Lesson #159: Port Royal is Underwater

I know this is two geography posts in a row, but I learn what I learn so that’s what you get.

Port Royal, the former Jamaican trading port famous for privateers, rum, whores and pirates* — you *have* seen Pirates of the Caribbean by now, I assume — is underwater. It is the only sunken city in the New World and got to be that way in June of 1692 when an earthquake plunged 33 acres of the city into the harbour.

Though there was a lack of seismic recording technology, historians can accurately place the time of the earthquake at around 20 minutes to 12 because a pocket watched dating from 1686, built by a French watchmaker living in the Netherlands, was found near one of the sunken forts; it was stopped at 11:43.**

*You know, the Vegas of the Colonial Caribbean.

**That information can be verified in any number of places, but here is my — not Wiki — source. For more on Port Royal, see here and here.


Lesson #69: Asbury Park, New Jersey

In light of the Canada/US game this evening, I kind of hate myself for this post.

This post is for two people, really. My dad, whose fault it is that I listen to a lot of the music I do and a friend of mine in a big city in Texas who is a New Jersey girl.

Asbury Park, New Jersey, home of The Boss*, and about 18,000 actual residents. It’s tiny, only 1.6 square miles. It was developed as a seaside resort town in 1871 by a New York manufacturer named James A. Bradley and named after Francis Asbury, the first ordained Methodist Bishop in the US. It was the first city in the region to have a modern sewer system and the famous boardwalk was built sometime in the late 19th century and was already well-established by 1890. In the first half of the 20th century, Asbury Park was a mecca of sorts for the entertainment industry, but lost its importance in the antebellum years, declining until the release of Bruce Springsteen’s debut album, Greetings from Asbury  Park, N.J. Some of the city’s most famous residents include Danny DeVito, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Bud Abbott (of Abbott and Costello) and Stephen Crane.**

*Not actually a true fact, but everyone just assumes it based on Greetings from Asbury  Park, N.J. Bruce Springsteen is actually from Long Branch, NJ.

**More about Asbury Park here and here.

Lesson #32: Lima, Ohio

I stumbled over a strange bit of information today while reading a nearly seven year old article posted by the ALA about some shady run-ins with the DHS over some HazMat documents. Lima, Ohio is a real place.

That’s random, I know. Why would I think it wasn’t?

One of my favourite new TV shows (Glee) is set in a town called Lima, Ohio, which I just assumed was fictional in the way that Sunnydale (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is a fictional town.* And, from the way the characters talk about it, it seems like it would be something like the small town where I went to high school. Come to find out that not only is it a real place, it’s not at all like the small town where I went to high school.

First off, there are three university campuses in Lima, including a satellite campus of The Ohio State University, which is not at all the impression one gets from watching Glee. Additionally, Lima is the county seat, the retail centre of the state of Ohio and, more importantly, home to a regional medical centre, an oil refinery, a Ford plant and the only operating tank factory in the US. And, more importantly than that, the town has no shortage of notable alums including a handful of congressmen, a bunch of professional athletes, some lesser known actors and performers and one Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist.

Are you kidding me, Glee? You have been lying to me for 13 glorious episodes.

It’s not all fun and games, to be fair. Like a lot of towns along the rust belt,** the city suffered a massive decline with the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s and 80s. While its population in the 50s was upwards of 53,000, its current population is just over 38,000.***

Long story short, Quinn and Finn’s angst over Lima can stop any time now. Lima is not anywhere near as bad as they make it seem.****

As a side note: This is my favourite line from the wiki article on Lima, “Duane W. Roller, who endured Lima for over 20 years, has written ten books on ancient Greece and Rome, and is a three-time Fulbright scholar.”

*Then again, no one in Glee is dealing with vampires/werewolves/demons/hellmouths/general end of the world badness.

**Somewhere I have a paper about the steady decline of mining and steel towns in Ohio and Pennsylvania from my senior year of college in which our Senior Project show was a very strange agit-prop musical called The Cradle Will Rock, which is about the unionization of the steel industry in 1930s America.

***That’s still more than three times the people in the town where I went to high school, a town, I should mention that my friends and I left as quickly as we could once we graduated, most of us going to college hundreds of miles away, a town that has been dying since before my family even moved there in the early 90s and now with the closing of two of the three major industrial sites in the last ten years, is headed for an even bleaker future.

****Information from the Lima Chamber of Commerce can be found here, from the US Census Bureau here.

Lesson #10: The Roswell Commute

Relax, it’s not what you think. I’m not about to go all alien conspiracy on you, I promise.

This is going to be a short post today. I’m packing and doing laundry and cleaning up my room and other assorted things one does when one is preparing to fly 6 hours over an ocean in 18 hours.

