Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Coriolis Effect (Photographic Version)

Some years ago, I was flying north from San Francisco to give a slide talk on Chile at the Vancouver, B.C., bookstore Travel Bug. As it happened, I opened Alaska Airlines’ in-flight magazine to find a two-page ad by Crowley Maritime, a West Coast shipping company, proclaiming that “The Key to Working in Alaska is Making It Appear like You Were Never There.”

I did an immediate double take because the image used to represent the grandeur of Alaska (which appears above) was not the 49th state's iconic Brooks Range but rather the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine) in Chilean Patagonia’s Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. My guess is that the culprit was an ignorant photo editor who didn’t know, or didn’t care, that the landscape in question was literally half a world away. Even more amusingly, he or she reversed the image - perhaps believing in the myth that, in the Southern Hemisphere, the water from your bathtub drains in the opposite direction from the Northern Hemisphere (not true, though large weather events are thus deflected).

Meanwhile, I’m in Puerto Natales, preparing for a mid-morning departure to Torres del Paine, virtually an annual event for me in the course of updating my Moon Handbooks to Argentina, Chile, and Patagonia. I’m not going to say Chilean Patagonia is better than Alaska (I’ve never been to Alaska), but it has one undeniable advantage - you can’t see Sarah Palin from here.

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