Nerd Alert: Ken Fisher’s Super Quiz gets coastlines wrong
Like many readers of daily newspapers, I enjoy Ken Fisher’s Super Quiz — a syndicated trivia game—but today’s quiz on coastlines is rife with glaring errors and frustrating imprecision. Failing either to educate or entertain, it instead perpetuates geographical ignorance.
All of Fisher’s questions concern state and country coastline lengths. As an example, he asks which US state has the longest coastline, and supplies the correct answer: Alaska, with a whopping 6,640 miles of coastline — more than most countries.
For maximum enjoyment of this essay, I suggest you begin by taking today’s SuperQuiz to see how you do yourself:
- Longest coastline in the lower 48?
- Country with world’s longest coastline?
- European country with longest coastline?
- Asian country with longest coastline: Indonesia?
- Western Hemisphere country with longest coastline?
- South American country with longest coastline?
- Shortest coastline among US coastal states?
- African country with longest coastline?
- Country in mainland Africa with longest coastline?
Fisher’s questions are fine, but his answers need work. He botches two out of the first three questions — queries he labels basic (“freshman level”).
“Which of the 48 contiguous states has the longest coastline?”
Fisher claims the answer is Florida, but he’s wrong.
Chilly Michigan has more than twice as much waterfront property as the Sunshine State. Florida Man may have the longest marine coastline in the lower 48 (1,350 miles), but Michiganders—living on two peninsulas surrounded by Great Lakes — command the longest coastline, at 3,288 miles.
If Fisher had clarified that he limited his concept of coastline to saltwater shores, then his answer would have been correct.
Fisher stumbles again on another basic question: “Which European country has the longest coastline?”
He gives the conventional answer: Norway, with shores stretching 15,000 miles.
Norway would have been correct if Fisher had asked, “What country has the longest coastline in Europe?”
However, his answer is wrong, because two European countries have more shoreline than Norway.
Russia straddles the Eurasian supercontinent, commanding 22,600 miles of coastline, from the Baltic across the Arctic Ocean to the Bering Strait and south to the Sea of Japan, plus the inland Black and Caspian Seas. (Many people incorrectly classify Russia as an Asian country, because most of its land is in Asia. This is wrong, though, because most of Russia’s population still lives in Eastern Europe, the nation’s cultural and historical heartland.)
But Russia isn’t the right answer, either.
Denmark’s European shores run only 4,388 miles, but the country also includes Greenland, a massive island off North America with 26,452 miles of waterfront real estate, for a grand total of 30,840 miles of Danish shoreline — 25% more than Russia, and more than double Norway’s total.
So, Fisher got two out of three basic questions wrong. In his sole correct answer, he correctly identified Canada as the country with the world’s longest coastline. However, later in the quiz, he blew this intermediate (“graduate level”) question: “Which country in the Western Hemisphere has the longest coastline?”
The quizmaster says Mexico — wrong again. Evidently, Fisher forgot that Canada — his home and native land, with the world’s longest coastline — is also located in the Western Hemisphere. Mexico is a truly bizarre answer, as its 6,000 miles of coastline rank behind not just Canada’s 121,000 miles, but also the USA’s 12,000 miles.
Fisher fared better with the rest of his Western Hemisphere questions, correctly identifying New Hampshire as the coastal state with the shortest shoreline (just 13 miles) and Brazil as the South American country with the most (4,500 miles).
Then, Fisher finished strong, correctly identifying the longest coastlines in Asia (Indonesia’s 33,000 miles), Africa (Madagascar’s 2,900 miles), and on the African mainland (Somalia’s 1,815 miles).
All told, Fisher answered 6 out of his 9 questions correctly. In my high school geography class, that’s a D (66%), but according to the Super Quiz scoring system, Fisher rates as “plenty smart,” one point shy of “honors graduate.”
Here is a summary of Fisher’s 9 questions, with his answers and my corrections:
- Longest coastline in the lower 48: Florida (wrong; it’s Michigan)
- Country with world’s longest coastline: Canada (right)
- European country with longest coastline: Norway (wrong; it’s Denmark)
- Asian country with longest coastline: Indonesia (right)
- Western Hemisphere country with longest coastline: Mexico (wrong: it’s Canada, again)
- Country in South America with longest coastline: Brazil (right)
- Shortest coastline among US coastal states: New Hampshire (right)
- African country with longest coastline: Madagascar (right)
- Country in mainland Africa with longest coastline: Somalia (right)