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  • Ahhh islands.

  • They're the bread and butter of what we talk about on Half as Interesting when we're

  • not really sure what else to talk about.

  • Well, that and strange borders so what if we took islands and border disputes and put

  • them together.

  • Genius!

  • Right, so this is Canada and this is the US and this is the longest international border

  • in the world.

  • This line was drawn in a time when we didn't have crazy things like GPS and foresight so,

  • rather amazingly, the entire US-Canada border up to here was originally defined by the 516

  • words in Article 2 of the 1783 treaty of Paris that just described it.

  • As a point of comparison, it takes more words for this toaster's owners manual to describe

  • how to make toast than it does for this treaty to define the US-Canada Border.

  • This whole bit of the border, for example, was originally defined by the words, “that

  • angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to

  • the highlands.”

  • Ok, so, first of all, what's the source of the St. Croix River, second of all, what

  • are the highlands?

  • These 21 words are the entire definition, there are no maps or coordinates or anything,

  • so the Americans saw that this lake drains into a river that drains into what is very

  • debatably the St. Croix River, it's really just the same bay as the St. Croix drains

  • in to, and they decided that was the source of the St. Croix.

  • Meanwhile, the British, who still controlled Canada at the time, saw that there were these

  • other lakes that also drained into the St. Croix and decided that this was the source

  • of the St. Croix even though they were way further downstream than other lakes that drained

  • into the St. Croix.

  • Meanwhile, thesehighlandswere supposed to be the split between where rivers drained

  • into the St. Lawrence River and the Atlantic Ocean but where that was was even more debatable.

  • This mess all lead to Britain saying the border was this and the US saying the border was

  • this.

  • Eventually the two countries fought a bit of a war and signed a treaty just settling

  • on this as the source of the St. Croix and this as the highland and that was settled.

  • Believe it or not this was one of only a few border disputes resulting from those 516 words

  • and each and every land dispute was eventually settled except for oneright at the very

  • start of the border.

  • You see, when defining who got which islands the treaty basically said any island within

  • 20 leagues of the US, or 69 miles, that was not already part of Nova Scotia was American.

  • That would include this islandMachias Seal Island.

  • The problem was, the original text defining which islands were part of Nova Scotia said

  • they were, “islands, or seas lying near to, or within six leagues of any partof

  • the said coasts.”

  • To that I retort, what?

  • What doesnearmean?

  • Is this near or is this near?

  • On a cosmic scale Australia is near Nova Scotia so is Australia part of Nova Scotia?

  • Maybe but probably not but whether this island is part of Nova Scotia is more debatable.

  • You see, according to Canada's definition, this isnearenough to Nova Scotia but

  • according to the US' definition it's not.

  • That's why Machias Seal Island is claimed by both countries.

  • There's some more ocean border intricacies going into each country's arguments that

  • I'll skip over for sanity's sake but at this point you might think that the US is

  • in the right because it's Canada's maybe claim vs the US' definite claim but Canada

  • has another argument for why it's theirsthis lighthouse.

  • Canada, which was then still part of the UK, built a lighthouse on Machias Seal Island

  • in 1832 and so the island has been inhabited fairly continuously by Canadian lighthouse

  • keepers ever since.

  • Meanwhile, the US has never really had a population on the island and never said they had a problem

  • with Canada building a lighthouse so Canada's basically saying, “you never said I couldn't

  • have it, so it's mine.”

  • Believe it or not, that's a valid and accepted argument under international law in border

  • disputes but then according to the US, according to even more complicated international law

  • garbage, lighthouses are not manifestations of sovereignty since they are navigational

  • aids rather than actual settlements.

  • That leads to today where the island might be part of Canada and might be part of the

  • US.

  • Rather tellingly, the lighthouse has actually been automated meaning no lighthouse keepers

  • are needed but two still remain on the island.

  • Unlike most lighthouse keepers, who are paid by the Coast Guard, the Machias Seal Island

  • keepers are paid by Canada's Department of Global Affairs as their whole purpose is

  • to sit around on Machias Seal Island to claim sovereignty.

  • Since water sovereignty is based on land sovereignty, the big consequence of this dispute is that

  • nobody's really sure who owns the waters around Machias Seal Island.

  • The area has tons of valuable lobster and the lack of regulations stemming from nobody

  • being sure whose area this is has led to widespread overfishing and so Canadian lobstermen get

  • mad about the Americans taking their catch and vice versa.

  • Despite the dispute, boats from both the US and Canada regularly visit the island with

  • no problems or border controls so it's almost effectively in two countries at once.

  • For now, Ottawa and DC are little interested in souring their otherwise solid relationship

  • for a little, rocky island so both countries maintain that Machias Seal Island is theirs

  • without doing anything to stop the other country from doing what they want with it and it remains

  • as the only bit of land that might be part of Canada and might be part of the US.

  • Just to review, if you're defining a border please make your definition a bit more complicated

  • than this or you'll lose your island to Canada.

  • Similarly, when you're making a account please make sure your password is more complicated

  • than this or you'll lose your account to hackers.

  • Of course, in addition, you should have different passwords for each of your different internet

  • accounts so if one gets compromised others don't too but remembering complex passwords

  • for all your different accounts is toughunless you have Dashlane.

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B1 US island canada border scotia nova scotia lighthouse

Why This Island Might be in Canada or Might be in the US

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    Samuel posted on 2018/11/26
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