Big Time

On October 1, 2017 · Comments Off on Big Time

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.

Closest Antipodal National Capitals

On November 30, 2010 · 3 Comments

It’s odd that I keep getting random search engine hits on the phrase, “closest antipodal national capitals” when I’ve never covered the topic on the Twelve Mile Circle, and other websites have covered it rather extensively. The whole topic of antipodes in general seems to receive an inordinate amount of attention. I found a trio of other useless fascinating facts as I researched this further.

The antipode of a place on earth is its exact opposite, drawing a line straight through the middle of the earth. As a child I was told that if I dug a hole through the planet I’d end up in China. I got about a half metre when I gave up. I learned soon enough that this was false, but I worried that if I ever dug that hole then my home would be flooded by the Indian Ocean. Oh, the joys of childhood.

The two national capitals that come closest to being antipodes are Asunción, Paraguay and Taipei, Taiwan. Either one is only 86 kilometres from the antipode of the other, as reported in a 2001 discussion on The Math Forum. I examined this with a rather brute-force method, a tool available on the Antipodes Map website. I had a lot of fun generating maps like the one featured in this screen shot.

Antipode Example
SOURCE: Generated from Antipodes Map

The author on The Math Forum took a much more sophisticated approach, producing great circle calculations that considered Earth’s oblateness as well as more traditional antipodal calculations (i.e., based on lat/long coordinates). He found little difference in the basic order of the closest antipodal capitals using either method.

  • Asunción, Paraguay – Taipei, Taiwan, 86km
  • Madrid, Spain – Wellington, New Zealand, 159km
  • Bogotá, Colombia – Jakarta, Indonesia, 194km

He identified others that might also figure into the mix depending on how one defines "capital,"

  • Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands – Manama, Bahrain, 143km
  • Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands – Doha, Qatar, 164km
  • Mata-Utu, Wallis and Futuna – Niamey, Niger, 184km

I think I’m disinclined to include this second set. The Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory. Wallis and Futuna is an overseas territory of France. Neither is a sovereign nation. I decided to list them here anyway because they’re still remarkable in a sense.

Other Interesting Antipodes

I wish I could take credit for finding these but in fact they’re widely available on many different websites. I’ll provide links for those sites I that I thought were particularly well done.


Taiwan used to be called Formosa. The antipode for one small corner of the island falls in Argentina, in the province of Formosa. It appears to be coincidental. Taiwan’s former identification came from Portuguese explorers and Argentina’s from Spanish sailors. Formosa derives from "beautiful" in the 16th Century parlance of both languages. There are plenty of beautiful places on earth and that’s why I think it’s probably just an interesting coincidence.


There seems to be a nearly endless discussion on the Intertubes about Mecca’s antipode. Theoretically someone with a ship and a little determination could sail to the antipode, and pray towards Mecca legitimately in any direction. This possibility is discussed particularly well on the EVS-Islands Blog, "Thoughts – Antipode of Qibla at Mecca and the Antipode of Tematangi Atoll FP."


There are very few portions of the Lower 48 United States that have dry land antipodes. Two tiny spots in Colorado are included in the total. The US Highway Endpoints website features the Colorado Land Antipodes along with a couple of great interactive Google Maps that they’ve customized for this specific purpose.

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