One the few quirky things about Geneva is a bus line, the Number 11, whose terminus is a park on the Arve River known as Bout du Monde. In English, that translates to The End of the Earth. I always loved hopping on that bus and letting it take me to The Landes Where There Be Dragons…
Sadly, the literal ends of the earth no longer exist in our collective imagination, but cartographers have determined the most remote place on the face of the planet. It’s in the southern Pacific, at a place called Point Nemo, and it was only firmly established in the 1990s by a Canadian geographer named Hrvoje Lukatela, using GPS and computer modeling. Named for the anti-social submarine captain in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Point Nemo is what’s known as a pole of inaccessibility: a point in the ocean farthest away from three points of land. If you want to visit, you’ll need to set a course for 8°52.6’S 123°23.6’W. That’s 1,670 miles (2,688 kilometers) equidistant from three places: Maher Island off the coast of Antarctica; Moto Nui, a remote islet that’s part of the Easter Island chain; and Ducie Island, an atoll connected to the Pitcairn Islands.
Inside that circle with Point Nemo at its center is a patch of sea without land that encompasses 8.6 million square miles, about the size of the old Soviet Union. Hardly anyone passes through here except the occasional round-the-world sailing race. And because there’s no land, there’s very little drifting organic matter known as “marine snow.” As result this deep, vast ocean is nearly lifeless.
It’s also know as the “spacecraft graveyard.” That’s because space agencies often direct dying satellites to re-enter the atmosphere into this no-man’s land distant from any human habitation. The Russian Mir Space Station met its fiery end not far from Point Nemo.
And if all that lifeless expanse wasn’t weird enough, Point Nemo also happens to be very close to the spot H.P. Lovecraft chose for R’lyeh, the undersea home of Cthulhu, that tentacled cosmic critter in his horror novels. If you’re feeling exceptionally creeped out by all this, you can indulge your paranoid side even further by listening to an audio clip of “The Bloop,” a mysterious sound recorded by oceanographers near Point Nemo in 1997. The Bloop was louder than the vocalizations of blue whale, and cryptobiologists were convinced it was evidence of some gargantuan sea monster lurking in the depths. Alas, it was recently attributed to the sound of an iceberg breaking off from an Antarctic glacier.
One of my favorite depictions of Point Nemo is Doug McCune’s wooden map (pictured above). An aficionado of offbeat mapmaking, McCune utilized digital cartography software to create a vector image, and then etched the map into a circular block of wood using a Pokono laser cutting tool. It’s a beautiful monument to the place where one can truly get away from it all.
(Hat tip to Strange Maps for the blog idea.)