Your geographical misconceptions

Too late to edit: I think it’s mainly a factor of maps putting north on top. If you rotate the map to put northwest on top, Santa Monica Bay is much more noticeable as a bay.

My wife grew up in CT and has a very clear picture of I-95 North being towards Boston, South towards NY.

We’ve been here in Orange County, CA for 13 years and she STILL doesn’t have it clear that Los Angeles is 405N, San Diego is 405S, which she claims is because they aren’t “really north and south.”

Pointing out that I-95 isn’t either doesn’t seem to help (in fact, it has the opposite effect). So I try “mountains on your right = North.”

I blame the addition of compasses to car dashboards.

It sucks when getting back on the thing (after a gas stop/bathroom break) tho and you’re not sure which way to go.

I had the same reaction in Ottawa. Growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, I was always aware of a southern edge to things: Lake Ontario. (If I went far enough east or west, the US border took over that role.)

Then my sister moved to Ottawa. In Ottawa, the water, and its associated border, is on the north. True, the border is interprovincial, not international, but it does mark a linguistic and cultural boundary. So the ‘edge’ of things was to the north, and the city stretched out unnervingly to the south without anything to hold it up

Thanks! I think I have Holland and The Netherlands sorted out now but the rest… :exploding_head:

This YouTube channel may be a rabbit hole from which I will never escape…

And, although Quebec as a whole is East of Ontario, for much of Ottawa the nearest bit of Quebec is to the North-West, because of the winding course of the Ottawa River boundary.

I always (for decades) thought the Gateway Arch in St. Louis spanned the Mississippi river.

A trivial map reading faux pas. I used to bicycle home to Connecticut from College (RPI, Troy, NY) about 107 to 111 miles depending on the route. I was always looking to shorten or avoid more traveled sections. I spied a road parallel to a railroad on a map that crossed over and back that would shave off 4 miles and avoid a busy road for a bit. Arriving at the first crossover, I saw the sign that read, “Tunnel Hill Road - not maintained in winter”. And the 12% upgrade sign. And the eroded, ravined, and crumbling dirt path. I had no choice but to go through the tunnel (plenty of room - a maintenance road alongside the double track main line). Couldn’t ride because of the large sharp roadbed stones scattered about. Couldn’t see because the light at the far end of the tunnel (about 1/4 mile) wiped out any night vision. Had only my cycling cleats (old type that protruded - toe clip and strap system) so I shuffled along to keep from tearing up my ankles and tires. Exited the far end and got on my “new” route. Turns out for the next 10 miles; when visible from the NY State Thruway, it was nice paved asphalt; out of site, the road reverted to half-assed gravel. Rinse and repeat for four and five cycles. NY tourism had to keep up appearances I guess.

and back to the thread

Never trust a map that a road is still there. I had to back out, some years ago, from what my map claimed was a four-way crossroads with a named hamlet at the junction. Two of the roads had disappeared altogether; a third was entirely washed out and impassable except perhaps on foot; the one I came in on was the only one still there. The only thing left of the hamlet was a signpost with its name.

I checked a few years ago on Google Maps and roads and hamlet were still there on the road maps; though at that point the satellite map showed a farm field. I looked on Google just now and while the hamlet still shows as a location they don’t seem to any longer be showing it as a hamlet; it’s difficult to tell what’s up with the roads.

Once driving along the rural interstate in Arkansas I came across a sign for an exit saying that town X was 3 miles thataway. For some reason I recognized the name of the town, but couldn’t place the context. Terrain is flat, mostly farm fields and a few trees, mostly as windbreaks; pretty benign environment. Time for an impromptu mini-adventure.

Head on down the one-lane-each-way country road. 3 miles later come to a crossroads with a similar road. Found some concrete foundation slabs, and the wreckage of a metal sign. Then I noticed that all the few standing trees within a few hundred yards had been wrenched apart ~10 feet off the ground. These were mature hardwoods 6-15" in diameter.

