Thursday, May 31, 2012

Geographic Complexity and "Polish Death Camps"

President Obama posthumously awarded Jan Karski the Medal of Freedom for Karski's work during World War II with warning the world about the Holocaust.  However, in the speech the president mentioned "Polish death camp", grammatically implying the Nazi extermination camps located in Poland were in fact part of a Polish system.  This geographic flub has greatly offended the Polish government which in reply said Obama's statement shows “ignorance" and "incompetence."

The geography of Nazi German death camps in modern-day Poland is complex.  First off, take a look at this map from 20th Century History @ which shows the major concentration and extermination camps of World War II.

The Germans plan was to cleanse the eastern lands of Poles, Slavs, Jews, and others and turn the ethnically cleansed land over to a new, agriculturally-based German colonizing culture.  Modern-day Poland was to be a key part of this bloodland. Many of the death camps were placed inside the modern-boundaries of Poland to help accomplish the goal.

However, the Nazis themselves would not have used the term "Polish camps" or even "camps in Poland" because the Nazis never fully recognized any Polish state's right to existence.  The extermination camps where all west of the Vistula River, placing them within the historic boundaries of the German Empire (meaning these lands were only in a modern Polish state for twenty years). 

From Wikipedia
Further, when the Nazis politically subdivided the conquered eastern lands the camps where in very different sectors as the map from the Jewish Virtual Library shows (the golden outline shows the borders of the Second Polish Republic right before the outbreak of war).

Chelmno and Auschwitz were back in the Greater German Reich proper while Treblinka, Majdanek, and Belzec were in the "General Government", a zone which was to be cleansed and then completely aborsbed back into Nazi Germany proper as well.  Meanwhile other concentration camps such as Koldichevo and Janowska were established in the old Second Polish Republic's lands (given to the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany at the start of the war) which were then politically located in Reichskommissariats Ukraine and Ostland.  These lands were colonies in which long range plans called for eventual inclusion into the Greater German Reich.

Finally, one must remember that while the extermination aka death camps were located to the east of Berlin, the majority concentration camp system was established before the start of World War II and therefore located in Germany itself.  The University of California Santa Barbra has a great map showing the distribution of camps used to house political prisoners and other not-necessarily sentenced to death targets of the Nazi regime.

The camps where very much part of a German system.  In the eastern bloodlands of Nazi-controlled former Soviet lands much of the killings were done by Germans and other Slavic groups together.  However, Poland witnessed very few cases of collaboration.  The camps were in ethnic Polish lands but were politically located in various degrees of Germany and German-occupied land and were run by Germans.  There was nothing Polish about the extermination camp system.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Rise and Quick Fall of the Islamic Republic Dooms Azawad

When the al Qaeda flag comes out, the quasi-state is about to die.  From Flickr

Back in early April I wrote about the Independent State of Azawad, the world's newest unofficial country.  In the post I described and warned of the need for pro-Azawad supporters to separate the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) from the al Qaeda-affiliate Ansar Dine.  MNLA's stated goal was the establishment of a secular Azawad from Mali while Ansar Dine wanted an Islamist state established in all of Mali.

This past weekend that difference was breached with the MNLA and Ansar Dine uniting to issue a statement establishing the Islamic Republic of Azawad on May 26.  By May 28, though, the deal had fallen apart with many lower-level MNLA supporters not comfortable with the Sharia-demands of Ansar Dine. 

Unfortunately for those who support Azawad, the damage is done.  The post-coup, interim government of Mali will have no problem demonstrating to France, the United States, and others that this war is a part of the greater Global War on Terrorism and that to defeat al Qaeda Mali must be made whole again.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

War of 1812 Maps and Educational Resources from the Canadian Perspective

The memory of the War of 1812 is different depending on the national group asked.  Here is my rule of thumb
  • British:  An annoying sideshow of the greater 20-some year war against the French Monarchy/Republic/Empire.
  • American:  A mystery war in which the British burned Washington, DC but we beat the British for a second time by winning at New Orleans.
  • Canadian:  A war which saw the birth of Canadian nationhood due to the joint efforts of French and English-speaking Canadians who turned back the second, but not last, invasion by the United States. 
While the United States has some renewed interest in the war because of the 200th anniversary, most Americans interested in history have their attention turned towards the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (1861-1865).  Canadians, meanwhile, are going all out over the War of 1812.

