Friday, July 30, 2010

The Geography of the Twenty Largest Statues in the World

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A Geographic Travels Map. Click to view in Google Maps or download for Google Earth.

After a discussion about monuments and landscape I decided to investigate the largest statues in the world. Surprisingly, familiar sites like the Statue of Liberty, Spinx, and Christ the Redeemer are not even on the list of the world's largest statues. Instead, I only knew of one of the top twenty even existed.

Seventeen of the largest statues of the world are in Asia. The non-Asian ones are two in Russia and one in Ukraine. The largest statue is the Spring Temple Buddha at a whopping 420 feet (128 meters). For reference the Statue of Liberty is only 151 feet (46 meters) without the pedestal and 305 feet (93 meters) with its pedestal.

Most of the monuments are less than fifteen years old and Buddhist. In fact, sixteen of the top twenty are Buddhist. The large Asian economies are paying their divine back by stamping it on the landscape. Even officially atheist People's Republic of China has allowed massive Buddhist statues to be built.

The country breakdown of the twenty largest statues is
  • Japan: 8
  • People's Republic of China: 7
  • Russia: 2
  • Ukraine: 1
  • Republic of China (Taiwan): 1
  • Thailand: 1
  • Burma: 1

Of the Buddhist Statues

The Statue of Liberty comes in at twenty-six when not counting the pedestal. It is the second largest statue in the Western Hemisphere. The largest is two feet (less than a meter) higher and in Venezuela. It is the Virgin of Peace in Venezuela.

The Western Hemisphere in general and the United States in particular may one day lay claim to the largest statue in the World. The Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota is planned to be 563 feet (172 meters) high. However, the project is completely self-funded and going very slowly as it was started in 1948.

One day it could be the largest

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Map of What the World Would Like If the Globe Slowed then Stopped Spinning

The oceans of the world would migrate to the pole because of the relatively heaver gravity

ESRI produced a series of maps of what the world would look like if the globe stop spinning. The key paragraphs are

If the earth's gravity alone was responsible for creating a new geography, the huge bulge of oceanic water—which is now about 8 km high at the equator—would migrate to where a stationary earth's gravity would be the strongest. This bulge is attributed to the centrifugal effect of earth's spinning with a linear speed of 1,667 km/hour at the equator. The existing equatorial water bulge also inflates the ellipsoidal shape of the globe itself.


If the earth stood still, the oceans would gradually migrate toward the poles and cause land in the equatorial region to emerge. This would eventually result in a huge equatorial megacontinent and two large polar oceans. The line that delineates the areas that hydrologically contribute to one or the other ocean would follow the equator if the earth was a perfect ellipsoid. However, due to the significant relief of both the continents and the ocean floor, the hypothetical global divide between the areas that hydrologically contribute to one or another ocean deviates from the equator significantly. Analogous to the well-known U.S. Continental Divide, this would be the border separating two giant hemispherical watersheds of the new circumpolar oceans.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Eastern Canada Earthquake (Guest post by Canada)

Reader Canada has written a guest post about the recent earthquakes in eastern Canada


Ontario residents speak of the June 23rd earthquake as if it were as if they are very rare. No one thinks living in the  Great Lakes St. Lawrence lowlands to be a big earthquake zone.


Even as a geographer in the region I seldom give local earthquake probability much thought.

Natural Resources Canada's page states:

"This region has a low to moderate level of seismicity when compared to the more active seismic zones to the east, along the Ottawa River and in Quebec. Over the past 30 years, on average, 2 to 3 magnitude 2.5 or larger earthquakes have been recorded in the southern Great Lakes region. By comparison, over the same time period, the smaller region of Western Quebec experienced 15 magnitude 2.5 or greater earthquakes per year."



Due to the due to the resonance of the Canadian shield rocks which our area of Eastern North America sits on, we may feel the quake a longer distance away form the epicenter than people on North America's West Coast do.


I am very disappointed I have never felt an earthquake in the region. This time I was driving and didn't feel anything move. I didn't expect any aftershocks to be significant, and rather resigned that I missed by chance for about another  decade in the region. I was eager to read about a bigger earthquake close to home on the US Geological survey site


I really wanted to click on the  Felt report form for Community Internet Intensity Maps However some people did feel and  newspapers and bloggers were all over it.

People were even posting this on their facebook pages

"Picture of the devastation after earthquake in Toronto"  and  drawing many comments.


