Welcome to the 43rd issue of the Mobius Strip Tease, my capriciously researched and erratically published newsletter of highly useful* trivia.

Feel free to email me to debate any of my research, to contribute ideas for future issues, or to subscribe to the newsletter.

* I supply the trivia and you find some way to make it highly useful.

AN ANTIPODAL ESSAY

CONTENTS

1. A boring and tedious task
2. My antipode in the Indian Ocean
3. How far from Lethbridge to the Kerguelen Archipelago?
4. Life in the Kerguelen Archipelago
5. Lonely?
6. Antipodes for other places
7. Future directions
8. Some maps and other stuff to help you out
    a. Antipodal maps
    b. Maps of Kerguelen and area
    c. Additional Kerguelen info


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1. A BORING AND TEDIOUS TASK

So let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that I was engaged in a very boring and tedious task. And let’s also say, hypothetically speaking, that I was to get sick of the aforementioned boring and tedious task. And let us finally suppose, in our hypothetical situation, that I was to decide that I wanted to be as far away from said boring and tedious task as was possible. Where should I go?

If we assume that I don’t have the resources to reach escape velocity put myself in orbit around the earth or otherwise escape the confines of my terrestrial existence, then the furthest I could be from my present location would be to be on the opposite side of the world, at a position that could be referred to as my antipode. The circumference of the earth being 40,008 to 40,075 km (depending on exactly where you measure it), if I travel much more than 20,000 km in any one direction I will no longer be traveling away from my dreaded current location and will begin to get closer.

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2. MY ANTIPODE IN THE INDIAN OCEAN

As I am currently sitting in Lethbridge, Alberta, the furthest point away that I could be would be at 49 42’S and 67 10’W. However, if I were actually there I would be drowning in the southern Indian Ocean, so this doesn’t seem to be a very good place to aspire to. But as luck would have it, I would be a mere 107 km from land. In fact, if the weather was cooperating (which it likely would not be), I would be able to see the mountainous peaks of the Kerguelen Archipelago to my northeast as I was floundering in the water. Once I reached this point of land, I would be standing on the diminutive Fortune Island, the most westerly island in the Kerguelen Archipelago that sits about 30 km west of the main island in the group, called Kerguelen Island. Standing on this tiny island, which is about 1 km across, I would be as far as possible from my now much mentioned boring and tedious task and be standing on land.

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3. HOW FAR FROM LETHBRIDGE TO THE KERGUELEN ARCHIPELAGO?

Figuring out how far apart Fortune Island (in the Kerguelen Archipelago) and Lethbridge are is somewhat complicated. Using a standard projection of the earth, the shortest distance from Lethbridge to Fortune Island is achieved by traveling north west, and the shortest distance from Fortune Island to Lethbridge is achieved by traveling north east. However, this assumes that the earth is perfectly spherical, which is not true. The earth is slightly squished top to bottom, making its circumference through the poles 67 km shorter than its circumference around the equator. Traveling west-ish from Lethbridge (or east-ish from Fortune Island) would theoretically result in a shorter distance, but the circumference of the earth is greater this way. This results in these two points being about 19,914 km apart in an east-west direction, and only 19,897 km apart if one traveled via the North Pole.

So Fortune Island is actually directly north of Lethbridge, and Lethbridge is directly north of Fortune Island. Standing on Fortune Island, Lethbridge would be 19,897 km to my north. But is perhaps not a very practical distinction, because it wouldn’t matter what direction I looked, Lethbridge would be pretty much the same distance away. Even looking in the exact opposite direction, Lethbridge would only be an additional 214 km further away. And, interestingly enough, no matter what direction I looked I would always be looking towards Lethbridge (or pretty close, my antipode would actually now be a point 107 km south east of Lethbridge). When you are at your antipode, all roads lead to home.

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4. LIFE IN THE KERGUELEN ARCHIPELAGO

What would it be like? Well, I would be rather cold, with temperatures at this time of winter averaging about 2 degrees. But even if I was there in the middle of the summer, say February, it wouldn’t be much warmer, it might get up to 8 degrees then. It would also be rather windy, with average wind speed of 110 km/h. Because of this wind I would probably be watching 15 m waves crashing into the coast.

The archipelago itself would be about 7000 km2, but full of small islands and enough fjords to make Slartybartfast’s mouth water, so that even though the entire archipelago is 150 km across, no point of land is more than 20 km from the ocean. The island is also very mountainous, and despite its small size it reaches altitudes of 1850 m at the peak of Mount Ross, which is over a kilometer higher than its antipode between Medicine Hat and Manyberries. In fact, much of Kerguelen Island is higher than southern Alberta. Pakowki, Orion, Manyberries, and Pendant d’Oreille of southern Alberta are all several hundred meters lower than their antipodal counterparts near the Cook Glacier on Kerguelen Island.