The Dominion Historic Institute, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and Parks Canada are co-hosting the War of 1812 website.  The website features maps, learning resources, articles, and even a trivia game.

I recommend two books on the War of 1812 which do a great job showing the war's different perspectives.  1812: War the Forged a Nation (primarily American Perspective) and 1812: War with America (primarily a British and then Canadian perspective).  I am also doing family research since various branches of my family where in New England and Canada at the time.  So far it seems my family branches shared the point-of-view of many at the time that the war was bad for business and therefore stayed out of it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Geography Humor: Denial, the River

This Memorial Day we remember all those who fought and died for our freedoms.  Thank you.  We will continue to fight for them so these deaths will not be in vain.

And now here's some geography humor to get you through my blogging holiday:

"You know, denial is more than a river in British colonized Anglo-Egyptian Sudan"  -Froderick in A Vampyre Story, set in the 1880s.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Live Blogging Climbing Mount Everest

George Mallory died in his effort to become the first man to climb Mount Everest.  In an interview before his effort, Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb the mountain.  His reply was "Because it is there."  With that saying Mallory summed up many geographers and explorers desire to learn about the world, especially its extremes.

Now it is possible to learn about the experiences of going through an expedition to the Earth's limits through a National Geographic blog.  National Geographic Field Test Everest is a live blog documenting the life and struggles of trying to climb Mt. Everest.  The blog is full of medical issues, sights, and adaptions needed to conquer in order to reach the top.

After reading this blog I think I will stick with my all time high of 7,300 feet (2,225 meters).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Geography of Jobs in America after the Great Divergence

Economist Enrico Moretti (sadly academic geographers yet again are missing out doing readable, important research) has published a book about the geography jobs during this recession entitled The New Geography of Jobs.

One of Moretti's main thesis is that there has been a "Great Divergence" on-going since the 1980s.  Moretti sums his idea as-so:

America’s new economic map shows growing differences, not just between people but between communities. A handful of cities with the “right” industries and a solid base of human capital keep attracting good employers and offering high wages, while those at the other extreme, cities with the “wrong” industries and a limited human capital base, are stuck with dead-end jobs and low average wages. This divide—I will call it the Great Divergence—has its origins in the 1980s, when American cities started to be increasingly defined by their residents’ levels of education. Cities with many college-educated workers started attracting even more, and cities with a less educated workforce started losing ground. While in 1969 Visalia did have a small professional middle class, today its residents, especially those who moved there recently, are overwhelmingly unskilled. Menlo Park had many low-income families in 1969, but today most of its new residents have a college degree or a master’s degree and a middle- to upper-class income. Geographically, American workers are increasingly sorting along educational lines. At the same time that American communities are desegregating racially, they are becoming more segregated in terms of schooling and earnings.

Regions of boom and bust are nothing new in economic geography, but never before has education played such an important role.  Communities themselves are specializing immensely on skilled, education-needing industries.

Moretti discusses his idea and the new geography of jobs in America in his lengthy Salon article.  There are counterweights to this education rise, service industries and technical jobs (carpenters, plumbers, etc) will always complement any strong professional population.  Meanwhile, one also has to consider the potential upcoming higher education bubble and the inflation of degrees being awarded.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Google Maps for Educators Videos

Contour Education is a website dedicated to providing "introductory and advanced training for educators in the field of spatial technologies (Google Earth, GIS, remote sensing, GPS and more) that cater to the specific needs of teachers today."  The website is run by geography teacher Mike Law.

On Contour Education's YouTube page, Law has posted seven videos on how geography teachers can use Google Maps beyond the simple "look at your house from above" trick.  The videos are basic but it is a good introduction for teachers who want to do more with Google Maps. (Hat Tip: Jon Wolton's @GeogAdvisor)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chinese Surname Mapping Reveals Diversity, Homogeneity

Science Magazine has an interesting blog post about Chinese physical anthropologists who mapped out the "isonymy structure" of China, showing how likely Chinese are to share family names with those around them.  The results show how both human and physical geography have impacted the diversity and homogeneity of mainland China.

