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Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Quizzes
Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Image Quiz #4
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(See quiz questions or a list of previous quizzes.)

Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Image Quiz #4

Here's another chance to play geographical detective! This Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) image covers an area measuring about 400 kilometers x 450 kilometers, and was captured by the instrument's vertical-viewing (nadir) camera on October 29, 2000. Use any reference materials you like and answer the following three questions:

1. The prominent green area is a seasonal wetland associated with what river?

The third largest river in Africa, the Niger, forms an inland delta in central Mali. This image from Terra orbit 4603 shows the region as it appears after the rainy season, when the delta is flooded.

2. To the east of this river is an escarpment included on the United Nations World Heritage List. Which one of the following statements cannot be applied to the people who live there?
(A) They live in dwellings constructed from the surrounding sandstone cliffs.
(B) They stopped making ceremonial masks at the end of the 19th century.
(C) Some writers attribute them with detailed knowledge about a binary star system.
(D) Among their major crops are onions and millet.

Answer: B
In a remote area to the southeast of the delta, the sandstone cliffs of the Bandiagara Escarpment are inhabited by the Dogon people. The Dogon are renowned for the architecture of their cliff-side dwellings, and their homes are typically built with materials from the surrounding environment: mud-brick and sandstone, small amounts of wood, and straw for the thatch roofs. Most of the Dogon (about 65%) have retained their animist religion, and the making of masks for ceremonial purposes continues to this day. They are an agrarian people, and utilize a number of ingenious soil and water conservation techniques to grow millet and sorghum for subsistence, as well as onions for a cash crop. Several writers, inspired by the studies of the French anthropologist Marcel Griaule, attribute the Dogon with incredibly detailed knowledge of the Sirius A/B binary star system.

3. A small city with a rich cultural heritage is located near the top of the image. A particular spelling of this city's name can be found in the title of how many of the following?
--A public television adaptation of an American novelist's writings.
--An Internet communications software application.
--A song written by a composer born in Rochester, New York.
(A) Only one
(B) Exactly two
(C) All three

Answer: C
The city of Timbuktu (also known as Tombouctou) is situated near the top of the image, where the Niger River changes direction to flow more directly eastward. Six hundred years ago, Timbuktu was a central part of the trans-Saharan caravan route, and was a center of wealth, culture, and scholarly learning. When the inland route gave way to trade by ship, the city was abandoned and began to acquire its out-of-the-way reputation. Today, drifting sands driven by dry Saharan winds threaten to encroach upon the city's monuments. All three works referred to in the question contain a reference to Timbuktu in their titles. Specifically, in 1972 public television aired "Between Time and Timbuktu", adapted from the writings of Kurt Vonnegut; there is an internet software communications package called "Timbuktu Pro"; and the song "Kalamazoo to Timbuktu" was composed by New York native Alec Wilder.

28 people from all over the world sent in responses before the deadline. Individuals who answered all three questions correctly are listed below. The prize winners are indicated by asterisks.

  1. JHG Hendriks, Hintham, The Netherlands*
  2. SSL, Greenbelt, MD, USA*
  3. Ellen Leske, Dresden, Germany*
  4. Karen Bleier
  5. Dr. Wolfgang Badenheim, Hoehr-Grenzhausen, Germany
  6. Bonnie Shepard, Valencia, CA, USA
  7. David Arnold, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
  8. Philippe Thélin, Switzerland
  9. Bill Kinnersley, Lawrence, KS, USA
10. Ulrich Enderle, Bramstedtlund, Germany
11. Oliver Morton, London, UK

MISR was built and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Office of Earth Science, Washington, DC. The Terra satellite is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

Credit: Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team.