Archive for July, 2009

The Rights of Ghost Islands

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Ocean by Rappensuncle (Flickr)Professor James Lee asked an interesting question earlier this year: will islands that cease to exist due to rising sea levels still have sovereignty based on their former existence?

He wrote:

Some remote islands — particularly such Pacific islands as Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tonga, the Maldives and many others — may be partially or entirely submerged beneath rising ocean waters. Do they lose their sovereignty if their territory disappears? After all, governments in exile have maintained sovereign rights in the past over land they didn’t control (think of France and Poland in World War II). Nor are these new questions far away in the future. The first democratically elected president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, is already planning to use tourism revenue to buy land abroad — perhaps in India, Sri Lanka or Australia — to house his citizens.

Absolute sovereignty, territorial waters, and marine exclusive economic zones are all ultimately based on land in current international law. Will a strip of the northern Indian Ocean remain Maldivian even if the islands begin to vanish? Will the Maldivians and others fund their displaced lives with the mineral rights to the waters that swallow their homes?

(Note that Tonga is not in danger of fully disappearing, as it has several substantial, raised islands. Here are a few more islands that might be.)

The resources in play are expanding: as The Economist wrote about in May, the maritime claims are being extended to continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from land. Huge areas of ocean are being claimed, with rights to oil, metal, and seabed methane hydrates, often based on the locations of islands. While some issues are being worked out amicably, the move could intensify various island disputes, such as those around the multiple claims to the South China Sea.

(Image courtesy Rappensuncle — Creative Commons use via Flickr)

Bleriot: 100 Years since the First Island Flight

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Bleriot by Smudge_9000 on FlickrToday is the centennial of Louis Bleriot’s making the first powered flight to the island of Great Britain, from France across the English Channel.

Balloons had made the trip before, but this first flight via airplane changed island geography. Ships were no longer the only means of reaching them, and isolation decreased rapidly as the speed of aircraft increased. And, in the First and Second World Wars, Great Britain and other islands were to discover that airplanes greatly diminished their status as fortresses.

It is not clear whether this was the first powered flight to any island; did aviators fly before this to the Isle of Wight, Long Island, or Manhattan, for instance?

(Image courtesy Smudge 9000, Flickr)

World Islands Flickr Pool

Friday, July 17th, 2009

I’ve created a new photo pool on Flickr, affiliated with the photo stream.

Ika Island and Goat Island, WashingtonPeople have been generous with adding their images to the pool. It may not be the largest island group on Flickr, but it may be the most diverse: it already includes islands from 125 countries and separately administered territories, from Albania to Zimbabwe. I am particularly pleased to have Andorra — a landlocked mountain country — and Libya, which has almost no islands. These are the countries:

Ashmore and Cartier Islands

Read the rest of this entry »

Private Islands a Little Cheaper

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Horseshoe Island, Door Co., WisconsinJason Notte of reports that the economic crisis is driving down the cost of private islands.

Alexis Pappas of the island real estate firm Private Islands reports that many islands have dropped by half in price. Granted, it’s still not bargain basement time: while the owners of 4.4-acre Monarch Caye off Belize asked for $5 million, they still got $1 million for the island. And, while the Onassis family didn’t get $21 million for Nafiska Island, they are still asking $10 million.

Perhaps You Know: What’s Klingon for “Island”?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Klingon sign by FalashadI have collected the word for “island” in over 100 languages, including some fictional ones, but Klingon eludes me.

This word does not seem to be in printed or online Klingon dictionaries, and someone translating the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song into Klingon used “world” in place of “island.”

(Image courtesy Falashad, Flickr)