Most readers probably anticipated that after slogging through Manly Places, Even More Manly Places, and Ladylike Places, that the next in this series would be Even More Ladylike Places. That seemed absolutely necessary in my mind so I could create symmetry and closure. However I’d written a variation on this theme already with the recently-published Ladysmith. I tried to keep things on the more obscure side this time around, sidestepping better known ladies by design.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef offered a case in point. I noticed a couple of different islands that fit this topic. Lady Musgrave Island (map) took its name from the wife of a colonial administrator, Sir Anthony Musgrave. He served as governor of South Australia 1873–1877 and then of Queensland 1883–1888. From those dates, Lady Musgrave must have been his second wife, Jeanie Lucinda Field. I don’t know how she ended-up in Australia. She was born in New York City.
Another spot along the reef became Lady Elliot Island (map). This one featured a roundabout derivation. Lady Elliot definitely existed although I don’t think she ever set foot in Australia. She married Sir Hugh Elliot, governor of Madras, 1814–1820, then a crown colony on the Indian subcontinent. I’m going to go out on a limb and say she was probably Margaret Jones, his second wife, because his first marriage ended in divorce long before his diplomatic career took off.
However, the name of Lady Elliot Island didn’t come from Lady Elliot directly. It came from the name of a ship. Captain Thomas Stuart, commanding a ship registered in India and named for the lady in question, first spotted the island in 1816. Later, on the return voyage, the ship struck a reef farther up the coast. It sank and everyone died. That dangerous feature also got its name at that time, Lady Elliot Reef (map).
Namibia’s highest point of elevation occurred at the Königstein (King’s Stone) on Brandberg Mountain. The mountain hid a secret, the renowned White Lady. Indigenous people, probably bushmen and probably living two or more thousand years ago, drew representations of their world in thousands of images. Much of their artwork survived in remote, dry, desolate corners of the Namib Desert (map).
One image in particular caught the imagination of archaeologists and then tourists after its rediscovery in 1918. It showed what appeared to be a shaman in white, in an energetic ritual dance. Researchers noticed its similarity to depictions that came from Egypt and the Mediterranean during a similar time period, although that proved to be coincidental. Nonetheless the White Lady continued to captivate many who gazed upon it. Ironically, later interpretations seemed to demonstrate pretty conclusively that the lady was actually a man.
A little village in Ireland’s County Wexford got its name, Our Lady’s Island, hundreds of years ago in reverence to the Virgin Mary. As the village explained,
Tradition has always existed that Our Lady’s Island was founded by St Abban, nephew of St Ibar, in the sixth century and its reputation as a place of pilgrimage and of devotion to Our Lady was established by or before the year 600 A.D.
However, I decided to focus on the lake (map) where the little village — now connected to the mainland — grew and prospered. Perhaps not too creatively, it came to be known as Lady’s Island Lake. The lake more properly qualified as a "back-barrier seepage lagoon." Various sources on the Intertubes claimed only one other lake in Ireland fit that same definition. I couldn’t prove it so I’ll just leave it at that.
The lake doesn’t have a natural outlet although water seeps into it from the ocean, creating brackish conditions. It offered a great environment for birds such as Sandwich Terns and Roseate Terns. Occasionally the barrier between sea and lake must be breached.
Breaching of the barrier, which has been carried out since at least the 17th century, is needed to relieve flooding of farmland and also the pilgrimage route around Lady’s Island. The cut is made in Spring when water levels are highest and the water level then falls until the lake becomes tidal for variable lengths of time. The practice has become contentious, however, because water levels sometimes fall too low, allowing predators to cross over the exposed bed of the lake to the important tern nesting sites.
I’m surprised they hadn’t figured out a way to accommodate both the birds and the pilgrims.
I could look for ladies in other languages, too! Dames seemed reasonable. I probably could have written an entire article on the hundreds of places and features named Notre Dame ("Our Lady," for the Virgin Mary). It might have featured the university in Indiana, the cathedral in Paris or the island in Montréal.
Instead I focused on Dame Marie (map) in Haiti. Twelve Mile Circle included very little Haitian coverage so this offered a rare opportunity for me to add a pushpin to my Complete Index Map. Otherwise I found very little information about Dame Marie. It fell pretty much at the end of the road, about as far west on Haiti as one could travel. Unfortunately Hurricane Matthew damaged it rather extensively in October 2016. Hopefully Dame Marie will recover.
I love circles, which I guess would be a redundant statement on the Twelve Mile Circle. I’ve been toying with a concept in the back of my mind for awhile. What it the smallest circle that I can draw on a map that touches the largest number of countries? Google Maps doesn’t offer such a tool and I felt guilty after I badgered them for something like two years to get county lines, so I let it slide. Still, I wanted to know.
There are radius tools designed by private software developers using the Google Maps application programming interface (API) but I kept hoping Google would cave-in and develop one themselves. It hasn’t happened. Finally I turned to one of the outsider tools. Thus, the maps today are not embedded or interactive in any way. They are screen prints. You can’t click on them. Well, you can but they won’t do anything.
