Blogging Borders

While not an independent blog at The New York Times, Borderlines (authored/moderated by Frank Jacobs) offers a fascinating look at countries and the border lines that divide them. Why are some borders so strange? The series attempts to answer questions per specific case studies. And though the series began in October of this year, its few posts have already been thoroughly enlightening.

For example, there is this about Libya:

[T]hrough all the millions of words published in the last nine months about Libya, you’ve never heard of UNASOG, the United Nations Aouzou Strip Observation Group. Stuck along the Libyan-Chadian border, the 1994 peacekeeping mission has neither suffered casualties nor inflicted any, but it does have one particular claim to fame: at a duration of only one month, with a mere nine observers and a $64,000 price tag, it is reputed to have been the United Nations’s shortest, smallest and cheapest peacekeeping mission ever.

My favorite border story so far is the one about the (incorrectly-posited) straight border between United States and Canada:

Consider: What is the longest straight-line international boundary? Why, that has to be the American-Canadian border between Lake of the Woods (Minnesota/Manitoba) and Boundary Bay (Washington State/British Columbia), which runs for 1,260 miles along the 49th parallel north. Right?

Nope. It may look that way on a world map. But zoom in close enough and it turns out that the straight line running along the 49th parallel north is not really on the 49th parallel north. And it isn’t straight. Like, at all. Marked by a 20-foot strip of clear-cut forest, the border may seem straight as a ruler. But as it zigzags from the first to the last of the 912 boundary monuments erected by the original surveyors, it deviates from the 49th parallel by up to several hundred feet.

Borderlines is definitely worth checking out when you have a chance.