Your geographical misconceptions

Here’s one I just noticed: Everyone knows that Minneapolis and Saint Paul are the “Twin Cities”. Everyone knows they are across the Mississippi River from each other.

What I didn’t know until just now: The cities are across from each other, but their downtowns aren’t. Downtown Saint Paul is about 20 miles downstream from downtown Minneapolis.

My geography teacher (Pierce Lewis) explained that St. Paul is the head of navigation — the furthest upstream big boats could go, a “break-in-bulk point” for goods — whileMinneapolis is the fall line — where St. Anthony Falls provides power (for wheat mills, especially).

Interesting. I seem to recall that Montreal is in the same situation: It was the head of navigation for the Saint Lawrence River, that’s why it developed into a big city.

America is to the west.
(That is, the east coast of America is to the west.)
So, the part of the continent one first bumps into with one’s boat, is the West. (e.g. the Wild West etc).
The other side, which you reach if you traverse the continent must therefore necessarily be the East.
I still have to stop and think when somebody references east or west in reference to a location or a journey in America.

Cambridge, Nottingham, Norwich, Birmingham, Coventry, and Stratford Upon Avon are all further north than Adak, Alaska.

Colonists expected Boston to have the climate of Madrid, Newfoundland to have the climate of Madrid, and Jamestown the climate of Sicily.


Nothing worse than forgetting to pack your long underwear when it’s a 6-month trip back to the nearest store.

Speaking of Madrid (the one in Spain, not New Mexico), it is in one of those rather uncommon areas where, in theory, you could dig straight through the center of the earth and come up on dry land. Interestingly, where you would come up would be fairly close (about 100 miles) to Wellington, which I believe is the capital of that other country.

Look, this always sounds like fun…

But I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I did it as kids, and it was a lark until we a) ran out of sodas and snacks, and b) ran into the Earth’s molten core.

Boy, were our faces red!

One of my younger brothers and his friend were going to dig a tunnel to connect our houses. We lived in town, the friend lived on a farm somewhere.

We older kids were astounded that our mom was letting him dig up the yard. She pointed out that he was hurting anything important and further had we noticed that he hadn’t been bugging any of the rest of us the whole day.

He never got very far, but the last time I was at the old family home there was still a noticeable (if you knew where to notice) depression where the tunnel was supposed to be.

Yeah, speaking from experience, the first four feet are fun, then the novelty wears off…

eta: We realized we’d be in the middle of the Indian Ocean if we tunneled straight down, so we were going to veer off just a little. See, I’d read a book that made the Maldives sound pretty nice…

Speaking of antipodes, I was surprised to learn (back in my teen years) that the only place on the 48 states you could dig straight through the earth and come out on land were tiny bits of Montana, where you’d reach the Keguelen islands and similar small bits of Colorado where you’d surface on Ile Amsterdam and Ile St. Paul.

One of my earliest memories, at the age of 2, was a few older kids, digging a hole to China. This was more than 70 years ago. Wonder how far they’ve gotten by now.

I never saw the point of China digging - I thought the hole i was digging in the side yard would get me gold by mid-afternoon.

When I was a kid, digging a hole in the backyard, adults asked me if it was a hole to China. I said that no, it was a hole to Australia. China and Cleveland are both in the northern hemisphere, so China can’t be directly opposite Cleveland.

Of course, Australia isn’t, either, but it’s closer.

If you really want to know where you’d end up, try this:

Oh cool! I wind up in South America!

Congrats! You’re one of the very few who end up on solid ground.

I was surprised by how few places are antipodal to another land mass. Other than China <-> Argentina, it’s only tiny bits of land, like islands in the Pacific (ignoring the obvious Arctic/Antartica matchup). Guess it’s a function of how watery our world really is.

One I recently found out on that fountain of all knowledge, a TV game show:
Amsterdam, Berlin, and Warsaw are all farther north (i.e. nearer to the north pole) than London…but Ottawa is farther south than Paris

It should be noted the Kerguelen Islands are much bigger than those other two. However, only part of Kerguelen is opposite Montana, maybe 20-25%. The rest is split between Alberta and Saskatchewan, IIRC. But it’s still much more land than the Amsterdam and St Paul Islands.

Now Alaska and Hawaii are a different story. Much of the North Slope in Alaska is opposite Antarctica and Hawaii is opposite Africa. Botswana and Namibia, if memory serves.

Canada, besides Kerguelen, is opposite Heard and McDonald Islands (somewhere in Saskatchewan) and, of course, the Candian Arctic is opposite Antarctica.