Borders are the only invisible lines that cause human beings to kill each other ... that we know of (they are invisible, after all). But as we've mentioned before, border disputes sometimes barrel past boring ol' war and keep going right on into Crazytown, hanging a left at Batshit Blvd., then parallel parking on Lunatic Lane. We're talking about how ...
The British staked an Antarctic claim way back in 1908. Then along came Chile and Argentina, who staked claims that overlapped not only the British claim, but each other's as well. Add in the passage of time, a legit shooting war over a nearly uninhabited set of nearby islands, and an almost-war over a totally different set of uninhabited islands, and the result is three nations who are very, very cranky over who owns which slices of a frozen wasteland pie.
Royal Geographic Society
Everyone wants to get their hands on those tasty penguin eggs.
To strengthen their claim, the British built a combination post office / gift shop at Port Lockroy to demonstrate that they were using the territory for something other than sending Kurt Russells to their doom. Chile and Argentina took it a step further, paying people to live in two tiny "towns," Villa Las Estrellas and Esperanza, during the Antarctic winter -- aka "The Long, Dark, Frozen Hellscape of Death" -- in order to bolster their claims of Antarctic settlement.
So what does it take to be a semi-permanent resident of Earth's most inhospitable continent? First off, all candidates must undergo rigorous psychological examinations to make sure months of darkness and complete isolation won't make them go full The Shining on their neighbors' asses. Oh, and since a medical emergency would be a veritable death sentence, Antarctica is a strictly appendix-free zone. If you've got one, that shit comes out before you ship out.
Just in case it's an alien parasite that wakes in ice storms.
If all that sounds like an awful lot of petty crap to go through for literally the worst place in the world, you ain't heard nothing yet. Back in the '70s, Argentina produced the world's first "Antarctic citizens" by flying seven pregnant women to a base in Antarctica just so they could give birth there. Not to be outdone, Chile got in on the world's most fucked-up baby race, and now at least 10 people are known to have been born in Antarctica. And that, friends, is how the White Walkers got started.
The Hala'ib Triangle is the result of the difference between a political border established along the 22nd parallel between Egypt and Sudan in 1899 and an administrative border drawn up by the British Empire a few years later, when they decided that a straight line was not in fact the shortest distance between His Majesty and the lament of countless tribal children. This area remains a subject of contention between Egypt and the Republic of the Sudan to this day. However, there is also a small quadrilateral known as Bir Tawil, which nobody seems to want, lest they jeopardize their potential claim to the greater Hala'ib area. So Bir Tawil remained one of the last bits of unclaimed sand on this big, blue ball of ours ... right up until an American named Jeremiah Heaton set his sights on it.
Bir Tawil is that dangly bit to the south, like a skin tag on Egypt's ass.
Like many fathers, Heaton has a daughter for whom he says he'll do absolutely anything. Unlike many fathers, Heaton is not exaggerating. When seven-year-old Emily said she wanted to be a princess, he knew that a princess requires a kingdom, and that a kingdom requires territory. So Heaton immediately put on his Chris Columbus pants and took off across the world to claim Bir Tawil. Your father, by contrast, had to be coerced into putting on any kind of pants, and it was a whole ordeal simply to get him to drop you off at the mall.
After hopping off a plane in Egypt, Heaton somehow managed to lug a flag designed by his children through a 14-hour caravan journey without being murdered by Sudanese pirates. Sure, Bir Tawil is landlocked, but there can be land pirates. Ever see a little documentary called The Road Warrior?
Luckily, Heaton's beard can deflect up to .45 cal pirate ammo.
Upon his arrival at Bir Tawil, Heaton planted his shiny new flag and declared it the Kingdom of North Sudan. Now, this isn't the 17th century, so waltzing up to an unclaimed plot of land and stuffing a flag in it doesn't actually do a damn thing. But hey, kids are stupid, and that photo was probably proof enough for his little girl to start ruling her imaginary kingdom with an iron fist.
Despite its distinctive lack of land borders, the island nation of Kiribati has still managed to introduce its own brand of wackiness to the world map. Here, see if you can spot what looks like the result of a mapmaker sneezing while drawing the International Date Line:
Cartographer John Dateline, ironically, was allergic to maps.
You can probably guess where Kiribati is on the map -- it's the place that deviated a thousand miles into tomorrow. See, in the run-up to the year 2000, Kiribati, Fiji, and the Kingdom of Tonga were all in a race to get to the new millennium first, thereby attracting truckloads of sweet drunken tourist cash. In a play that would be referred to as "cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater" in any other competition, Kiribati realized that they could legally shift themselves 24 hours ahead in time by switching to UTC+13 and UTC+14, two time zones that they ... made up on the spot. Thanks to said time zones, Kiribati became the first place on Earth to experience New Year's Day, by a comfortable margin of two hours.
