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Tactical geoannexations
Inspired by Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, I went for a southbound cruise on the Mississippi River. Starting from Kaskaskia, the geoannexed former state capital of Illinois, I went in search for other traces of past geopolitical skirmishes. There were many, it seems.

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Tactical geoannexation

One certainly feels lucky to have these Mississippian provinces culturally homogeneous and politically stable. Because what would happen if a wildly meandering river forms the international boundary of two future countries who consider the other their mortal enemy? What if after a major earthquake redraws the path of this river and the capital of one gets geoannexed by the other?

Tactical geoannexation

Now what would happen if you designed a park on anyone of these shifting territories, and the boundaries follow the meandering course of the river, rather than fixed to an ancient silhouette. And both sides are as heterogeneous as Israel and Palestine. You've gone for a stroll one afternoon, only to find the next day that the park had migrated to the other side, where roses are considered invasive species and fountains symbolizes the excesses and economic immorality of a capitalist society. Or capital punishment is legal on one side, outlawed on the other, and public hangings have suddenly become all the rage again. Or the frontline merely bisects the park for now.


Huangyangtan, or: Tactical geoannexations, Part II
  • some lo-cale loser
  • March 21, 2006 at 4:24:00 PM CST
  • check out my favorite
    -89.50880 long
    36.52065 lat

    just opposite new madrid mo- a piece of KY, attached to TN, but surrounded by MO.

    not sure if it ever "changed hands" but it is sufficiently weird to be worth a look. bet it went all wacky about 1811......

  • Alexander Trevi
  • March 21, 2006 at 4:50:00 PM CST
  • That's my favorite as well, linked here for convenience.

    And I'd certainly like to see a similar georestructuring happen to Cairo, Illinois just upstream from there. (Is it really pronounced KAY-roe?) Anyway, Cairo! The name's perfect.

    All eyes seems to be on Los Angeles, when they can witness cities migrating up and down the Mississippi, and on a timescale measured in centuries instead of in hundreds of millions of years.

  • some lo-cale loser
  • March 21, 2006 at 4:52:00 PM CST
  • are those reflections of clouds in the water?!

  • some lo-cale loser
  • March 21, 2006 at 5:04:00 PM CST
  • although, now that i have changing hands on my mind, it's worth pointing out that while new madrid and the surrounding missouri bottom land changed hands numerous times- spain to france to usa to csa and back, that little patch of kentucky, as former county of virgnia, was claimed for the queen by captain john smith and was then was yanked by messrs. jefferson et. al. not that anyone bothered to tell the locals of much of this.

  • Alexander Trevi
  • March 21, 2006 at 6:16:00 PM CST
  • Wikipedia has an entry: Kentucky Bend, which includes a passage from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi.

    "[I]n no part of the South has the vendetta flourished more briskly, or held out longer between warring families, than in this particular region. [...] [The long-feuding Darnell and Watson] families belonged to the same church. [...] They lived each side of the line, and the church was at a landing called Compromise. Half the church and half the aisle was in Kentucky, the other half in Tennessee. Sundays you'd see the families drive up, all in their Sunday clothes, men, women, and children, and file up the aisle, and set down, quiet and orderly, one lot on the Tennessee side of the church and the other on the Kentucky side; and the men and boys would lean their guns up against the wall, handy, and then all hands would join in with the prayer and praise; though they say the man next the aisle didn't kneel down, along with the rest of the family; kind of stood guard."

    And a nearby island was even the site of a Civil War naval(!) battle.

    Could there be enough for a book? Gone with Mason & Dixon & Jefferson: A novel by John McPhee with an introduction by Pynchon.

  • Geoff Manaugh
  • March 22, 2006 at 10:20:00 AM CST
  • You should write that book, Alex. Hydrophilosophical meanderings on the (political) natures of terrain. A Year With the River Engineers. NYTimes Nonfiction Bestseller List.

    Of course, the territorial ramifications of geological events continues apace in Asia as Taiwan moves slowly but inevitably into China, at which point where to stand your flag will be a hard decision indeed.

    Or perhaps there should be a new sovereign state of meander belts, countries made from lands that switch back and forth across the perimeters of oxbox lakes and s-curves.

    The Braid, a sci-fi novel by A. Trevi in which a kind of mega-mega-mega-Mississippi torques and self-knots itself down the slopes of an alien planet, through topographical backloops, and a few river delta specialists, scientists mapping that geology, get caught up in... you have to read the book to find out.

    James Herbert meets Robert Fisk meets John McPhee meets Pruned. Via Jules Verne.

  • Geoff Manaugh
  • March 22, 2006 at 9:44:00 PM CST
  • And that should've been Frank Herbert in my earlier comment, not James Herbert.

  • nick
  • May 29, 2007 at 8:08:00 PM CDT
  • I think it's a really interesting concept. It reminds us that all these boundaries that dictate so much of our lives including the built environment don't really exist. They are imaginary and the landscape does not adhere to our imaginary lines.

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