"I want to marry a lighthouse keeper..."
April 25, 2012 8:23 AM   Subscribe

"Borders allow humankind to separate what nature has united."

Good job, humankind.
posted by Scientist at 8:28 AM on April 25, 2012

Still, the prize for most insane international border has got to go to Baarle-Nassau.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:04 AM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I live on one of these islands. One version of the story about the division of St. Martin is that the Dutchman was drinking rum and the Frenchman was drinking wine, the Frenchman was able to travel faster, thus the French side of the island is bigger than the Dutch side. The restaurant mentioned is the Dinghy Dock. The bar is allegedly on the Dutch side, while the restrooms are supposedly on the French side. I haven't personally ever noticed any acrimony over the border these days.

Locals, historically and today, tend to refer to the North and South sides of the island, particularly at cultural events like the annual book fair and agricultural festivals. This seems to be both a rejection of colonial labels and a way to express solidarity as St. Martiners. The current differences between each side of the island basically date from the beginning of the tourism era in the early 1960s when the two governments made decisions that caused a divergence in the character of the two sides (casinos vs. no casinos, timeshares vs. no timeshares, fill in every pond to create land to develop on vs. nominally protect ponds while allowing them to be totally polluted, etc.).

Anyhow, even though the border crossings are negligible (just a sign to tell you that you crossed), the impact is significant. The Dutch side is duty free, so the French kinda have to do that, too. Law enforcement and immigration are difficult because it's so easy to go to another country, etc.

We once had some neighbors with a young daughter who owned a restaurant in town here on the French side. The restaurant went out of business and they left suddenly to avoid their creditors. Another neighbor family also had a young daughter and they were upset about the sudden disappearance because the two daughters were friends. After about six months, they ended up finding out that the restaurant neighbors had only gone a few miles away to the Dutch side.
posted by snofoam at 9:06 AM on April 25, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think Cooch Behar takes the prize.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:21 AM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know about the rest of you Canadians out there, but I'm prepared to go to war over Hans Island. TO WAR!!!!
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:36 AM on April 25, 2012

"And yet the name and function of Market Island is intimately interwoven with the Swedish-Finnish border (perhaps because the island isn’t much older than that border: Market probably only emerged from the waves in the 16th century."

This is like a real world Jingo.
posted by marienbad at 10:43 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Card Cheat, I suggest you start by shooting somebody's pig.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:46 AM on April 25, 2012

Also, The Hans "peice of barren rock" Island link above is comedy gold:

"“The political complexities of making an announcement are, in many ways, much more complicated than settling the actual territorial dispute,” said Whitney Lackenbauer, associate professor of history at St. Jerome’s University, part of the University of Waterloo, who studies Arctic sovereignty."


""News that Danish warships and naval personnel were visiting the island caused alarm."
posted by marienbad at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2012

I quite like the very pragmatic solution of redrawing the Marker island border to accommodate the previously misplaced lighthouse.
posted by zeikka at 11:48 AM on April 25, 2012

With global warming and rising sea levels in 100 years it may even become a shoal at which time they can redraw it straight, problem solved.
posted by stbalbach at 12:40 PM on April 25, 2012

I think Cooch Behar takes the prize.

Meatbomb, some (most? all?) of that seems to have been sorted out by the recent India-Bangladesh border agreement. They are going to swap these enclaves.
posted by vidur at 12:56 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

With global warming and rising sea levels in 100 years it may even become a shoal at which time they can redraw it straight, problem solved.

Nope. You gotta read the footnotes:
As the result of a geological process which affects the entire Gulf of Bothnia (and other areas around the world), called isostasy: ground levels are still rebounding from the enormous, depressing weight placed upon them by the huge ice sheets of the previous Ice Age. It is expected that isostatic rebound will kill off the Gulf of Bothnia within a few millennia. In the meantime, Market Island continues to grow.
posted by The Tensor at 12:59 PM on April 25, 2012

The last time I flew out of Guadeloupe (spent a year down there IT contracting) my trip connected through Saint Martin. Closer inspection of my itinerary revealed that my first leg arrived at Princess Juliana International Airport, Sint Maarten, and my second leg left out of L'Esperance Airport, Saint-Martin.

The first made me think "Oh my god we're going into the water" at both ends of the runway, and had a small shack for passport control. After a short cab ride I entered the French airport. which had four 747s at various gates. Very different feel to the two sides of the island.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:19 PM on April 25, 2012

Fans of exclaves will enjoy what's going on with UAE/Oman here.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:23 PM on April 25, 2012

That's quite the connection benito.strauss.
posted by Mitheral at 6:00 PM on April 25, 2012

benito.strauss, I think you've got it backwards. The French side has a tiny airport that can only land small prop planes and helicopters and the Dutch side has a big airport that can handle 747s. Also, you can only fly to a handful of places from the French side, like St. Barths and Guadeloupe so it mostly only makes sense if the Guadeloupe to St. Martin leg lands in the French side. I think part of why they have an airport at all on the French side is so the military can use it in case of some very unlikely circumstance where they would need to.
posted by snofoam at 7:42 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ah, thanks snofoam, that makes more sense. I remember flying in over water, but also that it felt like flying in to a bowl, much more like the French airport.

The only situations I can think of where the French military would need to use that airport take place in a 1960s movie starring Peter Sellers and Brit Ekland, with Fritz Feld as the know-it-all manservant.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2012

The approach to the French airport goes over Grand Case Bay (and the town of Grand Case, where I live). The airport itself is mostly surrounded by what is left of the Grand Case salt pond. I guess I have to find this movie.
posted by snofoam at 2:09 PM on April 26, 2012

There isn't actually any such movie. It's just my idealization of "The Mouse that Roared" and others of the same ilk.

You live in Grand Case? It must be wonderful (if you don't go crazy from the small island isolation). I miss the blue water and the vivaneau.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:29 PM on April 26, 2012

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