03-Jul-2008 -- As we were meeting at the International Council for Geographic Information Systems (ICGIS) all week in Istanbul, a confluence attempt seemed like the perfect capstone. Not only was this a Confluence, but one on the Bosphorus Strait, a place richer in history and geography than probably any other strait in the world. With Europe on one side, and Asia on the other, what more could a geographer ask for?
The ICGIS brought together nearly 400 geographers from countries such as South Africa, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, the USA, and others, as well as Turkey. We had been giving and listening to papers about research in geography, education, and GIS all week. The conference was held on the scenic campus of Fatih University in Istanbul, organized and run by Dr. Ali Demirci and his wonderful faculty and graduate students. On Day 2 of the conference, among other topics, I had been leading an investigation in population change in Turkey during our GIS workshop that day. After this and other workshops ended, we departed in several buses from the campus, and by 7:00 pm, we were winding our way through the streets of old Istanbul. I was glad someone else was driving, as the streets were very narrow. Our slow progress allowed me time to see that even in the commercial buildings, if one looks closely behind the exteriors, layers of old brick and stone exist. If these walls could talk, imagine what they would tell us in terms of the chariots, sultans, kings, and common folks who have walked and ridden down these streets. At the shore, we stopped and exited the bus, and before boarding the boat, spent a blissful 15 minutes at the dock to take it all in. We were at the Bosphorus, the sun touching the far shore. And not just any far shore - this was Asia!
I had been talking with Dr. Demirci about this evening excursion for awhile. He was interested to see how close we could come to the Confluence as well. As we boarded our boat, I could see the lighthouse guarding the Strait to the South, as it had done for centuries. I knew that the confluence point lies just to the South of it. Could we get within 100 meters of the Confluence? My GPS was showing around 3000 meters to the point as I walked to the stern as we departed. We were able to fit all of the conference attendees on board, and as I walked around the ship, they asked me what our coordinates were. What a treat it was to be with so many inquisitive geographers! We took many photographs of each other, of both shores, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the amazing setting in which we were now located.
The boat departed, motored to the middle of the Bosphorus, where we came nearer the Confluence. I took another reading, but then my hopes were dashed once we turned north that we would get any nearer to the Confluence. There was obviously no way to reroute the entire tour boat. But it turned out to be one of the most memorable evenings ever. The temperature was 25°C under perfectly clear skies. Asia and Europe faced each other in the setting sun as we sailed up under both suspension bridges, past the Dolmabahçe Palace, Yıldız Palace, Çırağan Palace, and Beylerbeyi Palace. After the sun set, the bridge was lit up in patterns and cascades of orange and purple.
This was my first time to attempt a Confluence in Turkey, and also my first time to attempt 29 East. I had been to 41 North several times before in the USA, in Nebraska, New Jersey, Iowa, and Illinois. Turkey was the 5th country where I have attempted a Confluence. It was one of the most beautiful Confluences I have attempted. We were doing what we always advocate the students to do - get out in the field, see, sketch, photograph, observe, and ask questions. Life does not get much better than this - a confluence attempt in the Bosphorus!