Green areas have a diversity of family names, red areas have only a limited amount of family names. Image from Science Magazine.
The Yangtze River area has some of the lowest isonymity revealing that its river basin has attracted a diverse population throughout the centuries.  Interestingly, though, in northern China the Yellow River is surprisingly homogenous, sometimes even to the extreme, with family names.  Southeastern China has a lack of diversity in family names.  The Chinese researchers state this is most likely explained by the presence of non-Han ethnic groups which have a limited pool of last names and do not marry outsiders and thus do not expand their name pool.

In a background note, the study itself shows the position of sciences in the People's Republic of China.  Geography is highly invested with engineering in China.  Geography in the People's Republic of China is more along the lines of GIS and applied physical geography rather than sedevacantist in the United States and Marxist-Human in academia and Global Studies in lower grades in the United Kingdom.  Instead, simple human geography studies like this are being done by anthropologist in China.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Plug: Free New Bible Study Software with Geographical Components

Azoic Software  has released Credo Bible Study v1.0.5 for free download on their website.  The software includes four versions of the Bible: Douay Rheims English Bible, Clementine Latin Vulgate, Greek Textus Receptus, Greek Septuagint.  All these are fully text searchable.  Also added in are commentary, catechisms, liturgical calendars, council documents, prayers, music, and much more.

Of interest to religious geographers is the map function which allows for viewing places names on given pages/books and the ability to sort searches (including of places names) by book so one can see the location of narrative move through time.

And of special note:  Future editions will combine Geographic Travels very own map of where the Twelve Apostles died!

View Larger Map

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New YouTube Map of European Border Changes from 1000 to 2012

A new YouTube video is up showing border changes from A.D. 1000 up to today. 

The video does a good job by showing the current de facto countries of Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia as well as some of the federations including Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Oddly though, Chechnya is shown as somewhat separate even though it is under Russian-control and the separatist government has morphed into claiming a larger emirate.  There are a few other geographical oddities of why this or why not that.

My main complaint against the map is that there is no timeline to show what the year is.  This is made worse by the fact time flies faster or slower at various points in the video.

I, for one, am still a fan of The Last Express credit scene which shows the geopolitical changes that are bound to forever separate Anna and Robert from 1914 up until the late 1990s.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ten Most at Risk Rivers in the United States

American Rivers has released their list of the ten most at risk rivers in the United States.  The rivers are the
  1. Potomac River
  2. Green River 
  3. Chattahoochee River 
  4. Missouri River 
  5. Hoback River 
  6. Grand River 
  7. Skykomish River 
  8. Crystal River 
  9. Coal River 
  10. Kansas River
The above links go to a cover page with links to full reports on why American Rivers feel the river is at risk.

The causes of the putting the rivers at risk but patterns do emerge.
    3 - Dams
    3 - Pollution from Resource Extraction
    1 - Excessive Water Withdrawal
    1 - Industrial, commercial, and residential runoff pollution
    1 - Dredging
    1 - Poor flood management

The excessive water withdrawal is threatening several rivers in the Interior West as well.  The book Cadillac Desert discusses in great detail the history and present-day battle over water use and the artificiality of the American Southwestern urban boom and I highly recommend it for a better understanding of putting rivers at risk to feed this boom.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Saudi Arabia-Bahrain Union Delayed, Not Stopped

One monarchy to rule them all.  The Gulf Cooperation Council: The royalist answer to the United Arab Republic?
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met  to discuss a series of proposals, including the formation of a union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  While the decision was delayed this move is still the potential continuation of a long running geopolitical shift speed up by unrest.  If taken to the fullest extent, Bahrain would become the first country to disappear because of the Arab Spring.

