Deeper into Jeopardy! XLVI: World Facts – $400

Such a simple category name, and such an impossibly huge category. Isn’t just about everything a “world fact”? Well, either way that’s what we’re dealing with here. Also, there won’t be any posts next week (June 22-26), because I’ll be somewhere with lacklustre internet access, so this instlalment will span three weeks. Enjoy!

Jeopardy! category: WORLD FACTS (8-6-2015)

$400 clue: It’s the smallest of the Great Lakes by surface area & the one farthest east

Correct response

The gist: Its north shore also has the honour of being home to your humble author (hence why I spell it “honour”). Lake Ontario, the thirteenth largest lake in the world by surface area,* is about 300 kilometres long and 75 across at its widest point. As the easternmost Great Lake, it connects the other four to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River, which begins where Lake Ontario ends; on the other side, it connects to lake Erie via the Niagara River (which includes Niagara Falls). The lake is shared between the province of Ontario (of course) to the north and the state of New York to the south. The largest city on the lake is Toronto, the capital of Ontario, which anchors the Canadian region known as the “Golden Horseshoe” that curves around the southwest end of the lake. On the American side, the principal lakeside city is Rochester.

Lake Ontario has been inhabited for about 7000 years. By the time French explorer Étienne Brûlé reached the lake in 1615, it was dominated by the Iroquois people, who had expelled the Huron from the area. The lake was an important centre for trade between the British and French on the European side and Native Americans and First Nations on the indigenous side. Kingston, Ontario, located further east than Toronto on the lake’s northern shore, would be the first capital of the Province of Canada from 1841 to 1844, 23 years before it gained independence from Britain. The War of 1812, fought between British and American forces, led to intense canal-building in the northern U.S., contributing to the lake’s economic growth, as did the age of the railroads later in the nineteenth century. Today it remains both an important population and economic centre of North America.

Unfortunately, industrialization, globalization, and economic growth have brought about problems in the lake’s ecosystem. Lake Ontario’s once-thriving fishing industry, like the other Great Lakes, has largely disappeared, with species like the Lake Sturgeon currently considered vulnerable, where their abundance in the nineteenth century led to them sometimes being used as ship fuel. Chemical and industrial pollutants, as well as algal blooms since the latter half of the twentieth century, have compounded ecological threats. Invasive species such as lampreys and zebra mussels have also taken hold and siphoned resources away from native species, with the latter being particular dangerous because their very sharp shells can easily cut open the feet of swimmers.

The Great Lakes, with Lake Ontario and its basin highlighted

The Great Lakes, with Lake Ontario and its basin highlighted

The clue: There’s only five of them, so any Jeopardy! contestant ought to know the Great Lakes pretty well, particularly the largest (Superior, that’s easy) and the smallest. It’s basically a pretty standard trivia question, and one that any North American who paid attention during school-level geography ought to know.

The clue: Searching for “Lake Ontario” returns lots of clues about other lakes that just happen to be in Ontario – like all the other Great Lakes except Michigan – so that’s not going to help us here. Still, some common themes can be picked out. Eight clues about Lake Ontario mention its small size (compared to its cousins), and seven say that it shares its name with a Canadian province. 21 clues, and one FJ! clue, ask about it and Lake Erie, and eleven mention Niagara as well, with some overlap. Of the lake’s cities, Toronto is mentioned the most in five clues, but that’s still not very many. Its size and its connection to Lake Erie are the most important bits about it as far as Jeopardy! is concerned.

* If you count the Caspian Sea as a lake.

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