East, West, and Points in Between

Where the Pacific Ocean is east of the Atlantic
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The second-easternmost bar in America. (Photo James Fallows)

Yesterday I rashly entered the "when does west become east?" debate, involving whether Maine or Alaska can more properly claim to include the furthest-east point in the United States.

Now we hear from none other than Captain Bob Peacock, a protagonist of my story about Eastport, Maine in the January issue of the magazine, to resolve the dispute:

West Quoddy Head light

Sail rock off West Quoddy Head [right] in Lubec is the Easternmost Point.

Lubec is the Easternmost Town,

Eastport is the Easternmost City.

And Annabells in Lubec would be the Easternmost Bar in the country, only slightly beating out the Waco in Eastport [above] by about 30 feet.

These things truly matter in the Down East World.

And further on east/west issues, from a reader:

I agree with Mr. Godfrey ["Alaska is furthest east" in previous item], in the sense that it's a good trivia question. It's also a good way to demonstrate the extraordinary size and breadth of our largest state. On the other hand, Mr Strip ["No, it's Maine"] is more correct from an 'intuitive' sense, as you and he pointed out.

But it reminds me of another favorite 'wrong' geographic trivia question: What body of water does the east end of the Panama Canal open in to? 

Here is where we have a discussion over Atlantic vs. Caribbean, or how to pronounce 'Caribbean'. But the correct answer is: the Pacific Ocean.

Mr Godfrey might say that the Pacific entrance to the canal has a more eastern longitude than the Atlantic (Caribbean) entrance. Mr Strip might argue that it is irrelevant, since a ship traveling from Pacific to Atlantic is traveling easterly, so intuitively the 'east' end of the Canal is the Atlantic side.

As shown here:

I knew this already, having been through the canal with my friend Bob Pastor at the time of its transfer to Panamanian control. But in case you didn't: Now you do!  

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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