Cartographic anomolies

A while back, after I enrolled in the hockey commentary on North of 49 Hockey (which I will resume comments on one day, honestly, no kidding), I got to thinking about how "North of 49" is such common slang for Canada that nobody really notices how wildly inaccurate it is. Now while there are a couple-three American locations above the 49th parallel (discussed on this page), I'm talking about the huge swaths of Canada located below (and in some cases far below) 49°N, all of which except the southern tip of Vancouver Island, I'm proud to say, is a disease of the east.

Our first location of note the border of the 49th parallel with longitude. Here we already see how Thunder Bay in western Ontario is notably below the magic line.

Now take a look at 80°W. By this point, we are pretty much north of Toronto. We're also a good 11 hour drive from the self-proclaimed centre of the universe. Even Timmins, Ontario (home of Shania Twain) is south of the vaunted 49th.

By the time we get to 73°W, the border has finally bumped north a bit to compensate. Of course, we're still ungodly north: 6 hours drive north of Quebec City and 8 hours north of Montreal. We're also north of Chicoutimi, and barely south of Chibougamau.

It gets closer to the western world at 68°W where Rimouski is a Thunder Bay-style short hop away, and we finally see northern communities of the dividing line: Baie-Comeau and Sept-Iles. Baie-Comeau is the hometown of Brian Mulroney, for interest's sake. Only 13 minutes north of the "49th parallel", it is some 28 minutes further south than Lethbridge, and two minutes further north than Richmond, BC: one of Greater Vancouver's southern municipalities.

In the "far east", Newfoundland finally bridges the geography gap around 58°W. Here we see that Corner Brook barely misses being above the line, and at 56°W it is easy to see how Twillingate, Musgrave Harbour, and Lewisporte all manage to rise above the 49th. North Newfoundland's White Bay and Port Sanders do a pretty good job of sailing above the parallel, and of course all of Labrador is far above the parallel.

But it really goes to make you think: and while orthodoxy holds that "Canadian winters are really rough", from a north/south perspective Montana residents can hold their noses up high: their lowest latitude of 44°21′ is in fact almost a full degree of latitude (ie. 110km) than Toronto's 43°39′N.

Likewise, of the 6 Canadian NHL teams represented at "North of 49 Hockey", only three of the teams (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver) are actually north of the 49th. Winnipeg was a fourth, but also was counterbalanced with Quebec City, again falling below the line that metaphorically is used to represent the border.

Similarly there is not a single CFL team in the Eastern Conference [er, provided that Ottawa's team doesn't collapse and Winterpeg can go back to the west... -ed] that can claim to be North of the 49th: and no franchise could ever survive at a location you could legitimately name. (Even St. John's, Nfld. is below the 49th, so unless you want to watch the Smooth Rock Falls Tigers my thesis remains strong).

The thing to really remember is how much of the population lives below the 49th and still considers it a dividing line. In reality, Maine and most of the northwestern states cannot even use "neighbours to the north" to accurate describe Toronto/Ottawa. Meanwhile, Montreal or Charlottown might use their northern-nation status to make some political hay, only Grande Prairie or Saskatoon has any right to harvest it. (Hell, a sign in Grande Prairie actually reads "East to Alaska", a Willie Horton number that Mississauga denizens would find as incomprehensible as a Texan).


Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...

(Hell, a sign in Grande Prairie actually reads "East to Alaska", a Willie Horton number that Mississauga denizens would find as incomprehensible as a Texan).

My friend in Grande Prairie reminds me over IM that the sign reads "West to Alaska". "East to Alaska" presumably being Russia's next entry into the Eurovision song contest.