Thursday, December 27, 2012

Machias Seal Island: Identity Crisis!

Machias Seal Island lies between the coast of Maine and Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick.

Photo: Google Earth

Ten miles off the coast of Maine, Machias Seal Island is one of the last holdouts of the centuries-long process of ironing out the U.S.–Canadian border.

A 17th century British land grant underpins the Canadian land claim, arguing the island was a part of the province of Nova Scotia.

The establishment of a lighthouse on the island in 1832 by the British serves as the supposed final stake in the Canadian perspective on the debate, says Stephen R. Kelley, the former U.S. ambassador to Canada.

From the American perspective, however, the 1783 Treaty of Paris (the document that ended the Revolutionary War between the British and the U.S.) gives the island to America.

Though the island’s home country has never been resolved, the two countries don’t seem to be particularly miffed by the discrepancy.

Kelley thinks he knows why: there’s nothing really valuable to drive the contention. While abundant legal arguments surround Machias Seal Island, natural resources are far less evident.

"No oil or natural gas has been discovered in the area, nor has it had any strategic significance since it served as a lookout for German U-boats during World War I."

Lighthouse Keeper
Even the lighthouse’s keeper isn’t too bothered either:

For Ralph Eldridge, a Canadian who has been a lightkeeper on the island for the last 16 years, the question of who owns Machias Seal Island is a “non-issue,” something that is never a question from the visitors who travel to the island each summer.

Eldridge says he doesn’t have to produce his passport to go there. “But neither does someone from the United States or China or Japan or Spain have to when they come to the island,” he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment