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What is an "island"? Login/Join
 
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Picture of shufitz
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We've all seen small islands, or even tiny ones in a river. Instinctively, we'll call some bits of solid surface a very small island, others just a very large rock sticking up above the surface. But why? What's the distinction?

(Who cares, you ask? Well, China and Japan do, because of land about 1100 miles south of Tokyo, across open sea, where two tiny top tips of an underwater reef stick above the surface. I do mean tiny: they are each about the size of a mattress. Until recently no one disputed Japan's claim to that land and, more importantly, to an "exclusive economic zone" (EEZ) of sea area of 230 miles (200 nautical miles) all around that land.

But recently China contested Japan's right to an EEZ. (Why? China wants to map the depths through part of it, for its submarines -- because U.S. ships would take that route to reach Taiwan, from their naval base at Guam, in the event of a dispute over Taiwan.) Legally, it seems to turn on whether the Japanese land is considered an island, or mere rocks, within the legal definitions.)
 
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Picture of Caterwauller
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All I'm sure of is that no man is an island. I don't know about the rest.


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"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
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To me, a small, mattress-sized reef does not an island make.
 
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How about a big sharp rock in the middle of nowhere? One such is one of the remaining glories of the British Empire, Rockall. It's a very long way from Scotland, Ireland, the Faroes, and Iceland, and no-one much cared about it until the prospect of oil arose. Then Britain sailed over and claimed it in 1955, defying the other countries.

Flanders and Swann did a splendid song about it,

The fleet set sail for Rockall,
Rockall,
Rockall,
To free the isle of Rockall,
From fear of foreign foe.
We sped across the planet,
To find this lump of granite,
One rather startled Gannet;
In fact, we found Rockall.
 
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An island is just land surrounded on all sides by water. The definition is scale-independent, so they can be arbitrarily small.
 
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Are you talking about the Senkaku / Diaoyutai Islands dispute?

Tinman
 
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Picture of shufitz
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quote:
Are you talking about the Senkaku / Diaoyutai Islands dispute?
No, it was called Okinotori. As I understand it, Senkaku is no doubt a bona fide island, whose ownership is disputed. Okinotori is much smaller, and China accepts Japan's ownership but disputes the claim to an EEZ around it. Here's a link.

I did a little research, and apparently Okinotori is not quite as small as I'd said. Its size of course changes as the tides cover it, and then recede. The minimum size, at high tide, seems to be the "two rocks" I mentioned, but the maximum seems to be at most a few acres.
 
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My first reaction was that an island must be attatched to the sea floor in some way as opposed to just resting on it like a rock. I've now had to change my mind because of icebergs being described as 'islands of ice' in my dictionary. What I'm unsure about is a peninsula that is cut off from the mainland during high tide. Is it an island at that point, as it does fit the definition, and a peninsular again when the tide recedes?
 
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Doad: "I've now had to change my mind because of icebergs being described as 'islands of ice' in my dictionary."
I'd read that as a figurative extension of the word, not affecting the geographic meaning.
 
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Then perhaps my original thought was correct and an island must be attatched to the sea floor. Any idea of the issue I raised about the peninsular?
 
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Picture of shufitz
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Originally posted by Doad:
Then perhaps my original thought was correct and an island must be attatched to the sea floor. Any idea of the issue I raised about the peninsular?
I can't recollect the specifics, but isn't there an abbey on such an 'island' off the east coast of England, where the 'island' status varies as the tides come in and out?
 
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There is certainly an example of this in England but for the life of me I can't remember where it is or what it's called nevermind if there is a special name for its rather variable status. I don't have a great memory I'm afraid.
 
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To ensure proper island recognition they could name the few acres of rock "No Man," since, as everyone knows, "No Man Is An Island."

What's Donne is done, so to speak.
 
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Thanks Jerry, I liked that alot. Regardless of what it is actually called I will always think of it as 'No man' from now on.
 
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Ok, so the island in question is 'Holy Island' and it is classified as a tidal island. I'd love to take the credit for this discovery but it was really shufitz who pushed my weary brain in the right direction. Thanks for your help.
 
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The Holy Island of Lindisfarne.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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