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the Degree Confluence Project
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Canada : Ontario

17.7 km (11.0 miles) NE of Borden, ON, Canada
Approx. altitude: 405 m (1328 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap topo topo250 world confnav)
Antipode: 48°S 97°E

Accuracy: 10 m (32 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: View East into Bush #3: View South - Eugene Peter and Don #4: View West into Bush #5: GPS Display

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  48°N 83°W  

#1: View North along Logging Road

(visited by Eugene Dick and Donald Goldthorpe)

16-Jul-2002 -- I would describe this confluence point as 40 km Northeast of Chapleau, population 3184 and likely founded by the Canadian Pacific railway in the early 1880's. Passengers on early trains from Montreal to Vancouver might stop for a meal at this first divisional point in the wilderness of Northern Ontario. Divisional points allowed the train crew to catch a return train to Sudbury and dining rooms relieved early locomotives of the heavy load of dining cars.

Chapleau's Northwest-Southeast position would have followed from the need to locate divisional points about every 150 miles. The Northeast-Southwest position lies on a line from Montreal clearing the top of Lake Superior. This line also approximates the height of land between the Great Lakes and the Arctic watershed, reducing the size of rivers to be crossed and the expense of the resulting bridges.

Don and I also stopped in Chapleau for our dinner. We had spent the afternoon at the Mississagi transformer station near Sault Ste. Marie and were on our way to the Porcupine transformer station in Timmins to the Northeast. We were visiting several stations on a project to ensure that short circuits on the power system would result in safe voltages for utility staff touching equipment and for the public touching fences.

Highway 101 Northeast out of Chapleau resembles nothing as much a roller coaster. Rock outcrops 5 to 10 m in height occur about every 100 to 200 m, interspersed by swamp or glacial til. The highway engineers appear to have compromised slightly on grade standards, much to the delight of adventuresome travelers. We saw no buildings, much less settlements, over the 100 km from Chapleau to Foleyet to the East, halfway to Timmins. Why this confluence would be identified by the name "Borden" remained a mystery. Our 250k topo map does note Borden as a nearby 10 by 10 km "surveyed" township, but the actual confluence occurs in the township of Chewett, also uninhabited.

The topo map shows numerous unpaved roads in orange radiating from the main highways and spaced about 20 km apart. What caught our interest was a particular road which seemd to pass within several hundred metres of this confluence. A simple calculation indicates that only 2 % of confluences would have such a favoured location given this density of roads. After checking a number of other topo maps for this part of Northern Ontario, we confirmed that few if any other sites within hundreds of kilometres would be so favoured.

We had entered 83 West and 48 North as a waypoint into our GPS receiver. Our anticipation increased as we turned North off Highway 101 and found a sandy road heading almost directly towards the confluence at a distance of only 6 km. A sign indicated that the road was maintained by a private forestry company, while appearing to be open for public use. At a distance of less than 2 km, we forked to the left and found this less travelled road still quite passable for our three-quarter ton pickup. Thankfully we were continued to head approximately in the right directions! Nevertheless we were nervous, nothing the lateness of the day (about 8:30 pm), the thickness of the forest on either side, the bugs plastered to the windshield and our casual atire (one us was wearing shorts and sandals).

We had the GPS on the waypoint "compass" page and as the road straightened to the North we almost missed noticing that the arrow now pointed almost dead ahead as the distance shrank to hundreds of metres. We slowed and suddenly the arrow reversed itself! It took a moment to realize that we had literally driven over the confluence! We couldn't believe our luck and jumped from the truck to check our position on the ground. The estimated positional error was under 10 m, and the best reading seemed to occur more or less on the right tire track.

As we shot the pictures, including one on a self timer, numerous local inhabitants (black flies) began to check us out. We retreated to the cab and realized that bushwacking to a point even tens of metres from the road would have been quite an undetaking. We carefully reversed the truck on the narrow road and retreated to the highway. Numerous black flies were glued to the inside of the windshield, but were fairly easy to shoo out the window. I've read these creatures seem to suffer from claustrophobia when confined and tend not to light or bite. Some contrast to our enthusiasm in getting back into the truck and hightailing it back to the highway!


 All pictures
#1: View North along Logging Road
#2: View East into Bush
#3: View South - Eugene Peter and Don
#4: View West into Bush
#5: GPS Display
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)