The Disputed Story of Machias Seal Island for Atlas Obscura

“The border between Canada and the United States is the longest in the world. It spans 5,525 miles, separating the Yukon from Alaska, Saskatchewan from Montana, Ontario from New York. It hosts its share of difficulties: smuggling, undocumented crossings, the militarized edge that has come to characterize such spaces. But in terms of actual land disputes, things are calm the whole way through—almost.Then you get to the northeast corner. Depending on whom you ask, Machias Seal Island is either off the coast of Maine or of Grand Manan. It’s also either American or Canadian. It is the only place with this particular unsettled identity that you can actually stand on top of. Although the ownership of some stretches of water is still contested, this island—and neighboring North Rock, which is even smaller and barer—are the last crumbs of their land the two countries don’t agree on.”

New work for Atlas Obscura, about a modern border dispute and the endurance of local legend. Text by Cara Giamo.

All images © Greta Rybus