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Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

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Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

Coordinates: 18 0 N 63 5 W

Area: 17 square miles (44 sq. km)

I’m sure sandy beaches and hilly, volcanic islands blanketed in tropical vegetation don’t immediately spring to mind with mention of the Netherlands, a small low-lying nation in Europe. But they should, sort of. Across the Atlantic between the Venezuelan Basin and the Puerto Rico Trench, this kingdom still protects several territories it first occupied nearly 400 years ago. Among these claims is Sint Maarten, the Dutch part of an island known as Saint Martin to French speakers. Together, these pieces form the smallest landmass on Earth occupied by two countries. In spite of its size however, Sint Maarten does have one superlative to champion: Simpson Bay Lagoon. Arguably the largest lagoon in the Caribbean, this sheltered body of water has long provided commercial and economic benefits, but is under the increasing threat of damaging levels of pollutants. 9780195334005.jpg


Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.

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2 Responses to “Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles”
  1. mollymooly says:

    “these pieces form the smallest landmass on Earth occupied by two countries”

    Not according to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_divided_islands

  2. Ben says:

    Hi Molly,

    Thanks for posting–you raise an interesting point here that is perhaps best resolved by looking at the two definitions closely. (By the way, my source was the CIA World Factbook.)

    Market is most often referred to as a skerry, and in fact is a tiny, uninhabited patch of stone that two countries have roughly divided into two halves. There are no signs of any occupation other than an abandoned lighthouse.

    Sint Maarten on the other hand, is currently, and has long been occupied by people and while still a dependency of the Netherlands, does have its own government and a local economy, along with an infrastructure to support communications and transportation networks. In this sense, a different geographical beast.

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