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.

The Only One, Part 2

On November 22, 2015 · 4 Comments

If it were Only One, how could there be a Part Two? I discarded that paradox and decided to plow forward. The premise, to recap, was rather simple. I typed the exact phrase "The only one in [name of a country]" into various Internet search engines and observed the results. Part 2 focused on a set of major countries that would be large enough to generate interesting superlatives even though they had smaller Twelve Mile Circle audiences than the previous exercise. I also confronted the distinct possibility that the chosen topic interested me more than other 12MC readers judging by reactions to my previous effort that reminded me of crickets chirping. That never stopped me before so I ignored obvious signs and continued with my little game.

The only wildlife sanctuary designated specifically for the only ape native to India


Hoolock gibbon
Hoolock gibbon by michael bamford on Flickr (cc)

Only one ape (superfamily Hominoidea) inhabited India natively, the Hoolock Gibbon. Well, except for 1.25 billion humans I supposed, although I set that little inconvenience aside and focused on the gibbons anyway. Hoolock gibbons ranged from northeast India into nearby neighboring areas of Bangladesh and China. They hadn’t fared particularly well recently due to deforestation and general loss of habitat. The World Wildlife Fund noted that "populations of western hoolock gibbons have declined by almost 90% over the last 30 years, and it is now considered to be one of the most endangered 25 primate species in the world." The Indian government created the Hoollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary in Jorhat district as part of an effort the protect the species as well as other rare primates located within a 21 square kilometre (8 square mile) domain (map).

Hoollongapar Sanctuary contains India’s only ape family – the Hoolock Gibbon, numbering about 106. Other primates in the sanctuary include the Stump-tailed Macaque (Henduri Bandor in Assamese) which are some 233 in number, the Pig-tailed Macaque which are left with a population of 75 only, the Capped Langur with just 162, 174 Rhesus Macaques, and the Slow Loris (Lajuki Bandor) whose estimation is yet to be made.

The numbers didn’t look promising although maybe this could be an important step in preserving the species.


The only French settlement in New Zealand


French Origins
French Origins by Michael on Flickr (cc)

I hadn’t realized that France coveted the islands that became New Zealand although I probably shouldn’t have been surprised given that every European power sought to colonize every far-flung corner of the world during that period. The French sent ships to the South Island to establish a whaling station in 1840 at Akaroa. However the English had already claimed the area a year earlier so that created a bit of a problem for French territorial aspirations. The British dispatched their ship the Britomart to Akaroa to confirm their sovereignty while the French continued to occupy their whaling port. Oddly enough the two managed to coexist peacefully. Over time French settlers began to acculturate to British rule and became fully absorbed within the local English populace. Few remnants of the French settlement remained although it certainly left its mark on local street names (map), many of which are still in the French language.


The only place in Russia with geysers


Kamchatka 2010 084
Kamchatka 2010 084 by Einar Fredriksen on Flickr (cc)

I wasn’t sure what impressed me more, that the Valley of Geysers on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula were the only significant geysers in Eurasia or that they weren’t discovered until 1941. The area was so remote that this spectacular geological formation escaped notice until recent times. Even then, they weren’t fully explored until the 1970’s and opened to foreign visitors only in the 1990’s. Tourists hoping to experience the hundred-or-so remaining geysers needed to arrive by helicopter.

Kikhpinych, a quite active stratovolcano, generated tremendous heat that fed geothermal waters pushing from cracks in the ground (map). This dynamic nature continued to scar the landscape, creating a large landslide in 2007 that covered about half of the original geysers. Another landslide happened in 2014. Scientists and tourists continued to flock to the valley in spite of possible dangers.


The only tea museum in China


Entrance to Tea Museum
Entrance to Tea Museum by Clyde Bentley on Flickr (cc)

With the well-worn cliché "all the tea in China" could it be possible that there was only one tea museum in China? Apparently that was the case and it was located in Hangzhou in the Zhejiang province (map). The China National Tea Museum featured an interesting construction technique with open walled buildings commingling with natural flora of the surrounding countryside. Visitors could walk fluidly amongst several open structures while appreciating the history, culture, varietals, production and preparation of tea. Around them grew rows of Longjing (Dragon Well) tea plants, one of the most well-regarded of Chinese green teas.


