I’ve discussed the port at Duluth, Minnesota before and even created a travel page for it. I was particularly fascinated with the bit of trivia that Duluth was a significant seaport even though it was located 2,342 miles (3,770 kilometres) from its eventual outlet to the Atlantic Ocean.
Port of Duluth
My Own Photo
The Duluth Seaway Port Authority described itself as "the largest, farthest-inland freshwater port." Maybe that was the case and maybe that was hyperbole. Claims are cheap. Either way I though I should check into this a little further and see what other candidates might exist. I discovered a very useful website in the process, the World Port Source, which provided interactive maps by inland waterway.
Like all my geo-oddity searches, I establish some ground rules. I was looking for a port, most importantly. That was far different than the longest navigable river. Anyone could take a canoe farther upstream. I was looking for recognized port facilities that supported commercial shipping. That was also different than the farthest point upriver negotiable by an oceangoing deep-draft ship. One simply won’t be able to get a large oil tanker hundreds of miles upstream. So those were the general parameters.
Duluth, Minnesota, USA
Duluth would be tough to beat. It definitely held the record for North America. Canada did well also with the Port of Thunder Bay — like Duluth, on Lake Superior — although Duluth was at the farthest extreme of the lake so that increased its distance from the Atlantic.
Port of Lewiston, Idaho, USA
The Port of Lewiston, Idaho was the farthest U.S. inland port from the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia and Snake Rivers, some 465 river miles (750 km) upstream. It also had the distinction of being the only port city in the state of Idaho, which was an interesting bit of trivia worth filing away and retrieving at a strategic time. Maybe I’ll use that one on my wife some day just to watch her eyes roll.
For the Mississippi River watershed and the Gulf of Mexico though, the farthest inland port was either Minneapolis or St. Paul. The Port of Minneapolis might not exist anymore because city officials were eager to get rid of it as recently as 2012. That would hand the honor over to the nearby Port of St. Paul about 1,670 miles (2,690 km) upriver from the Gulf.
I then turned to the aforementioned World Port Source to examine additional extremities outside of North America.
Amazon River – Iquitos, Peru
Port of Iquitos, Peru
The vastness of the Amazon River truly amazed me. Notice the placement of Iquitos, Peru, and specifically how far west it fell on the South American continent. Ponder for a moment that the waterway it sits upon drains to the east.
Belèn, Iquitos. Stilted burrow by Stefe on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
The Port of Iquitos, Peru can be accessed after traveling upriver some 2,300 miles (3,700 km) which put it in the same ballpark as Duluth. One location might be slightly farther inland than the other, or not, although either way they were essentially analogous for practical purposes. World Port Source noted:
The Port of Iquitos became important to the country in the late 19th Century with the rubber boom. The Port of Iquitos is the biggest city in Peru’s rainforest and the capital of the large Department of Loreto. Many think that the Port of Iquitos is the biggest city in the world that roads do not reach. In 2005, almost 154 thousand people lived in the Port of Iquitos
"The biggest city in the world that roads do not reach!" — more fascinating trivia. Is someone writing these down?
Yangtze River – Yibin, Sichuan, China
Yibin, Sichuan, China
Once again, ponder the distance the Yangtze River penetrates inland to the Port of Yibin. It was hard for me to find an exact figure on the river miles between Yibin and the East China Sea. By extrapolation it seemed to be about 1,750 miles (2,800 km).
huge cities, huge rivers by joan vila on flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
Certainly one could travel much farther upriver although Yibin seemed to be the final commercial port, and it’s become quite active. I found a recent article in SeaNews that described how train locomotives made in Sichuan were being shipped internationally from the Yibin port. The article also said that as of January 2014, "Cargo vessels of 1,000 tonnes can sail between the port and the sea year round."
I didn’t have time to consider every possibility for farthest inland port. Additional candidates could include the Port of Tver, Russia on the Volga River system or the Port of Kelheim, Germany on the Danube River system. Still it satisfied my curiosity. It confirmed that freighters could sail mighty far inland on multiple continents.
