B1 Intermediate US 272 Folder Collection
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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, these “highlands” were 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 one—right 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 island—Machias 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 part… of
the said coasts.”
To that I retort, what?
What does “near” mean?
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 is “near” enough 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 theirs—this 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 tough… unless you have Dashlane.
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and autofills them on your devices when you go to log in so you stay safe on the internet.
The best thing is, that's free at https://dashlane.com/hai but, if you want to get all their premium
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Why This Island Might be in Canada or Might be in the US

272 Folder Collection
Samuel published on November 23, 2018
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