Upstart Eclipses Namesake

On January 9, 2014 · 11 Comments

When I think of "New" places I tend to fuse together the full placenames mentally into a single phrase and begin to overlook the separate elements. I don’t forget completely that earlier entities inspired newer ones, although I mostly overlook the original namesake within the larger string. For example, if I considered Orléans in France it would have meaning to me and conjure a specific image, as would the city of New Orleans in Louisiana. However, France’s Orléans wouldn’t come to mind particularly when I thought of New Orleans USA, even it it provided the bulk of the latter’s placename.

Oftentimes settlers tacked New onto very significant placenames, bestowing a little piece from their homeland onto frontier backwaters. London was and continues to be an extremely important city. Nobody would try to argue rationally that London in the UK doesn’t dwarf in size, reputation and importance the city of New London in Connecticut, USA. That’s not intended to disparage New London, of course. It merely points out the obvious, that New London, well, it doesn’t have the worldwide recognition or relevance of London. Other times, however, the New location managed to grow in significance over decades or centuries to a point where it actually began to overshadow and eventually surpassed its namesake.

I recognize that this so-called eclipsing might be culturally, geographically or individually bound. Going back to the New Orleans example I mentioned a moment ago, in my mind New Orleans has eclipsed Orléans. However I’ve spent a lifetime in the United States, I’ve been to New Orleans numerous times both for family and business reasons, and Hurricane Katrina had a direct impact on some of my immediate family. Thus, New Orleans figures quite prominently in my consciousness. Would a Frenchman concede that La Nouvelle-Orléans had eclipsed Orléans? Probably not. Let’s bear that in mind as I offer a few examples. All of them are subjective. Some may even seem ridiculous to those with different perspectives.

New Zealand

Zeeland, The Netherlands

New Zealand derived its name from Zeeland in the Netherlands. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman received credit as the first European to spot the islands in the 1640’s. Dutch cartographers later applied the name Nova Zeelandia / Nieuw Zeeland. This was later anglicized to New Zealand and became the name of a nation to its English-speaking inhabitants.

Zeeland is a province in the southwest corner of The Netherlands with fewer than four hundred thousand residents. New Zealand, on the other hand, became a well-known sovereign state with more than ten times that population. This, to me, seemed to fit the definition of an upstart eclipsing its namesake.

As an aside, sometimes Zeeland in The Netherlands gets confused with Zealand in Denmark, which is the well-populated island that includes Copenhagen. New Zealand was named for the former, not the latter.

New South Wales

South Wales, UK

One should credit Captain James Cook with naming what eventually became the Australian state of New South Wales. That seemed only fair since 12MC discussed places that were named for Capt. Cook previously. The Preface to "Captain Cook’s Journal during his first voyage round the world made in H.M. Bark ‘Endeavour’ 1768-71," which was a literal transcription of his original journal, noted:

The name, “New South Wales,” was not bestowed without much consideration, and apparently at one stage New Wales was the appellation fixed upon, for in Mr. Corner’s copy it is so called throughout, whereas the Admiralty copy has “New South Wales.”

Had the New Wales label stuck instead of New South Wales, I’d have a hard time concluding that it had eclipsed Wales, even with Sydney included as part of the upstart state. I think I’d probably give the nod to Wales in that instance. However, because the upstart referenced only one portion of Wales (albeit the one including Cardiff, Swansea and Newport) I’d have to say in my mind that New South Wales had trumped South Wales.

Nobody was quite sure why Cook recognized South Wales specifically from what I could find in my limited research.

New Guinea

Gulf of Guinea

This one will take some explanation. I began with the original Guinea, that derived "directly from the Portuguese word Guiné, which emerged in the mid-15th century to refer to the lands inhabited by the Guineus, a generic term for the black African peoples below the Senegal River." New Guinea on the other hand is the second largest island after Greenland, shared by the nation of Papua New Guinea and a portion of Indonesia.

Certainly there are many other places and things named for ancient Guinea: the African nations of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea came to mind, along with the Bay of Guinea and all of them within proximity of the original Guinea. There are even Guineafowl and Guinea Pigs named for the same place (even though Guinea Pigs were native to South America). I wouldn’t suggest that New Guinea should eclipse the collective set of current Guineas, only that it eclipsed ancient Guinea since the original place was a general, amorphous 15th Century geographic construct anyway. Many of the other Guineas mentioned may have eclipsed that older place as well. Well, maybe not Guineafowl. Guinea Pig probably has, though.