It made no sense to ponder the smallest circle touching one, two or three nations. That’s just silly. I began my quest by examining four nations instead. I can’t promise I found everything. Hopefully this will get the ball rolling so that others can build upon my platform
The best example I could find was Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. One can draw a circle with a radius of perhaps a tenth of a kilometre touching all four countries where the Kazungula Ferry crosses Zambezi River (map). It might even be a quadripoint. Nobody is completely sure and it would entail definitive surveys by all four nations. I’m not going to spend much more time on this topic because I covered it previously on What Happened to the Handle?. I will add one editorial comment though: this spot is high on the list of places I’d love to visit someday.
I’ve also discussed the second best example I found, a radius of 1.5 km touching Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey (map) in Fictional Geo-Marathons. Ditto for the third, a radius of 17 km touching Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, Switzerland centered on Diepoldsau, Switzerland (map).
Tied for third, with a 17 km radius, finally I can print a new map. The four nations are Belgium, France, Germany, and Luxembourg, centered practically right atop Luxembourg City. I’ve been to Luxembourg a number of times. It’s a nice place, and indeed it’s a convenient way to hit a number of nations with minimal effort. I took a ridiculous trip for that very purpose once and I’m not embarrassed to admit it.
I found a few other examples.
22 km radius: Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Western Sahara (albeit Western Sahara is disputed)
25 km radius: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria
32 km radius: Austria, Italy, Lichtenstein, Switzerland
Then I turned my attention to five nations. The overly-fragmented situation of the Balkans provided plenty of opportunities to examine possibilities
The best instance I could find was a circle with a radius of about 70 km touching Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Albania. For added drama, and depending on whether one recognizes Kosovo, the same circle could touch six nations!
This was followed closely by a radius of 80 km that included Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen. This one was fun because the final nation was found on the other side of the Red Sea. That’s where the circle picked up Yemen.
It was around that time that I began to lose interest in my circular game. Obviously one could use the tool to see if better examples existed or to extend the game to larger numbers of nations. I was thinking that perhaps various Caribbean islands might be a possibility.
Every once in a great while, whenever I get a little curious and begin to wonder, I go back through my older web logs and see if I’ve recorded any more first-time international visitors. This is becoming an increasingly unusual discovery. I’ve been running Google Analytics for two-and-a-half years. Almost all sovereign nations of any size, shape or location, and even some that would seem to highly unlikely, have sent at least one visitor across my transom.
African nations provided all four of my new additions during the Spring of 2010. That’s a great thing. I’ve struggled to attract more visitors from Africa for the longest time. I do get a decent amount of traffic from South Africa including a few regular readers who subscribe to the blog on RSS. However, I still haven’t managed to resonate much with other readers from the continent. I continue to find it difficult to post geo-topics that might interest an African audience.
Nouakchott is the capital and largest city in Mauritania. This is a hot, dry locale although it’s not quite as extreme as some other cities in the region thanks to steady breezes that originate on the nearby Atlantic Ocean. The city has a deepwater port and serves as a trading gateway to Western Africa.
I have absolutely no idea why my visitor had an interest in an obscure Midwestern family and its mundane dealings between June 7 and August 21, 1903. This page comes from the genealogy side of my website and it would probably interest only the most dedicated band of hard-core sociologist or researcher.
Then I think I figured it out. It talked about tea parties. The viewer might have been searching for information on the recent Tea Party political phenomenon in United States. Perhaps she’s a friend of this blog’s (theoretically but highly unlikely) most famous reader.
I have a definite soft spot for Sierra Leone because of a gentleman I knew from that West African nation. We toiled together as we pursued our graduate degrees many years ago.
I’m glad I finally managed to attract a visitor from Freetown, its capital city. Freetown was founded in 1787 by freed slaves relocated from the Americas with support of British abolitionists. I just learned that tidbit. That’s really cool. I probably should have guessed it if only I’d pondered the derivation of the city’s name. I’m more familiar with the story of Liberia, its neighbor, but I digress. Today Freetown is a city of a million people so I suppose it’s safe to conclude they succeeded.
My next new visitor came from Lusaka, Zambia. Nearly a third of the Zambian population lives in this capital city. Once again it’s not too surprising that my initial voyager came from the settlement with the preponderance of infrastructure and economic resources. The name Zambia derives from the Zambezi River, a vital connection to the outside world in this landlocked country.
So why were they interested in John Harvard’s Brew House, a small brewpub chain clustered in the northeastern United States. Did the Harvard thing confuse him or was he truly an aficionado of craft breweries?
Finally, I received a virtual guest from Namibia who geo-located to its capital city, Windhoek. A big chunk of Namibians reside in that locale and once again we find a situation where disproportionate amounts of financial resources and infrastructure focus on the capital. Windhoek would be the most likely place to send a Namibian Internet visitor my way. South Africa controlled Namibia for much of the Twentieth Century up until 1990 so I’m a little surprised that it took this long to record a tally on the website simply because of cultural similarities between the privileged elites that would most likely have Internet access.
My Namibian visitor searched for "cartography" on the Twelve Mile Circle blog. This viewer might be someone with a true appreciation of odd geography. I can only hope, can’t I? I’ve since recorded other Windhoek visits which seem to support that assertion.