Monday, July 13, 2015

49 Redux

The strange truth of the 49th parallel...
The mysterious 49th parallel...
The 49th parallel is the latitude that separates Canada and the United States for a good part of their lengths.

There used to be a prominent highway sign at the Vancouver Island community of Ladysmith that promoted the town's location on the 49th parallel. The sign seems to have been removed or re-located in the last few years, but this distinction stills shows up in the names of some of their local shops (see 1. above).

When Victorians think of communities such Tofino - a popular surf and camping destination on the west coast of Vancouver Island - they often think of it as being north of here and even north of Ladysmith. They will refer to driving "up to Tofino".

I think a lot of them would be surprised to know that it would more accurate to say that they were driving "across" to Tofino. Not a lot of them realize that Vancouver Island actually lies along a north-west to south-east line rather than true north-south. When driving to Tofino one actually drives a sort of saw-tooth pattern, driving slightly north-west, then south-west when crossing Vancouver Island.

The proof can be found at the top of local Mt. Tolmie. There you'll find a compass plaque (2 above). The direction to Pacific Rim National Park just south of Tofino is indicated as almost due west of Victoria. Note: If you can't read the fine print, you may have to enlarge the image by viewing it separately -- left-click on it once or twice.

The third photo (3 above) is an information sign on the highway approach to Tofino. Tofino is no further north of Victoria than Ladysmith. 

A lot of Victorians might be further surprised to learn that the north end of Galiano Island is just as far north as Ladysmith and nearly parallel to Tofino. Galiano is one of the southern Gulf Islands and there is a tendency to think of them as lying just off Victoria.

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