Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Little Things Amuse Me – Erich

Today is the solstice. To most people reading this, it is the winter solstice. Where we are, it is the summer solstice. The solstice is a day with astronomical significance and a very different perspective in the two hemispheres. I find this interesting, and so it is a perfect day to post about other little things like this that I was so excited about.

Here's one: the Tropic of Capricorn. I stood on the Tropic of Capricorn. Twice, actually, once heading north into the tropics and once heading south out of the tropics.

The Tropics

That's a big thumbs up

Of course, one did not feel an immediate difference in temperature or climate crossing the line. But I was giddy when we first crossed. Here I was, in the tropics! I had left the temperate zone behind.

I know it is just a line, but not an arbitrary one. Today, on the solstice, the sun is directly over that line. I'm not there today, the longest day of the year, but it was still cool even on a pretty long though not the longest day. I'm sure we went far enough into the tropics and were close enough to the solstice that at some point, the sun was directly overhead. I just don't know when that was.

Another: Cape Agulhas. Now I am jumping forward to one of the last sites we saw. Cape Agulhas is the southernmost tip of Africa. That is not a man-made distinction. (One might argue that the idea of cardinal directions is man-made. I would say that east and west are natural phenomena based on sunrise and sunset. And north and south are also natural being the poles where the earth's axis would break through the surface if it were a physical thing. But the idea of orthogonal directions being important is very human. By the way, orthogonal essentially means perpendicular.)

But what is a man-made idea at Cape Agulhas is that this is where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet. No, when we were at Cape Agulhas and looked into the water, I could not tell a difference in the currents or the color. It just looked like an ocean on a shore. But the idea excited me.

Where two oceans meet

The four of us at the marker

So you can better read the marker

I crawled over the rocks and lowered myself to the water. I stood in two oceans at once. My left foot in the Indian Ocean and my right foot in the Atlantic! I will admit that neither foot has gained any super powers, nor in any way become more distinct from the other foot in ways that it was not distinct before the two ocean experience. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to have stood in two oceans at once.

Maybe one day I can go to where the Pacific and Atlantic meet. (I think that's Cape Horn.) Or the Pacific and the Indian. (Not sure, maybe Indonesia? Probably a few points.) And don't even get me started on the Arctic or Antarctic Oceans meeting the others. (Though that would be a harder sell for my family, I suspect. And who would want to put their feet in those waters?)

I know I'm a geek and I geek out over certain weird things. (I was pretty excited to see Alpha Centauri too.) But don't we all have our unique geekiness? What's yours? Where would you become giddy because you got to be there?

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