Is Rhode Island an island? Is the Middle East in the middle? What is the biggest, deepest, longest? You might be surprised.
When I was 10, I went with my family to New York City, and we saw the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall. We also went ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza and rode a series of elevators to the top of the Empire State Building. But for me, the highlight of the trip was riding a ferry to Liberty Island in New York Harbor and climbing the 354 steps to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, where I was certain I stood inside the head of the tallest full-figure statue in the world.
During the return ferry trip, however, the guide burst my bubble. She informed us that the Statue of Liberty, measuring 151 feet, 11 inches tall from her base to the tip of the torch held in her right hand, was the tallest full-figure statue in the United States, but not the world. That distinction belonged to the Motherland Calls—a statue of a woman in Volgograd, Russia, that represented the Battle of Stalingrad. It measures 279 feet from the base to the tip of the sword in her right hand. I was crushed.
Today, the Spring Temple Buddha, a statue of Vairocana Buddha in Zhaocun, China, rises 420 feet from the base of his lotus throne to the top of his cap, dwarfing both the Russian statue and Lady Liberty. Still, the Statue of Liberty, symbolizing the lofty promise of freedom, remains the tallest of the three—in my own little mind.
Years later, while backpacking through Italy, I climbed the 320 vertigo-inducing steps to the top of the 393-foot-tall dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, convinced I had reached the pinnacle of the world’s largest religious structure. I pulled my guidebook from my day pack only to discover that I had duped myself again. The dome of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro Basilica, a pretentious replica of St. Peter’s Basilica built in Ivory Coast in the late 1980s by eccentric President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, rises to a height of 518 feet, easily surpassing St. Peter’s. More crushing news.
It has all been a part of my education, however. I have learned to not make assumptions, and in so doing I have discovered some fascinating travel facts. Here are a few:
The Grand Canyon: Not the world’s deepest canyon The deepest canyon in the world is Cotahuasi Canyon in southwestern Peru. It is 11,004 feet at its deepest point—nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Arizona, which measures 6,000 feet at its deepest point. In fact, the Grand Canyon doesn’t even qualify as the deepest canyon in the United States. That title goes to King’s Canyon, which runs through the Sierra Nevadas in California and reaches a maximum depth of some 8,200 feet. Technically, the deepest canyon on Earth is the Mariana Trench, an underwater canyon in the Western Pacific Ocean that descends 36,201 feet.