Odds and Ends 8

On August 11, 2013 · 5 Comments

I have a slew of short topics not befitting an entire article on their own. That means it’s time for another installment of Odds and Ends.

Non-Native English Readers of 12MC

Due East from Eastern Time into Central Time
Breakdown of 12MC’s Audience from Non-English Speaking Nations

The Twelve Mile Circle receives a robust amount of website traffic from readers in nations where English is neither a predominant nor an official language. It doesn’t come close to the number of visitors from the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia and the like, however it’s more than I’d generally expect. I have a hard enough time writing for an English-speaking audience so people from other nations have a double handicap — my trouble stringing together an intelligible sentence along with reading my gibberish in a foreign language.

I examined statistics generated by readers since the beginning of 2013 and recorded the following Top 10 non-English language reader nations: Germany, France, Russia, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and Japan. Those ten comprised a little more than half of the set with another 150-or-so nations taking up the rest. I don’t have a point to make with this compilation, I just found it interesting. That’s all.

Loyal reader "January First-of-May" probably pushes Russia up as high as it is. Russia would still be in the Top 10 although a few slots lower, otherwise.

Metropolitan Area Pattern Game

Metro Area Web Traffic
U.S. Metro Areas with 12MC visitors on August 10, 2013

I based the article "Room to Grow" on the metropolitan area tab in Google Analytics, last November. I mentioned at the time that I hadn’t used that tab much before. I’ve kind-of grown fond of it since then. It doesn’t tell me anything useful that I don’t already know, however I’ve turned it into a little game. Each day I check to see if I can trace a route from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean following a contiguous trail of 12MC readers. I award myself double points if I can also connect to the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. I completed a route and nearly won double points from yesterday’s example.

No, I don’t actually track the points or anything like that. It’s a fun little mindless activity when I open Analytics each morning, like pulling the lever on a slot machine. I can’t trace a path as often as one might think.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court in Gaithersburg Maryland
Photo by Brandon M.; used by permission

I’m not sure how many readers went back and noticed the comment from "Brandon M." or saw my recent tweet (a good reason to subscribe to the 12MC Twitter feed) so I’ll repost his photo. Brandon read Order in the Court and noticed he’d be near one of the streets called Supreme Court, this one located in Gaithersburg, Maryland (map). He also said he checks the 12MC Complete Index Map for local geo-oddities when he travels. I thought I was the only one who did that so it’s nice to hear the index provided a useful purpose for someone other than myself.

Tripoint House for Sale

DEMDPA Tripoint

Wouldn’t you like to own a state tripoint? Longtime reader Bill forwarded an article link recently: "Delaware Spaces: Three states in the backyard, near Newark." It talked about homeowners who generously allow people to access the Delaware-Maryland-Pennsylvania (DEMDPA) tripoint, even though it’s located on private property. The article included an additional surprise, though. The property is for sale and can be yours for only $525,000!

I thought briefly about snapping it up and doing like Joe Biden used to do when he served in the U.S. Senate: commute daily from Wilmington, DE to Washington’s Union Station by Amtrak train. I certainly knew the route. I guess it was probably after the third or fourth time I mentioned this to my wife, ignoring her eye-rolls and icy glares, when she finally said, "It’s a good thing I love you." My tripoint dreams were dashed. That’s good news for the rest of you, though. You’ll have one less person to outbid if you want to own DEMDPA.

Great Captain Island

Great Captain Island

The same correspondence that inspired my Tombolo(s) of Connecticut article the other day also inspired Steve of Connecticut Museum Quest to finally complete his Southernmost Point in Connecticut page (subtitled "Then Things Really Went South"). This is the true, untold story of our visit to the island last summer with a modicum of embellishment for amusement’s sake. Visit Steve’s page — you’ll find it entertaining.

Great Taste of the Midwest

Founders at Great Taste of the Midwest
12MC Visits Madison, Wisconsin

Saturday was my annual pilgrimage to Madison, Wisconsin for the Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival. This is one of the best beer events in the nation in my opinion, which I know is a bold claim. It’s casual although exceptionally well-run, and it’s hard to beat the lineup of breweries represented. I’ll mark my calendar and hope to return again. 12MC readers in the Midwest should feel free to let me know if they’re one of the lucky few to get their hands on tickets next year.

Tombolo(s) of Connecticut

On August 8, 2013 · 4 Comments

I have an odd affinity for tombolos. I don’t know why. It’s completely irrational. Even one of the earliest Twelve Mile Circle articles focused on the phenomenon.

I’ll stick with a definition I drafted back then and quote myself.

A Tombolo is a narrow neck of land that forms between the mainland and an island, or between two islands, as sand and sediment deposit between them. Waves hit a landform at a specific angle determined by surrounding currents. Over time this can build up to a sandbar or sand spit. If there happens to be an island or a rock nearby, and if the sediment builds up at exactly the right angle, then the two can join as one. Vegetation may take hold on the new land and further anchor a tombolo into place.

