2008-01-13

Australia's tallest mountain

Australia's tallest mountain is an unimpressive mound named Mount Kosciuszko. In years gone by, people could drive their cars up to the summit, it is that unsteep.

Australia's second tallest mountain is Mount Townsend. Both of these mountains have an unusual joint history.

Back in I don't know when - perhaps in the early 1920s or 1930s - someone did a precise measurement of the two peaks and discovered, to their horror, that Townsend was actually the taller peak.

So what happened? Why is Kosciuszko still touted as the tallest mountain? Well, it is because the NSW Lands Department, in their infinite wisdom, decided to simply swap the two names around. Thus the original Mount Townsend became Mount Kosciuszko, and the original Kosciuszko became Mount Townsend.

But, then again, as any anally retentive know-it-all will tell you, Australia's tallest mountain is actually Mawson Peak on Heard Island.


6 comments:

apodeictic said...

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"But, then again, as any anally retentive know-it-all will tell you, Australia's tallest mountain is actually Mawson Peak on Heard Island."
***

Actually it all depends on what you mean by "Australia's". The possessive form you have employed ("Australia's") is ambiguous.

If you were to ask what is the highest mountain "in Australia" then the answer would be Mount Kosciuszko. If, however, you were to ask what is the highest mountain "on Australian sovereign territory" then the answer is clearly Mawson Peak. Heard Island is Australian sovereign territory but it it is not part of Australia any more than, say, pre-1997 Hong Kong was or Gibraltar today is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

So in short it all depends on what you mean by "Australia's" and any anally retentive know-it-all worth his salt would recognise the ambiguity present here. However, it's not the anally retentive know-it-alls I worry about. It's the wannabe know-it-alls who think they know what they're talking about but in actual fact fail to see the issue for what it really is that I worry about (not that I'm accusing you of being one of these). In this case such people fail to understand the distinction between "Australia" and "Australian territory".

BLBeamer said...

Does anyone know for whom Mt. Kosciuszko was named? We have a few landmarks with the same name here in the US and I'm curious if it might be the same person - although I doubt it.

One Salient Oversight said...

The mountain was named after [[Tadeusz Kościuszko]]. Many landmarks in the US were named after him. Must be the same bloke.

Apodeictic:

You land on Heard Island, you land in Australia. That's how I understand it.

Yes, I know, it all comes down to definitions.

One Salient Oversight said...

Sorry Beamer, I was in Wikipedia mode when I made the link:

Tadeusz Kościuszko

Ron Lankshear said...

All recalls a Welsh village whose mountain was really a hill. So the whole village started taking rocks to the top as just a bit higher would make it a mountain. Their Minister died in the attempt so the pile is also has a plaque to him.

Heard Island - when I worked on a web site for a large IT company I had to complain about Heard being shown as a Sovereign nation ....

BLBeamer said...

That's him.