But before we discuss this here is some important background:


Starting in the 1700s, Arab tribes led by the Saud family spred from the center of present-day Saudi Arabia and quickly branched out and dominated the Arabian Peninsula north of the mountains forming the present-day northern rim of Yemen and the Empty Quarter which protected trade-heavy Oman.  The Saud family conquered through force and political unions through marriage and adoptions.  Unions of small tribal states is the reason why there are so many princes and princesses in Saudi Arabia.  The only reason Qatar, Bahrain, and the emirates which form today’s United Arab Emirates (UAE) remained free from the Saud family’s forced unions was the protection of European trading powers, primarily the Portuguese and British.

Bahrain is a majority Shia country (70% Shia to 30% Sunni officially / 50% Shia, 20% Sunni, 30% Christian and Hindu in reality).  Bahrain was under British protection until the 1970s when the people voted for independence rather joining Shia-majority Iran.  The government is primarily Sunni and many Shia complain about discrimination.  Anger over this discrimination has led to rebellions in the 1980s, 1990s, and the on-going Bahraini Arab Spring.

The GCC is an organization formed in 1981 to act as a trading organization like NAFTA and quickly evolved into a regional development and defense pact.  Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman form the membership of the organization.  A criticism against the GCC is that it is a Saudi-run front organization meant to control the smaller members.

The Arab Spring has toppled governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.  All these governments were based on various models of Arab Socialist Republicanism.  All GCC members are monarchies, with Bahrain having a very limited parliament while Kuwait’s is slightly freer.  The rest are absolute monarchies.

There is debate even among GCC members over what exactly the movement towards union would mean.  The lack of a clear definition led to the delay. Some state that union will merely align economic and defense matters while Iran claims this is out right annexation (Note: Iranian website).  Some claim the union would allow members to keep the United Nations seat and vote, however, this did not stop the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from absolutely dominating United Nation members Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The benefits of union for Saudi Arabia are plentiful: more if not complete control of military, diplomatic, and economic matters of neighboring states along with increased influence in “domestic” political affairs.  The benefit for Bahrain’s monarchy is that they would hold on to their personal holdings and have a much stronger arm to crush the Shia dissent. 

While the move has been delayed, it has not been defeated.  Look for Saudi Arabia to continue to push for its completion of the conquest of the Arabian Peninsula, one way or the other.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Geo-Literacy: Videos by National Geographic and Geographic Travels

Be sure to check out the Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards to win up to $300 to implement new ways to teach geography links to two videos by National Geographic on geo-literacy, the new term for knowing geographic knowledge.

After watching these films I felt they were good but still miss the mark.  We need to make geography marketable.  So with a scratchy voice, no budget or movie making skills what so ever, the sounds of the city in the background, and one slip up I have created my own geo-literacy video entitled "I'm a Geographer, Hire Me"

And here's the script

There are a series of new and revised efforts to expand geographic literacy in the American public.  While I support efforts to expand geography and related knowledge I believe we are not giving out the right message.  This video is meant to be a new front, not a rebuttal, to previous geo literacy efforts.

Some other efforts state that increased georaphic literacy will help end wars, save the environment, and other great things.  I can say that educating more people in geography will not usher in a utopia.  However, I can guarantee that in this market economy, educating people in geography will create much more marketable people who can better serve businesses and themselves.  In short, geographers can make everyone money.

So let us take a look at how educating people with geography can help people and businesses.

Buying a house

Buying a home is usually the biggest economic decision a person will make in their life.  Geography plays a being role in this decision.  People use geography to figure out the taxes one would need to pay, the commute to work, the schools children would attend, and nearby things like parks to relax in or avoid.  Physical geography and map reading also play a huge role.  Let us say you want to buy a house for a very cheap price to the south of town.  By loading up a United States Geological Survey topographic map on Google Earth one can zoom into the area and see sink holes have formed in the house's area.  It does not take a genius to know that buying a house in a sinkhole infested area is a bad idea, but it does take a geographer to understand the map and therefore know the risks.  So remember geography when making this decision or when you decide to be a real estate agent.