Suddenly I remembered why I knew the name. A couple years previously a powerful tornado had come through this 6-building “town” and simply erased it. Everything except those few tree-stubs was shredded and scattered into the next county. Everyone in town at the time, all 10(?) of them, were killed or presumed killed. Several were never found.

Not a misconception exactly, but damn that was an eerie sight. There’s supposed to be a hamlet here. As Inspector Clouseau would say: “Not anymaarh!”

Holland used to be one of the provinces of the Republic. In fact it has been the mightiest provincie for a long time, the Stadhouder (historically a precursor to the King) resided in The Hague. Now it consists of two provinces, North and South, and about a third of the people in the Netherlands live there, in a conurbation called the Randstad, which consists of Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam, and a lot of smaller cities in between. Officially Utrecht is also part of the Randstad but it is situated in a different provincie, namely Utrecht. To make matters worse, some of the southern provinces find their namesakes in Belgium, because that only became an independent kingdom in 1830. So there’s a (north) Brabant in both The Netherlands and in Belgium. Same goes for Limburg. And there’s an Ostfriesland in Germany, as there is a Friesland with us. Still with me? The inhabitants are called Dutch, as is the language. This probably stems from the old German term Diets, which is also pretty close to Deutsch/Duits, our word for German(s). Dutch is a lot like German. Not completely mutually intelligible, but not as foreign as, say, French either.
Holland has become a pars pro toto because it was the mightiest within the Republic, so in the 16th and 17th century. Most of the architecture our country is famous for, especially in Amsterdam, is predominantly from the 17th century. Holland is derived from Holtland, which was a Germanic word for woodland.

The Danes on the other hand are the offspring of the Vikings, in short. Their country is small but it has been a vast kingdom up until the early 20th century, when Norway became independent. They raided us and we share a germanic language and a love for licorice and dark crime stores, but that’s about it.

Hope this helps. We Dutch get confused all the time as well and probably my husband won’t agree with my summary since he’s a historian and actually knows what he’s talking about.

After reading Michener’s Hawai’i, and trying to picture just what direction the early Tahitians were sailing when they eventually struck the Big Island, I consulted a globe. To my surprise, Hawai’i is ever so slightly west of Tahiti. So the Tahitians were sailing north-northwest. In my mind’s eye, they’d have to sail northeast to find the Hawai’ian Islands.

Hey, don’t forget about bicycles and windmills. From all reports, you’re both pretty big on those things.

As for my misconceptions, for a long time I was under the impression that Denmark was a mountainous country. I’ve never been there, it was just an idea I’d gotten from who knows where. Relatively recently I learned that Denmark is actually pretty flat.

Ignorance fought. I thought it was mountainous, too; though I don’t know where I got the idea either.

I’m constantly amazed by the fact that the Philippines are made up of more than 7000 islands. I just can’t imagine someone counting all of those. I feel like I would have stopped after (maybe) 50 or so.

Indonesia has more than 16.000. Amazing isn’t it?

Another similarity to the Netherlands. A lot of great professional cyclists there as well.
Oh and I think we share a profound love of cheese. Come to think of it, i’m beginning to understand the confusion😊

Indonesia ranks third in the world by total coastline, due to all those islands. Canada ranks first by a long margin. Some sources rank Norway second (lots of fjords); some have the US in that spot. (Somalia has the longest in continental Africa)

The numbers vary considerably depending on your source.

Maybe because it’s part of Scandinavia? Norway and Iceland are mountainous, as are parts of Sweden and Finland, but Denmark is pancake-flat. The highest point in the country is the top of one of the TV masts.

Coastlines are fractal, so you can measure almost any length you like.

Two things that caught me out:

  • Just how far Australia is not just from Europe but from anywhere. You tend to look at the map and think “it’s the next thing after Indonesia”, but Sydney is 3,500 miles from Jakarta, 4,000 from Singapore and 5,000 from Tokyo.
  • Just how big the North African counties are (blame Mercator). Who’d have thought that Algeria is one of the 10 largest countries on Earth, bigger than Iran, Indonesia, Mexico or Saudi Arabia?

I suspect you’re right.