Sunday, 17 August 2008

In Canada & Not In Canada

America and Canada have the longest non-militarized border in the world; almost 9000km. Somewhere in that huge border are bits that aren't completely resolved. The most interesting one is Machias Seal Island.

The American state of Maine borders the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Let's zoom in:

The blue area is definitely America, and the red area is definitely Canada. But there's this bit which isn't definitely one or the other. That's where Machias Seal Island is:

British and American forces established a rough border in 1783 after the Revolutionary War with the Treaty of Paris. Even after that, British ships set up safe harbours along the Maine coast (in the 'definitely America' part), charging other ships for the right to visit. They stopped after a while, but most of this area was pretty wild and woolly at the time so no-one wanted to start a new war over it.

The first time people took notice of Machias Seal Island was in 1832 when the British put up a lighthouse to stop ships crashing into it. The island was just 20 acres in size, about the area of a medium-sized school. When Canada became Canadian in 1867, they took over lighthouse duties and have continued for 150 years.

The area has always been heavily fished, and fishermen from both countries take advantage of the 'grey area' to overfish the waters. Both Americans and Canadians have claimed mineral rights over parts of the zone and the Island. During WW1, a detachment of American Marines encamped on the Island to watch for German U-boats for a short time.

The lighthouse remains manned—the only staffed lighthouse in eastern Canada. It doesn't need to be, but you have to watch out for those Americans.

Machias Seal Island

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