Monday, August 08, 2016

Further Adventures of a Geography Pedant

I was reading this perfectly dandy little article about one of the flashpoints of maritime contention between the Renegade Mainland Provinces and everybody else, when I came across this picture and caption.

The caption is correct: Uotsuri Jima or Diaoyu Dao is the biggest island in the disputed Senkaku Islands or Diaoyu Islands. However, the picture is not of Uotsuri Jima or Diaoyu Dao. It is of Minami Kojima or Nan Xiaodao, a very much smaller island in the Senkaku/Diaoyu archipelago. I discovered this in about thirty seconds using an obscure research tool called 'Google Earth'. 

Here is a picture of the real Uotsuri Jima or Diaoyu Dao. It is about ten times as big as the island in the first picture. It has its own endemic species of mole. It was inhabited between 1900 and 1940 when there was a fish processing plant there. Unlike the first island, it is not an uninhabitable lump. It looks like a pretty nice place to build a resort.

I know, I know, is not a site known for being particularly good at anything. But this error irritated me. Of course any geographical error irritates me, as a pedant. But this irritated me more than that map I saw in the Sydney Morning Herald once where they had inundated Sindh and moved Karachi into Punjab. Or that map in the Absolut vodka advert that showed my birthplace in Alta California instead of Sonora. 

I think I know why I am particularly irritated by this mistake. Because this is the sort of mistake it is natural to make if you have a particular narrative running in your mind. This is a narrative where these foreigners are arguing about tiny, useless scraps of rock; where the historical claims on both sides are all air and moonshine; where we should just keep our heads down and not get involved.  Maybe all of those things are true. I don't like the thought of anyone dying for the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. I don't like to think that our treaty obligations might under some terrible set of circumstances lead to Australians dying for the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. But, if it were to come to that, I think I would be fractionally happier if they were dying for the real Uotsuri Jima instead of the fake one. And the image of the fake Uotsuri Jima makes it fractionally more likely that, if it were to come to that, public opinion would be for us welching on our treaty obligations to our allies.


Unknown said...

I agree with all of the above obvs. I do, however, feel obliged to point out that the main reason Uotsuri Jima isn't worth a dispute over is that it is clearly not big enough to harbour a lost colony of giant radioactive monsters.

Dr Clam said...

They *could* live underground and be reached through the sea-caves.