"My brother is too kind. He was eminent when my eminence was only imminent." -Niles Crane
Question #70656 posted on 08/07/2013 5:04 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

What city/town/village/human settlement is the furthest from an LDS temple? (If it's the research station in Antarctica, I'd like to know the furthest point excluding Antarctica too, please.)

- Optimistic.

A:

Dear Optimistic.,

Well, the long-awaited day has finally arrived. To answer your question, I created a globe with ArcGIS displaying all of the temples worldwide and using buffers to show distance.

Here is the video.

I'd just like everyone to appreciate that I did this almost entirely from scratch, meaning I had to log the names and coordinates of every temple in the world manually before I could manipulate the data. (Yes, I probably could have found the data online somewhere, but I really needed the practice.) Also, because I could not find access to any computer with both ArcGIS and audio recording capabilities in a reasonably noise-free environment, I had to record the audio and the video separately.

If any GIS users would like a copy of my files, email me and I'll get them to you.

Finally,

-yayfulness

A:

Dear Optimistic.,

I took a somewhat different approach than yayfulness (great answer, by the way!). I got PostGIS set up and imported a map of the LDS temples (and added in some recently-announced ones). I also imported data on all of the "populated places" tracked by the NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), which included 2.9 million places in foreign countries; and I imported data from the USGS (United States Geological Survey), which included 200,000 places in the United States.

From there, it was relatively simple to calculate the closest temple to each human settlement, and find the settlement with the greatest distance. The furthest human settlement from any temple, including ones that have only been announced (but not completed yet) is Hitadu, in the Maldives. (I've also seen it spelled Hitaddu and Hithadhoo.) It's 5128 kilometers (3186 miles) from the nearest temple, which is the Hong Kong China temple.

However, if you count only actually operational temples, the furthest human settlement from any temple is Minni Minni, a British Indian Ocean Territory, a bit south of Hitadu. It's 5143 kilometers (3196 miles) from the nearest temple, which is the Johannesburg South Africa temple. (The announced Durban South Africa temple, when completed, will bump it down slightly and make Hitadu the "winner.")

Antarctica

Temporary research bases and the like don't seem to be included in this data, which makes sense. As a result, Antarctica wasn't even in the running. However, just to check, I pulled in the locations of all Antarctic research stations and found their closest temples. One of the more well-known stations, McMurdo, is actually closer to a temple than either Hitadu or Minni Minni; it is 4475 kilometers (2781 miles) from the Hamilton New Zealand temple. However, several are further than either of the above, and the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station is (unsurprisingly) the furthest from a temple, at 5809 kilometers (3610 miles) from the Melbourne Australia temple.

Bonus Round

As a bonus, what about meetinghouses? Which populated place is furthest from a meetinghouse? (Excluding Antarctica again.) I managed to get the locations of all meetinghouses (nearly 18,000 of them), and ran the numbers. And it turns out that the settlement furthest from any LDS meetinghouse is Port-aux-Français, far south of both Hitadu and Minni Minni. It's 3367 kilometers (2092 miles) from the nearest meetinghouse, in Taolagnaro, Madagascar (home of the Tanambao branch and Amparihy branch).

And finally, which meetinghouse is furthest from the nearest temple? That's the Goa meetinghouse (home of the Goa branch), on the southwestern coast of India, which is 4295 kilometers (2669 miles) from the Hong Kong temple. (It's the furthest away including both operational and announced temples.)

Visuals

I wanted to find a good way to present all of this visually, and ended up creating a heat map. Here's a small version; click through for a full-screen, interactive version, showing all temples whether built or announced. The rough distance to the nearest temple for the spot the mouse is pointing to is shown in the lower-right (the mouse location is accurate to the nearest degree of latitude/longitude). Using the controls in the upper-right corner you can change the opacity of the distance overlay or turn the layers on and off, and switch between Google and OpenStreetMap.

temple_map_screenshot.png

I think it's interesting that you can see traces of the Thiessen polygons that yayfulness talks about around some of the temples (check out the Pacific, and crank up the opacity). Also note that this is using a Mercator projection, since that's what Google Maps and most other online maps use, which is why things start looking pretty stretched out toward the north and south extremes.

If you're interested in other Church-related maps, check out the award-winning atlas Mapping Mormonism: An Atlas of Latter-day Saint History, which came out last fall. (There's also an accompanying website, mappingmormonism.byu.edu, which seems to be down a lot in the last couple of days when I've been trying to access it, but when it's up it has some maps you can explore online.)

—Laser Jock

A:

Dear Optimistic.*

You don't have the longest commute to church.

~The Snarky Snicket

*a word which here means someone who expected to get an answer six months ago.