Another friend posted as a status update


"Well folks I guess it finally happened. Quebec is finally separating. Earthquake"

Even a day later, the earthquake was a hot topic about "where were you and how did it feel".  (We haven't had this much where were when talk you since the blackout in summer of 2003)

I confess that I remain slightly jealous of those who did have the experience to feel it.  

Friends of mine wrote:


"Shook our house (rural Paris) . . . thought I was hallucinating, either that or a very large truck hit the side of the house. No damage but it was an unearthly feeling".


"suddenly the house was shaking and I said to myself why is my house shaking. I got up and looked out the window and everything seemed normal. It was kind of cool as no damage done"


"just survived earthquake number 2 in my life! first one was worse... 6.5 on the rictor so this one was a piece of cake! lol."

it was a scary experience. I heard a loud rumble outside. I thought perhaps my air conditioning was giving up the ghost and I stood up to shut it off. As I rose to my feet I started feeling dizzy, lightheaded and off balance. The rumbling noise increased, my dog started growling and mirrors on my wall started shaking. My wine glass collection hanging under my cupboard started clanging together, and I exclaimed out loud a word I will not repeat and realized we were having an earthquake. It was 30 seconds I am not soon to forget."

One friend went further and thought of Haiti and blogged:


"Soon the quake here will become a distant memory, and news about the G8 and G20 summits will fill up the news wires and twitter lines. But in other parts of the world, like Haiti, the earthquake is still around them every moment of everyday.

The smells, the sights, the loss, they are tangible and real.


I am still praying for Haiti, still donating and still being reminded to work out my faith with an ever present reminder of the people and places that are worlds away"


Now that is a great connection of physical geography, human geography and cultural geography!
How easily we forget about the physical geography and geology around us, and once the cultural and human geography passes out of the media spotlight... we forget too.
My friend urges people to keep donating to Haiti as do I.


Here is a link to my previous blog contribution re the Haiti Earthquake

American and Canadian Charities for Haiti and for Other Needy Places


Lest we forget about "the Haiti Quake"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Weddings Around the World: Portuguese-American

Blogger, reader, and friend Catlin of the GIS Lounge. In this post she writes about her wedding in the Portuguese-American community in New Jersey. If you wish to submit an article about your culture/country's wedding traditions just comment below and we will make it its own post!

My husband and I were married back in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey in a heavily immigrant section called the Ironbound. The area gets its name from the railroad tracks that surround the neighborhood and is home to many Portuguese immigrants. It’s estimated that about 50-75% of the area is Portuguese. The area is densely packed with Portugese shops and restaurants, particularly along Ferry Street. Every summer, a huge festival called "Dia de Portugal" (Portugal Day) attracts over half a million people to the community.

Both sides of my husband’s family emigrated from Portugal to the Ironbound in the 1960s so it was only fitting to celebrate with a Portuguese wedding. Our wedding Mass was celebrated in the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Newark. Our Lady of Fatima was built in 1955 and was one of the first churches built in the United States to serve the Portuguese immigrant population. The Mass was celebrated in both English and Portuguese.

Our wedding reception was held at Iberia Peninsula Restaurant on Ferry Street, one of the main Portuguese restaurants in Newark. One of the most important things when hosting in the Portuguese culture is to make sure your guests are NEVER hungry. That means food, and lots of it. At the reception was a table called the “Mesa Típica”. This is a table set up that holds the old traditional food of Portugal such as salted cod (Bacalhau). Eating from that table is more for the hard core Portuguese and is more intended as an homage to the old days than for actual eating. For the guests, there were multiple courses with enough food to feed five times the number of people actually at the reception. Note the leitão (suckiling pig) in the photo - a must have offer at all major Portuguese gatherings.

The night of celebration was capped off with lively dancing. Once of the popular dances at a Portuguese wedding is a group dance called “Bate o pé”, which means “Stomp your foot”. Everyone gathers in a circle and dances to this song:

Bate o pé, bate o pé, bate o pé, faça assim como eu.
Bate o pé, bate o pé, bate o pé, foi assim como a minha amor me prendeu.

Stomp your foot, stomp your foot, stomp your foot, and do it like me.
Stomp your foot, stomp your foot, stomp your foot, that's how my love got me.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oak Island Mystery

A map of what may be

In Nova Scotia, Canada there is a mystery on Oak Island. In the late 1700s two youths set out for buried treasure on the island. They began to dig a hole that is yet to be finished despite over two hundred years of exploration. The background of the story is explained in the two videos below from the 1970s television show In Search Of...

