Some Geographic Anomalies or Paradoxes

Or at least some surprises for the uninformed


Global Division

Alaska's Near Islands in the Aleutians are closer to Tokyo, Japan, than they are to Alaska's state capital of Juneau.

Southernmost Algeria is farther from Algiers than is London, England.

The distance from Petropavlovsk, in easternmost Russia, to Moscow is about the same distance as from Petropavlovsk to Denver, Colorado.

The Atlantic end of the Panama Canal is west of the Pacific end.

Recife, Brazil, is closer to the African cities of Dakar (Senegal), Freetown (Sierra Leone), and Monrovia (Liberia), than it is to Cruzeiro do Sul in western Brazil.

Binzert, Tunisia, is north of Lagos, Portugal, Granada, Spain, and Sparta, Greece.

It's only 49 miles (79 km) from Talinn, the capital of Estonia, to Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Estonia and Finland nonetheless have no common land border, thanks to the Gulf of Finland.

The Pacific is more than half again as large as the Atlantic, but the Atlantic drains three and a half times as much land area as the Pacific.

Venice is west of Rome.

Prague is west of Vienna.

Alaska's Near Islands in the Aleutians are west of Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand.

The straight-line distance from the headwaters of the Nile in Lake Victoria to the Nile Delta is about the same as that across North America from Savannah, Georgia, to San Francisco, California, or about the same as that across Europe from Lisbon to Moscow.

The Ural Mountains, the eastern boundary of Europe, are east of the Straits of Hormuz, which are at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and thus very much in Asia.

New York City is west of Lima, Peru.

Jacksonville, Florida, is west of the entire mainland of South America.

Honolulu, Hawaii, is south of Havana, Cuba.

Dunkerque, France, is north of Heerlen, the Netherlands.

The northernmost part of Ireland, Malin Head, isn't in Northern Ireland. It's in the Republic of Ireland.



North American Division

Pelee Point, Ontario, is south of Conneaut, Ohio.

Traveling due south from Detroit, Michigan, puts one in Canada.

Kenora, Ontario, is nearer by road to three other provincial capitals (Winnipeg, Regina, and Edmonton) and nearer by any measure to eleven state captals (Lansing, Indianapolis, Springfield, Madison, St. Paul, Jefferson City, Topeka, Lincoln, Cheyenne, Pierre, and Bismark) than it is to its own provincial capital of Toronto.

The easternmost shore of Hudson Bay is due north of Washington, D.C.; the westernmost shore of Hudson Bay is due north of Kansas City, Missouri.

Two-hundred-and-thirty-plus years after the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years' War) delivered Canada to British control, France still controls a colony called St. Pierre et Miquelon off the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

Miami, Florida, is nearer two national capitals, Nassau (The Bahamas) and Havana (Cuba), than it is to its own state capital of Tallahassee, Florida.

British Columbia is bigger than Texas, Ontario is one-and-a-half times as big as Texas, and Quebec is more than twice as big as Texas.



U.S. Division

Ewing, Virigina, is closer to eight other state capitals than it is to its own state capital, Richmond. The eight are Charleston, WV, Columbus, OH, Indianapolis, IN, Frankfurt, KY, Nashville, TN, Atlanta, GA, Columbia, SC, and Raleigh, NC. In addition, Montgomery, AL, is virtually the same distance away as Richmond.

Ironwood, Michigan, is due north of St Louis, Missouri.

Cairo, Illinois, is closer to Atlanta than it is to Chicago.

Pensacola, Florida, is closer to Houston, Texas, than it is to Miami, Florida.

Jackson, Wyoming, is nearer to three other state capitals (Salt Lake City, UT, Boise, ID, and Helena, MT) than it is to its own state capital in Cheyenne, WY.

Clovis, New Mexico, is east of Sturgis, South Dakota.

Evansville, Indiana, is closer to Blytheville, Arkansas, than it is to Fort Wayne.

Buffalo, New York, is nearer Detroit, Michigan, than it is either Albany or New York City.

It's farther from Miami, Florida, to Boston, Massachusetts, than it is from Miami to the Panama Canal.

Corona, Tennessee, is on the west side of the Mississippi River.

Westernmost Florida, on the banks of the Perdido River, is west of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

Only one U.S. state borders on just one other state. That state is Maine. On the other hand, two U.S. states border on eight other states. They are Tennessee and Missouri.

Platte County, Wyoming, is one of the smallest of Wyoming's 23 counties. It's nonetheless twice as large as the entire state of Rhode Island. Rhode Island nonetheless has about twice the population of the entire state of Wyoming.

Calais, Maine, is closer to Dublin, Ireland, than it is to San Diego, California.

Atchison, Kansas (north of Kansas City, and famous to some for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad) bears the name of the twelfth president of the United States, David Rice Atchison. (Really!)

Memphis, TN, is closer to Kansas City MO, Oklahoma City OK, and Dallas TX, than it is to Johnson City, TN. Johnson City, which is in northeast Tennessee, is closer to Dover DE and Jamestown NY than it is to Memphis.

As the crow flies, it's 156 miles from Pahrump in southern Nye County, Nevada to the Nye County seat in Tonopah. The same straight-line distance takes one from Fall River, Massachusetts, across Rhode Island and across Connecticut and across New York to Westwood, New Jersey. That's the same straight-line distance from Greenville, South Carolina across North Carolina and Tennessee to Pineville, Kentucky.

The United States has three pieces of non-island territory that are separate from the continental U.S. and that can be reached overland only by driving through Canada. One is well-known: it's the 570,374 square miles known as Alaska. The other two are less apparent. One is the roughly 120 square miles of peninsula extending eastward from the Manitoba-Ontario border into Lake of the Woods. The Red Lake Indian Reservation occupies most of that peninsula, which is the northernmost part of Minnesota and the northernmost extent of the "lower 48" states. The second is even smaller. It's a peninsula of about six square miles extending into the Strait of Georgia, north of Seattle. Point Roberts, Washington sits on that peninsula, and it's accessible by land only through Tsawwassen, British Columbia. (Many thanks to David Jarrell for pointing out Point Roberts.) (Jim Rader of Grand Isle, Vermont, also points out that Alburg, Vermont, is likewise a peninsula reached strictly by land only from Quebec, but two bridges across northern Lake Champlain provide a driving connection to the US.)

Jonesville, Rose Hill, and Ewing, three towns in southwestern Virginia, are west of all of West Virginia.

More than half of South Carolina is north of Shalotte, North Carolina.



Idaho Division

North Idaho and southern Idaho are joined by just one road, U.S. Highway 95. This leads Idahoans who aren't from the Boise area to joke that Idaho has two state capitals, Spokane and Salt Lake City.

Montpelier, Idaho, in the southeastern part of the state, is nearer Farmington, Nex Mexico, than it is Bonner Springs, Idaho.



Texas Division

Houston, Texas, is farther from El Paso, Texas than are San Diego, California, Provo, Utah, Cheyenne, Wyoming, McCook, Nebraska, Wichita, Kansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Brownsville, Texas, is farther from Amarillo, Texas than are Salt Lake City, Utah, Buffalo, Wyoming, Pierre, South Dakota, Des Moines, Iowa, St Louis, Missouri, and Natchez, Mississippi.

Brownsville, Texas, is nearer the northwest corner of Guatemala than it is Dalhart, Texas.

The average size of counties in a state is generally proportional to the size of the state, as shown below. The one glaring exception is Texas, which has 254 counties. For comparison, the next most county-rich state is Georgia at 159, and the average for US states is 64.



Readers may be interested in these comments and corrections by Mr. John Orchard of Yorkshire, England.

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