Geography and Maps


The Waymarking site allows the user to add a geo-tag to any object or place to make it findable by anyone else.

They have their entries grouped into categories, and certainly the Oddities subgroup will be of interest to WU-vies.

There you can find, among other things, giant commercial icons such as the one below.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Oct 08, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Food, Geography and Maps, Advertising

The Man Can

Its formal name was the “man-carried auto-navigation device,” but it went by the nickname “Man Can.” The Martin-Marietta Corporation received patent no. 3,355,942 for it in 1967.

It was a device designed to help soldiers avoid getting lost. The patent offered this description:

a lightweight, completely mechanical, low energy device by which small units of men may locate themselves accurately with respect to some reference point when operating in the jungle, darkness or bad weather without dependence upon visual landmarks.

It combined a compass and a pedometer. A GI would record his initial location on a map, and then the device would track his footsteps and the directions in which he turned. When he was done walking, the device would tell him his new coordinates.

A key feature of the device was that it didn't use any battery power. So the GIs would never need to worry about it running out of juice. It operated via a bellows located in the heel of the GI's shoe.

I can't find any follow-up reports about how well this gadget worked. Apparently not well enough to warrant its adoption by the army. But it was an interesting concept.

Allentown Morning Call - Dec 11, 1967

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jan 05, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Geography and Maps, Inventions, Military, Technology, 1960s

The Bielefeld Conspiracy

Ever since 1993, a conspiracy has circulated online alleging that the German city of Bielefeld doesn’t exist. Now the city is pushing back by offering a million euros to anyone who can definitively prove it doesn’t exist.

Entries can be submitted in either German or English, but the deadline is Sep. 4. So there’s not much time left.

It seems to me that the contest has set an impossible task, because it's well known that a negative can never be proven. For instance, we can't definitively prove that the Loch Ness Monster doesn't exist. We can only say that we haven't found her yet.

But on the other hand, the opposite is equally true. It's impossible to definitively prove anything with absolute certainty. For instance, what if someone believes that Bielefeld exists because they've lived there their entire life? Well, that doesn't actually prove anything. As Bertrand Russell pointed out in his five-minute hypothesis, it's possible that the entire universe sprang into existence five minutes ago, complete with our memories of an older history. It may seem unlikely, but it's possible. So likewise, just because someone remembers living in Bielefeld, it's possible that their memories are false.

Which is to say that even if no one wins the million euros by proving that Bielefeld doesn't exist, that doesn't mean the city actually does exist. The existence of Bielefeld can never be definitively proven or disproven.

More info: epoch times

Posted By: Alex - Fri Aug 30, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests, Geography and Maps, Conspiracy Theories and Theorists

Stedman Whitwell’s Rational System of Nomenclature

Back in the 19th century, English architect Stedman Whitwell decided that there must be a way to name cities and towns that could not only provide a unique name but also convey geographic information. His idea, as described by George Browning Lockwood in The New Harmony Communities (1902):

Whitwell noted some of the incongruities in American nomenclature, and deplored the repetition which was producing “Washingtons” and “Springfields” in every state in the Union. He proposed to give each locality a distinctive name by expressing in a compound word the latitude and longitude of the place, thus enabling one to locate any community geographically when the name was once known. Letters were proposed as substitutes for the numerals used in expressing latitude and longitude, as follows:

The first part of the town name expressed the latitude, the second the longitude, by a substitution of letters for figures according to the above table. The letter “S” inserted in the latitude name denoted that it was south latitude, its absence that it was north, while “V” indicated west longitude, its absence east longitude.

Extensive rules for pronunciation and for overcoming various difficulties were given. According to this system, Feiba Peveli indicated 38.11 N., 81.53 W. Macluria, 38.12 N., 87.52 W., was to be called Ipad Evenle; New Harmony, 38.11 N., 87.55 W., Ipba Veinul; New Yellow Springs, Green county, Ohio, the location of an Owenite community, 39.48 N., 83.52 W., Irap Evifle; Valley Forge, near Philadelphia, where there was another branch community, 40.7 N., 75.25 W., Outeon Eveldo; Orbiston, 55.34 N., 4.3 W., Uhi Ovouti; New York, Otke Notive; Pittsburg, Otfu Veitoup; Washington, Feili Neivul; London, Lafa Vovutu.

The principal argument in favor of the new system presented by the author was that the name of a neighboring Indian chief, “Occoneocoglecococachecachecodungo,” was even worse than some of the effects produced by this “rational system” of nomenclature.

I think the chart above is slightly misleading, as it implies that the top line is for latitude and the bottom for longitude. But if you look at the names Whitwell was coming up with, it's clear that this wasn't the case. It seems, instead, that one had to choose whether to start the name with a vowel (top line) or consonant (bottom line).