The only natural arch with flowing river in France


Pont d'Arc
Pont d'Arc by Brian Smithson on Flickr (cc)

Only one place in France had a natural stone arch formed by a river, with the river still flowing through it. This was the magnificent Pont d’Arc above the Ardèche River, a tributary of the Rhône in southern France (map). The natural beauty of the area attracted numerous tourists, many of whom chose to canoe or kayak along gently flowing waters through the 30 km (19 mi) Ardèche Gorges. The river cut deeply through surrounding limestone, with the highlight being Pont d’Arc where it bored a tunnel directly through rock.

End of the Line

On June 10, 2015 · 15 Comments

Many longtime Twelve Mile Circle readers probably already guessed that this article that would come next. Immediately after a story about the beginning of the alphabet, naturally one would expect to find one about the end. It became an equally difficult task too, except for the most notable location.

Take a moment to ponder this insect.


Zyzzyx chilensis
Zyzzyx chilensis by Pato Novoa, on Flickr (cc)

Zyzzyx chilensis, a type of sand wasp native to Argentina, Chile, and Peru, gained its name in the 1930’s. Flies would view this creature as particularly nasty and formidable. This wasp had a peculiar habit of laying its eggs on flies, which then hatched and consumed its host parasitically as larvae grew. I thought it sounded pretty gruesome.

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone completely off the deep end just yet. What may seem completely irrelevant actually helps establish context. Every site I examined included Zzyzx (spelled slightly differently than the name of the wasp) as the final entry on any alphabetical list of place names. Actually, it was the only entry. Like Zyzzyx chilensis, it preyed upon the weak and helpless in a parasitic manner as readers will soon see.

Zzyzx, California, USA


Zzyzx
Zzyzx by Leif Harboe, on Flickr (cc)

I couldn’t find a definite connection between Zyzzyx chilensis and the settlement of Zzyzx (map) although the timing seemed oddly coincidental. The former Soda Springs became Zzyzx in the 1940’s, during the same basic time period. However I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about it for a couple of reasons. First, every oddball website mentioned Zzyzx so I didn’t have anything new to add. Second, it was a contrived name designed specifically to place it at the end of any alphabetical list. Zzyzx cheated.

A self-proclaimed minister-slash-doctor named Curtis Springer created Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort on the western edge of the Mohave desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He promised all sorts of miracle cures and made piles of money. It was a complete fraud including the alleged "hot springs" he heated with a boiler. Springer didn’t even own the land. The government removed him from his desert domain in the 1970’s. After that Zzyzx became the Desert Studies Center for California State University, Fullerton so at least some good came from it. Roadside America had a particularly nice summary.

Everything about Zzyzx was fake including its name. Nonetheless, I couldn’t find any other place that began with a Double-Z, and it will likely remain alone until someone decides to honor ZZ Top.


Beginning with ZY


Żywiec polish beer in Warsaw (Warszawa)
Żywiec polish beer in Warsaw (Warszawa) by Ulf Liljankoski, on Flickr (cc)

I jumped farther down the alphabet for places beginning with ZY. There were several waiting to be found. Żywiec, Poland seemed to be the most significant. It had a population of a little more than thirty thousand and its own brand of beer. The Żywiec Brewery had a nice range of beverages although I couldn’t figure out much because the website was entirely in Polish — not that I’m complaining since it should be in Polish — just that my navigation was less than elegant as I guessed randomly and hoped for cognates.

Zyryanka (map) in the Sakha Republic of Russia also deserved a mention primarily because the 12MC Complete Index Map lacked decent coverage of Russia. I didn’t even know if the Russian name (Зырянка) would be remarkable in its native language or not. Anyway, the settlement apparently dated back to the 1930’s to serve local coal mines, and other than that was probably more notable for its remoteness and frigid temperatures.


Beginning with ZW


Beautiful view of Zwolle at night
Beautiful view of Zwolle at night by Ley, on Flickr (cc)

I didn’t find any ZX places although there were plenty of ZW’s as I worked my way back down the alphabet. There were too many to discuss although here’s a small sampling:

  • Zwönitz, Germany (map): a smallish town in Saxony founding nearly a thousand years ago.
  • Zwolle, Netherlands (map): the Province of Overijssel’s capital city, perhaps the most predominant ZW location with more than 125 thousand residents.
  • Zwicky, Canada (map): an unincorporated area (railway point) in Kootenay Land District, British Columbia

Feel free to nominate your favorites.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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