Myth Trivia: The Panama Canal, Canada and off with their heads

Guillotines, Canadians south of the border, canals--you name it. Trivia rules today.

Myth Trivia - All Images Wikipedia

CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 9, 2016 – Today we delve into some geographical trivia that might earn you a few beers next time you visit your favorite pub.

1 – France and the guillotine: Everyone is aware of the beheadings that have become so commonplace in the world of ISIS these days. But the practice as a means of execution goes back centuries, in Western cultures no less.

The French introduced the guillotine in 1792 during what was known as the Reign of Terror, a time that marked the darkest days of their revolution. The guillotine remained that country’s standard method of judicial execution until France abolished capital punishment in 1981.

The last person to be guillotined in France was Hamida Djandoubi on Sept. 10, 1977.

Oddly enough, the invention was actually designed as a “humane” device. That’s because unskilled executioners sometimes had to make two, three or four swipes at a person’s head with a sword or axe to sever it from the body.

So what does all this have to do with trivia?

Here’s the answer. The first of the Star Wars” movie series was released on May 25, 1977, nearly four months before Hamida Djandoubi was beheaded by the guillotine in France. This means that France was still using the guillotine before the “Star Wars” phenomenon even began.

Heady stuff, don’t you think?

2 – Locating the Panama Canal: For some reason, when we think of South America, we tend to picture it south of North America. That fact is true. But our southern neighbor is also east of us which means that Central America, which links our continents, also lies southeast of North America.

Mexico is a huge land mass extending from California in the west in a southeasterly direction into Central America. Consequently, the Panama Canal is actually east of Miami.

Panama Canal - Wikipedia
Panama Canal  (Wikipedia)

But that little tidbit of information is not nearly as jaw-dropping as this one: If you travel through the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, you are really going from the southeast to the northwest in order to reach the other side.

Just another of those little geographical quirks that nobody ever thinks about.

3 – How many U.S. states are north of Canada?: Speaking of things nobody thinks about, this one is the true beer-buster. Would you believe that more than half of the states in the U.S. are either completely or partially north of Canada?

It’s all because of a tiny island in the southern part of Lake Erie called Middle Island. Middle Island has a land mass of just 46 acres, but it represents the southernmost point of land in Canada. It is part of the province of Ontario, and the most southern point of the island is situated just 164 yards from the U.S. maritime boundary.

Because of this, there are 14 states entirely north of the latitude of Middle Island; Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Middle Island, Lake Erie Wikipedia
Middle Island, Lake Erie (Wikipedia)

It gets better however. Believe it or not, there are 14 additional states that are partially north of Middle Island. Those states are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming.

The correct answer then is that 27 states are either completely or partially north of the southernmost point in Canada or more than 50 percent of the states in the US.

Want more? If you haven’t had your fill of free drinks yet, you can probably get some more with this added item. Can you name two well-known European cities that are north of Middle Island in Canada?

There are many, of course, but we tend to think of Rome and Barcelona as being further south because they are Mediterranean destinations in southern Europe. The truth is, if you draw the latitude across the globe, you will discover that the Italian capital and its Spanish colleague are farther north than Middle Island, thus making Rome and Barcelona more northern than our North American neighbor.

Drink up, mate. It’s all a “little Erie,” isn’t it?

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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