For those who did not watch the videos here is a brief review: the hole is called the money pit. The pit has several layers of logs which slow digging. Further, at a certain depth the pit floods in with water despite having being a fair amount away from shore. Dye tests showed how dye poured into the pit end up in the ocean giving the idea that there may be tunnels that flood the pit thus acting like a defense mechanism. Finally, there is an alleged stone that says there is buried treasure (but the stone cannot be found). A short two minute movie below is a 3D diagram of the money pit along with the geography and geology of the island.

Now the mystery of Oak Island may be pirate treasure but it also could be physical geography. Geologist Robert Dunfield did not find a flood tunnel during his investigation. In fact, the underlying limestone is full of water-filled natural caves. It is possible that tide pressure could move the water around in the caves. The underground water could periodically fill the money pit because of this tidal pressure. The constant ebb and flow of the tides could force dye from the pit to the ocean. As for the timbers, natural sinkholes in that area of Canada have been known to have layers of timber at periodic distances. These sink hole will suck in debris like fibers and timer and be recapped by sand and dirt. This repeatable geographic cycle could replicate the money pit.

So is Oak Island a treasure island or are is it just natural? The money pit is probably just a natural geographic feature that was misinterpreted (if it was treasure it is the most complex vault ever with no equal). None the less it is a fascinating romantic story of history and geography.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Weddings Around the World: Multicultural Canada

The Catholicgauze/Catholicgauzette wedding post is coming. But now it is time for long-time reader Canada to write about how diverse Canada is when it comes to weddings. If you wish to submit an article about your culture/country's wedding traditions just comment below and we will make it its own post!

The most common and noticeable observation in Canadian cultural geography is that Canada prides itself on being a cultural mosaic.

Diversity and expressions of traditions and cultures is welcomed here in your neighbour to the north.

We see this most in times of celebrations such as holiday festivals or weddings.

Some Canadians bring together their cultures of the families in terms of dress, ceremonial tradition and of course food. It is not uncommon to have 2 different wedding ceremonies reflecting different cultures.

In Canada, wedding photos happen in scenic outdoor locations, even sometimes in winter. This happens whether the wedding has been at a Church of city hall.

Some Canadians opt for the cottage wedding of going to some place a few gours outside of town and doing a more casual atmosphere in dress and celebration.

So in the Canadian culture of weddings, cultural diversity rules.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Geography Blog: World Geography Blog

Reader Rybu has started his own geography blog entitled World Geography Blog. The blog will "run the gamut from google earth to maps, general geography and did you knows, how to's and new technology." So far there have been several good posts on unrecognized states, African travel, and the value of maps.

A great video featured on the blog is actually an ad for the Discovery Channel. However, the ad shows just how wonderful our world, and everything we can study on it, is. The video is below:

Best of luck to Rybu and your blog!

Friday, July 23, 2010

India to Teach Geospatial Technology in Secondary Schools

According to All Points Blog, India has begun a pilot program to teach students how to use geospatial technology. The instruction will give students the ability to use tools like GIS to become geospatial analysts.

Two important notes on this development:

1) India's emphasis on geospatial technology further divides what geography is between the East and West. Western geography is currently split sedevacantist-style between British-style social thought human geographers, hard core physical geographers, and GIS users who are making geographic information science its own separate field. Meanwhile, the Eastern geography powers of India and the People's Republic of China (PRC) focus solely on technical geography. There is no room in Eastern geography for "soft" human geography while physical geography is done by geology-based engineers. Much of the geographic work done today in the East is applied in construction, engineering, and urban planning.

2) The second note is one of worry. An overemphasis on geospatial technology would favor how to use technology over spatial thought. I have feared in the past that geospatial technology like GIS would be tech schoolized as the spatial reasoning and geography in general are abandoned. This has happened in the PRC and I worry that India may head down the same path.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Georgian Parliament Site Meant to Erase Russia from the Landscape

The Georgian way to extend Georgianess while erasing the Soviet/Russian legacy from the landscape/mindscape. Photo from Ria Novosti via Radio Free Europe.

A few years ago Estonia caused great controversy by removing a memorial to the World War II actions of the Soviet Union's Red Army. The moment gave a message of liberation while most Estonians feel the Red Army replaced one occupier with another. A cyberwar broke out as Russia claimed Estonia was altering history merely because of current geopolitical tension. This and other moves by former Soviets states to reevaluate the Soviet Union's role in World War II has greatly angered Russia. In fact, Russia is so angry that it has proposed that denying the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic's role as a "liberator" should be an international crime.

