Overheard on Whidbey; “Our island is the longest island in the US!” Some folks in Alaska may disagree. “…the largest in the lower 48.” Close, but no. OK. “Whidbey Island is the longest island in the lower 48.” Well, yes, kind of, sort of, if you’re willing to bend the ruler to match the kinks in our geography. Regardless, Whidbey Island is a large and long island.
Take a look at the frequently used benchmark of Rhode Island. When something large hits the news, like a wildfire, it is frequently measured in acres or square miles; but it can also be described as ‘larger than Rhode Island’, which only makes sense to people who realize how large (or not) Rhode Island is. It may be the smallest of the United States, but it is a state. That must mean something.
Whidbey is about as long as Rhode Island. North to south they are similar (Whidbey ~37 miles, Rhode Island ~48 miles.) West to east, however, the state is bigger than our island (Whidbey ~10 miles, Rhode Island ~37 miles.) The state is rather square which means they have more area (Whidbey ~169 square miles, Rhode Island ~1,055 square miles.) (Pardon the slight difference in scale.)
Rhode Island is also a lot more crowded. Whidbey has roughly 80,000 residents. Rhode Island has over a million. That also means we have more space per person (Whidbey ~159 people/square mile versus Rhode Island at ~ 1,006 people/square mile.) They even have an entire extra level of government to themselves because they also get folks in the US Congress. Not sure if those are pluses or a minuses.
The measurements and comparisons are largely moot. Canada gets a chance to smirk at us whenever they hear such bragging about our size. Just look across the water to the west from the north end of our island. Vancouver Island is longer (~283 miles), wider (~62 miles – a marathon), and larger (~12,407 square miles) making it the tops of the charts for much of the West Coast (which is the east coast of the Pacific, but that’s another topic.) Even with its size, it doesn’t match Rhode Island’s population because Vancouver Island has ~864,864 people. And if you want more personal space, Vancouver only has ~26 people/square mile.
So, Whidbey may not universally accepted longest or largest, but it is ours, and it is more than large enough for a diversity of climates, cultures, politics, and lifestyles. That should be more than enough for many. Just ask the people who want to live here whether size matters. (And if it does, point them to the northwest.)