Marketing Research

Marketing firms and stores use geography to research better business practices without even knowing it.  A simple survey can find out where customers live and what mode of travel they take to a store.  A geographer can upload this information into a Geographic Information Systems, GIS, program.  GIS is a database software which overlays maps and numerical data on top of each other.  By looking at the addresses a geographer can then compare census track economical data to figure out the average incomes of the customers.  With modes of transportation a geographer can assess routes taken to the store.  With this knowledge derived from a geographer the store knows the income and transportation routes of customers.  This information is a gold mine which people tend to be less likely to give on surveys.  Now the store can better target customers with affordable goods in places where customers will see the advertisements.

Political and Business Consultancy

A person who can do regional geography comparisons can be a major resource for politicians and businesses.  Let us look at one of the major political issues of the decade: health care reform.  Conservatives missed out by not doing their regional geography homework.  A regional geographer could have examined health care affordability, access, and scale of living for counties which already received the already existing major government run health care program known as the Indian Health Service.  IHS-serviced counties could then be compared to Indian reservation counties which rely on tribal payed system through casinos and non-Indian counties on similar economic levels.  Long story short, a political consultant who knows their geography could have made a powerful talking point for anti-Obamacare forces.

Resource Exploration

Ours is a world which runs on natural resources.  The engine of the world is in constant need of oil, natural gas, coal, and alike.  However, it does not take a geographer, though it helps, to point out that many of the resources we need are either in countries we really do not want to do business with or have to travel through places which could be closed any minute because of war.  So geomorpholgists and our geologist kin can study landforms and how the land was formed to figure out areas where untapped resources lie.  North Dakota, currently one of the few states mostly immune from the recession, is doing so well because the western portion of the state is crawling with geographers making judgements on where to run test drills.  These geographers start a chain reaction which is creating jobs all throughout the state.

On top of this, new private efforts are emerging to mine asteroids and nearby planets for their resources.  If only there was a similar, Earth-bound study they could rely to help figure out where resources would be.  Oh wait, there is.  It is called geography.


From buying a house to mining the final frontier geographic literacy can help people improving themselves, businesses, and economy.  Knowing geography is a force multiplier for anyone in the economy.  In short, let us geographers proudly state "I'm a geographer, hire me."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

All the World's Water Would Form a Sphere Only 860 Miles Wide

I really like the old post I did based off the Google Earth image below.  The picture shows the Pacific Ocean upside down.  Pondering on this image forces one to rethink their mental map and concept of the world's geography.

Now the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has given us a new geographical tidbit which forces us yet again to reexamine the world. 

The image is based off the USGS study which states that despite the fact 70 percent of the world's surface is water, all the water in the world would form a sphere stretching only 860 miles (1,385 kilometers).  The USGS states that this equals the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah to Topeka, Kansas.  For our European readers this is almost exactly the distance between London and Zagreb, Croatia.

Now for the truly mind blowing fact.  USGS estimates that freshwater comprises only 2.5 percent of all water, so I calculate that all the world's fresh water would form a sphere stretching only 21.5 miles (34.6 kilometers)!  That is shorter than some people's commute.

Irredentist Claims in the King of Spain's Titles

When I was young my father taught me about how the kings of France and England competed against one of another over the title of "King of France".  Since then I have been fascinated by irredentist claims; the combination of geography, politics, and vain claims representing the apex of human nature.

I decided to look at the current titles of European monarchs to see if there were any irredentist claims.  Elizabeth II is "By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith", a long title but nothing irredentist.  The other monarchs were merely "King of Norway" or "Prince of Monaco".

I almost gave up when I discovered the long list of titles used by the King of Spain.  Many of the titles reflect the collection of old monarchies which merged to form the Kingdom of Spain.  However, many of them are irredentist reflecting what the monarchy inherited/claimed from its time as a branch of the Habsburg royal family.  Two claims in present-day Greece come from the days of the Latin Crusader states after the Fourth Crusade.

The titles make irredentist claim to the Two Sicilies, Jerusalem, Sardinia, Corsica, the Algarves, Gibraltar, Spanish East and West Indies, the Spanish Main, Burgundy, Brabant, Milan, Athens, Neopatria, Limburg, Habsburg, Flanders, Tyrol, and Roussillon.

