August 20, 2013

Northern Ireland is a 'pene-exclave'


Writing in the spectator, map fanatic Michael Hanlon presented and explained the three geographical categories that are more commonly referred to as enclaves. He said:
"Some definitions: an 'exclave' is a slice of one country’s territory not attached to the rest of it but entirely surrounded by another country. A ‘pene-exclave’, such as Gibraltar, Alaska or Northern Ireland, is partially surrounded by water. An 'enclave' is totally surrounded by foreign territory. An enclave in one nation may also be an exclave of another. Or not. Thus Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, is an enclave, but not an exclave as there is no Lesothoan motherland. Whereas Kaliningrad on the shores of the Baltic is an exclave of Russia but, since it borders two countries (and the sea), is not, technically, an enclave. 
These are simple cases, O-level examples of the surreal world of comedy border-drawing. Moving up a grade, we have Point Roberts, a tongue of US territory on the southern tip of the Tsawwassen Peninsula in British Columbia. There is nothing particularly exciting about the geography of Point Roberts — it is a bog-standard pene-exclave — but the peculiarities of American border controls and its location as effectively a suburb of Vancouver make Point Roberts a jewel in the crown of territorial weirdness."
Michael Hanlon gave some examples of the world's cartographical madness:
"The prize for borderland insanity goes to the Chitmahals between India and Bangladesh. There are 102 bits of India marooned in its neighbour, and 71 gobbets of Bangladesh on the wrong side. These anomalies, in turn, contain a total of 24 counter-enclaves and, marvellously, one enclave of an enclave of an enclave, Dahala Khagrabari Number 51, a strip of Indian farmland marooned in a small puddle of Bangladesh which is itself submerged in India."
Michael Hanlon then explained the main positives and problems associated with enclaves and the derivative forms:
"When things go well, exclaves and enclaves promote internationalism. Patriotic fervour is silly when your local pub sits in two countries and your children have to go abroad to enter their bedroom. But when things go badly, as with Gibraltar and Ulster, anomalous borders are invoked to raise tensions. And if you find yourself on the receiving end of a bit of border aggression, as Britain currently is with Spain, the best thing to do is to look at a map and find something to bat back with. In this case there are, helpfully, two superb counter-examples, called Ceuta and Melilla. The Spanish pene-exclaves on the Moroccan coast always provoke entertaining debate with any Spaniard keen to raise the Gibraltar issue."
The Spectator article, 'Gibraltar isn't the world's weirdest border,' can be read in full here.

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