazil in Indiana (map). It wasn’t a small place either. It had eight thousand residents and served as the seat of local government in Clay County. I wished I could have found a decent explanation. Several sources pointed back to the naming of a local farm in the 1840’s, designated Brazil because the nation had been in the news frequently during the era, supposedly. The town then adopted the name of the nearby farm when it was founded in the 1860’s. I guess I could accept that even though I couldn’t find any solid attribution. I’ve heard of stranger explanations for town names.


High Point?



High Point, Palm Beach Co., Florida

I didn’t know what to make of High Point in Palm Beach County, Florida, except that I wished I’d known about it when I wrote High Level some time ago. What point of High Point was actually high? It’s total elevation barely broached 20 feet (6 metres). It wasn’t even the highest point in Palm Beach, where two separate spots reached pinnacles of 53 feet (16 metres) according to the County Highpointers Association. I realized those two co-highpoints didn’t have magnificent summits either, although 53 feet completely dominated 20 feet. I guess it didn’t matter. High Point and its condominium community were in the process of being annexed by the nearby city of Delray Beach, anyway. The name will probably disappear.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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