The earth is defined by borders that come in different shapes and sizes. These borders make it easier for us to govern different territories and to make better sense of the world. And most borders in the world seem to make sense but of course, there are some exceptions. There are a few places on our planet where borders make the whole situation more confusing and this article is about them: the strangest borders in the world. This is the second part of this article featuring the most peculiarly-shaped borders in the Americas. The first part covered the strangest international borders in Europe.
4. USA and Russia
Did you know that you can actually swim your way from the USA to Russia? There are two small islands in the Bering Strait between USA and Russia known as the Diomedes. The Small Diomede belongs to the USA and has 146 inhabitants and the Big Diomede belongs to Russia and is uninhabited. The distance between the two is only 2.5 miles (less than 4 km) which makes swimming from Russia to the US completely possible. The surprising factor, however, is that the time difference between these two small islands is 23 hours! The small distance between the two islands allows the citizens of the Small Diomede to literally “take a look in the future”, as the Big Diomede is literally one day ahead on the calendar.
3. Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Hispanola Island was the first place where Columbus’s crew set foot on. Decades later, the island has been divided by the Spanish and the French and today is divided into two different countries: Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The border is visible from the air with Dominican lush forest obviously separated from the rest of the island. But this border isn’t on this list just because of the fact that its border looks unique.
It’s also here because it’s a home to two small, completely different nations, with the wealthy, beautiful Dominican Republic on one side, and the poor, undeveloped Haiti on the other side. But how did this happen? How could two republics that share an island be so different? The answer is once again, the colonial powers which colonized the island.
The French wanted to turn their colony, Saint Domingue, into a purely economic producer. They brought in a lot of slaves and completely extracted most of the resources that their side of the island had. The local people, of course, didn’t benefit these actions in any way and riots followed. The Spanish people, on the other hand, massacred the indigenous people on their side of the island, took control and ruled peacefully, mixing with the local people. They were more interested in searching for gold in other countries like Peru and Mexico.
This eventually led to Haiti winning the Haitian revolution and becoming the first “former slave republic” and as such didn’t have any recognition whatsoever. On top of that, the French brought a bigger army asking for a debt the newly formed island nation supposedly owed them for ‘stealing their resources’. This huge debt tampered Haiti’s growth even further, and a couple of centuries later, the two countries are two contrasting worlds, just like their border.
2. Chile and Argentina
If you look at the map, you will see that these two countries are divided by the Andes which serve as a natural border. Both countries gained independence from the Spanish Empire in the early 19th century. However, they didn’t manage to agree on the borders until 1881. What seemed like the easiest treaty ever turned out to be a real messy dispute. The treaty stated that the border will pass over the highest summits of the Andes which divide the waters to the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean accordingly.
However, they didn’t realize that the mountain tops and the flow of the waters aren’t really in correlation with each other. Hence, the water west of the highest summits could flow east through the mountains to the Pacific Ocean and vice-versa. So, Argentina ended up claiming that the border is passing through the peaks of the Andes. Chile, of course, claimed that the border is passing according to the division of waters. Both claimed this because it gave them more land. A neutral party was summoned to solve the dispute: the British King Edward the 7th. This gave the borders the peculiar appearance it has today.
1. Canada and the USA
The biggest land border between two countries in the world looks really boring when you look at the map. But that’s not the case at all. The border was created in the 18th century by carving a 6 meters wide space along the border. For 8,800 kilometers! The border that passes entirely through lush forests looks like a straight line on the map. But it’s not. If it was, it would surely be the longest stretch of deforested land in the world by far. But both countries wanted the border to be a straight line. So, what happened? Well, imagine we’re in the 18th century and the 49th parallel was just chosen for the national border.
But, someone needs to actually mark that. And how do you mark a 9,000 kilometers long stretch of land in the 18th century? With a compass and a bowl of strain. And don’t mind the bears and wolves that might come in the way. The man who did this sure did their best in the pre-GPS era but this made the border to consist of 900 zic-zac lines. Not one giant straight line like many people think.
However, this border is another proof that you cannot just draw a straight line on the map without causing a huge mess. Just ask the people from Point Roberts. Located just south of Vancouver, this town only remained a part of the US because the negotiators couldn’t see it on the map. Today, Point Roberts is completely cut off from the rest of the US. The interesting part is that it only has an elementary school. So high school students that want to study in the US have to cross the borders four times a day to get to their high school.
These were, in my opinion, the strangest borders in the Americas. Did you like the article? Do you think I missed some other strange borders in America? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for the next part: Africa is coming next.