Down with Swanland!

Geographical musings

Maps are funny things. When you create a map you’re creating a version of a physical space that people move through, live in and interact with, so there’s genuine potential for strange things to happen. Such as Swanland.

Back when I was in highschool  (some time in the Cretaceous era I think) my friends and I – for reasons that escape me but were probably to do with intense boredom – went into the school library and looked up ‘Australia’ in all the encyclopaedias (an encyclopaedia is a big book that people used to use to find things out before there were iPhones). In one of these – an American production – we discovered that the south west corner of Western Australia is called ‘Swanland’.

This was something of a surprise to us, all having been born and brought up in said area and never having heard the term. We toyed with the idea of writing a letter (a message written on paper that people used before there were iPhones) to the publishers to ask them what the hell they were doing, but never got around to it.

Jump forward to yesterday when I was examining a map of submarine telephone cables (you don’t need to know why). What do I spot written across the bottom of Western Australia? Swanland!

It’s back.

I can only speculate on the origin of the name. Perhaps the region was once known as Swanland, and ended up on some American map before falling out of use. Perhaps the area is called Swanland, and I’ve just been prevented from coming across it by random acts of fate (although a Google Search suggests it’s not in common use on the internet at least). More intriguingly however is the possibility that it’s a massive misinterpretation of a very real but very obscure instance of governmental organisation…

You see, there is a ‘Swan Land’ in Western Australia. It’s an official government Land District existing since at least the 1820’s and covering a chunk of territory roughly between the Swan and Moore rivers, including the city of Perth. I daresay hardly anyone living in it is aware that it exists, but it’s there on the books.

So, I can see a series of theoretical events that could lead to this comparatively small area of the state getting conflated into a title for the entire south west, and that title being circulated around between maps, encyclopaedias and geographic computer programs without anyone from Australia really noticing ever since.

So here I state it once and for all. The term ‘Swanland’ is a geographic anomaly not used by anyone who lives within it’s supposed borders which should be permanently struck from the records! Down with Swanland!

Later: I’ve now realised that in my enthusiasm for an explanation of the Swanland enigma I’ve confused the “Land Division” named “Swan” with a “Division” named “Swan Land” thus completely invalidating my hypothesis (unless the cartographer responsible is as foolish as I). In any case, the main argument still stands – there is no such place as Swanland!

How are those hot little potatoes?

Can’t sleep. Feral Ghouls will eat me.

Picked up my new computer on Saturday and rather than do anything useful like start migrating data across I spent most of the weekend playing Fallout 3. I think I’ve overdone it a bit – I’m developing a morbid fear of train tunnels and when I saw a dead cockroach at Subiaco station this morning I almost tried looting it for meat.

I think I’d better go cold turkey for a few days 🙂

Introverts are Coming Out

5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

Continuing the theme of outing myself as an introvert from a few weeks back, a commenter on Boing Boing (you know, Boing Boing? You don’t? What’s wrong with you!) has happened to provide a link to the following article – which although it seems a little harsh on extroverts (most of my friends are extroverts and are nowhere near as annoying as the article suggests 😉 is an excellent overview on the subject…

The Atlantic – Caring for your Introvert

As the Sirius Cybernetics Electro-Sensa-Book Division would say, Read and Enjoy!

Tribes of Londinium

Here comes the new religion, same as the old religion.

Yes yes, happy new year all, I’ve got better things to talk about than what I did on New Years Eve (bugger all really).

I’m using some of my time off work to get some more of my holiday snaps from the UK up on Flickr. One of said photos is of a pile of the Hungerford Bridge in London, festooned with the broken carcasses of skateboards.

I presumed at the time that there was some sadistic security guard who enjoyed confiscating boards off skaters who tried to ride them across the bridge, snapped them in half then threw them onto the pile. However on later reflection it became apparent to me that it was more likely that skaters from the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hall were deliberately depositing their broken boards on the pile as a sort of graveyard, and some quick Googling today suggested that this is in fact the case.

This is great. Why? Because it’s a complete throwback to the old, pagan traditions of neolithic and bronze age England!

Further upstream at Battersea there’s a stretch of river that’s yielded vast (well, vast for archeology 🙂 quantities of relics. Swords, shields, spearheads, that kind of things. The sheer concentration of them leaves no explanation apart from that they were deliberately thrown into the waters as some kind of sacrifice. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the urge to commit treasured personal possessions to the river that motivates today’s skaters is fundamentally the same one that motivated the ancient Britons of Battersea.

Even more interestingly this site compares the Hungerford pile to a neolithic mortuary enclosure – a separated, sacred space in which the bodies of the deceased were left to break down to just bones (which were then collected and buried). The author points out that the bridge pier is “an unreachable island in the Thames” – small islands (neither being exactly land or water) meeting the requirements for all kinds of sacred spaces. Great stuff!

Seriously people, there is a thesis in this…

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