Saturday, June 09, 2012

ACK: A Whole 'Nother (Island) Country

As I wrote very recently, Texas is in many ways a whole other country. The travel bureaus boast as much, and living there for three years we really experienced it. We even subscribed to the national magazine for a while after we left, and we had the great pleasure of spending this past Thursday evening in the company of the "governor of the heart of Texas" during his tour of the Northeast. (Note: I thought I made up the "national magazine" quip, but it is prominent on the web site for Texas Monthly.)
But this is a post about our next destination, Yesterday's Island (ACK). The only place in the United States in which a town, an island, and a county are coterminous, Nantucket is just a lovely whiff of glacial deposits out in the ocean, as close to Bermuda as one can get in the Bay State, and as far from North Adams.

Just as we were preparing for a few days of quiet enjoyment on the island,  I noticed a photo essay on Geography@About.com, regarding the ten smallest countries of the world. As part of my preparation for the EarthView project, I have spent a fair amount of time recently playing online geography games that are helping me to keep track of many of these microstates, and I am very concerned about the future of several that are quite vulnerable to climate change.

None of the countries is quite as small as the very cute first image in the collection, but most are quite small indeed, and six of the ten are islands (all of the rest are in Europe, within or very close to Italy, as it turns out). I was wondering about Nantucket's place in such a listing, and found that if it were an independent country, it would just make the list, in ninth place.

Country
Maldives
sq mi
110
         population
         400,000
Seychelles
107
           88,000
Nantucket
105
           10,172
St. Kitts & Nevis
104
           50,000
Marshall Islands
70
           68,000
Liechtenstein
62
           36,000
San Marino
24
           32,000
Tuvalu
9
           12,000
Nauru
8.5
             9,322
Monaco
0.77
           33,000
Vatican
0.44
                800


(At 270 acres, my campus is just 10 acres shy of Vatican-sized.)

At 30 feet, the highest point on Nantucket stands at double the elevation of the highest point in Tuvalu, and towers nearly four times the 8-foot peak in the Maldives. Most of the small islands of the world are quite vulnerable to storms and tsunamis, all the more so as their margin of safety is removed by melting ice and expanding seas. Nantucket has the added vulnerability of highly erodible parent material, deposited as debris a few short millennia ago.

And what about Texas? At 268,820 square miles, it would rank as the 76th largest country, after Burkina Faso and ahead of New Zealand.

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