What’s the deal with Connecticut though, and why did I cryptically title the article parenthetically? It’s due to a persistent rumor, folklore, assertion or whatever that only a single tombolo exists in the state of Connecticut. Steve of Connecticut Museum Quest and I discussed this occasionally over the last four years; not intensely, just as a curiosity that arose periodically.

I’ve learned to be skeptical whenever is see claims of the "only" whatever, probably because the 12MC audience always proved me wrong whenever I made an assertion like that. I’ve been humbled so many times. On the other hand, Connecticut is a really small state. It had an air of plausibility. The story came up again from one of Steve’s readers so I decided to see if I could either prove or remove the "single Connecticut tombolo theory" for good.

Charles Island

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Charles Island in Milford became the centerpiece of the claim, the supposed magic tombolo singularity.

Charles Island Tombolo Connecticut 337 AD
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Admittedly, this seemed to be a great example of a tombolo and a highlight of Silver Sands State Park.

The early history of Silver Sands focuses on Charles Island. The Island is connected to the mainland by a sand/gravel bar (tombolo) that is submerged at high tide. Captain Kidd is reputed to have buried his treasure on the island in 1699. The only remains on the island are of a Catholic retreat center from the 1920’s-30’s

There were all sorts of supernatural claims about Charles Island, about it supposedly being haunted and evil with all sorts of wild ghost stories and no evidence to back them up. The Wikipedia page was particularly embarrassing with a completely unreferenced section called "Legends of hauntings, treasure and a curse."

Was this the only tombolo in Connecticut, though? No. Not even close.

Menunketesuck Island

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Steve’s reader mentioned Menunketesuck Island, off of the coast of Westbrook. It followed the same pattern as Charles Island, albeit considerably more obscure, with a similar sandy connection to the mainland accessible only at low tide. Personally, I thought this one seemed to be just as legitimate as the tombolo at Charles Island.

Bushy Point

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Might there be others though? Yes! Yes, there were others.

I uncovered Bushy Point at Bluff Point State Park in Groton. As the park website described it,

State holdings include a north-south strip of the mainland, a portion of the headland bluff fronting the Sound, and the tombolo or sandspit forming a beach of nearly one mile in length. The beach terminates in a small, rocky island called Bushy Point.

I’ve marked the USGS location with an arrow because there are so many other geographic features nearby. Drill down though, and notice the sand deposited between mainland and island.

Captain Harbor Tombolos

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After pondering the likelihood of three Connecticut tombolos between mainland and tied-islands, I turned my attention to island-to-island tombolos. I recalled my adventure with Steve last summer during our Connecticut Extremes Adventure, as we searched for the state’s southernmost point on Great Captain Island. I swore I saw a tombolo although I couldn’t tell if it was natural or man-made.

In fact there appeared to be at least three tombolos in Greenwich’s Captain Harbor once I looked at the maps a little closer.

Great Captain Island

Great Captain/Captains/Captain’s Island. I took this photograph during our brief stop. Notice the causeway. Did the causeway come first or was it used to solidify an existing sandbar? The Town of Greenwich provided an explanation,

The island is a remnant of a glacial moraine. It contains a diversity of rock types- gneiss, schist,
granite-with a very large glacial erratic on the southern side. The Eastern and western sections are
connected by a tombolo – sand or gravel bar.

That led me to believe the tombolo formed naturally and was later enhance and preserved by the causeway.

Island Beach and Wee Captain Island. I had the same suspicion here, and again the Town of Greenwich came to the rescue,

Island Beach formerly known as Little Captain’s Island… lies about 3,500 feet due east of the larger Great Captain’s Island, and is connected by a 600-foot long tombolo, or intertidal sand bar, to Wee Captain’s Island, a privately-owned half-acre island off its easterly side.

Calf Island and Shell Island. This tombolo existed within the same proximity. Calf Island was part of the Stewart B. McKinney. National Wildlife Refuge. The Calf Island Conservancy explained:

At 31.5 acres, Calf Island is the largest offshore island in Greenwich, CT. It is located directly south of Byram Harbor, approximately 3,000 feet from the mainland, and is connected at low tide to the Greenwich Land Trust’s Shell Island.

I then looked at various Connecticut islands and shoreline farther along Long Island Sound and spotted numerous likely candidates. I didn’t have time to research them individually, however, I’m sure it could be done if the ones I’ve already mentioned didn’t seem sufficient. That’s a polite way of saying I began to get bored with it and others should feel free to pick up the charge.

