Canadian Geography: Sable Island, Part 0

Self-tutoring about Canadian geography: the tutor begins about a famous, yet remote, part of his home province.

Sable Island, from the French sable, meaning sand, is a connected arc of sand dunes that form an island about 175 km off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The Island might have a crew of five; to my knowledge, all are staff of various government agencies. The runway is the beach.

A few hundred horses roam wild on Sable Island, protected from human interference since 1960 by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

The Island is about 42km long, and up to 1.5km wide, but its dimensions change as the dunes shift. Miraculously, there are freshwater ponds on it whence the horses drink.

I hope to mention more about Sable Island in future posts:)



Land and Sea: Sable Island

Rick Mercer Reports

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Does the natural range of crocodiles extend into Israel?

Self-tutoring about geography: the tutor wonders if crocodiles formerly lived in Israel.

Apparently, crocodiles inhabited the Kebara swamps, Israel, into the early 1900s.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

What is a wadi?

Self-tutoring about geography: the tutor inquires about the meaning of wadi.

wadi (noun): a stream bed that is usually dry but carries water during a rainy period.
The term wadi is specific to the Middle East and North Africa.


Mish, Frederick C. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 2004.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

The African and Arabian plates, part 1: the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea

Self-tutoring about geology: the tutor mentions the surprising depth of the Gulf of Aqaba, and its reason.

Plate tectonics describes the floating masses of rock that constitute the Earth’s crust and drift across the magma beneath. Most plates roughly correspond to known land masses, such as the African Plate.

The junction between the African Plate and the Arabian marks the Great Rift Valley, a deep crack in the Earth’s crust. It runs under the Red Sea, then under the Gulf of Aqaba. Hence, the Gulf of Aqaba is 1850m deep, while the Gulf of Suez, only 50km west, is less than 100m deep.




Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

How rare is a four-leaf clover?

Self-tutoring about plant lore: the tutor researches four-leaf clovers.

The rarity of the four-leaf clover is around 1:10000, research suggests.

I’ve never found a four-leaf clover. However, one summer when I was a kid, one of my friends found one, I think in late May. That was when I was in grade 3, in PEI.

A week later the same kid found another. The trend continued all summer: he just kept finding them. I can’t recall anyone else ever doing so.

Some reading suggests that, because of genetics, four-leaf clovers might be found in clusters. However, that wasn’t how my friend found them; he found them anywhere. While we were awaiting other friends or wondering what to do next, he’d look down: “Another four-leaf clover!” he’d exclaim. He found one on a patch of earth almost bare of grass.

I always wondered how he did it, finding all those four-leaf clovers. I hope to find one someday. I left PEI when I was 10, and haven’t been back since. Yet, not having found a four-leaf clover there, even though I guess they were all around, leaves me to recall the wide blue skies and vast green fields and long sunny days of summer there.

My grade 8 kid just walked in. He says his friend, like mine from long ago, often found four-leaf clovers when they were in grade 3, but not really since. Curious, eh?


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Geography: maple syrup production

Tutoring geography, agriculture is topical. The tutor brings up maple syrup production by region.

Of course my kids have this Friday off, so I made them (and myself) pancakes for breakfast. While they actually prefer plain syrup, I like maple syrup on mine.

Which provinces (or states) are notable producers of maple syrup?

  1. Quebec leads (perhaps no surprise): 7,989,000 gallons.
  2. Vermont is next, at about 11% of Quebec’s output.
  3. Ontario comes next, at about 5% of Quebec’s output.
  4. The states of New York and Maine come next, at about 4% each of Quebec.
  5. New Brunswick is next, at 3.8% of Quebec.
  6. Six US states come next.
  7. Nova Scotia follows, at about 0.3% of Quebec.

Interesting, eh?


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian Geography: two Lawrencetowns in Nova Scotia?

Tutoring social studies, the Maritimes enter the conversation. The tutor mentions a discovery he made a couple of days ago about Nova Scotia.

Recently, looking at a map of Nova Scotia, I noticed a place called Lawrencetown, perhaps about 5 miles east of Dartmouth.

“Lawrencetown’s in the Annapolis Valley,” I thought to myself. “It’s northwest of Dartmouth, maybe 50 miles as the crow flies.”

I moved the map around on the web page, and behold! Both Lawrencetowns were apparent – the one in the Annapolis Valley I knew as a kid, as well as the one east of Dartmouth.

I hadn’t known there were two.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Geography: UTM coordinates

Tutoring math, number-oriented topics naturally arise. The tutor gives some simple points about the UTM coordinate system.

UTM stands for Universal Transverse Mercator: it produces a grid on Earth from which locations can be referenced.

UTM organizes the Earth, from the International Date Line towards east, into 60 zones, each six degrees wide. The zones are numbered 1 to 60; here, in Campbell River, we’re in zone 10.

From the South Pole to North Pole, there are reference lines lettered C to X that suggest latitude.

The numbers, going east, and the letters, going north, make a grid. Here in Campbell River, we are in square 10U.

The north (or south) coordinate of UTM is absolute, measured from the equator; the east coordinate, however, is measured relative to the zone the location is in.

Coordinates are measured in metres. Possibly confusing, the east reference point of a zone is located 500,000 metres (500km) west of its centre. Since the zones are less than 1000km (1,000,000m) wide, an east coordinate of zero will never happen. If a zone is 400km wide (they get narrower as you go north, since they converge at the equator), the east coordinate of a location within it could be from 300,000 to 700,000.

Since the north (or south) coordinates are absolute, the letter of the UTM grid square is not always used. Campbell River is in square 10U, but its coordinates might be given zone 10, E:337,196 N:5,544,789.

That’s UTM as I understand it.



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: start of summer, 2017

Tutoring, you observe how people’s lifestyle and attitudes change along with the weather. The tutor reflects on the coming of summer, 2017.

To a Canadian, seasons may not begin according to the designated times on the calendar. In my January 26, 2015 post, I define the first day of spring from a Canadian point of view.

What about summer? Supposedly it starts around June 21 each year. However, from my point of view, the real start of summer is when people start behaving like it’s summer – when they start wearing summer clothes and engaging in summer activities.

By Friday, May 19, spring had clearly been here for around two months. The high that day was 16°C. However, Saturday morning, May 20, the sun was bursting through the windows. By 10am, standing on the deck outside, the feeling was summer, not spring. The high turned out to be 23°C. Sunday reached 23°C as well, Monday, 24°C.

By Monday, people were dressing and behaving in summer fashion. Adapting to summer doesn’t take long; today, the kids are heading to school in T-shirts (no jackets or hoodies) without hesitation.

From Saturday to Monday, people decided summer is here. On that observation, I’m defining the start of summer from a Canadian point of view: the first three consecutive days to top 20°C constitute the beginning of summer.

Enjoy your summer, whenever it arrives:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Geography: what does Annapolis mean?

Tutoring Canadian geography, you might mention the Annapolis Valley. The tutor investigates the meaning of the name Annapolis.

As a kid I spent three years in the Annapolis Valley. Typical of the Maritimes, it had beautiful summer and fall but winter was long.

There is also an Annapolis in Maryland; noticing it, I decided to find the meaning of Annapolis.

It turns out that Anna (Hebrew: Hannah) was the name of the Virgin Mary’s mother. In Greek a polis is a small, unified community having unique identity and customs. In an agricultural society, the polis would include the land its inhabitants farm.

Therefore, Annapolis might mean Anna’s Village. The name ties the village to the Virgin Mary’s mother Anna. When I lived in the Annapolis Valley, religion was prominent there:)


Stanford, Quentin H. (editor). Canadian Oxford School Atlas, 6th ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.