World’s Largest Exclave

Are you familiar with the concept of a googlenope? It’s a phrase that returns no results when entered into Google. Imagine the difficulty of that achievement for just a moment. The phrase doesn’t exist anywhere on the Internet for all intents and purposes. How often does that ever happen anymore?

Ironically a googlenope disappears when it’s published. Google will find it and catalog it, and the googlenope is a googlenope no more. That takes less than an hour when it’s written into an RSS feed.

Google No Results Found

Until the very moment I published this blog entry, the perfectly normal-sounding phrase "World’s Largest Exclave" returned a value of "No Results Found." Unbelievable. How could this very significant extreme of geo-oddities aficionados escape any notice throughout the entire history of the Internet? How am I supposed to do my fact-checking now?!?

If Alaska were a country it would be right around the 19th largest in the world depending on how one measures area. It’s not a country however; it’s an exclave of the United States. Most exclaves are tiny slivers of territory like Spain’s lands in Llivia stranded a few kilometres across the French border. Alaska, on the other hand, is an enormous expanse of 572 thousand square miles (1.5 million km2) of physically separated lands plus associated territorial waters. It’s nearly 20% of the entire United States landmass, roughly speaking.

Is Alaska really the world’s largest exclave? I guess it depends on the definition of exclave. Some sources view an exclave as a territory legally belonging to another entity but without a physical attachment. Alaska meets that definition. Others would use that definition as a starting point but then add that it has to be completely surrounded by foreign land. Alaska fails that test.

Greenland is larger than Alaska. Is Greenland the world’s largest exclave? I’m not sure I’d consider an island an exclave but I’ve seen plenty of references that beg to differ. I’m also not sure that Greenland’s political status would allow it to be considered an exclave of Denmark anymore, regardless.

I believe I’ve now officially over-thought this situation.

The time for my Alaska journey has finally arrived. I’ll start flying towards Anchorage in a few hours. I may have time to post something quickly from Anchorage before I head down to the Kenai Peninsula. Internet access will become much more sketchy further south and I can’t guarantee I’ll even uncover many WiFi hotspots (hmm… looks like there’s a McDonald’s in Soldotna), and I may not care even when it’s available. I might be too enthralled by the natural beauty of the land and the list of geo-oddities you helped me compile.

Fear not loyal readers, the Twelve Mile Circle will continue regardless of my Internet access. I’ve prepared a few articles in advance, and thanks to the power of WordPress blogging software, I’ve specified times and dates that will parcel them out to you on a regular basis. If you see Alaskan content then you’ll know I’m blogging live and if you see random oddities then you’ll know I’m not.

2 Replies to “World’s Largest Exclave”

  1. An exclave doesn’t have to be completely surrounded. Whoever said that is probably mixing it up with ENCLAVE, which is a country (or part of a country) that’s completely surrounded by another. For example, Vatican City is an enclave because it’s completely surrounded by Italy. An exclave is a part of a country that’s separated from the main part, so Alaska is an exclave but it isn’t an enclave. One example of somewhere that’s both an enclave and an exclave is Campione d’Italia, which is a part of Italy that’s completely surrounded by Switzerland

  2. Some don’t count places like Alaska as exclaves because they’re kind of connected by sea (in Alaska’s case, this is especially true if one goes through Hawaii). Some others say sea connections don’t count at all (where islands aren’t involved), which makes them say that Point Roberts is an exclave (and some of them even count Northwest Angle).

    The world’s largest landlocked exclave (so that the “connected by sea” trick doesn’t work) is probably Nakhchivan, but it’s surrounded by multiple countries. The world’s largest enclave (area surrounded by only one country) is Lesotho, but it’s not an exclave, since it is the only part of its country.

    As far as I can tell, the world’s largest exclave that is also an enclave is Sokh (also spelled So’x), an exclave of Uzbekistan surrounded by Kyrgyzstan (and populated, incidentally, mainly by Tajiks). Its area is only a bit over 300 square kilometers (sources seem to differ) – which still makes it more than twenty times larger than Llivia (and yet more than fifteen times smaller than Nakhchivan).

Comments are closed.