About one third of the Kerguelen Island is covered with glaciers, and the combination of a glaciated, mountainous terrain combined with cold temperatures and a hellish wind makes this area rather formidable. Despite this, there is a plethora of indigenous species on the island, including birds, pinnipeds, and some interesting plants like the Kerguelen cabbage. The Kerguelen cabbage is particularly fascinating in how it has adapted to life on this particular island. Other brassicas (the family of plants to which the cabbage belongs) across the world are insect pollinated, but there are no flying insects on Kerguelen (the fierce winds make life too difficult for them). So instead, the Kerguelen cabbage has evolved to be wind pollinated, and there is no shortage of wind to do the dirty deed for it. This nifty plant also happens to be very high in vitamin C and was eaten by early sailors to ward off scurvy.

Of course, the islands fauna also includes the mandatory introduced species, such as rabbits, cats, and reindeer, that are devastating the natural ecosystem. And the entire archipelago is inhabited by about 70 people, mainly scientists and perhaps a few fishermen, giving the island a population density of about 0.01 people/km2. So as long as I brought a coat with me, there would be no one to disturb me and I would be happily as far away from my boring and tedious task as was possible.

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5. LONELY?

What if I eventually got lonely? The nearest human habitation would be about 85 km to my east, at Port Couvreux on the eastern side of Kerguelen Island. An abandoned whaling station, people attempted to raise sheep there and it is now probably housing some of the island’s 70 inhabitants. What if I needed some of the trappings of society that a few scientists and fisherman on a desolate rock couldn’t provide? The nearest city is Bisho in South Africa, which is 3,837 km to my northwest. Bisho is 16250 km from Lethbridge, making it slightly more antipodal than Perth in Australia, which is only 15554 km from Lethbridge. Perth is, however, the most antipodal city for any part of Canada east of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

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6. ANTIPODES FOR OTHER PLACES

So I know how to get as far away as possible from Lethbridge, but what if I started from somewhere else? And what if I had friends elsewhere, who were similarly being accosted by boring and tedious tasks, and they too wanted to flee as far as possible from where they were?

Given that the southern Indian Ocean is rather empty, there aren’t very many other places to go. But if one was further north in Alberta, in Edmonton or anywhere north of that, the furthest point of land from you would actually be MacDonald Island, which is a very small island about 40 km west of the slightly larger Heard Island. Heard Island has an antipode in Saskatchewan, midway between Saskatoon, North Battleford, and Prince Albert. One Saskatchewan town, Parkside, has an antipode that falls on Heard Island.

Heard and MacDonald Islands are the furthest bits of land from any location in Saskatchewan, excluding the very southwestern corner of the province which is antipodal to Kerguelen Island. Heard and MacDonald remain the terrestrial antipodes east across Canada until Toronto and just east of North Bay, at which point Perth, on the southwest shore of Australia, becomes the furthest point of land. Perth has an antipode about 70 km south east of Bermuda.

If one was in Kamloops, or anywhere in BC west of that, the most antipodal land is the Crozet Archipelago. From Victoria, the Cap du Marquis de Castris on the south east coast of East Island in the Crozet Archipelago is about 19,609 km away. The Crozet Archipelago has an antipode about 300 km off the Washington coast.

It is unlikely the furthest point of land would be Africa, because the Cape of Good Hope has an antipode in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but if you did happen to be in Hawaii the furthest point of land from you would be in Botswana.

If one had taken a trip south into southern Wyoming or Nebraska, the furthest point might be Amsterdam Island, which has an antipode in the southeastern corner of Colorado. And if one had taken a trip north into the territories then the furthest point of land would be in Antarctica, which has an antipodal coastline around the northern shore of Great Bear Lake. If one was in the very northwest corner of Alberta (further than High Level, perhaps in Rainbow Lake), or in the very north of British Columbia (around Fort Nelson), then the Antarctic coastline would also be the furthest land away from you.

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7. FUTURE DIRECTIONS

I can anticipate some worthwhile studies comparing the area around Onefour in southern Alberta to the Presqu’ile Joffra on Kerguelen Island, to see to what extent antipodes are correlated. They are both pretty remote and desolate and at identical latitudes, but perhaps cold ocean currents from the Antarctic, and a continental vs. maritime climate could cause slight differences.

But most importantly, I can see huge potential for a worthwhile mission. I challenge each and every one of you to visit your antipode, and if anyone beats me there, I will buy you a case of Pilsner. Of course Perth is probably a lot easier to reach than Fortune Island so anyone from out east has a decided advantage, but I can deal with the handicap.

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8. SOME MAPS TO HELP YOU OUT

In an effort to support people’s attempts to most effectively flee their problems, I have constructed an antipodal map of North America. I am also providing details on Kerguelen Island, as I anticipate that it will become a popular tourist destination as a result of this essay.  Available maps and info:
    Antipodal maps
    Maps of Kerguelen and area
    Additional Kerguelen info

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