Rather than call this "More Thousand Islands" and confuse it with the purpose of my recent celebratory Kiloanomaly, I came up with a new name. Rest assured, by mentioning abundant agglomerated archipelagos, I actually meant places other than the Thousand Islands poking above the Saint Lawrence River between Canada and the United states that share a similar name. The latest twist was that none of them were in English so the 12MC audience will get to see me struggle once again with my complete inability to deal with foreign languages.
I have to give a tip of the keyboard to Wikipedia’s Thousand Islands (disambiguation) page for inspiring the notion. I also researched other sources so it wasn’t like I completely stole the idea, only partially.
Rivière des Mille Îles
Rivière des Mille Îles, Québec, Canada
Rivière des Mille Îles, or River of a Thousand Isles, had the best chance of being confused with the other Thousand Islands simply because of its proximity. The river was actually a channel of a larger river system, and one could reach the St. Lawrence from either its source or its mouth. Rivière des Mille Îles when paired with other channels formed the island that separated Laval from Montréal. The whole area teemed with islands, albeit farther downstream from the more famous Thousand Islands in Ontario. It can become rather confusing.
The area included the Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, which was described nicely once run through Google Translate:
The decor of the Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles offers a real landscape bayous, with its calm river, shallow and safe, marshes flowers, marshy forests and lush vegetation of the islands, forming a maze of greenery. Half an hour from Montreal, nearly twenty islands that are accessible, a major tourist attraction and a unique place in Québec.
Tusenøyane, Svalbard, Norway
Thousand Islands converted into Norwegian became Tusenøyane, and indeed that’s the name of an isolated grouping found south of Edgeøya on the Svalbard archipelago. The entirety of Svalbard itself was rather obscure with barely 2,500 residents so one can imagine the remoteness of one tiny scattering of rocks along its lower flank.
Correspondingly, there wasn’t all that much additional information about Tusenøyane available. The Norwegian Polar Institute served as the naming authority, identifying Tusenøyane as "A number of small islands south of Edgeøya" with a linguistic origin tracing to "the thousand islands." The authority further noted several variant names including the Hopeless Islands.
I also found a site with several photographs. It looked barren and cold. I don’t think I’d go so far as to describe it as "hopeless" though, well unless someone got shipwrecked there or something.
Understanding the theme presented so far, it should come as no surprise that Kepulauan Seribu translated to Thousand Islands, in this case from the Indonesian language. These numerous small islets formed a string due north of Jakarta. Administratively they were actually part of Jakarta, and the city government explained:
Kepulauan Seribu [Thousand Island] is located in Java Sea and Jakarta Bay, it is an area with characteristic and natural potential that is different with other parts of Jakarta Capital City, because this area is basically a cluster of formed coral islands and shaped by coral biota and other associated biota (algae, malusho, foraminifera, and others) with the help of dynamic natural process… it doesn’t mean that the total number of islands within the clusters is a thousand. There are approximately 342 islands in total, including sand islands, including vegetated and non-vegetated coral reefs.
Some Island on Kepulauan Seribu by TeYoU @ Sydney via Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
Indonesia created the Kepulauan Seribu Marine National Park and it grew into a major tourist attraction. Search on Kepulauan Seribu online and one will find a nearly innumerable set of websites trying to sell luxury vacations there. This formerly unspoiled paradise may have become a little too well loved in recent decades, leading to warnings of environmental degradation.
Qiandao Lake, Zhejiang Province, China
Qiandao Lake (which was represented by several Chinese language characters I couldn’t seem to replicate in WordPress), or Thousand Island Lake, was the only location in this series created artificially. The islands were a byproduct of the flooding of a valley after construction of a dam.
The Xin’anjiang Hydropower Station, the country’s first large-scale power plant designed and built by Chinese in the 1950s, is still the pride of the local people. It is on the Xin’an River in Jiande city of Zhejiang Province in east China. Moreover, it formed a huge reservoir (Qiandao Lake) with 1,078 islands, which is part of a golden tourist route linking Hangzhou, Provincial capital of Zhejiang, and Mount Huangshan in neighboring Anhui Province.
