I must have been entirely distracted during my brief vacation in Vermont over the weekend because I completely missed the news about the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on October 10, 2010. It took an email message from loyal reader Greg to bring its true significance to my attention.
I’m not referring to the Netherlands Antilles being dissolved per se, or the resulting creation of two new component nations within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I’ll leave that story for all the normal geo-bloggers to cover. I’m not even talking about the date they chose to make this all happen, 10-10-10, although that’s really cool. Greg mentioned something completely different. I have to agree that a certain special feature creates a genuine geo-oddity.
We need to walk through a little history to get there.
Dutch colonies in the Caribbean Sea were cobbled together to create the Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous country within the larger Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1954. Islands from two distinct groupings formed the nation: three from the Leeward Islands located southeast of the Virgin Islands (Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten); and three from the Lesser Antilles off the coast of Venezuela (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao).
Aruba split from the Netherland Antilles in 1986, forming its own distinct nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The remaining five islands continued onward within the structure of the Netherlands Antilles. Then three things happened on October 10, 2010:
- The Netherland Antilles was dissolved and ceased to exist
- Curaçao and St. Maarten followed the Aruban example and became autonomous nations within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
- Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius became Public Bodies of the Netherlands, informally known as “special municipalities”
It’s the third point that creates a geo-oddity. Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius are no longer part of an autonomous nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. They are in fact now a part of the Netherlands proper. The Province of North Holland, which includes Amsterdam, has even invited them to join their state. It’s still being considered as of the time I’ve drafted this.
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The Netherland’s highest point of elevation had been located at Vaalserberg. That’s a 323 m (1,059 ft) hill forming the Belgium-Germany-Netherlands (BeDeNe) tripoint. It was also once a quadripoint back when the Neutral Moresnet condominium still existed. It’s still noteworthy as a tripoint. However it’s not a national highpoint as of October 10, 2010.
The Netherlands’ new highpoint has shifted 7,000 kilometres (4,350 miles) away to the island of Saba, atop the summit of the most pleasantly-named Mount Scenery.
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Mount Scenery is a stratovolcano that’s possibly still active. It summits 877 m. (2,877 ft.) above Saba. Instantaneously the highest Dutch elevation more than doubled. The Netherlands joins at least three other nations with highpoints far removed from their central territory: Australia (Mawson Peak on Heard Island), Portugal (Pico Island in the Azores, which I’ve visited), and the United States (Denali in Alaska, which I sort-of visited but never actually saw because it was too cloudy). I’m sure there are others but it’s still unusual.
Thanks for the tip, Greg!