How about going back to the USA for some other examples?

Sure. Here are my thoughts:

  • New York has eclipsed York
  • New Jersey has eclipsed Jersey
  • New Hampshire and Hampshire are probably a toss-up with people on respective sides of the Atlantic likely viewing it differently
  • New Mexico has NOT eclipsed Mexico
  • New England has NOT eclipsed England

Agreements, dissenting opinions and additional examples are all welcome.

Border Hopping on the Welsh Marches Line

On June 18, 2013 · 2 Comments

I found some border weirdness between Pontrilas in Herefordshire, England and Pandy in Monmouthshire, Wales. All would be fine in an automobile. Drive between the towns on A465, cross an unremarkable bridge over the border and continue on one’s way for an eight-minute journey (map). No big deal. Take the same trip by train however and watch the magic begin.

View Train from Pontrilas to Pandy in a larger map

From Pontrilas, start in England and go 0.80 miles to the border, then into Wales for 0.37 miles, then back into England for 0.45 miles, then back into Wales for 0.52 miles, then back into England for 2.45 miles, and finally into Wales, arriving at Pandy after 0.78 miles. Discounting the two end sections, a train will cross the border an amazing 5 times in 3.79 miles (6.10 kilometres). The map I made shows English segments as blue lines and Welsh segments as red.

Both automobile and locomotive follow the valley of the River Monnow (Afon Mynwy in Welsh). The roadway remains south of river on the Welsh side, crossing into English territory just outside of Pontrilas on the way to Hereford. In contrast, the railway remains north of the River Monnow primarily during the same stretch. However, its tracks clip the River Monnow to avoid a sharp bend at one point, accounting for two of the border crossings. Additionally, the river must have changed course sometime in the past. The border deviates slightly from the watercourse and the railway clips that section too.

Pontrilas Station House and Cottage
Station House in Pontrilas: Flickr by tomline43 via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Completing this border-defying feat shouldn’t be daunting although it would involve more than simply hopping a train in Pontrilas and riding the rails to Pandy, or vice versa. I couldn’t find evidence that there was ever a regular station at Pandy. Pontrilas had a station although it stopped serving passengers in 1958 and closed altogether in 1964. Today it’s the Station House bed and breakfast inn. The establishment caters to railfans and notes that "some 50 trains pass during the 24 hours on weekdays, approximately half comprising the hourly ‘Express Sprinter’ service from Cardiff to Manchester." That would be a drawback for most inns. That’s a selling point here!

The route followed a very old railroad line, with the border-crossing segment originally constructed as part of the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway, circa 1853. It passed through several iterations eventually becoming known commonly as the North and West Route, and now the Welsh Marches Line (Llinell y Mers). The Welsh Marches of the middle ages formed a frontier between England and Wales, and to a degree maintained its independence from both. Today the term describes an amorphous and imprecise borderland more generically.

Arriva Welsh Marches Line
SOURCE: Google Street View "A465, Herefordshire HR2, UK," May 2009

A casual railway passenger on Arriva Trains Wales (Trenau Arriva Cymru) would find it completely feasible to experience the anomaly. Hundreds of people probably traverse this section every day without realizing its significance. One could board at Hereford, England and disembark at Abergavenny, Wales, covering a distance of about 28 miles with the anomaly included near its midpoint. Arriva posted a cheapest one-way fare of £9.60 when I checked this evening. It offered different travel options practically twice per hour.

Somehow I managed to capture one of the most remarkable geo-oddity Google Street View images I’ve ever witnessed (above). Don’t bother to click it. I recorded it as a screen grab because someday Google will overwrite my discovery with new imagery and it will be lost. Feel free to refer to the original image until that happens.

What makes it so special?

  • It’s on the border with a "Welcome to England" sign clearly visible.
  • An Arriva passenger train can be seen in the background just exiting the anomaly.
  • Did somebody say beer festival? — lower, left corner: "Bridge Inn Kentchurch Beer Festival 1st-4th May. 15 Real Ales, Food Available, Free Camping, Live Music Every Night." The Bridge Inn does have a website and I checked it. The establishment usually holds a beer festival during the Spring Bank Holiday weekend.

What a lovely scene. Trains, real ale and border weirdness; a trifecta of 12MC enjoyment. I need to put the Welsh Marches on my visit list. Absolutely.