Governors Island

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Not every island connected to mainland would qualify as a tombolo. A tombolo, by definition, is formed by wave action. I found a recent article in the Hartford Courant, A Journey To A Windswept Island In Goodwin State Forest, that claimed that Governors Island was a tombolo.

After a brief walk east along Estabrooks Road, I returned to the forest and Pine Acres Pond Trail, which runs along the entire eastern shore of the pond. After its shadowy start in a deep pine forest, the canopy opens overhead as the trail winds past a large swamp and across swaths of huge rocks to the tombolo – a spit of land that connects to Governor’s Island.

I don’t think the pond would be large enough to generate the necessary wave action to create a true tombolo. I’ll bet it’s a pretty spot, just maybe not a tombolo. I’m thinking sediment washed downstream rather than waves.

Nonetheless, I think I found sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Connecticut doesn’t have a tombolo (singular) it has tombolos (plural).

Sunrise and Sunset over Water

On February 21, 2010 · 15 Comments

I posted an article on east coast sunsets over water nearly a lifetime ago in Internet time, way back in November 2008. I described peculiar instances where observers could experience sunsets totally over water on the eastern coast of the United States.

Think about it. People on the eastern side of any landmass don’t have many opportunities to view sunsets over water. Sure, they’re offered opportunities to observe sunrises over water just about anywhere but sunsets are another matter entirely. Those places do exist in a few lucky spots under optimal geographic conditions, and we had lots of fun exploring them vicariously.

Next we flipped the concept over to its opposite side and searched for west coast sunrises totally over water. We proved that it sometimes happens in the United States. However it occurs much less frequently than their eastern counterparts due to coastal mountains interfering with the line of sight and other factors. Once again we had a great time in the process.

Port Angeles Eastern Horizon
Theoretical west coast sunrise over water at Port Angeles, Washington, created in Google Earth

This has entertained me ever since. I’ve searched maps for variations on these phenomena, not obsessively but from occasionally as the notion struck me. I’ve been trying to discover spots – anywhere, not just the United States – where it should be possible to observe both a sunrise and a sunset totally over water from the same position each day.

This requires an alignment of somewhat unusual and specific conditions. The landform needs to be extremely narrow, maybe a needle-like peninsula, a razor-thin isthmus, the sandspit of a tombolo or something of that nature. This geographic feature needs to be aligned roughly North-South and with consideration to axial tilt. Finally any other landform either east or west needs to be at least several kilometres away to remain beyond the sight horizon.

Under these ideal conditions, hypothetically, I should be able to observe the rising sun float from the waters each morning as I sipped my coffee and follow the setting sun as it dipped back into the sea in the evening while I enjoyed a cocktail, all from the lovely deck of my fictional beach home that I’d construct specifically for this purpose. This will take place after I win the lotto of course.

I’ve found many places where this phenomenon might exist, at least theoretically. Squiggly shorelines with lots of peninsulas are a good bet. I’ve compiled a few promising spots.

My most promising candidate, however, is Point Pelee in Ontario, Canada. Does that place sound familiar? Why yes, of course, it’s the southernmost point on mainland Canada. It also represents a rare double geo-anomaly, which means that I really need to add this feature to my travel wish list.

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Let’s bounce Point Pelee against the criteria: Needle-like peninsula; north-south configuration; and distant landforms well beyond the horizon both east and west. Point Pelee matches these perfectly, almost like someone designed it for this purpose. It’s an amazingly triangular landform jutting directly into Lake Erie due south from mainland Ontario with nothing else close enough nearby to obscure the daily path of the sun at any time of the year.

Let’s double check with an image. Street View doesn’t enter the park currently but it does go right up to the entrance. I see nothing but water due west. The eastern shore of Lake Erie is even further away.

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Ample evidence also exists on the various photo sharing websites. Here’s a recent example from the tip of the point looking north on Flickr. Set a house right at the base of the treeline and it will be perfectly situated to experience daily sunrises and sunsets over water.

Perfect. I’ve found no other place on the planet better situated geographically to take advantage of a sunrise and sunset over water from the same spot. There’s only one problem: it’s a National Park. I don’t think they’ll let me build my beach house here. Also biting flies live here. Lots of them. I take heed when the second item on the Park’s Frequently Asked Questions page says, "What are those biting flies?"

They are called stable flies and they look a lot like a housefly in size and colour. In order for the females to lay eggs, they feed on the blood of animals and humans. Since insect repellent is not effective against stable flies because they hunt by sight versus by smell like mosquitoes, to protect yourself and still have an enjoyable experience at the park, wear loose light-coloured clothing, long pants and closed toed shoes.

Lovely. That plus the mosquitoes would definitely put a damper on cocktail hour.

Post a comment with lat/long coordinates or a Google Map link if you know of a similarly-situated spot. You might even see it turned into an article on the Twelve Mile Circle!

Meanwhile, the search continues.

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