Tag Archives: geography

Why Québec Was Important and How it Became English

When I was in Québec I had the good fortune to take photographs of multiple signs and graphics aiming to educate readers about various things. I have spent a bit of my weekend combing through my photographs to see what I can present.

The first in today’s post is simply why Québec was so important. It sat at the narrowest part of the St. Lawrence River upstream from the Atlantic and, most importantly, was defendable from a high, rocky terrain that fell into the river via a sheer cliff face. But why was all of that? Geology explains all (in this graphic). Cap Diamant, where la Citadelle de Québec resides, sits atop an outcropping of the Appalachian Mountains while a sedimentary valley separates it from the Laurentian Mountains. The St. Lawrence just happens to cut through it and voila, natural defensible territory. Or as Charles Dickens put it, the Gibraltar of North America.

The geology of Québec

The geology of Québec

The second is a quick series of graphics that basically explain why, despite the heavy French influence, Québec is a province of the majority English-speaking country of Canada, a former British colony. In short, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (and to a lesser extent the Battle of Sainte-Foy.

In 15 minutes on the Plains of Abraham, a British infantry force under General Wolfe defeated a French infantry force under General Montcalm. Both generals died in the battle and just a few days later, the city of Québec surrendered to the British. This gave control of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence to the British. And with the British then entrenched behind the city walls, they were capable of withstanding any French siege.

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham

The Battle of the Plains of Abraham

The second graphic explores the Battle of Sainte-Foy, which was a French victory over General Murray. The British then retreated to the defences of Québec, but the French forces failed to capitalise on their victory—and were in general too under-resourced. So the city remained in British hands while the Royal Navy destroyed the French Navy off the coast of France. And without supplies sent via the French Navy, the French were forced to surrender not just Québec, but Montreal and the whole of Canada to the United Kingdom. Fearing rebellion, London allowed Canada to retain its religion, language, and culture. Hence, a Francophone population in an otherwise English-speaking North America.

The Battle of Sainte-Foy

The Battle of Sainte-Foy

Credit for the pieces goes to unknown persons who designed the signage for various parks in Québec.

Understanding Museum Pieces in French

Yesterday’s piece was from the Musée de la Civilisation à Québec and looked at a bilingual exhibit on Greek and Roman mythology. The museum, of course, had many other exhibits. Today I want to show an interesting bit that explained why the museum, a modern construction dating to the late 1980s, incorporated an 18th century house called Maison Estèbe.

Maison Estèbe today

Maison Estèbe today

Well, the museum had a series of graphics with text explaining why. But they were only in French. But by some smart use of graphics and some thought as to how show the progression of time, the reader can piece together a good bit of the story.

Maison Estèbe

Maison Estèbe

Waterfront near Maison Estèbe

Waterfront near Maison Estèbe

Quay at Maison Estèbe

Quay at Maison Estèbe

And of course to make it abundantly clear, the excavation of Québec’s foundations also revealed longboats along the old shoreline, which when placed in front of a quay like below, just make perfect sense.

long ship

long ship

Credit for the pieces goes to the graphics department of the Musée de la Civilisation à Québec.

Ringwoodlite

Your author is still in Canada. So here’s a graphic from the Globe and Mail that explains the process by which ringwoodite is formed. Recent research shows that the water contained within the mineral makes the mantle beneath the surface of the Earth contain more water than all the world’s oceans.

Ringwoodite

Ringwoodite

But mostly, I’m still in Canada.

Credit for the piece goes to the Globe and Mail graphics department.

Impact of Climate Change

As someone who likes cooler weather, climate change sucks. Because that generally means warmer weather. Yes, yes, I know it means equally good chances for extreme cold temperatures and in general more extreme weather, but mostly I hate hot weather. So a new report by Risky Business Project, a group led by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer, looks to quantify some of the impact.

But in short, nothing good is going to happen. And basically, I will never move to the South.

Impact of climate change

Impact of climate change

Credit for the piece goes to the graphics team behind Risky Business.

Where the Rebels are in Eastern Ukraine

Today’s piece is far from ground-breaking or even complex. Friday, the Wall Street Journal published this map to supplement an article about the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Poroshenko in Ukraine. The map highlights the areas effectively controlled by the rebels, the most important the unsecured border. Of course this is just a map as stated by Kiev, the reality on the ground might be different. Regardless, it is the first map I have seen that has actually tried to demarcate the territory actually under control rather than claimed.

Rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine

Rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine

Credit for the piece goes to the Wall Street Journal’s graphics department.

How ISIS Got This Far

The Washington Post is also helping us understand the spread of ISIS. This time a bit more interactively than we have seen from the Times. This is a step-by-step (ish) explanation. Though, I quibble with the decision to link cities by dotted lines. That can create the illusion that ISIS fighters moved directly from city to city when I highly doubt they took that exact path.

Guide to the spread of ISIS

Guide to the spread of ISIS

Credit for the piece goes to Swati Sharma, Laris Karklis, and Gene Thorp.

The South China Sea

Over the last few weeks, tensions have been rising in the South China Sea. While most of the world has been focused on violence in Ukraine and Nigeria, fishing boats and other maritime vessels in the South China Sea have been clashing—thankfully without the use of guns or missiles. These clashes contribute to a growing fear that one day, one clash will spiral out of control and lead to something more than required paint jobs for fishing trawlers.

Thankfully, for those of you unfamiliar with who exactly owns what and what they think they own versus what they think others own—in short a mapped out version of the conflict—the New York Times has put together a nice map.

The South China Sea

The South China Sea

Credit for the piece goes to Derek Watkins.

Defining the Midwest

Last Friday, we looked at how one individual defined the state of Florida. Today, we look at how FiveThirtyEight attempted to get lots of people to define the Midwest.

Defining the midwest

Defining the midwest

Personally, as someone from Philadelphia I tend to side with the author of the article, Walter Hickey. He writes he’s “from New York, and [he] generally consider[s] anything west of Philadelphia the Midwest.” That’s pretty much the truth.

And if you like this piece, check out the subsequent piece on defining the South.

Credit for the piece goes to Allison McCann.