Viktor Cap/iStock/Getty Images
When Groundhog's Day hits Kiribati, it's still January in American Samoa.
To summarize the ramifications of this: Thanks to Kiribati's two new, overlapping time zones, planet Earth, which has 24-hour days, now has 26 one-hour time zones. This causes the massive deviation in the International Date Line seen above, perpetually rendering all of Hawaii and most of Alaska north of tomorrow. Dibs on the name for our upcoming romantic comedy movie, starring John North as a man perpetually stuck two time zones away from the woman he loves ...
After centuries of begging for the islands, Morocco finally got tired of besieging Spain with logic and sent 12 soldiers to straight-up invade the uninhabited Perejil Island in 2002. Which raises this question: Can you invade a place if nobody is there? Or is that technically nothing but international trespassing? Either way, Spain noticed, a crisis broke out, and the world began taking sides. The Arab League and the OIC went on the record to back up Morocco, while NATO and the EU astoundingly gave enough of a shit to support Spain. Warships surrounded the island, and Spanish commandos counter-invaded via a nighttime helicopter assault to take the "invading" Moroccans prisoner.
Oh, have we mentioned that this is what all the fuss was about?
The United States stepped in to play good cop / world cop, the troops from both sides withdrew, and the two countries went back to disputing the sovereignty of the island via passive-aggressive comments, like civilized folks.
Maybe that's to be expected of snarky old Europe, but Canadians aren't exactly known for their passive-aggressiveness, and Greenland isn't exactly known for ... well, anything, really. But that all changes right here, right now, thanks to Hans Island.
Somewhere way up near Santa's house there lies a tiny rock (about half a square mile in surface area) directly in the middle of the territorial waters between Greenland (an autonomous country under the Kingdom of Denmark) and Canada. No one could quite decide what to do with Hans Island when the border was drawn, so they simply stopped it on one side of the island and picked it back up again on the other.
The shit first hit the fan in 1984, when Danish Minister Tom Hoeyem flew to the island on a chartered helicopter, planted a Danish flag, buried a bottle of brandy at its base, and left a note reading "Welcome to Denmark."
Royal Danish Navy/AFP/Getty Images
"How do you like them Gravensteins?"
But Canada wasn't about to take such slights lying down. In 2005, Canadian soldiers landed on the island and placed a flag and a plaque declaring it Canadian territory.
Hoeyem had figured Canadian forces wouldn't be able to respond. Horses can't swim.
That's about the time the two countries realized that the entire conflict was patently absurd, and they began talks regarding the future of Hans Island, the likely outcome being splitting the already miniscule chunk of land in half. Since then, however, no solution has been forthcoming, so we can only assume that the situation quickly deteriorated back into flag planting. Which we're pretty sure is the plot of at least one Looney Tunes cartoon.
During World War II, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia found itself dealing with an extraordinarily itchy Nazi infestation. As a result, King Peter II of Yugoslavia fled to Britain, where he met Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark, soon to be Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia. There, the two lovebirds holed up in the luxurious Claridge's Hotel in London for the duration of the war.
Dutch National Archives
Claridge's! Where Peter diddles while Kosovo burns.
In July of 1945, the war was nearly over, but the Kingdom of Yugoslavia hadn't yet returned to its previous government. This was unfortunate, since Peter II had taken his extended stay in a cushy London hotel as the perfect opportunity to incessantly bang Queen Alexandra. The two were expecting their first child any day, and it simply wouldn't do for the royal baby to be popped out anywhere other than on Yugoslav soil.
So they brought their conundrum up to Winston Churchill, who, presumably being a "Winston fucking Churchill" level of drunk, just up and ceded Suite 212 over to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on the day of Crown Prince Alexander's birth. So, legally speaking, Crown Prince Alexander was born in Suite 212, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Claridge's Hotel, smack dab in the middle of London. And since the territory previously known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a new nation known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia at the time, that also means that, for one day, the entirety of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia consisted of a single suite in a single hotel.
"Everything the light touches is our kingdom. But don't you dare touch that goddamn minibar."
Rob Rose is a super-cool high school senior with a Twitter, an existential dilemma and a trivia and history blog that he occasionally updates on time. Zachary Frey is currently a student at Greenwich High School and soon-to-be freshman at Cornell University. He frequently travels to some of these crazy places. You can read his ten most recent crazy articles and (not) be his friend here.
For more insane moments in comic books, check out 5 Ancient Acts Of War That Changed The Face Of The Earth and 5 Gigantic Wars You Won't Believe Almost Happened.