2005 Geography Bee

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Persistence paid off for 13-year-old Nathan Cornelius from Cottonwood, Minn. The home-schooled seventh grader represented Minnesota at the National Geographic Bee for the third straight year on May 25, 2005, and won first place, taking home a $25,000 scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. After the field was narrowed to two finalists, he won by correctly answering this question: “Lake Gatún, an artificial lake that constitutes part of the Panama Canal system, was created by damming which river?” (Answer below.)

“I spend a couple of hours a day studying geography by looking at atlases and geography books,” said Cornelius, adding that he also used the quizzes on the National Geographic Web site, the National Geographic Desk Reference, and a book written by last year's winner, Andrew Wojtanik: Afghanistan to Zimbabwe: Country Facts That Helped Me Win the National Geographic Bee.

The national geography bee was open to 55 contestants: one from each state, plus one apiece from Washington, D.C.; Pacific Territories; Puerto Rico; the Virgin Islands; and U.S. Department of Defense schools. The final round, for the top ten finalists, was moderated by Alex Trebek, host of the popular game show Jeopardy! It was broadcast live on the National Geographic Channel, and will also be shown on public television.

The second-place winner was 14-year-old Karan Takhar, from Rhode Island, who won a $15,000 scholarship. Third place, and a $10,000 scholarship, went to 13-year-old Samuel Brandt. All of the top three finalists had been representing their states in the national competition for the third straight year. All ten of this year's finalists, and last year's ten finalists, will be able to participate in the National Geographic World Championship this July, when 21 teams will compete for the world title in Budapest, Hungary.

As for the winning answer, the Chagres River was dammed to create Lake Gatún.

See also our report on the 2004 Geography Bee, which includes more questions.

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