I created a map of the irredentist claims.

View Irredentist Claims in the King of Spain's Titles in a larger map

The European claims map is below

View Irredentist Claims in the King of Spain's Titles in a larger map

These claims represent all or part of Portugal, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Israel, the Philippines, the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

These titles are ceremonial and the current king, Juan Carlos, only uses King of Spain though he has not renounced claim to them.  Spain still claims Gibraltar, however, and has even pushed for the United Kingdom to give it back earlier this week.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Topographical Engineers: A Heroic Field of Geographers

Recently I returned from a fun, relaxing, and educational weekend at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  In 1863 this small town was the site of the bloodiest battle in American history.  The battle resulted in the newly promoted General George Meade defeating the up-to-then undefeated General Robert Lee and turning the tide of the war itself.

One thing that many interpretation signs, museums, and books mention was how horrible maps of the Eastern portion of the United States at the time were, and the maps of the Gettysburg region were no different.  What the generals at Gettysburg, and many others during the Civil War, relied upon during the Civil War for cartographic knowledge were topographical engineers.  These officers were trained in cartography, physical geography, and military engineering.  They knew how to survey an area, analyize the topography to discover the best places to position an army, and how to prepare defenses.  General Meade himself was a topographical engineer and Lee used his own West Point geographical engineer skills to scout the land.

The United States Corps of Topographical Engineers, and then its merger partner, the United States Corps of Engineers, have trained geographers, many of which have majorly affected the field.  The men and women of these corps have impacted the science of geography and the world via there efforts ranging from mapping the West and using that fame to run for president, to developing the first satellite map, to using old tourist photos to crowdsource map potential battlefields, to remarrying mathematics and geography.  These are geographers who few know but have radically altered science and knowledge.

Fortunately for myself I am not the only person in awe of these topographical engineers.  There is a society of living history reenactors who educate by reliving the glory days of the Corps of Topographical Engineers.  These people, which I have zero affiliation with, dress up and act as topographic engineers and participate in educational activities.  These reenactors live somesort of educating, Civil War, geography trinity of dreams I have.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Historical Geography Helps in Understanding the Bible

Pastor Wayne Stiles is the one of the most vocal Protestants to advocate in studying what Pope Paul VI called the "fifth gospel": the geography of the Holy Land.  Stiles has written two books on the geography of the Holy Land not as general interest pieces but as study aids for better understanding the Bible and personalizing its message in oneself.

Stiles wrote briefly about how geography can help better one better understand the Bible and its message for the Jerusalem Post.  He also published an in-depth study about how early Christians viewed historical geography important as well as his research showing people's religious studies benefiting from studying the geography of the Bible.  A key background part:

The Church’s Need for Historical Geography

The church’s illiteracy in historical geography poses a problem, because apart from its inclusion in Bible study, believers cannot fully understand the context of a passage. The Christian has the obligation to know the Word intimately, for as Paul told young Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). “All Scripture,” is literally, “every [individual] writing.” The biblical text in its minute detail remains God’s means through which the believer becomes equipped to live the Christian life. The better a believer knows the Word—including the geography of the text—the better equipped he or she will be for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

History Values Historical Geography: Eusebius’ Onomasticon

In searching for relevant literature for this study, I did not find much that discussed the value of historical geography for the spiritual life. Dr. Robert Ibach provided me some assistance and noted, There are quite a few items dealing with pilgrimages to the Holy Land over the centuries. Some of them go all the way back to the fourth century. Even though these books may not deal with personal spiritual growth, the fact that Christians over the centuries have found these pilgrimages to be important speaks to their contribution to Christian life. 

As early as the third century A.D. the value of historical geography for Bible study was recognized by Origen of Alexandria. “Once he had moved from Alexandria to Caesarea, [he] went on ‘an investigation of the traces of Jesus and his disciples and the prophets’ in order to understand the Bible better."

