Sunday, May 10, 2009

Relative Scale

One of the questions I get most often from my US friends and colleagues about where we live is a sense of the relative scale of the place. It’s hard to communicate this exactly, so I thought a crudely-drawn (I’m not an ace at Illustrator) visual aid might help:

The outside blue shape is of course Florida, where we previously lived. The green shape is the whole of Vancouver Island, and the areas in yellow are those parts of the island that we have explored. That tiny red star at the bottom is Victoria, where we live.

Vancouver Island is usually compared as being roughly the size of Holland, and Victoria itself is, by any comparison American city, a small town (as we’ve mentioned before); roughly 84,000 in the city itself (including us), and just shy of 385,000 in the entire “metro” area (suburbs and nearby smaller towns included) -- something a wee bit smaller than Asheville NC. The whole of Vancouver Island has only 750,000 souls on board, and as is obvious most of them live right around us.

On the relative scale of the island, Victoria is by far the largest city, followed by Nanaimo about a third of the way up the right side of the island). There are several other towns mostly dotted along the east coast of the island, all of which boast far fewer people. There are a few very sparely populated villages on the west coast, however, that are popular tourist destinations -- including the surfing mecca of Tofino and the ancient fishing village of Ucluelet.

Despite the very low density of population compared to a similar area in Florida, Victoria has all the good things (and much fewer of the bad things) you would expect a big city to have, in no small part thanks to it being the provincial capital of British Columbia. In terms of both metro area population and comparative importance to the rest of the state/province, Victoria is very comparable to Tallahassee (and, those in the rest of the state/province would say, equally remote).

And the comparisons don't end there; both cities are home to multiple colleges (one huge one and assorted smaller ones); both are dominated more by political news than anything else; both cities border huge national forest reserves; both have ridiculously more restaurants than you would think the population could sustain; and both cities are closer to big cities in other states than to their nearest big in-state city. In Victoria’s case, it is faster to get to Port Angeles in the US (or even Seattle) than it is to get to Nanaimo or Vancouver, just as it is faster for someone in Tallahassee to get to Dothan AL or Valdosta GA than it is for them to get to Jacksonville or Pensacola.

Hopefully this gives our US friends a better idea of the relative scale of our new home.


heddo said...

From the Coho's website:

"9. How long does the trip take?Sailing time is approximately 90 minutes."