The latest battlefield over the Soviet World War II landscape is in Georgia. The pro-West, anti-Russian President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, and the parliament of Georgia decided the country needed two capitals, one presidential and one parliamentary, to demonstrate the separation of powers in Georgia. The city chosen was the second largest city, Kutaisi. The exact spot though was occupied by a massive Soviet World War II memorial dedicated to veterans and victims of the war. The memorial depicted a St. George-like figure slaying a German solider.

The fact that the memorial was built by the Soviets (who are mentally associated as Russians in the peoples' minds) trumped it's dedication to victims (of Hitler, not Stalin) of World War II. When the orders for demolition where given Russia and the anti-Saakashvili opposition protested the decision as pro-fascist and anti-Russian. Though Georgia fought a war against Russia in 2008 the opposition believes anti-Russian actions will only make matters worse. The pro-fascist claim was joined to a conspiracy theory that held Saakashvili did not morn the Soviet Georgian war dead (half of the 700,000 Soviet Georgians soldiers died during World War II) but instead supported the smaller pro-Nazi Georgian Legion. To add an even greater anti-Soviet/anti-Russian/pro-Georgian feeling the date picked for the demolition is Stalin and Saakashvili's birthday. There was no cyberwar but a mother and daughter died because the demolition was mishandled.

Russia is not taking the loss of their footprint on the cultural landscape in Georgia lying down. President Putin approved construction of a memorial for the memorial, named We Fought Together Against Fascism, on the highest point in Moscow, Poklonnaya Hill. To my knowledge this is the only case of a monument being built to remember another monument. However, I suspect that the true message of the monument is not one of unity in a common fight but instead will serve as a reminder of those who turned their back of Russia's sphere of influence and perspective of history. The new monument location will send the clear message on Russia's feelings towards history and those states that now wish to leave its orbit.

Side note: In part the destruction seems personal. The monument's sculptor Merab Berdzenishvili is a critic of Saakashvili who had another monument moved from downtown Tbilisi to the outskirts of the capital. An alternative, non-exclusive theory is that Saakashvili demolished the monument to erase the artist's artistic immortality.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Israel's Point-of-View of Vulnerable Geography

A first in a long running, intermediate series

Americans who were alive during the 1960s probably remember the famous map showing the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The map showed the vulnerable geography the United States felt and helped explain the actions which were undertaken to pressure the Soviets to remove the missiles.

Vulnerable geography maps can be based on real threats or pure propaganda. They can be factual, misleading, false, or only capture part of the picture. None the less vulnerable geography gives insight into how a country feels and helps explains geopolitical actions.

Israel currently is feeling and expressing its vulnerable geography. Current threats from the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah along with threats from Iran and Syria have Israel analyzing its vulnerabilities.

The first example of Israel's vulnerable geography is a map from the Israeli Home Front Command. The map shows the time one has to take cover before the impact of launched missiles. Interestingly enough, the map has a sense of humor. Maps like this provide necessary information with a comic relief that is necessary from letting the stress from vulnerable geography from destroying one's enjoyment of life. (A non-humorous map is on the command's website)

The rest of the examples of vulnerable geography in this post comes from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs' website Defensible Borders. The think tank published a report that highlights threats and the need for territory to defend Israeli cities and freedom of movement.

The maps below show how thin Israel would be without the West Bank and how easy it would be to cut off the capital, Jerusalem.

One map shows the value of the West Bank in defending against an attack from the West. This is interesting as the possibility of invasion from Jordon is as low as it has ever been.

The think tank produced a video and report (PDF) which sumed up their report on Israel's vulnerable geography.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Robert Kaplan's "Actually, It's Mountains"

Robert Kaplan, journalist/author who has written some excellent pieces on geopolitics, has a new geography-related article on how isolation due to natural geography has harmed national development. The article is titled "Actually, It's Mountains" with the subtitle "Sometimes the toughest obstacles are the naturally occurring ones."

I have been hard on Kaplan's geography work in the past because of his support of geographical determinism (geography predestines groups) instead of cultural determinism (culture defines a groups limits). However, Kaplan now introduces his article with
Precisely because geography is so overpowering and unchanging a factor in a state's destiny, there is a danger of taking it too far. So rather than believing that geography inevitably dooms states to failure, think of it as yet another complexifying factor for the weakest of countries. Their difficult geographies should spur us to action, rather than lead us to despair.