But it was not until the forth century that a historical geography was written down for the purpose of assisting Bible study. Eusebius of Caesarea, a pupil of Origen, remains best known for his Church History in which he “collected, organized, and published practically all that is now known of many persons and episodes in the life of the early church. Without him, our knowledge of the early history of Christianity would be reduced in half.” Having lived in Palestine all of his life, Eusebius was well-suited to the task of writing his Onomasticon (“a collection of names”) around A.D. 325, a work that became the first historical geography text of its kind. He “is both the first church historian and the first biblical geographer; without his Onomasticon many biblical sites would never have been identified.”

Eusebius recognized the value of geography to biblical study, and he systematized his work—a venerable index and encyclopedia of sites and locations—with the Bible student in mind. “Eusebius’ arrangement made sense in terms of what he expected his readers to do. He apparently imagined them engaged in a study of a particular Biblical book.”

Here we have a painstakingly methodical work of scholarship in which Eusebius maps out a landscape of sites that would become pilgrims’ goals for centuries to come. Eusebius was probably an unwitting contributor to the huge boom in Christian pilgrimage during the fourth century, and may well have been amazed at how his study became a building block in the construction of ‘the Holy Land’ as a uniting idea for Christians.

Despite the Onomasticon becoming a resource for the creation of a kind of Christian Palestine, Eusebius’ work seems to be a kind of exegetical aid to the study of the Bible, and perhaps an enticement to Christian scholars like himself to investigate sites further. Eusebius’ intended audience was not the ordinary (though usually wealthy) pious Christians who would come to see Biblical sites after [A.D.] 325, but rather scholars like himself who wanted to understand the sacred text as well as possible, even if they might not set foot in the land.

Having lived in Palestine, Eusebius recognized the value geography gave to increase one’s understanding of the Bible’s message. And so his work was the first of many tools providing a geography of the Holy Land for those Bible students who may never see it. As Carl Rasmussen has noted, “Once one has a basic understanding of the geography of the Middle East one has a much better chance of coming to grips with the flow of historical events that occurred there.”

The survey results at the end showing people admitting the benefits of historical geography in their understanding of the Bible shows how geography can be useful in more than just the stand, stereotypical settings.

(Hat tip: Bible Places Blog)

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Lost National Geographic Theme: Part III - The Barely Known History

I have finally heard back from the National Geographic Society concerning the recently found National Geographic March.

The official historian of the society wrote back saying that they do have one recorded performance of the march being played.  The one write up on the march, however, was only accessible via their employee-only intranet.  The text is copied below:

1935: The "National Geographic March"

Pomp and circumstance
Captain Thomas F. Darcy Jr., leader of the U.S. Army Band, composes this year the "National Geographic Society March, "dedicating it to Dr. Gilbert H. Grosvenor in honor of many years of cooperation between the Society and the Army Air Corps, especially in the development of aerial photography and the successful launch of the Explorer II stratosphere balloon.

The September 13, 1935 edition of the
Washington Star carries an announcement that this new piece of music is "of a stirring military type," intended for use at any or all of the Society's formal occasions. Its musical movements, featuring each of a band's sections in turn, are supposed to reflect the world-wide activities of the Geographic, whether on land, sea, or in the skies. Captain Darcy, the announcement goes on to say, "plans to include it in radio and concert programs." Fischer & Brothers of New York agrees to publish it, and Darcy supplies them with three arrangements: one for military band, one for orchestra, and one for piano solo.

The "National Geographic Society March" debuts on Wednesday evening, December 11, at Constitution Hall, where an audience of nearly 3,700 is gathered for the Society's
Hubbard Medal presentation to the Explorer II balloon aeronauts.
Despite Captain Darcy's good intentions, it will not be played much thereafter. Its musical evocation of the spirit of the Geographic will only be heard now and then on the odd formal occasion, and after Elmer Bernstein composes the "National Geographic Society Fanfare" in 1965--the familiar theme everyone knows now--it will lapse into obscurity.

Select one of the formats below to listen to the "National Geographic March":

The bit about how each section is meant to be played by different musical instruments is interesting.  I can really imagine how different instruments can give the march a much more international theme vice 1930s newsreels.  Sadly this is lost in the piano solo.

Meanwhile, reader Jan Nijhuis preformed the piece via his computer imitating an electronic keyboard.