If I've understood his system correctly, then the 'rational' name for San Diego (32.71 N, 117.16 W) could be Fena Baveeby. And Los Angeles (34.05 N, 118.24 W) could be Fotu Avapek.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Mar 20, 2019 - Comments (4)
Category: Geography and Maps, Odd Names, Nineteenth Century

Blue Gill Capital of the World

Was this really the best scene of the "vacation paradise" of Birchwood, Wisconsin that the maker of this 1970s-era postcard could come up with? And where are the blue gills?.

Here's (what I think is) the present-day view on Google Maps.

Source: eBay

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jan 12, 2019 - Comments (5)
Category: Geography and Maps, Tourists and Tourism, 1970s

GPS of the 1920s

I can think of one obvious problem with mounting the map in front of the windshield.

Popular Mechanics - Nov 1927

Posted By: Alex - Mon Nov 26, 2018 - Comments (2)
Category: Geography and Maps, 1920s, Cars

Statehood for Lake Michigan

Back in 1975, Federal Administrative Judge Edward McCarthy briefly tried to promote the idea of granting statehood to Lake Michigan. He figured that if the lake itself was a state, then all the surrounding states wouldn't be able to exploit its resources as easily. As for the oddness of a lake being a state, he reasoned, why not? "After all," he noted, "it's a piece of real estate on which a body of water rests."

Waukesha Daily Freeman - Mar 10, 1975

Posted By: Alex - Sun Oct 08, 2017 - Comments (1)
Category: Geography and Maps, 1970s

State of Rhode Island

I'm encroaching on Paul's territory here, but I just learned a weird factoid about Rhode Island geography so I thought I'd share. And I'm sure many of you will also know this, but if it was new to me I'm hoping it may be new to a few of you as well.

The factoid: Most of Rhode Island is not Rhode Island. It's the Providence Plantations.

Rhode Island's full name is "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," which makes it the longest state name in the U.S. But technically, Rhode Island is just a single island in Narragansett Bay. The island is also known as Aquidneck Island. The mainland part of the state is the Providence Plantations.

In 1975, State Sen. Ambrose Campbell introduced a bill to officially shorten the name to "The State of Rhode Island," but the bill didn't pass. So the full, long name remains.

Minneapolis Star Tribune - Apr 10, 1975

Santa Cruz Sentinel - Jul 17, 1975

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 03, 2017 - Comments (3)
Category: Geography and Maps, 1970s

Goblu and Beatosu, Ohio

The 1978-79 Michigan Highway map included some creative geography. If you looked at the part of the map that depicted neighboring Ohio, you found two new towns. There was Goblu, shown just east of Toledo near Bono, and Beatosu, shown to the west near Elmira. These names sounded a lot like the cries of University of Michigan football fans against rival Ohio State University.

They were included in the map at the order of Peter Fletcher, the highway commission chairman, who said he included the names to demonstrate his "loyalty to the Athens of the West, the University of Michigan." The fictitious towns were deleted from the next edition of the map. The map with the towns is now a collector's item. One is currently available for $32.55 on eBay.

More info: wikipedia

Lansing State Journal - Dec 23, 1977 (click to enlarge)

Posted By: Alex - Wed May 17, 2017 - Comments (4)
Category: Geography and Maps, Hoaxes and Imposters and Imitators, 1970s

Theory of Continental Drip

Ormonde de Kay, Jr. first proposed the "theory of continental drip" in Horizon magazine (Winter 1973), although it was more of an observation than a theory. He wrote:

Continental drip is the tendency of land masses to drip, droop, sag, depend, or hang down — like wet paint in the Sherwin-Williams trademark — except that they cling to the Earth's surface below the equator instead of falling off into space.

De Kay's article was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and there have been several elaborations of his theory in the same vein, such as here and here.

However, it's true. Continents and peninsulas do seem to "drip" south — Africa, South America, Baja California, Florida, Greenland, Scandinavia, Italy, Greece, India, Malaysia, Indochina, and Korea.

So why? Is there a reason? De Kay wrote:

A few possible explanations come to mind: some palaeomagnetic force, for example, unsuspected and therefore undetected, centered in massive, mountainous Antarctica and perpetually tugging at the lower hems of land masses. Or drip might somehow be the result of the Earth's rotation, or of lunar attraction.

But like I said, De Kay wasn't being completely serious. The closest I've been able to find in the way of a genuine scientific response to this mystery is in New Scientist magazine (Dec 18, 1999), when a reader wrote in asking about the dripping continents and received the following response:

The present pattern of landmasses is just one of many that has occurred as the continents, starting with super continent Pangaea, have wandered all over the globe during the past few hundred million years. In another few hundred million the continents and their positions and shapes will all look quite different again, so not too much can be read into today’s pattern.

In other words, there really is no reason for the dripping. It's just random chance.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Nov 16, 2016 - Comments (6)
Category: Geography and Maps, Science

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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