Autobiographical note: I once drove to Roswell in the middle of the night (and got lost) and the next afternoon was subjected to a rant from a townie over a generally awful diner lunch about how Louisiana is sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. This is actually a true, scientifically proven issue, but it was one of the more confusing moments of my life. Apparently, my grandchildren are going to be sorry I didn’t write to my congressman.


According to the US Census Bureau, in 2006, Roswell had a population of 45,582 (of whom at least one is a little bit crazy and likes to shout at girls minding their own business in diners.) There are a whole lot of other boring statistics, but I like this one…the average commute for the people of Roswell is 16.2 minutes. The average American commute? 25.5 minutes.* For the states I’ve lived in, the average commutes in four are significantly higher than the national average, one is .1 minute under the national average and the other is three minutes below it.

Side note on New Mexico: There are 15 people for every square mile in New Mexico. The nationwide average? 79.6.

*US Census Bureau information on Roswell can be found here.

Lesson #9: Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour…oh, and Bonavista

There’s this Newfoundland folk song we heard growing up called I’se the B’y*. It’s a really fun song and I love it. So today, a little bit of Newfoundland!

There are four towns mentioned in I’se the B’y: Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour and Bonavista. All four towns are along the north coast of Newfoundland and were cod towns up until the 1992 moratorium** and have a long fishing history.

Moving west to east:

Moreton’s Harbour: The most information I can find on Moreton’s Harbour is that it is located on New World Island and appears in the chorus of I’se the B’y which is not new information. ***

Twillingate: Originally settled by Maritime Archaic people as far back as 1500 BC, then the Beothuk people between 1650 – 1720, Twillingate is apparently “the iceberg capital of the world.” (Whether that’s true or just an attempt to draw tourists, go look at this website and check out the first picture on the right hand sidebar. It’s pretty stellar! Back? Good.) Twillingate is located on Twillingate Island in Notre Dame Bay and is home to 2500 residents. Since the collapse of the cod fishery, it is largely reliant on tourism, the crab and lobster fisheries and the seal hunt. The area was fished by the French as far back as the 1500s (in fact Twillingate is specifically mentioned in the 1713 Treaty of Utrect which allowed the French to continue fishing the French Shore despite the land falling to Great Britain) who named the island Toulinguet, which was later anglicized to Twillingate, but the first European settlers were Englishmen who arrived sometime around 1700. By 1738 there were 12 families living in Twillingate.****

Fogo: Located on Fogo Island, Fogo is the largest of 11 settlements on the island and home to 750 residents. The town was settled by English and Irish fishermen sometime in the 1780s, but had been a seasonal home to French fishermen from the 1720s. The most popular theory about the island (and town’s) name is that it was named by Portuguese fishermen who called it “Fire (fogo) Island”.*****

Bonavista: The easternmost terminus of the French shore, Bonavista was first discovered by Europeans when John Cabot landed in 1497. As with the other three towns in this post, the waters off Bonavista were fished by the French, Spanish, Portuguese and English. In 1696, the French raided the settlement at Bonavista in an attempt to gain control of the settlement, (politically, a bright move because it would have cut off more western points like Fogo, Twillingate and Moreton’s Harbour from English/Irish settlement), but were held off by about 300 men. During the boom years of the fishing industry in the late 19th and early 20th centurieis, the Bonavista peninsula was home to 20,000 residents and was a major commercial centre with several processing factories. Currently, the town of Bonavista boasts a population of about 3,800 and is one of the handful of towns in Newfoundland the retains a fish plant.******

A quick note on the Treaty of Utrect: It was the ratification of the Treaty of Utrect and subsequent underlying tensions between the French and English that precipitated Le Grand Derangement (aka the Exile of the Acadians) in the mid-1700s.

A quick note on the songs of Newfoundland: Off the top of my head, I can think of at least one other Newfoundland folk song that mentions Bonavista and one that mentions Twillingate. Additionally, of the songs I know — many of them because one of my favourite bands of all time, Great Big Sea, are Newfoundlanders —  places in Newfoundland made reference to include,  St. John’s, Cape Freels, Fortune, Tickle Cove, Greenspond, Marasheen, Toslow, Valen, Oderin, Presque, Fox Hole, Bruley, Harbour Grace, Harbour LeCou and Torbay. The French Shore is actually the subject of an entire song. That’s off the top of my head…there are likely five times that in real life.

*Great Big Sea’s kickass version of I’se the B’y can be heard here. Lyrics can be found here.

**For a very interesting read on the cod fishery in Newfoundland and the economic impact of the moratorium, read Myron Arms’ Servants of the Fish.

***The tiny little wiki post on Moreton’s Harbour

****Information on Twillingate can be found here and here.

*****Information on Fogo can be found here and here.

******Information on Bonavista can be found here.