Thanks Jan!  And thank you readers for enjoying this Geographic Travels find and investigation!

Japanese Tsunami Debris' Long Journey to North America and Back to Asia

Lately there has been a rash of news stories about basketballs, motorcycles, and even fishing boats from Japan washing up on the shores of Canada and the United States.  I overheard a news report claiming that the bulk of Japanese 2011 Tsunami debris is about to crash upon the beaches of the United States.  That is not true.  The majority of debris sank off the coast of Japan and the bulk of that still is still floating is making its way to the United States and Canada but still has some distance and time to go before it beaches or begins to float back to Asia.

From NOAA. Click to enlarge
According to NOAA's Marine Debris Program most of the floating debris is north of Midway Island and the Hawaiian Islands.  What is coming ashore are high windage items, things easily blown by the wind.  Medium and low windage items will be washing up on shore for about three years before the currents begin to take the debris towards Micronesia and Asia.

Time map of where and when the debris will float to.  From NOAA.  Click to enlarge.
For those want to help out with monitoring Japanese Tsunami debris and beach debris in general can take an active role by downloading NOAA's official beach debris reporting app (for Android and Apple) and report any finds.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Geography Tool Sets of Pattern of Life and Socio-Cultural Analysis Being Used to Target Terrorists Like Joseph Kony

Matt Rosenberg twitted a short article about how the geographic tool sets "pattern of life" and "socio-cultural analysis" are being used to target Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.

The two tool sets are combine unique aspects of geography, spatial knowledge and regional knowledge, to assist in the defeat of terrorists.

Pattern of Life:  Pattern of life is the spatial study of where a target operates.  Places where the target eats, sleeps, works, shops, conduct operations, flees to, etc are considered.  When one can figure out where the target is at certain times, one can make analytic judgements of how the target travels and where the target will be at certain times.  If the target appears in an usually place at an unusual time then one can tell something is amiss with the target and prepare counter measures.  Also, creating judgements of where a target is allows for one to dismiss false intelligence designed to confuse pursuers.

Regional Geography:  Regional geography is the study of regions, whether a neighborhood or whole civilization-zones.  When used in targeting, the study of areas around the target allows one to see similarities and differences between where the target has and has not gone.  If one cannot find a target in the known pattern of life then regional geography can be used to find similar regions where the target could have likely gone to.

Pattern of life has long been used by police and military to find targets, whether the criminal returned to his mother's house or the terrorist went to his usual mosque on Fridays.  Meanwhile, regional geography has long been used in police work such as when the New York City Police Department mapped ethnic neighborhoods to assess where Communist activity would be in the early 1900s.  However, regional geography has only recently arisen in use with the military's investment into cultural geography.  This has been controversial in both academia, leftist academics who do not want their studies associated with the military, and within the military itself, many generals viewing cultural geography as a soft "feel good" "science".

Then Major General Michael Flynn, United States Army,  wrote about the need for more regional geography knowledge to aid the war in Afghanistan.  His advancement up the ranks and the use of both these tool sets in Africa implies that the military will continue to utilize geography in operations against terrorists like Kony.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May 2012 Travel Photo: Revolutionary War Redoubt in Savannah, Georgia

The redoubt that defeated Catholicgauze.  Photo by me.
 The Spring Hill Redoubt is a recreation of a redoubt (minifort) made by the British to defend Savannah in 1779 from American rebels and French colonial troops.  In the Second Battle of Savannah the British lost about 40 troops while the French-American Alliance suffered a total loss of about 1,000.

The reason for such a difference in causalities is the redoubts which were themselves a series of man-made geographical features: a depression in the middle for soldiers to fight from, a earthen wall to protect from incoming fire, a slope to give protection and slow down attackers, and a deep trench of about six feet (two meters) to break up formations charging the redoubt.

I took my turn to charge the redoubt to see if I could have turned the tide of battle.  I ran down the trench but it was so steep I ran straight into the up-slope.  I would have ended up like the few American, French, and Haitian troops who braved the slaughter to reach the redoubts: dead, wounded, or prisoner.

A man-made geographical feature of death.