The article does a reasonable job explaining its thesis. However, the Africa bit ignores Ethiopia's involvement with the ancient and medieval worlds. The trade city of Timbuktu managed to bridge north and south Africa which did not need any major water system. Also, some cultures have managed to adopt to mountainous terrain while having governance without dictatorship. New Zealand and Switzerland are two prime examples mountainous freelands.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Weddings Around the World: Eastern European Jewish

From reader GeneK. In this post he examines Jewish weddings in Eastern Europe. In this post she writes about weddings in Hong Kong. If you are interested in writing a guest post about weddings in your country, culture, or subculture just contact us via e-mail at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com or just comment below.

I do not know much about Polish Roman-Catholic weddings, however Jewish ( secular, not religious portion of the ceremony (the part of the wedding outside the temple)) weddings of Polish neighbors to the East ( Former Soviet Union ( Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania , Moldova and est.)) done slightly differently. Partying ‘til the dawn and tons of food and drinks as well as non-stop music and dancing (literally non-stop dancing, it is not a figure of speech) similar to the polish celebration. However speeches is really important part of the wedding, and ‘til every guest will not contribute to this portion of the ceremony the wedding will not be over. This tradition actually moved to the new countries and heavily practiced among Russian Jews in America, Canada, Israel, Australia or Germany.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Weddings Around the World: Poland

From reader IW

Greetings from Poland and congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I got married in Poland last year, and the difference between a typical American wedding and a classic Polish Catholic wedding can be summed up as follows: in Poland there is less speechifying ("I first met the bride while bowling with Rob..") and much more drinking and dancing, and the weddings last until dawn where as in the US they tended to die down after about 2:00am, if that.

Also, there is a cute custom in some parts of Poland where the wedding party is stopped by local lads who form a blockade in the road, until the best man gets out of the car and "pays the toll" in the form of a bottle of vodka. Hilarity ensues.

Good luck and enjoy!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Weddings of the World: Hong Kong

The first guest post about weddings around the world comes from the wonderful wife of long time reader Eddie. In this post she writes about weddings in Hong Kong. If you are interested in writing a guest post about weddings in your country, culture, or subculture just contact us via e-mail at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com.

Hong Kong wedding traditions can vary at points (especially pertaining to the ceremonies themselves) due to families having different customs relating to their origins from particular provinces in China. One exceedingly common tradition is for parents to consult a fortune teller in order to divine the best date (i.e. the luckiest date... a wedding on this day would be long-lasting and graced with good fortune). The fortune teller uses the birthdays of both parents and the couple to arrive at this “best day” .For at least more than a hundred years in Hong Kong, almanacs have been published that are utilized by the fortune tellers in designating this date.

Often, both parents' homes are visited on the wedding day with the groom first visiting the bride's parents (and assorted family) and presenting a gift of tea to them to show respect to them and join their family as he calls upon the residence to pick up his soon to be wife. Responding to him, the bride's family will give money or accessories (i.e. gold jewelry) to the couple. The bride repeats this in a visit to the groom's parents' residence. During this time where the bride is outside in transit, an open red umbrella is held over the bride at all times in order to ensure her good fortune in the marriage.
Unique impositions on the wedding plans of couples in Hong Kong include the problem of near-future high expenses (especially concerns about housing costs) to worry over in addition to the not-insignificant financial burden of holding a traditionally elaborate wedding reception/banquet. All of this cost is covered by the groom and his family as the centerpiece gift given to the bride's family, though delicate negotiations can unfold over the groom's efforts to restrain extravagant guest lists proposed by the bride's family. The banquet enjoys a prominent role in today's weddings because it is the longstanding tradition most likely to be maintained over others that may have been dropped or simplified and reduced in recent years because of cost or a perception they have become archaic.
A few random notes about Hong Kong weddings to share include the experience of the bride, who has to change into anywhere from 3-5 dresses for different events during the wedding day. The night before the festivities, the bride’s mother will invite a woman who enjoys a happy marriage with many children to brush her daughter’s hair while bestowing blessings of good fortune and joy upon the bride. Also, during the night ceremony/banquet, it is not uncommon for all gifts (normally cash with a minimum of $500 HKD (more than $50US) given by invited guests to the couple to be handed by the bride to her mother.
Lastly, for the prospective cultural and social geographers, an interesting trend worth studying in greater detail is how in recent years, the trendy popularity of some Christian symbols for use in weddings, most notably the church as the backdrop (seen as romantic and charming), has led to a further diversification of Hong Kong's already considerable array of wedding traits.