Wednesday, April 14, 2021


You probably woke up this morning wondering, “What wacky geographical oddities can come from the accidental or purposeful intersection of cryptography and cartography?”

Am I right?

Of course I am, and the answer is quite obvious: Point Roberts, Washington.

If you are not familiar, I will give you a few minutes now to look it up on Google maps…

OK, you’re back, and you obviously just said to yourself, whose idiotic idea was that?? Was the guy drawing the map drunk?

The answer is, probably yes. (And also, The Tipsy Cartographers would be a great name for a rock band.)

No matter the sobriety level of the map makers, after the war of 1812 they created a goofy little puzzle on the upper left corner of Washington, but couldn’t quite put their collective finger on the glaringly obvious answer.


British and American map meeting:

OK, so about midway across Minnesota we’re gonna stop following the rivers and just draw a straight line across this sucker on the 49th parallel, and boom, we’ve got ourselves a border.

What about Vancouver Island out in the Pacific? That line will go straight across the middle of it.

How about we make the line angled and squiggly once we get into the water? The British can have Vancouver Island and the U.S. will take the San Juans? Cool?


OK, great work everyone. Let’s go have some more beers.


A month later:

Um, we have a little situation out in Washington. We checked a little closer, and the 49th kinda cuts off a little piece of what should totally be Canada, right up here in the corner, see?

What the hell, Roberts? You drew the line. What were you thinking?

Sorry, sir. We didn’t know that little point stuck out so far. But it’ll be an easy fix.

Nope, Nothing we can do now.

Um… all I have to do is squiggle the line a little sooner.

No can do.

But nobody lives there, yet. It’s less than five square miles.


Um… so the plan is to have a small American town that you literally can’t leave by road unless you go through Canada?

That’s exactly what has to happen now, Roberts. We’ll pretend we planned it. No other way around it.

But there is a very easy way. Like I said, I can just…

Roberts! You’re being insubordinate! Just for that I’m going to name it after you, so you’ll always remember your failure.

Um… yes, sir.


A month later:


What is it, Elm?

We have a little situation in Muskeg Bay in Minnesota…


See you soon,



Copyright © 2021 Marc Schmatjen


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