Semi-Practical Exclaves Galore!

On April 26, 2012 · 15 Comments

I mentioned a semi-practical exclave in Australia a few days ago. This was a spot in New South Wales where a resident in an automobile could exit his neighborhood without ever leaving NSW, but could return only via Queensland. I noted somewhat tongue-in-cheek that the "…situation becomes very special, perhaps unique, meaning I didn’t bother looking for any other occurrences: the curious case of a semi-practical exclave… it’s a practical exclave going in one direction but not in the other."

Of course when I’m too lazy to look for other instances and lay it out there as somewhat of an unstated challenge, then it’s almost certain that a loyal follower of the Twelve Mile Circle audience will find an example. Usually it’s an even better example.

View Larger Map

Let’s give some credit to "Voyager9270" who posted a comment in response: "There is an international version of the semi-practical exclave you describe above in Beebe Plain, Vt. and Stanstead, Quebec." Sure enough, Voyager9270 was absolutely correct. Canusa Street / Rue Canusa (Québec Route 247) runs directly along the border between the United States (Vermont) and Canada (Québec) for about a kilometre. It curves further into Canada to the east and it terminates at a T-intersection with Beebee Plain Road to the west, where there is also a border station.

Thus, a U.S. citizen on the Vermont side of Canusa Street lives in an international semi-practical exclave arrangement with an added level of inconvenience. Drivers can arrive from the rest of the United States without a problem. The right side of Canusa Street is completely within the United States. Leaving one’s home is another issue. Turning left onto Rue Canusa from a driveway in Vermont, heading back to the rest of the United States, places a driver on the Québec side of the road. This didn’t use to be a problem in the days before 9-11 when this border town loosely formed a single community. Now, however, a driver from the Vermont side of Canusa Street needs to clear a border station in order to re-enter the United States.

A couple of other interesting albeit completely irrelevant features I uncovered.

  • Beebe Plain is named for the town’s founder, Zeba Beebe, which I though was a great name.
  • Canusa is quite obviously a portmanteau of Canada-USA, and loyal readers know I loves me a good portmanteau.

There I was. I felt compelled to search for additional semi-practical exclaves now that I’d been armed with the knowledge that perhaps they might not be all that unusual after all. However I’d also figured out a secret pattern that I could use to identify them: find places where the border ran straight down the middle of a road. Not every property along the line would form a semi-practical exclave but it would certainly increase the odds. I added a corollary. Look for dead-end streets that branched from the border road that might create entire semi-practical neighborhoods.

There aren’t very many geo-oddity blogs. We’re a pretty small community. Not surprisingly, my search began to cross paths with the Basement Geographer. He’d already posted a couple of similar articles dealing with borders stung down the middle of roads: Bisected and Bilateral: Streets Shared By Two Countries, Part I (The Americas) and Bisected and Bilateral: Streets Shared By Two Countries, Part II (Europe and the Middle East). I didn’t want to tread on ground already covered there (even if I was taking a slightly different tack) so go read those articles because they’re great. I’m sure you could use them to find lots of semi-practical exclaves at those locations while you’re at it.

That left me with the challenge of finding roads overlain upon borders in places not already featured. I did manage to find a couple.

View Larger Map

The situation occurs on the border between England and Wales in Saltney, appropriately enough along Boundary Lane. This means "that houses on the west side of the street are in the Flintshire County Council area and in the North Wales Police jurisdiction, while those on the east side are in the Cheshire West and Chester unitary authority area and in the Cheshire Police jurisdiction."

Not every property along Boundary Lane qualifies as a semi-practical exclave. Many connect to other roadways that anchor them to their homelands. In England, Stanley Park Dr. and its various branches form a semi-practical exclave. In Wales, streets such as Larch Way, Douglas Place, Cwrt Terfyn seem to fit the definition as well.

Kansas City might be the most promising location, though. The dueling Kansas Cities, one in Kansas and one in Missouri, blend together almost seamlessly along State Line Road.

View Larger Map

State Line Road hugs the boarder for an astounding 12.5 miles (20 kmilometres) unbroken. This creates probably hundreds of properties that would qualify as semi-practical exclaves.

View Larger Map

Here is one easy example. It’s an entire apartment complex on the Missouri side of the line. State Line Road might be the longest urban road split down the middle by a border (meaning I didn’t bother looking for any longer occurrences).

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