My favorite quote, however, was "Qiandao Lake, known for its clear, and sometimes drinkable water, is used to produce the renowned Nongfu Spring brand of mineral water."
Sometimes drinkable? Thanks, I’d prefer consistently drinkable water.
The signs claimed "On this site in 1897 nothing happened." It was mildly amusing, maybe even a tiny bit clever the first time — the first time! — I saw one of their ilk several years ago. They mimicked the look-and-feel of genuine historical markers with faux cast iron, bold font, adorned with a couple of official-looking stars, and appearing on random walls, rocks, pillars, and homes in places where, quite accurately, nothing much special ever happened. I’m sure many people in the 12MC audience have noticed these conversation pieces scattered around during their travels.
On This Site… by ilovememphis, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license
This one was spotted by the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau. The tag geolocated to a parking lot near the intersection of S. Front Street and Beale Street. I poked around in Street View for awhile, noticed a promising brick wall, and couldn’t find the actual sign in the wild, though.
The trend had likely run its course already by the time "nothing happened" signs appeared on Amazon for $29.99. Other sources priced them even lower.
Imitators delivered additional evidence of oversaturation. Variations from my very unscientific survey of photo sites included September 5, 1782 (second most common), 1832 (third most common), April 17, 1897 (adding even greater precision to 1897), March 13, 1893, June 12, 1761, April 1, 1780, and on-and-on, including one specifying that George Washington never slept there. They all held one thing in common; that on that date and in that spot, nothing happened. There’s even an entire group on Flickr devoted to nothing happening.
1782 ON THIS SITE SEPT 5, 1782 NOTHING HAPPENED by Leo Reynolds, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
Interestingly, while 1897 seemed to be a preeminent date for historical non-occurrences in the United States, it was September 5, 1782 that dominated in the United Kingdom. I’m sure an enterprising scholar could frame an entire doctoral dissertation around the definition of historic age in the U.S. versus the U.K. It’s about a hundred years farther back in the Old Country, apparently.
The example, noted above, was discovered in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. One person commenting on its page, observed:
I think whoever made this sign made a typo and used an 8 instead of a 5. It would be factually correct and even more amusing if it read Sept 5, 1752 because absolutely nothing happened on that day due to the date changes of the British Calendar Act of 1751.
That was so cool I had to look it up. Sure enough, the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 and amended it with the Calendar Act 1751. Thus, September 5, 1752 didn’t exist in Yarmouth because the calendar skipped from Wednesday September 2 straight over to Thursday September 14, 1752 during a transition from Julian dates to Gregorian.
Humorous signs like these have been around for at least a couple of decades. Multiple Internet sources said they’ve been around "since at least the 1980′s." The date seemed plausible. However, as is typical, they all quoted from each other in circular fashion and none of them reference a reliable primary source. The earliest definite reference I found traced to a November 1990 Chicago Tribune article, Unhistory – A suspiciously long prepositional phrase which highlighted a sign affixed to a rock at the Evanston, Illinois campus of Northwestern University. It’s still there, and it’s known colloquially as The Nothing Happened Rock. I can’t believe I found the actual rock on Street View (map). That’s nuts.
The Simpsons, Episode 347, "Goo Goo Gai Pan," March 13, 2005
Fair Use screen grab
Nothing Happened signs have become a part of the collective consciousness. A parody sign debuted on the Goo Goo Gai Pan episode of The Simpsons, first aired on March 13, 2005. "On this site, in 1989, nothing happened," appeared as the family walked through Tiananmen Square, an obvious reference to the momentous events of that year and subsequent efforts to wipe it from Chinese memory.
The joke has grown a little threadbare over the years although people are still discovering Nothing Happened for the very first time, and expressing their amusement. I suspect that they’ll be around for awhile.