Archive for November, 2006

Forming your own country, continued

Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Bldgblog examines micronations, interviewing the author of the Lonely Planet guide to the phenomenon.

WorldIslandInfo has examined the kindred topic of how to form your own island country.

Continent or island, continued

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

A reader writes:

“I always thought that large land bodies that are joined in some way to each other is the reason they are called continents. Like the way North and South American are connected and Europe, Asia and Africa are also connected. I thought that is why there are only five rings on the Olympic flag. Each ring represents a continent and the World has only five. All the other land bodies are islands.”

This is not a definitively resolvable issue.

There are seven continents, or six, with the debate being whether the Americas are one or two. Europeans somewhat dubiously call them one. Geologically and biologically, they are two.

Australia is widely considered an island as well as a continent, but no one says that Antarctica is an island.

Connection is not part of the definition: the Americas have been continents for hundreds of millions of years, but have only been joined for a few million.

As my American Heritage Dictionary puts it, “Continent — one of the principal land masses of the earth, usually regarded as including Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America.”

The Olympic rings are not continent-specific, though when created they represented the continents with nations competing (thus omitting Antarctica). According to an official Olympics site, “This flag translates the idea of the universality of the Olympic Movement. At least one of the colours of the rings, including the white background, can be found on the flag of every nation in the world. But watch out! It is wrong, therefore, to believe that each of the colours corresponds to a certain continent!”

The world’s newest island

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

A submarine eruption in Tongan waters has created the world’s newest volcanic island, southwest of the island of Late, at the lower left in this satellite view:

NASA image of Tongan eruption

The island, at Home Reef, appears substantial: as of August, when it was discovered by a Swedish yacht whose crew took these pictures, it had at least three small hills.

The odds are that the island will not last long. The Home Reef volcano produces islands regularly, and did so in 2004, 1984, and twice in the 1850s, according to NASA and the Smithsonian’s Volcanoes of the World.

Image courtesy of NASA.

The Mapia Islands and one lost airman

Saturday, November 11th, 2006

A Veterans’ Day query. A reader asks:

Any information on Mapie Island near the Solomons, New Guinea or this general area? My cousin was buried there during the 2nd World War in about 1944:

John H. Carroll, Jr.
Second Lieutenant, U.S.A A.F.
390th Bomber Squadron
42 nd Bomber Group
Died: 12-Nov-44

According to additional information he was listed as M.I.A.

I think this must be the Mapia Islands, north of the hook at the end of the Indonesian side of New Guinea.

The Approach to the Philippines in the series U.S. Army in World War II: The War in the Pacific says this:

The only other important offensive undertaken in the western New Guinea region was the seizure, in mid-November [1944], of the Asia and Mapia Island Groups, lying respectively 100 nautical miles northwest and 160 northeast of Sansapor. Loran and radar stations were established on these islands, which were were captured by elements of the 31st Infantry Division operating under the control the newly established of U.S. Eighth Army. (note, p. 450)

On this page it says that the 390th Bomber Squadron moved to Sansapor, New Guinea on 8/23/44. This page includes a couple of pictures of that unit’s planes.

This history says specifically that the unit was operating against the Mapia Islands on the date of this death, and this site says that on 11/12/44 “50+ B-25s blast Mapia and Asia Islands, New Guinea.”

So it would make sense if he died during that operation, given the date.

Lastly, page 12 of this document includes a picture of a burial ceremony on the Mapia Islands after the American landings.