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Sutro from the Bottom of the Bay

December 2, 2011

The rather brisk winds we’ve had the past two days not only blew out the fog, but the smog and haze as well.  This led to crystal clear skies and rather phenomenal visibility.

I was shocked — no, SHOCKED — that I could easily see Sutro with the naked eye from San Jose / Alviso.


Hi Sutro!

As the bird flies, Sutro is 36 miles away in the picture.

Here’s what downtown SF looks like:

The Transamerica Building and One Rincon are pretty easy to make out in the right third of the photo. If you go to the left you can see the Bank of America building.  I’ll be damned if I can figure out the other buildings.

Here’s a panorama of Sutro to downtown SF (click to zoom, 4 MB, 10,000 pixels)

The perspective is (to me) somewhat surprising — I’ve never quite wrapped my head around the fact that San Francisco is northwest of San Jose, not north. (280 North, my ass.) It’s really quite an angle as you can see from these sight lines I drew in Google Earth (The blue line is to Transamerica, green is Bank of America, red is, of course, Sutro.

Rotating the map, you get a better idea of the perspective in the panorama:

Of course, the first question one asks is “where am I?” (Insert Descartian existence joke here.)

Utilizing the power of BURRITOVISION combined with the gridding mechanism popularly known as BRADVERTIZIFICATION, we chop up the map in units equal to the distance between B of A and Transamerica.

Full version here:

Through a bunch of clicking that I won’t bore you with, we turn SF into a bunch of wedges (fortunately less than 26 as I was almost out of letters):

Unfortunately my camera isn’t that great and while visibility was good, contrast of SF hills against the Marin headlands was sub-optimal unlike the view from the Farallons.  Bernal should be in wedges E and F, and while there’s a hill there I really can’t pick anything out distinctive (unlike the view from Mt. Diablo.)

Go to town in the comments if you figure anything out.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 2, 2011 12:01 pm

    Excellent work! Fun to see such a mystifying perspective decoded. Makes me want an app that provides a pointer to Sutro from any point on earth…

  2. December 2, 2011 4:46 pm

    At first I thought you’d got a hold of some crazy scuba pics, but then I realized you meant that kind of ‘bottom of the bay’. While I was reading it I was a bit nervous we’d be tested on cosines or something, but luckily your post –as per the yooj– was just general mappy nerdy goodness!

    I’ve often wondered about funky perspectives like that and this actually makes a lot of sense. Learning!

  3. Brillo permalink
    December 2, 2011 5:20 pm

    This makes sense now, as some of the new condo towers in San Jose advertise that you can see the Golden Gate Bridge from their tops. I was skeptical but I guess it would be possible.

    PS. “Descartian” is actually “Cartesian”. As in Cartesian coordinates.

    • December 2, 2011 11:33 pm

      It certainly seems possible – while the resolution of my photo can’t pick it up against the contrast of the headlands, the bradvertizemogram indicates the GGB would probably be visible between NOPQR, much the same way you can see the GGB towers from the top of Bernal through that gap.

      I was really surprised to see the top of the GGB from Stanford in one of the higher resolution shots I took this this morning — will post soon.

      (And I was going for a hybrid “ergo cogito sum” / coordinate pun but it seems to have faltered.)

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